Music has always been a big part of my life. Although I was raised in a very conservative home, our family’s music was far from conservative. I remember as a young kid listening to Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys on vinyl. As I got a little older, I remember getting an album that was a game changer: Southern Fried Rock.
Southern Fried Rock was put out by K-Tel Records and featured artists like Molly Hatchet and The Allman Brothers Band. My musical tastes soon expanded beyond southern rock to mainstream rock bands like Van Halen, Loverboy, Foreigner and Journey. I even went through a rap phase, where I listened to acts like The Sugarhill Gang and Run-D.M.C.
My musical tastes never seemed to be in conflict with my faith — at least not to me. In fact, friends from church who listened to contemporary Christian artists tried to get me to listen, but I wasn’t really interested. I just didn’t like the music. Little did I know that my Christianity and my musical tastes were about to have a collision.
In the summer of 1984, I attended Edinboro Christian Youth Camp along with my church youth group. I was 16 years old, and I remember showing up at camp with my sleeping bag and pillow, some clothes and of course my large JVC boombox with my tape collection. Over the course of the week, God did some miraculous things in my life. It was at that camp that knowing Christ went from just head knowledge to what I would call a “heart transplant.”
Mark Batterson (one of my favorite authors by the way), writes this about the experience of consecration in his book Draw the Circle: “Consecration is a complete surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. We relinquish everything to God – our time, talent, and treasure. It’s a complete divestiture. Nothing belongs to us, not even ourselves … The word consecrate means ‘to set apart.’ ”
One evening at camp we had the opportunity to burn our music. I remember struggling with loving my music, but also knowing it had become an “idol” for me. So I made the decision to burn all my tapes. I remember some of the kids telling me I was crazy, but I felt sure that the Lord was telling me to do it. And if I was going to be serious about following Him, it would require a “sacrifice.”
I remember going home and buying my first Christian album: Hotline by Whiteheart. I soon began to see Christian music as a way to articulate my new, more vibrant relationship with Christ. It was during this time (mid to late 1980s) that lots of new Christian rock bands hit the scene. One of the music groups that began to really shape my faith was The Altar Boys. Their song “Life Begins at the Cross” became my life anthem. Attending Nyack College both strengthened my faith and expanded my musical tastes, as I was introduced to groups like The 77s, U2, Stryper and many others. While at Nyack, I hosted a Christian heavy metal/hard rock radio show on Friday evenings called “The Cutting Edge.”
As I have grown older, and now have kids of my own, music still plays such a big part of my life. As I drive my kids to school in the morning, we listen to Christian rock bands like Thousand Foot Crutch and Red as well as some of the music I used to idolize (of course “message” appropriate). While my kids are in the back seat of our mini-van playing air guitar and jamming away, I feel confident that the music my kids are listening too will draw them closer to the Lord, and not become the idol it once was in my life. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the knowledge that Christ is constantly pursuing me. As Mark Batterson says in Draw the Circle: “Consecration is a process of surrender that never ends. And prayer is the catalyst.”
How about you? What’s your musical journey and how has it shaped your faith?
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