Jesus Music and the Church

If you’ve seen the Jesus Revolution movie, know that it’s pretty accurate in what it presented, if you allow for the fact that other things happened that would be hard to keep in perspective in a 2-hour movie.

I became a Christian during that era (Nov., 1972), and the fact that I encountered people who loved Jesus outside the “established church” was a very large part of that. Not to mention the music. I heard Glass Harp, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, and several other top “Jesus Music” acts BEFORE I committed my life to Christ.

I was soon active in the local “Jesus Music” scene myself, playing at coffeehouses, campgrounds, street fairs, and even in churches. Several friends and friend of friends got record contracts, and I was convinced that I stood a chance.

Short version – it never happened, which as John Ficher later told me, may have been the best thing that ever happened to me. The hardships those early artists endured were nothing to laugh about.

But the biggest hardship for me and several others was how the “established church” responded to ANY effort to reach their young people in a musical language they understood.

One of my pastors once told me that if people couldn’t get saved by hearing Southern Gospel music, there was probably no hope for them anyway.

A fellow musician – with, ironically, similar musical taste – once accused me of being an agent of Satan because I invited him to play acoustic-based “Jesus Music” at a youth camp.

Why didn’t I find a better church? In Dayton, Ohio, in 1972-1979 there WEREN’T ANY.

Why didn’t I find other Christian musicians who had their “heads on straight”?

Because we were all under the same kind of pressure, no matter where we fellowshipped, worshiped, or shared our music. You never knew when someone you fellowshipped and even played music with would suddenly feel pressure to backpedal and reject everything you thought you had shared.

For one thing, a purely evil book by Bob Larson called Rock and the Church summarized all of the falsehoods about rock, pop, and up-tempo Christian music that had ever been preached, and countless pastors looked to that resource when they needed “reasons” to demonize music and musicians that didn’t align with their personal tastes.

Thank goodness that those days are gone. But please don’t imagine that there wasn’t resistance to the tens of thousands of Christian youth during that era who stumbled across a Jesus Music album and felt that it spoke to their hearts. Or the budding Christian musicians who tried to share that music with those around them.

Finally, I think one thing that worked in the “Jesus Music” era was that people talked about Jesus outside of the church with no reference to or dependence on the “Moral Majority” culture that was condemning an entire generation for things like the length of their hair or the width of their pantlegs.

In 2023, I can’t help feeling that so-called Christian Nationalism is driving young people of all backgrounds away from Jesus by pretending to be the gatekeepers – the same way the Sadducees, Pharisees, and other hypocrites did in Jesus day.

I’m praying for folks I know who feel they have “deconstructed” Christianity by seeing the holes, failures, and outright sins of the modern established church. Who, sadly, reject the Christ who is surely just as upset about the church’s abuses as they are.

Here’s something folks don’t like to talk about: People who preach hate, fear, and division don’t represent Jesus any more than the high priests of Jesus day represented God. And for some there will be hell to pay. Literally.

Sorry if this seems negative. A recent experience in which someone close to me was called an “agent of Satan” because a hurting person disagreed with an innocuous statement brought it all back to me.

May the Jesus of the Bible – the one who sought out and ministered to the hurting, the marginalized, the godless, of all cultures – bring peace to your heart and – if possible in this day and age – to our lives.


About Paul

Paul Race has been writing and playing all kinds of music since the 1960s, though he tends to favor acoustic and traditional songs. He has created resources like,, and to help other musicians get a good start on their own journeys.


  1. I think Love Song was better than how they were represented in the movie. There. Thank you and at 63, you successfully dissuaded me from a CCM career. Saved 1972 after seeing change in sister after her return from Explo ’72.

    • Robert, I was also saved in 1972. I think they were trying to present Love Song as they first started, not necessarily as they developed into a touring band. Yes, I owned their albums and played several of their songs in concert. Never saw them, but I saw countless others, including Norman, Stonehill, Glass Harp, Steve Camp, Acts, Roley, Albrecht, and Moore, etc. A wonderful time for Christian Music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.