“Who’d ever thought I’d be a rock ‘n’ roll preacher, instead of just singing the blues? Who’d ever thought I’d be a rock ‘n’ roll preacher, singing my song so you could hear the good news?”
Something unexpected happened amid the social unrest and cultural turbulence of the late 1960s. Revival swept through the youth culture of Southern California, centered around Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa.
“By a process of elimination and study, it was an organic process of the Holy Spirit directing and guiding us,” Chuck Girard said. “We came out at the other end with the ultimate truth of Christianity. God took a bunch of hippies and changed a lot of things in music. It was from the heart, and it was not lorded over by executives. The 1970s were a great decade in Christian music.”
The Jesus Movement, when Christians realized it was OK to have long hair and play rock music in church, continues to reverberate today. Few names are more synonymous with that momentous era than Chuck Girard. As a founding member of Love Song, widely regarded as the first Christian rock band, and later as a solo artist, he is known for such songs as “Rock & Roll Preacher,” “Little Pilgrim” and “Sometimes Alleluia.”
Girard recently spoke with “Metro Voice” about his newly released book, “Rock & Roll Preacher,” from his home in Franklin, Tenn.
“It’s all from my point of view as I lived it, which is the best kind of history,” he said. “People who lived it should write it. It covers so many aspects of my life that were interesting, such as starting the Vineyard church in my living room. Who knew that would happen? I was able to be on the ground floor of what would become contemporary Christian music, which we called Jesus music back in those days. The book is about my own experiences as these things shaped my life.”
“Rock & Roll Preacher” has been a work in progress for more than four decades.
“About 1980, I got this prompting from the Lord that I resisted,” Girard said. “I asked, `Why would he want me to write my story? I’m not that famous.’ I actually started writing on yellow legal pads on airplanes, which shows you how far back that was. I have been working on it piecemeal over the years.”
About five years ago, he became more serious about completing the manuscript.
“I was writing the book in what I call stream of consciousness,” Girard said. “I wrote down everything I remembered, put it all together and began to edit it down and shape it. When I got done with my first draft and read it, I thought, `Wow, this is a pretty interesting story.’ I still didn’t know what to do with it. If it were up to me, I still wouldn’t write my story, but without sounding hyper-spiritual, I really felt prodded by the Lord throughout the whole process to do this book. I feel God is going to use it in some powerful ways.”
- “First of all, it’s a testimony. There is nothing I do in any of my artistic endeavors that does not include evangelism. It might be indirect, but that’s the focus of anything I do creatively, whether a DVD, a song or a book. My hope is that people will be touched by my testimony. I try to be real about my quest for God and how I found Jesus in my life.”
- “Number two is my struggle with alcohol addiction. I struggled with whether to make that a part of the main narrative. I thought if I put it in real-time, it would become a book about my addiction, and I didn’t want it to be that. I covered that in an appendix at the end to let people know how devastating it was. If someone is going through the same thing, they can see that someone like me can experience the same battles and struggles, and yet we can overcome.”
- “Finally, one of the best parts of the book, which we added at the end, is how you come to know Jesus. It’s more about what it is not to receive Jesus. It’s not going to church or being a good person; it’s about smashing some of the preconceived notions people have, such as `I’d better clean up so I can find God.’ The actual process is to find God, and He will clean you up.”
“Hopefully, the whole package put together will minister to people’s lives,” he said. “Otherwise, just as a song would be, it’s just clanging brass.”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Girard continues to minister through his music. He performs once a month on Facebook, and he is working on his first new studio album in many years. As churches reopen, he also is booked for several live performances.
“It’s been an adventure to watch God provide for us and provide opportunities to minister,” he said. “The interesting thing is that God keeps it going regardless of whether I have something on the calendar or not. We have always watched him be faithful in providing for all of our needs over the years, but it’s more dramatic now. Ironically, I have more peace now than I did before. Now my eyes are off the calendar, because there is no calendar. It’s all God.”
Decades after helping launch contemporary Christian music, his songs continue to resonate.
“I’m always amazed at how much activity there still is on my Spotify account and how often people respond on Facebook,” he said. “I think it’s more my generation, although there are some kids who are interested in the historic music. Most of the audience are people who were into the into the music or their parents were. There still are people who order physical copies off Amazon. I’m surprised that there is as much interest as there is.”
Along with completing the book and recording a new album, Girard also is working on a documentary film about Love Song. Filming is complete, and producers are raising funds for editing.
“Rock & Roll Preacher” is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to understand the lasting influence of the Jesus Movement, learn the history of contemporary Christian music or simply read a compelling biography.
“In working on the book, I would always take the approach of `What if this were fictional?’” Girard said. “If Chuck Girard were just a fictional character that you dreamed up, would this still be an interesting story? I believe it is. I think it would stand on its own, even if it weren’t an actual biography.
“We were just a bunch of people trying to work out our salvation. There is no preaching in it. It’s a non-threatening read if you are a seeker. If you are a seeker of any kind, I think it would be an excellent book.”
If you consider taking a look at “Rock & Roll Preacher,” remember Metro Voice is an Amazon Affiliate. Just click on the book cover below.
Learn more about the Love Song documentary project or make a tax-deductible contribution at www.lovesongtheband.com.
Find out more about Chuck Girard or book him for a performance at www.chuckgirard.com.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice