Challenge. If I were to say what was needed in today’s Contemporary Christian Music the most, it would be: challenge.
Sure, encouragement is nice. Everyone needs encouragement ‘to get you through your workday.’ But, where’s the challenge? The challenge for deeper spiritual growth and strong, uncompromising commitment? The challenge to tell the world about the saving love of Christ?
For Keith Green, and many other Christian artists who began in the late 70s through the late 80s, these challenges were no-brainers. It was obvious to them that this was what their mission was all about: to challenge people to draw closer to God–whether as a first-time commitment, a recommitment, or a long-time Christian taking one more step closer in their relationship with God. But Keith Green was the artist who epitomized the art of the challenge more than anyone else during that era, and perhaps since (which is why his legacy still stands 40 years later).
On Keith’s second album, the aptly titled No Compromise, Keith’s ability to strongly challenge his audience seems to just pour out from him as if his whole, deep, inner being is crying out. Just the song titles alone tells it all. Even on the more upbeat songs such as “Soften Your Heart,” “Dear John Letter to the Devil,” “You” and “Stained Glass,” we are challenged to draw closer to God and away from our old, sinful lifestyle. Whereas Keith’s more heartfelt and personal songs such as “Make My Life a Prayer to You,” “I Don’t Want to Fall Away from You,” and “My Eyes are Dry” inspire the listener to a deeper relationship with Christ. While songs such as “Asleep in the Light,” and “How Can They Live Without Jesus,” spurs one toward a sense of evangelism, and the ending couple, “The Victor” and “Altar Call” draws one towards a first-time commitment to follow Christ.
In addition to his heartfelt lyrics, Keith was a master musician and a child prodigy, who skillfully wowed audiences as he tickled the ivories with his upbeat melodies or played sweepingly and dramatically for his more sincere songs. His soft, sweet voice was more than pleasant to capture the listener.
Even if you’ve never heard Keith’s music, and you just happen to be browsing through the records at your local Christian bookstore, even the album cover art alone (on this particular album) was a bold challenge to anyone who came across it.
Yeah, it’s time to bring challenge back to Contemporary Christian Music.