“Whether as frontman of the groundbreaking modern worship band Delirious?, lead singer of Army Of Bones or performing solo, Martin Smith has been involved with almost every aspect of the modern worship movement. His songs, including “Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble?,” “Waiting Here For You,” “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever” and “History Maker,” have connected generations and inspired and influenced worship leaders and worshippers alike.”
– CCM Magazine
Returning from a Martin Smith recording at TBN London earlier this week, John Ruffle reflects on five decades of Jesus music:
Christian rock emerged from its “Jesus Movement” infancy a few decades back, but is only now – the way I see it anyway – beginning to become something more; something that is really engaging and challenging the secular music scene, in in so doing, engaging today’s youth far beyond the realms of pew-sitting churchianity, which seems as remote to today’s youth as St. Thomas Aquinas.
I recall attending an early CCM conference outside Chicago Illinois in the later 1970s. Yet-to-be-named Hosanna Integrity was in its infancy with Tom Brooks in St. Louis Missouri leading worship with Kent Henry
At the time, Larry Norman was the Christian world’s rock idol – almost literally. There were a hundred or so musicians present on the camp ground, including Randy Stonehill and Janny Grein who was about to release her 2nd album, “Covenant Woman” on Sparrow Records. The hot topic was the nature of Christian musicianship: was it a ministry or a career? Who owned the copyright of songs directly inspired by the Holy Spirit? How did we handle that troublesome “filthy lucre”? In one break-out group, Janny and I fiercely defended the ministry aspect as opposed to the commercialisation we saw taking over the emerging CCM genre. Yet, as the years have passed, I realise that both aspects of the Contemporary Christian Music scene are valid. Musicians, like anyone else, need to support themselves – and their families.
What remains central however, is the heart of the worshipper: nothing must be allowed to corrupt the purity of heart, without which no-one shall see God – and without which God won’t be seen though their ministries either.
Anyone questioning the motives of Christian rockers need only meet someone of the calibre of Martin Smith – something I was privileged to do earlier this week at London’s Christian Broadcasting Network’s (TBN) studios. Here is a guy at the pinnacle of an internationally recognised musical career asking my good friend from UCB Radio, Mike Rimmer and I if there is anything we might suggest to improve his upcoming album. (Me with my big mouth as usual didn’t stay silent!) Smith is the next generation on from those early CCM days. And I like what I see, even if sound-wise, I’m still waiting for a Christian drummer to do an extended version of Ginger Baker’s Toad.
Back to Martin Smith and TBN London this week, where he was recording a video for his soon-to-be-released (May 2019) Christian rock album. I’m impressed by Martin the family guy – he and his wife Anna have six children slowly emerging from the family nest; their eldest daughter now with a nascent career in Nashville. Martin and Anna were the driving force behind the CompassionArt NGO charity that has involved so many artists and musicians, including Graham Kendrick, Darlene Zschech, Paul Baloche, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Matt Redman – the list simply goes on.
I’m encouraged. There is a new paradigm that is enlivening a new generation of Jesus-followers. It’s beyond what we had in the Jesus Movement in terms of pure and extravagant worship, although in other areas there is still some mileage to catch-up. In the northern Californian Jesus Movement where I was in the early ’70s, everything was birthed out of community. Our spirituality was grounded in Jesus within shared community. Many of us would have drowned in the hippy sub-culture had it not been for this. Yet our awareness of social justice was almost non-existent.
Smith, 18 years my junior, (as if that mattered!) is one of the post Jesus Freak generation Christians. God never left the Church when the Jesus wagon rolled on. He’s still moving in exciting and sometimes unexpected ways. It took a few years for many to catch the new direction.
History reveals that those who have been caught-up in a prior revival in their youth usually end up persecuting the next move of God. I’m watchful for that attitude in myself. I refuse to be one of those who, like Lot’s wife, while yearning for the old and familiar, looked back and remained there: a pillar of salt. Us older Jesus Freak generation guys and dolls (to borrow a Hollywood phrase) wherever we are now, have a responsibility to affirm, mentor and encourage the teens and 20-somethings of today. And I’m very happy to know that Martin Smith quite clearly is doing just that.
Images copyright 2019 John E. Ruffle.