Slap the label “Christian” on almost anything and you’ll find a market for it. One of the popular digs at Christian music is that it is not so much a musical genre as a shrewd way to separate the faithful from their money. When Christianity and the music industry intersect, the temptation to compromise art and faith for cash and fame is huge.
But if you look past the glitzy veneer of Christian music, you’ll find some amazingly gifted artists pouring their hearts and souls into music, and ministry.
More than seven thousand screaming Third Day fans crammed into the Glendale Arena near Phoenix on Sunday and participated in something special. Third Day is a pure rock band with a heart for worship. This event was not so much a rock concert as a church service, as lead singer Mac Powell is fond of saying. And he was right.
Third Day’s music drives hard and soars high, the sandy-voiced Powell leading his audience willingly on a roller-coaster ride of sin and redemption, failure and grace.
Third Day hails from Atlanta, and their music is in the best tradition of southern rock bands—terrific guitar work, chest-thumping drums, strong keyboards and one very special lead singer. They can hold their own musically with anyone. But it was their vision early on to use music to express their deep faith in Jesus, and that commitment to a higher purpose has made them all the better.
The five permanent members of the band have been friends since high school, honing their talents together for some thirteen years. The time has matured them, as musicians and men. They are still good friends. The good-natured relationship they have with each other on stage is genuine and rare in the world of successful bands.
And Third Day’s music really is special. Like all great Christian music, it encourages the listener to lift his eyes to the God who loves us unconditionally, and to the Son of God whose blood rescued us from the chains of our sin.
Third Day concerts are joyous affairs. Everywhere arms were raised in praise. Strangers clasped hands and swayed to the music, united for a few moments in the love of Christ. It reminded me of an old-time tent revival—sinners all, Powell invited us to lay our burdens at the foot of the cross and drink deep from the well of forgiveness in Christ.
This was not your father’s rock concert.
Wherever they go, Third Day plays to sold out houses. They’ve just released their 8th CD, Wherever You Are. Their music is the product of Powell’s song-writing gifts and a collaborative creative process involving the entire band. Some of the band members are now married with children, but after thirteen years together they seem to be just hitting their stride.
What explains their success?
Drummer David Carr puts it like this: “A lot of bands don’t make it [as long as we have] or their careers start to spiral downward. For whatever reason, God has placed us in a position of influence and we see no signs of the engine running out of gas anytime soon. We’re continually humbled…”
God, and humility. Humble rock star is surely an oxymoron, but not in this case. This is not a band that uses God as an entrÃ©e to stardom. These are humble men. You watch them on stage and imagine them around the backyard barbecue, cooking hamburgers, laughing, playing games with the kids and rolling in the grass with the family dog.
Just normal people. Not stars. Not idols. Just men who are grateful to Jesus, and want to use music to share the love they’ve experienced in their own lives.
I didn’t want it to end. Powell led the audience in prayer, and you sensed that as tired as they were, Third Day was reluctant to see the evening end, too. They stood for a long time waving to the audience until they drifted one by one to the wings.
It was a great evening for Christian music. It was a great evening of praise to the King of Glory.
Post Script: The David Crowder Band did a great job getting the crowd pumped for Third Day, as if that was much of a problem. David Crowder may be the weirdest-looking lead singer in the music industry—rail-thin, an unruly mop of curly hair on top of his head with an unruly goatee beneath his chin—but his music is excellent, and his dry wit and self-effacing style made me want to hear more. The David Crowder Band recently released a new CD, A Collision. I”m going to have to buy it.