The Erwin Brothers have delivered the real life stories Woodlawn, I Can Only Imagine, and I Still Believe, with American Underdog about to debut with the story of Kurt Warner’s unlikely rise from grocery store stocker to NFL MVP. But during the pandemic, they recorded interviews with leading Contemporary Christian Music artists to detail the history from the late 1970s to today for The Jesus Music.
While some of the musicians are straightforwardly “church music” or at least music-for-Christians, there are so many stories that Andy and Jon Erwin touch on in this documentary about the way that some of these musicians crossed the cultural divide. Whether it’s older artists like Michael W. Smith or Amy Grant, or newer ones like Tobymac and Lecrae, these musicians are using their gifts to cross boundaries that churches wish they could, reaching out to people with love and hope.
Many of the stories here are about what you’d expect, but some of them are distinctively different, like Kirk Franklin’s. Franklin does more with his music than anyone deemed possible, and pushed for the means to build bridges of faith that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. He’s also one of the first to really acknowledge the racial divide inside of the church – that fact that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called worship on Sunday mornings “the most racially divided hour” of the week in America.
Together, through stories told by others and through their own words, these musicians show how the rock’n’roll music of the secular world broke into the church and renovated the church’s music from the inside out. Breaking barriers about gender, style, race, and class, Jesus music did amazing things for the church, and the world, even if we didn’t know it was happening at the time. The end result isn’t realized yet, but what these musicians did was powerful and affirming, using the God-given gifts they had to change the world.
The special feature on the Blu-ray is the “Sing Again” lyrical video.