This past Saturday my daughter Sydney and I spent the better part of the afternoon and evening at the Ichthus Christian Music Festival in Wilmore. For those who are not in the know about Ichthus, it is the nation’s oldest Christian music festival (started in 1970 as a Christian response to Woodstock) that covers four days and a lot of acres. The festival, organized by students from Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary, draws in some of the nation’s top Christian music acts. It’s a hip summer destination for church buses full of youth groups from around the region.
Syd and I were offered VIP tickets for the Saturday afternoon and evening session. This meant close parking, access to all the concert stages, and most importantly, free Chick-Fila. There are a lot of things to which I have to draw the line and say, “No.” Free Chick-Fila is NOT one of them.
Ichthus has a soggy history of rain during the festival, but Syd and I were lucky to have a beautiful, warm evening. We roamed the grounds, checked out the merchandise tents and listened to artists like Britt Nicole, Disciple, Jason Castro, Matthew West and Fireflight. Although we probably stayed a bit too late (I tried not to yawn during my own sermon on Sunday), it was a very enjoyable evening spent with good company, good food and great music.
A lot of people write off Christian music as either too “Jesus-y” or flavorless and bland. I used to think the same thing. My image of contemporary Christian music was Sandi Patti or Amy Grant. There’s nothing wrong with those ladies’ music, but I prefer my rock and roll with a bit more…rock and roll. In my mind, Christian music was hopelessly behind the times.
My thinking changed when I finally gave it a chance. My first Christian concert was SpiritFest at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, probably around 1994. The headlining act was a group called DC Talk, a rock-rap trio that was all the rage. After only a few songs, I couldn’t believe I was listening to Christian music. This stuff was actually cool! I was even more impressed that the kids in my youth group were digging it.
I’ve since come to love all kinds of Christian music, largely because Christian artists have made exponential leaps forward in their ability to offer something relevant and timely. In fact, I would bet that for every popular musical artist, there’s a Christian equivalent. If you like Dave Matthews Band and U2, check out the Newsboys and Third Day. If you like rap or hip-hop groups like the Black-Eyed Peas, give a listen to TobyMac and Group 1 Crew. Fans of singer-songwriters like Jack Johnson would like Matthew West and Chris Rice. And if your tastes lean toward harder stuff like Metallica, I bet you’d like Disciple or Skillet. And if you like Tom Jones…OK, I’m still looking for a Christian connection on that one. I’m working on it!
Thankfully, Lexington has a couple great Christian radio stations where you can catch a lot of these artists. Both Air 1 (107.1) and K-Love (95.3) are nationally syndicated stations that feature a good variety of Christian music – and no commercials! If you haven’t given those stations a chance, I encourage you to do so. They are, as Air 1 bills itself, a “positive alternative” to the other stuff you’ll find on the radio.
What always amazes me about events like Ichthus is that, regardless of what “older” folks think of the music, the artists are connecting with today’s youth. The music is energetic and edgy and the lyrics are faith-filled and hopeful. To see several thousand people singing along or hearing a performer talk about God’s love is an amazing, awesome sight. It proves once again that music connects with all different kinds of people at the soul level, whether you’re singing “Amazing Grace” or “Grace Like Rain” by Todd Agnew. Thank God for the blessing of music!