Christian Music: A Magnificent Obsession
- 2005 30 May
When it comes to Christian music, you’d be hard pressed to find a band with as many fans as INO recording artist MercyMe. And when it comes to the platinum-selling band’s own lead singer, Bart Millard, you’d be even more hard pressed to find a bigger Christian music fan — anywhere. With that in mind, we asked this self-described “Christian music nerd” to spill the beans. …
When it comes right down to it, I am a product of the system! What I mean is, I grew up on Christian music. I was that kid who, while singing in front of the mirror playing a mean tennis racket, imagined singing with my favorite Christian artist rather than some big rock star. Now, some could say that was just the beginning of what would be a major calling in my life. I tend to think I just needed to play outside more and have fewer imaginary friends. Regardless of how you choose to see it, this is who I am.
The first album I ever bought with my own money was Petra’s "More Power to Ya." Actually I bought it twice because I literally wore the first one out. Because of that record, I became consumed with Christian music. Growing up, I would spend every penny of my allowance on whatever music the local Christian bookstore carried. From One Bad Pig to Larnelle Harris, you name it, I owned it. It is safe to say that Christian music has played a huge role in my life, and when I was asked to write for CCM, I thought I would take a stroll down memory lane and see if there are any other “Christian music nerds” like myself. Just a warning: These are not in any kind of order. I'm just typing whatever comes to mind.
Remember the days when you could buy four albums, save those little coupons and get the fifth one free? I really thought I was beating the system (no Petra pun intended) until I grew up and found out how much cassettes really cost to make. Ouch.
Did anyone else own every Steven Curtis Chapman and Wayne Watson accompaniment tape and sing every chance the church doors were open, or was that just me? I also had a mullet and wore a sweater vest so that I would be taken seriously.
I remember hearing Amy Grant’s "Lead Me On" and knowing my life would never be the same.
I remember my youth group learning how to do sign language to Michael W. Smith’s “Friends.” We performed it whenever our youth pastor moved to another church. We later changed that ritual to “Thank You” by Ray Boltz.
I remember listening to “Hiding Place” by Steven Curtis Chapman all day at church camp and asking Christ into my heart that night.
I remember trying to sing Sandi Patty’s “Love in Any Language” in a Spanish club competition because it had “te amo” in it. I lost. Apparently the whole song had to be in Spanish. That’s nitpicking if you ask me.
I remember hearing Whiteheart’s "Freedom" and also knowing my life would never be the same.
I remember figuring out what was said at the beginning of Petra’s “Judas Kiss” and flipping out as if I had just made a major medical breakthrough.
I remember watching my girlfriend in 7th grade sing some First Call tune and knowing I was in love … well, as in love as you can be for a 7th grader. She is now my wife, by the way.
I remember freaking out when I found the 77s’ "Sticks and Stones" CD in the mainstream section at the local record store. Christian music had arrived! Then it departed back to the Christian bookstores for many more years.
I remember hearing Michael W. Smith’s "i2(eye)" and yet again, knowing my life would never be the same.
I remember actually wanting to be Russ Taff. No wait, that’s me now.
I remember trying to rap like dc talk at a youth rally. I think I actually pulled a muscle. Huh huh heavenbound!
I remember pre-ordering Jars of Clay’s first album when the band opened for PFR and rejoicing the day it came in the mail.
I remember hearing dc talk’s "Jesus Freak" and knowing — without a doubt — my life would never be the same.
I remember buying the Chagall Guevara album and thinking Steve Taylor could be the coolest human alive. I later heard "Squint" and knew he was the coolest human alive.
I remember seeing Charlie Peacock, Vince Ebo and Jimmy A. performing acoustically and actually wanting to learn how to play guitar. After one lesson, my ADD kicked in, and I moved on.
I remember listening to “Heaven” by Michael English over and over after my father passed away.
I remember joining my first praise band. I remember playing my first church camp. I remember when we started MercyMe. I remember making our first independent album. I remember the first time I led a kid to Christ at one of our concerts. I remember the first time I heard one of our songs on the radio. I cried — not because it was on the radio but because my dad believed it would happen one day. I remember writing "I Can Only Imagine" at 3 in the morning. I remember my wife waking up, reading the lyrics and telling me it was going to be something special. I remember Delirious playing on the radio when my first son was born. I remember hoping to never forget those moments in your life that define you.
I am a product of the system. Christian music has played an enormous role in who I am today, and for that I am forever grateful.
Bart Millard is set to release his solo debut, "Hymned," on July 26.
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