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Whether hymns or gospel-based rock, lyrics convey a message
Ricardo Sanchez, music minster at Free Chapel in Gainesville, performs during last Sunday's worship service. - photo by MARCUS ROSETTI


Ricardo Sanchez, music minster at Free Chapel in Gainesville, talks about some of his favorite contemporary Christian music.

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Contemporary Christian praise and worship music expresses an excitement about God that is delivered through the sounds of today's music styles.

Some churchgoers say contemporary music is not as reverent as traditional hymns like "The Old Rugged Cross," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" or "Amazing Grace." But others wouldn't go to a church service on Sunday where a drum set wasn't prominent on stage.

The music all serves one purpose, though, according to Free Chapel's music minister Ricardo Sanchez. No matter the age of the song, he says, it is speaking the word of that generation.

"I think every culture has a sound," the Flowery Branch resident said. "From the hippie movement, to the '50s, '40s, '30s, it seems to me that every generation has a unique sound that they formulate and want to hear. You think of The Beatles, you think of Mozart, people appreciate contemporary Christian music because it represents something about them. ... It represents a way to express their faith maybe in a way that they couldn't."

Kai Bassett, music minister at McEver Road First United Methodist, said there's something to gain from all forms and generations of music.

"The best thing about the music of today ... it reflects more of the culture than say hymns from 50 years ago," he said. "I think that people try to take the world out of church - they kind of isolate the church. ... Everybody hears these songs on the radio at one time or another, and it might mean something to somebody ... once they hear our pastor deliver the message they might find new meaning in the song."

But just because Bassett and Sanchez say they love current music doesn't mean they don't have old favorites.

Bassett said he likes traditional church hymns like "How Great Thou Art" and "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah." Sanchez said he likes old standards like "It Is Well With My Soul," "Amazing Grace" and "Draw Me Near, Near Blessed Lord."

Sanchez even incorporated a few old hymns, although updated, to Free Chapel's most recent CD release, "Power of the Cross."

"We did a song called ‘At the Cross' and we did another song called ‘The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,' it's kind of a '70s tune but a lot of churches do it," Sanchez said. "We didn't want to make another church record, we really wanted it to stand out."

Free Chapel released the CD, co-produced by Sanchez and Grammy-award winner Israel Houghton, on May 5. Within a week, the CD was listed on iTunes' top 100, among artists like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake.

"As far as Christian albums, it went to No. 3 on iTunes. But as far as all albums, it hit the top 100," Sanchez said. "We're just church folk, and we love the Lord and thought we had a little something in us to say. And we feel like what we are doing could reach the nations of the world."

All the songs on the new CD were written by Sanchez, except for the two traditional hymns.

The trend among contemporary music today is to have a little more meat in the worship songs, Bassett said. Contemporary worship songs written today have more spiritual depth than their predecessors of just a few years ago.

"The more recent stuff that has more content and more words," he said. "When I talk about stuff with less words I'm really talking about the mid-'90s till about 2001 and 2002, and the stuff that is more recent has kind of gone back to more storytelling, more content and just really pulling actual Scripture and digging into it."

Not all fans of old-time hymns will be fans of contemporary music, he said. But it's important to keep an open mind.

"If you try and make that snap judgement you might miss out on songs that are really incredible, that have incredible meaning," Bassett said.

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