The History of Contemporary Christian Music
April 21, 2022
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
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The following is excerpted from Baptist Music Wars, which is available as a free eBook from Also see the book and video series: The Satanic Attack on Sacred Music

Founded in 1971, Maranatha Music was one of the first contemporary Christian music publishing companies. It was founded by Chuck Smith, Sr., of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, California, to publish the music of the early Jesus hippies.

Calvary Chapel played a major role in the birth of the Jesus People movement. Mesmerized by a charismatic Jesus hippie named Lonnie Frisbee, Chuck Smith baptized massive numbers of hippies who had professed Christ, many of them “led to the Lord” by Frisbee. By accepting the young people pretty much as they were even for Christian service--long hair, immodest clothing, rock & roll, culturally liberal thinking--Calvary Chapel exploded in growth from one small church to a mega-church and beyond to a large association of churches.

“With his long brown hair, long scraggily beard, dusty clothing, scent of Mary Jane [marijuana] and glint of his last LSD trip in his eyes, Frisbee showed up out of nowhere ... literally on Chuck Smith’s doorstep” (Matt Coker, Orange County Weekly, March 2005).

Chuck Smith was a licensed minister in the Foursquare Pentecostal Church, the denomination founded by female Pentecostal preacher Aimee Semple McPherson. Smith held to the heresy of gibberish “tongues speaking.”

Frisbee was “commissioned” by Smith after his wife, Kay, received a “prophecy.”

“The Spirit of God came through a prophecy with Kay Smith and said, ‘Because of your praise and adoration before My throne tonight, I’m gonna bless the whole coast of California.’ And when we started to receive the word as from God, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon us and we began to weep and the Lord began to give people visions of that prophecy and then the Lord continued on to say that it was going to move across the United States and then go to different parts of the world” (David DiSabatino, Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippy Preacher).

Maranatha Music was built upon this unscriptural foundation. In those days, at least, Calvary Chapel was quick to accept the flimsiest “profession” and wasn’t careful to try to ascertain whether the hippies were truly born again. They encouraged the newest babes in Christ (assuming they were even saved) to perform music.

Take the members of Love Song, one of the first and most influential of the Calvary Chapel Christian rock groups. Band member Chuck Girard said in 1997:

“It was early 1970 when three of my buddies and I walked into a church called Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa to play some songs for the pastor at the suggestion of a young hippie preacher named Lonnie Frisbee. We were hippies who had turned our lives over to the Lord only days before, yet we had a few songs that we had written before we met the Lord that were about God and Jesus. The pastor thought the songs were of God, invited us to play at one of the weekly Bible studies and we accepted the invitation. ... We didn’t know much about what people called ‘gospel music,’ we were just writing the same kind of songs we would write if we weren’t Christians but now we had Jesus to sing about” (Girard, foreword to History of the Jesus Movement by David DiSabatino,

Note that the members of Love Song started out by playing songs they had written before they were converted, when they were walking after the god of this world (Ephesians 2:1-2). And when they started writing “Christian” songs, all they did was add “Jesus” to their old music. And they were encouraged to do so by the leadership of Calvary Chapel even though the Love Song hippies were the merest babes in Christ (at best). That was unwise and unscriptural and was a sin both against the new professors and the churches. Even a deacon is to be proven (1 Timothy 3:10).

The hippies should have been discipled and biblically trained before they were allowed to minister to the churches through music. They should have been grounded in sound doctrine and taught Bible principles of Christian living, spiritual music, and separation from the world.

I am thankful that this is what happened to me when I joined a church soon after I was converted as a hippie in 1973. The church members loved me and were patient with me, but they didn’t quickly foist me into the limelight and put me into the ministry.

Marsha Stevens

The shallow nature of many of the Jesus People conversions that formed the foundation for Maranatha Music and the Vineyard Music is evident in the life of Marsha Stevens. She founded Children of the Day, the first group that was published by Maranatha. Her song “For Those Tears I Died” represents the mysticism that permeated the Jesus People movement.

You said You’d come and share all my sorrows,
You said You’d be there for all my tomorrows;
I came so close to sending You away,
But just like You promised You came there to stay;
I just had to pray!

Jesus, I give You my heart and my soul,
I know that without God I’d never be whole;
Savior, You opened all the right doors,
And I thank You and praise You from earth’s humble shores;
Take me I’m Yours.

And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied;
I felt ev’ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."

This is pure mysticism. It creates an emotional experience associated with a vague spirituality which is not solidly Bible based. There is no clear gospel message. There is nothing about sin, the cross, repentance, or biblical faith. Jesus didn’t die for our tears; He died for our sins. The song says come to the water, but what water? It says you are thirsty, but thirsty for what? It says I just have to pray, but pray how and for what? It mentions a door, but what door?

A Roman Catholic Mary venerator, a liberal Protestant who doesn’t believe Jesus is God, a Muslim, or a New Age goddess like former Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher Sue Monk Kidd could sing this song with passion.

Stevens’ testimony of salvation is that during a Bible study she had a vision of herself walking with Jesus near a deep blue river. The vision changed her life and soon thereafter she composed “For Those Tears I Died.”

Lonnie Frisbee

Lonnie Frisbee (1949-1993) further illustrates the frightfully shallow nature of many of the Jesus People “conversions” that formed the foundation of the contemporary praise music movement. 

Frisbee turned to “Jesus” through LSD trips and began to receive “prophecies” while high on drugs. On his own authority, the teenage Frisbee baptized a group of drugged up hippies at Tahquitz Falls after reading the Gospel of John to them and painting a picture of “Jesus” on the rocks. Later, in the same place, while on an acid trip, he had a “vision” that God had called him to preach the gospel to multitudes.

In a video documentary on Frisbee, David DiSabatino observed that many of the Jesus People conversions involved drugs. “One of the ironic twists of the 60s was that many openly stated that drugs, LSD in particular, played a large part of their experience in Christian salvation” (Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippy Preacher).

Sandy Heefner, for example, describes her salvation like this:

“I took my LSD, laid down on the floor a couple of hours and when I could get together to get up, I got up as a Christian. It’s just that simple.”

This is most definitely not biblical salvation. There is no gospel, no repentance, no saving faith. This is a deluding spirit masquerading as Christian conversion.

Frisbee was not only using hallucinogenic drugs but was still living a homosexual lifestyle, practicing hypnotism, and dabbling in various occultic and mystical practices (“The Son Worshipers,” video documentary edited by Bob Cording and Weldon Hardenbrook). In this condition, Frisbee joined a Jesus People commune in 1967. He never had a clear new birth conversion that involved a definite understanding of the gospel and clear repentance and faith. He never gave up homosexuality and partying. Even after he joined Calvary Chapel he would “party on Saturday night” and “preach on Sunday.” He would “go out and boogie down.” It was alleged that Frisbee’s ministry was accompanied by “signs and wonders,” but the devil can do miracles, and when measured by the standard of Scripture, Frisbee’s ministry was dangerously heretical.

Even so, Chuck Smith put Frisbee in charge of a Wednesday night Bible study, which soon attracted thousands (Randall Balmer, The Encyclopedia of Evangelism).

That Frisbee had no spiritual discernment is evident in that he appeared with the false prophetess Kathryn Kuhlman on her I Believe in Miracles show. Further, he lied on that program by claiming that his sin had been totally washed from his heart by the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” when he knew full well that he was still sinning secretly in the most outrageous manner. (Frisbee’s appearance on Kuhlman’s show can be found on YouTube.)

By 1971, Chuck Smith parted company with Frisbee because of their different perspectives on Pentecostal signs and Smith’s desire to focus more on the teaching of Scripture. Smith was right to reject such things as “spirit slaying,” but the wild “spirit” represented by Frisbee and his charismatic mysticism had already had a massive influence in the Jesus Music, including Calvary Chapel’s Maranatha music, and that influence has continued to this day.

What Smith failed to renounce was Christian rock itself with its sensual mysticism and its illegitimate merging of the unholy rock of this world with the holy Rock Christ.

Frisbee was divorced in 1973. His wife says,

“At the end of the marriage he told me that he had been staying late in some gay bars” (Connie Bremer-Murray, Lonnie’s ex-wife, Special Features section of Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippy Preacher).

John Wimber

In 1980, Lonnie Frisbee became associated with John Wimber, who was seeking to establish a “signs and wonders” ministry at the Yorba Linda branch of the Calvary Chapels. Wimber called miracles “doing the stuff,” but he was unsuccessful in “doing the stuff” until Frisbee spoke at his church. After Frisbee asked all the young people under 25 to come forward and invited the Holy Spirit to manifest His power, the roughly 300 people fell on the floor, “as if on a battlefield,” and shook and spoke in unintelligible gibberish (David Roozen, Church, Identity, and Change). Wimber asked God if this was of Him, and that night a Calvary Chapel preacher named Tom Stipe called him on the phone and said, “I have a word for you; the Lord says, ‘This is me’” (“Lonnie Frisbee and the Jesus People Revival,”

Wimber should have tested the “Frisbee anointing” by Scripture, but instead he depended on signs and extra-scriptural prophecies.

Some of the elders of Wimber’s church called for a meeting to discuss the Frisbee phenomena, but the same confusion broke out to silence the protestors.

“All of a sudden, I’m seeing this guy next to me, this Ph.D. in Microbiology, begin to shake and he’s begun to shake under the presence of God. The presence of God’s coming. So I begin to stand up. The power of God knocks this guy down and he began to roll under my feet on the ground, screaming hysterically. The power of God came down on everybody in the room. And it was just absolutely mind-boggling” (John Ruttkay, quoted in Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippy Preacher).

Frisbee had a leather jacket with a picture of “Jesus” on the back that he used to “impart the spirit.” The transference of the spirit is a pagan practice, but it has been a major element of Pentecostalism from its inception. Usually hands are used as the transference agent, but Benny Hinn often uses his jacket or his breath to transfer the spirit, and Rodney Howard-Browne has used a towel and other things.

Wimber interpreted the phenomena as the power of the Holy Spirit, but it was a deceiving spirit. The apostles and early church leaders didn’t fall down and shake and speak in meaningless gibberish, but the practitioners of pagan religions do those very things under the power of the devil.

Wimber’s church experienced massive growth and young people “started baptizing friends in hot tubs and swimming pools around town.”

It was at this point that John Wimber left the Calvary Chapels and joined Kenn Gulliksen and the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Wimber soon became the leader of the Fellowship.

Wimber had accepted the “latter rain” end-time miracle revival heresy and the new prophecy movement, and he and Frisbee traveled together to spread their “signs and wonders power evangelism” to South Africa and Europe.

“John would speak and Lonnie would minister. They were the dynamic duo. Lonnie got up there and he’d wave his leather coat and the power of God would come and people would be falling all over these old pews in these Baptist churches. And Lonnie would start climbing over the pews and start laying hands on people saying, ‘Speak in tongues! Speak in tongues!’ And he’d hit them in the forehead and they’d instantly begin to speak in tongues. So I was blown away by that...” (Steve Zarit, Vineyard church member, quoted in Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippy Preacher).

In one service in South Africa, Frisbee asked the children from 12 years old and under to come forward, and they all fell down “slain” (“Lonnie Frisbee in South Africa,”

Wimber played a huge role in the spread of charismatic heresy throughout evangelicalism. He yoked up with C. Peter Wagner at Fuller Theological Seminary and taught a course called “Signs and Wonders and Church Growth.” Wagner traveled deeper and deeper into charismatic deception, eventually believing that he was a latter day apostle.

Under Wimber’s direction, the Vineyard churches took contemporary praise music to an edgier, more sensually-intense level. Lusting for “signs and wonders” and a tangible worship experience, they used powerful rock & roll music to feed that lust.

Eventually Wimber parted ways with Frisbee over his homosexuality after learning that he had a six-month affair with a young man in his church.

(For more see “John Wimber and the Vineyard” in the Directory of Contemporary Worship Musicians.)

When Frisbee died of AIDS in 1993 at age 43, a memorial service was held at self-esteem heretic Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral, where the hippie preacher is buried. At the service, Chuck Smith likened Frisbee to “Samson,” but Samson operated by the Spirit of God, whereby Frisbee operated by one who transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:13-14).

It was not only the Calvary Chapel’s Jesus People that were built upon a flimsy spiritual foundation. The field of Christian rock in general has been rife since its inception with spiritual shipwreck, heresy, and such things as divorce, adultery, and homosexuality, as any honest history of the movement will demonstrate.

Larry Norman

Consider Larry Norman, who has been called the father of Christian rock. Both of his marriages ended in divorce. Norman had an improper relationship with Randy Stonehill’s first wife, Sarah, and he fathered a child out of wedlock with one of his backup singers, Jennifer Wallace (Mike Rimmer, “Larry Norman: The David Di Sabatino’s Fallen Angel Documentary,” Cross Rhythms, March 28, 2010).

Two other musicians in Norman’s Solid Rock Records fold had divorces (Randy Stonehill and Tom Howard).

Just a few of the other divorced and/or adulterous CCM musicians are Steve Archer, Steve Camp, Bob Carlisle, Ralph Carmichael, Ja’Marc Davis of Raze, Eddie Degarmo, Michael English, Ryan Gingerich, Amy Grant, Stacy Jones of the rap group Grits, Ray Boltz, Marsha Stevens, Dana Key, Mylon LeFevre, Nikki Leonti, Sandi Patty (who admitted to committing adultery with at least two men and who left her husband for one of her backup singers), Kevin Prosch, John Michael Talbot, Randy Thomas, Greg Volz of Petra, Sheila Walsh, Jaci Velasquez, Wayne Watson, Deniece Williams, Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken, and members of the now disbanded Barnabas. Melody Green, the widow of Keith Green, divorced her second husband, Andrew Sievright.

Homosexuality has also played a significant role in the CCM movement. In The Gospel Sound, which first appeared in 1971, Anthony Heilbut said, “The gospel church has long been a refuge for gays and lesbians, some of whom grew up to be among the greatest singers and musicians.”

Douglas Harrison, a homosexual who grew up Southern Baptist, said, “... you can’t swing a Dove Award without hitting upon evidence of the longstanding, deep-set presence of queer experience in, and its influence on, Christian music culture at all levels” (“Come Out from among Them,” Religion Dispatches, April 30, 2010).

In 1998, CCM star Kirk Franklin said that “homosexuality ... is a problem today in gospel music--a MAJOR CONCERN--and everybody knows it” (Church Boy, pp. 49, 50).

Homosexual CCM artists include James Cleveland, Ray Boltz, Anthony Williams, Marsha Stevens, Kirk Talley, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Knapp, Doug Pinnock of King’s X, Vicky Beeching, Trey Pearson of Everyday Sunday, plus Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls.

The reason for all of this is not difficult to discern. Typically, CCM musicians have been accepted as saved upon the flimsiest testimony of faith and have not been properly taught and discipled. They have fed their spiritual lives with a constant diet of sensual music and have sought after emotional highs and “signs and wonders” instead of walking by faith. They have played with the world, which is more dangerous than any poisonous snake, instead of walking separated lives.

Larry Norman, the father of Christian rock, was not discipled properly and in fact cares little to nothing about church. When asked by Buzz magazine what church he attended, he refused to answer except to say, “I think it’s unimportant,” and, “I don’t like the question.” He said that he believes it is an “obsessive compulsion” to meet at regular times for church services, which flies in the face of Hebrews 10:25 and the example of the early Christians (Acts 2:42; 20:7).

Consider the All Saved Freak Band, one of the earliest Christian rock groups, which was influential then and continues to exist today in a reincarnated edition. Joe Markko, co-founder, had only been a professor of Christ out of the drug culture for three months when he formed the band in 1968. His mentor and fellow band member Larry Hill was an Assemblies of God pastor who left the denomination to start a work among hippies on the authority of “some visions.” Hill’s ministry fell apart when he fled Ohio to avoid prosecution for sexual abuse (John Thompson, Raised by Wolves: The Story of Christian Rock & Roll, Kindle location 441).

We could multiply these examples almost endlessly. The spiritual foundation of Contemporary Christian Music is frightfully unscriptural. With few exceptions, it wasn’t created by mature spiritual people with a solid testimony of salvation who were grounded in Scripture and committed to sound doctrine.

Transformation Agents

Maranatha Music acted as a change agent to broaden support for Christian rock in that the early “praise” music was softer rock & roll. It was folk rock and rock ballads. Further, Calvary Chapel held to a more conservative theology, avoiding the extreme elements of Pentecostalism which were still unacceptable to most churches at the time.

In spite of Maranatha’s more “conservative” image, Christian rock was riding a wild and untamable spirit. Its radicalness is seen in its association with the Roman Catholic Church and the fact that it has become permeated with dark heresies and the most outlandish charismatic nonsense. (See “False Christs and False Gods” in the chapter “Why We Are Opposed to Contemporary Christian Music.”) In order to gain a broader following, early Contemporary Christian Music needed the more conservative image that Calvary Chapel and Maranatha Music provided. The cutting-edge hard Christian rockers of the 60s and 70s--such as Larry Norman, Petra, and Resurrection Band--were too radical for most churches at the time.  Norman’s debut album Upon This Rock was banned by Christian bookstores. Barriers had to be broken down.

It is important to understand that the Calvary Chapel Jesus hippies loved every sort of “Christian” rock even from the earliest days. Chuck Girard of Love Song says, “We were amazed to see and hear the album ‘Upon This Rock’ by Larry Norman.” They loved any type of “Christian” rock, but Maranatha published the “softer” stuff and thereby increased the contemporary music’s popularity and broke down the barrier that existed widely in those days against using rock in Christian music. Even the softer rock was commonly rejected by churches in the 1970s, but the resistance was gradually broken down through the process of incrementalism.

Through the influence of the softer rock CCM, the leaven of Contemporary Christian Music spread, and the vast majority of churches are now addicted to rock of all types. They have bought into the shallow arguments that are used to justify the merger of the holy Rock Jesus Christ with the unholy rock of this world.

The leaven did its job. The CCM songs published by Maranatha in the 1970s, which were considered “edgy” at the time, are the “old conservative hymns” of the contemporary praise movement today. This is how the devil works. He uses the tools of confrontation, compromise, and incrementalism. He was the inventor of Hegelian Dialectics, which has been employed to great effect by communists, humanists, liberal educators, theological modernists, Christian rockers, and others to tear down the old and replace it with the new. This is done by bringing incremental change through a process of confronting the existing paradigm (be it philosophy, doctrine, culture, position, etc.) with an alternative. At first the alternative seems shocking and wrong, but with persistence on the part of the change agents, over time the new alternative is syncretized with the old paradigm to produce a compromise. This becomes the new accepted paradigm and the new base line for another round of change. In this way, the targeted group (e.g., classroom, church, political party, nation) is carried along slowly but surely toward the objective.

The role played by Calvary Chapel and Maranatha Music in the 1970s (whether by design or not) was similar to what Dick Clark’s American Bandstand did in the 1950s in broadening the popularity of rock & roll by cleaning up its “bad boy” rebel stigma in the minds of parents. Clark required the teenage rockers to dress conservatively in skirts and dresses, suits and ties, and toned down the dance moves. Clark didn’t change the licentious rebel character of rock; he merely cleaned up its image so it could leaven every sphere of society. Dick Clark was simply having a good time and making money, but the god of this world was pulling the strings.

Through the decades, Maranatha Music has itself become ever more radical in its use of rock & roll, ever more charismatic, ever more ecumenical. Today its workshops have a large influence in cross-denominational education. Church leaders from “ALL DENOMINATIONS” are welcome (

By 2008, 120,000 “church gate-keepers” who attended workshops “looked to Maranatha Music as the leading source of worship products and services.”

Maranatha not only spreads contemporary music, it also spreads the CCM heresies of non-judgmentalism, ecumenism, and “cultural liberalism.”

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