From the first time I can remember I loved the sound of rock and roll. I loved the distorted guitar, the hard hitting drums and the fist pumping choruses. Being raised in a Christian home I had many guidelines to follow concerning what is right and what is wrong. Much of the teaching was important, it did keep me from making mistakes as a kid, and I appreciate the oversight I was given. Lets face it, what kid is smart enough to make their own decisions?
But, there was something about music. I was raised around the piano. As kids my brother, sister and I would bang around on the piano just for fun. Our mother, aunt and uncle used to travel and sing in a gospel trio, so music was a huge part of our lives. I was on stage singing solos in church from a very young age. In high school, I was in the church’s cantata. One year I was Judas, the next year I played Jesus- It was quite a year.
I started to play trombone in the school band. By the eighth grade I wanted to learn guitar. Why? Because I wanted to rock! My dad finally gave me the permission to switch to guitar as long as I didn’t give up playing an instrument. From day one they had to keep me from playing my guitar. I loved it, I would play up to six hours a day, it became my life. After a long time of convincing with many discussions and listening to many songs, my parents finally permitted me to listen to Petra. At the same time this was going on, Stryper had just come out with To Hell With The Devil. In a word-no. My parents didn’t give Stryper the time of day. They couldn’t stand how they looked. They thought their sound was too hard to be Christian (although my mother did admit how much she appreciated the rich harmonies). Long story short, Petra- yes, Stryper- no. The only way I was able to listen to Stryper was either at a friends house or the local Christian book store which had demos you could listen to before buying. I remember listening to To Hell With The Devil and I was hooked. The sound was incredible. I mean who can’t appreciate the in your face guitar opening, and the powerful vocals with nothing but drums in the back until the guitar comes back in? Epic!
The lyrics weren’t heavy theology but basic truths such as who the devil is and to stay away from him. What I appreciate the most about Michael Sweet is his transparency. From the beginning he has always been honest and willing to admit mistakes that have been made along the way. If you haven’t read his book “Honestly”, it is a must read and explains the highs and lows of this band.
There is no question God has used this band through all the controversy. Many lives have been touched and many know Christ because of them. Now, as a middle aged Pastor, I can honestly say one thing Stryper taught me was not to put God in a box. And most definitely not to judge by appearance. People would look at Stryper and wouldn’t give them the time of day, and people would write them off without knowing who they were or understanding their story. I remember my pastor and youth pastor rolling their eyes and speaking condescendingly to me regarding this subject.
We need to understand that God can use many things to bring people to Him, some of the ways He uses will shock us. Why? Because, we don’t have His ways figured out as much as we think we do- nobody does. The disciples constantly thought they had it figured out, only to be confused and realize they didn’t. Are we to have standards? Absolutely, but those standards need to be based on an ACCURATE study of the scriptures, not on ones personal preference and bias. After twenty two years of being a pastor, God is still showing me continuously where I am wrong. So many of my beliefs are nothing more than personal preference. I never want to be like my pastor and youth pastor, I would rather spend time understanding things before making premature judgments. The youth of today need this as well. When they come into our lives we need to be able not to make fun of what they enjoy doing, but accept them and understand, God may minister to them in a way we would NEVER expect. The woman at the wells priority was just to get water, yet she met Jesus! (John 8) Many will come not looking for Jesus, it is our responsibility to show Christ to them.
I must close this post referencing the incredible musicianship of Stryper. Perhaps you had been turned off of Stryper because of the controversy or the made up stories about them. (There are several of those!) I would encourage you to listen to ANY Stryper song and tell me we are not dealing with top notch musicianship. Their sound is amazing! Any guitarist, vocalist, musician has to appreciate that……
- Wild Man
P.S. I was never able to see Stryper live, but it looks like I will finally have the opportunity next month!
Though I don’t play guitar nearly as much as I used to, I still love it, hey Mike if you ever want to rock out with a pastor let me know!
The anticipation was building. I could not wait. While at the fair I could hardly eat anything or concentrate on the rides. There was only reason I was at the fair. Petra was in concert. I remember finally having the chance to walk through the crowd and find my seat the first time I would see them live. I nearly tripped over people in front of me because all I could stare at was the stage. Why was this concert so important? I never could understand why, but the style of Rock and Roll music had always been appealing to me. This is ironic because I come from a home where this was not tolerated, at all. In the fourth grade I went to my friend's house down the road. He was playing a Kiss record. Innocently, I liked the sound of the music. I came home and told my older brother I liked Kiss. He, of course told my mom. Mom’s response, “No he doesn’t!” I didn’t like this style of music out of rebellion. I liked the sound, always have. I loved the sound of the crunchy guitar and the hard-hitting drums.
The difference now was Petra. My cousin was the first one who introduced me to Petra when I was thirteen. The term used at the time was Christian Rock- Rock music put to Christian lyrics. I instantly became a Petra fan! I borrowed his cassette and played it for my parents. They were very concerned. What made the difference for them was when I played the live album, “Captured in Time and Space.” When they heard the altar call at the end, they understood this was something different. Now I was allowed to listen to Petra.
Being a fan of something for me isn’t listening from time to time or enjoying a concert or two. It meant buying every album I could afford to buy and memorizing all songs. It also meant seeing them in concert 16 times throughout high school. In my music class my senior year I did my final report on the history of Petra. They became a MAJOR part of my life.
There was something else Petra meant to me. You see, while growing up I was never really accepted. I was uncoordinated and not athletic. I was picked on a lot as a kid. In high school, I wasn’t accepted by my peers both in school and youth group. I will never forget the moment in the eighth grade when someone made a joke about me in front of everyone (a common experience). My youth Pastor laughed along with everyone else. I never really understood why this was the case. Of course, this brought A LOT of insecurity my way. Even as a Pastor, father and husband, insecurity still raises its ugly head at times. (Kinda like whack-a-mole). Just ask my wife. But, it was Petra who was Jesus to me.
Here is how God used them:
If you have a ministry of any type, I would challenge you to use these four pillars as the foundation. Accept the outcasts. Be Biblical. Be Bold and use your ministry to teach others how to accept and follow Jesus. I thank God He used Petra to sustain me in my walk.
What ministry or person has meant the most to your walk with Christ? Respond in comments below or reply on twitter- @wildman1996
Petra- I Am On The Rock Video
I am The Wild Man...
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Husband, Father, Christian, Pastor, Pastor Coach, Leader, Preacher, Guitarist, Political Junkie, 80's Christian Rock/Metal Fan
I blog about all the above....simply put what interests me...