Contemporary Christian Music

The Jesus Movement
The Jesus Movement of the 1960s
'The words "Jesus Freak" were first coined in the late sixties, when hippies became part of a new revival, the Jesus Movement. It was a time when music, poetry, and an open expression for Jesus Christ turned a new generation on to God. It merged rock and roll with the Gospel message, a wave we're still riding today known as contemporary Christian music. It infused the Church with the arts. It shook up conventional worship. And, due to its "in your face" approach, it had a backlash. The rest of the world called these over-zealous young people "Jesus Freaks" as a derogatory term. But decades later a new generation is embracing that same passion for expression.' Kevin Max (DC Talk, 2000) from the book Jesus Freaks.

There are two primary tools that Cross Rhythms uses to engage with today's society and communicate Christian faith, Christian lifestyle and the power and love of God. These are media and contemporary music.

There is much debate over what is called 'Christian Music'. What makes it Christian? Is it the lyrics? Is it the performer? Is it the record label?

At Cross Rhythms our current understanding is that music is music and to put labels on it only works to reinforce a sacred-secular divide, something that is not helpful when trying to 'go into the world' and engage and connect with those outside our church culture.

However, we do believe that music is influenced by the heart, the lifestyle, the spirituality and the worldview of those who use their natural gifting to create music. 'Out of the heart the mouth speaks, life or death'. So the best understanding of what is 'Christian Music' is that which is written by professing Christians who are living an active Christian faith. And this music has the potential to convey Christian spiritual truths ('life').

In a contemporary culture where rock, pop, rap, hip-hop etc are the musical styles of the day, Christians producing music in these styles have a greater ability to engage with people in the culture of the day, and there are now literally thousands and thousands of these 'musicianaries' worldwide.

But where did all today's so called contemporary Christian musicians come from?

Many theologians have documented that the last revival to really impact the western world was the Jesus Movement in the late 60's and 70's. The importance of this move of God was that it impacted a generation. However the church at the time struggled to appreciate the move of God and as John Smith puts it, these young people "were asking the most profound questions about life and all they got from the church was a judgment about the length of their hair and whether or not they had shoes on their feet."

The tension between a new move from God and the old order is profoundly illustrated in the relationship between David and Saul. A powerful king who was out of sorts with his God is challenged by a young pretender who has an intimate relationship with his God and is doing exploits, such as defeating the champion of the Philistines.

The saying is often ‘the older persecutes the younger’. This is particularly true of old religion persecuting new moves of God. The challenge is for the new move not to rebel against the old order and this example of noble submission was courageously demonstrated by David.

Dr Elmer Towns says of the Jesus Movement: "The flames of revival once again grew bright as thousands of hippies became 'Jesus Freaks'. This revolution saw lives transformed as people ditched drugs and free sex and sought a new high - walking the Christian lifestyle".

Whilst in his book 'Raised By Wolves', John J Thompson summarises: "Some estimates say that during the Jesus Movement over 800 communal living experiments sprang up in North America. Estimates of changed lives reach three million. Hundreds of ministers took to street ministries, hip churches, musical outreaches or communes. As the 1960's gave way to the 1970's, most Americans respected the movement as a legitimate expression of Christian faith; although a number of preachers, including the television variety, were thrilled to have something to whip up their congregations over, and Jesus Freaks made a good target. Most mainstream evangelical churches now use music in their Sunday services that would have been unacceptable 30 years ago. Even the most conservative worship music these days is more aggressive than the most progressive church music was in the 1960's".

He continues: "A whole industry designed to sell contemporary Christian music sprang from the embers of the Jesus Movement. But to many it was the chemistry of rock and roll, complete with it's dissonance, syncopation and urgency, that most closely resembled their passion for Jesus".

Scott Ross on CBN's The 700 Club in 2002 commented: "Jesus Music became an expression of worship and an anthem for evangelism." And Dr Elmer Towns adds: "I think that impact has touched almost all churches through music more than anything else. This is the key to revival. God says in John 4 that the Father is seeking worshippers to worship him and when you worship him he will come".

In the UK the Jesus Movement was smaller than in the USA, but it did exist, as artists such as Bryn Haworth and Graham Kendrick emerged, and events such as Greenbelt and the Festival of Light. Music labels such as Kingsway and Word UK started to produce and distribute the new Christian music.

Throughout the 90's a new younger generation have emerged, with worship and contemporary pioneers such as Matt Redman and Delirious? and more recently Tim Hughes and others turning young people on to worshipping God - finding a whole new expression and a youthful contemporary voice to express their love for God.

Cross Rhythms was born in 1983 right in the middle of the emerging history of Jesus Music. When it began rock and roll was still thought of by many in the church as 'of the Devil'. Chris Cole, who pioneered this contemporary voice and positioning for Cross Rhythms along with his wife Kerry sees the history of where we have come from and the opportunity for a younger generation of where it can be taken. He states: "There is a Davidic mantle on today’s younger generation who are going to be used to bring something in from God which is both very fresh, but also very ancient. The ancient ways will be built upon intimacy and worship and a radical holy discipleship. At Cross Rhythms we have been a bridge between the old and the new and we believe in a real tri-generational reconciliation. This is because although God will use the youth, the world is yet to see again an holistic community of all the generations".

The respected American prophetic voice, Cindy Jacobs echoes this, prophesying in the mid 1990's: "This is the day when I am raising up the generations and restoring the inheritance of the generations. For I am a tri-generational God. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am at work linking the generations and bringing healing to the brokenness between the generations...This is the beginning of an outpouring upon the Isaac and Jacob generations which will have a double portion of the anointing loosed in the 60's during the Jesus People Movement. This move will be different in that it will not be dysfunctional. It will cause an understanding of the Father heart of God and a cleaving to God as Father. They will not just look to Jesus as their friend but will understand the holiness of God and give respect and honour to their Father. The anointing of compassion will pour out with great tenderness while the fear of the Lord falls upon God's people. Rise up intercessors of God, for the enemy knows of this plan and he is also unleashing a double portion of the strongholds poured out during the 60's - strongholds of drugs, free sex, communes with no hold barred and a denying of absolutes. The youth will become a law unto themselves if God's people do not stand against the tide of filth and ungodliness being poured out against them..."

At Cross Rhythms this history is our history. We are baton carriers from the 60's. By engaging with or supporting Cross Rhythms you're not just engaging with or supporting a ministry, you're part of a global movement.

(For more on the future of Christian Music read our Contemporary Christian Music Vision).

'Jesus Movement' photo kindly supplied by

 More in History..


Connect with Cross Rhythms by signing up to our email mailing list

A Step Change...
Cross Rhythms Media Training Centre
Artists & DJs A-Z
# A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #
Or keyword search


Courts of Praise
Get close to God, be extravagant in declaring your love for Him in our Prayer Room