My guess is that most who will read this article might not know the song “We Are The World.” Okay, most maybe by title alone — and some of you may have even been one of the millions of viewers to have streamed it on YouTube at some point in the last several years (I challenge any of you born in the ‘90’s or after to name half of the artists in the video!). For the rest of us who were fortunate to experience its indelible release in March 1985, we reminisce on what a moment it created in time.
For Stan Moser, Christian music industry veteran and founder of CCM United, he is seeking to create a “We Are The World” type of moment — but one that ultimately has its greatest impact on the world for Christ. On Wednesday night, January 21, 2015 in Brentwood, Tennessee, Moser will lead a small army of artists, musicians, film crews, and technicians along with around 950-or-so lucky audience members into “the greatest night in the history of contemporary Christian music.”
“[One of our goals] is to be part of an historical moment” says Moser, wearing glasses and a grin from ear to ear, as we sit together at Brentwood Baptist Church’s Connection Cafe — just across an echoey hallway from the auditorium where “We Will Stand,” the event’s official name, will take place a week from the publication of this article.
‘SADDLE UP,’ AND ON WITH THE SHOW
How would you envision the opening segment of “the greatest night in the history of contemporary Christian music?”
Humor us and take a moment. Sit back and relax. Clear your thoughts and your mind. Now, slide the chair away from your computer or move away from your device and put yourself into one of the slightly cushioned seats of Brentwood Baptist’s Hudson Hall on Wednesday evening, January 21…
Are you back? Good. Well, if you’re a lifelong CCM’er, chances are it might start out a little something like this: Speaking of “We Are The World,” you might see its co-producer Michael Omartian sitting at a grand piano and playing the opening riff of “Sing Your Praise To The Lord.” As the music grows more intense so do the lights and at just the right time they illuminate Amy Grant holding a microphone and, along with Omartian’s accompaniment, emphatically sings the opening choruses to this signature song.
About a minute into this, you start to see the other side of the stage come aglow and immediately segue into that familiar vocal cue: “Saddle up your horses!” You see Steven and his band rockin’ out to “The Great Adventure” and now you’re really starting to get into this! (Wait — it’s not the early ’90’s big-bangs, Garth Brooks’ style headset mic-wearing Steven Curtis Chapman, is it?!) Next, the music changes tempo and Sandi Patty announces her presence with the classic “How Majestic Is Your Name.”
When you think that you’ve heard and seen everything: Patty’s anthem transitions into “Great Is The Lord” and, of course, the next spotlight shines to reveal a grinning Michael W. Smith as he performs one of your favorite songs of all-time. As you begin to wonder if this is really just a dream “Smitty” surprises with a clever coda to a song ending, and while still tenderly tickling the ivory says, “Wow! We’re celebrating forty years of contemporary Christian music. Well, if you’re going to celebrate forty years of anything you’ve got to go back to the very beginning — ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Love Song.”
As one of the original Jesus-music bands completes their ballad “A Love Song,” the next sound you hear is that recognizable piano pattern layered with a silky voice proclaiming “I listen to the trumpet of Jesus / while the world hears a different sound / I march to the drum beat of God Almighty / while the others just wander around…” Russ Taff is then joined with his “Imperial” brothers and close out the round with “Praise The Lord.”
FROM AN INTRODUCTION TO THE GENESIS
In case you were wondering, the “dream” as you read above, will in fact be a reality. The introduction of We Will Stand is scripted similarly to these accounts, although you will have to tune-in to CCMUnited.com on Wednesday, January 21 at 6:30 PM CST to witness the real thing live (go there now and reserve your virtual seat!). This, however, only represents the first fifteen minutes of an entire two-hour-plus planned event! According to Moser and verified on the afore
mentioned website, the show will feature more than 30 of the top Christian recording artists of all-time performing at least 50 of the most recognizable contemporary selections ever produced.
So why this — and, why now?
It all started in October 2013 with a conversation between Moser and President/ CEO of Capitol Christian Music Group Billy Ray Hearn when the two were casually discussing the early days of Sparrow Records. What had been a thought in the very back of Moser’s mind, was suddenly thrust to the forefront as he was driving out of Hearn’s driveway that day. “I asked the Lord, ‘Is it time for a homecoming?’” recalls Moser as he spoke softly and sipped his hot tea in front of me. He admitted that God had provided a “moment” that day, and felt that it was confirmed when he later asked Hearn the same question, to which he replied “I think you may be right!”
In 1986, one year after the release of “We Are The World,” it was estimated that $44.5 million had been raised through the foundation USA For Africa. The overwhelming majority of that money was reportedly from record sales of the single in the U.S. alone. Moser’s vision, and another main goal for the We Will Stand event, is to create a moment that the Christian music industry could collaboratively produce for the benefit of ministry. “One of the ministries within our industry that we immediately identified as a perfect intersection with this project was The Gospel Music Trust Fund” states Moser.
In addition to Hearn, other board members on The Gospel Music Trust Fund include Amy Grant, Bill Gaither, President/CEO of Provident Music Group Terry Hemmings, Executive Director of the Gospel Music Association Jackie Patillo, and National Quartet Convention President Les Beasley to name a few. The Trust Fund exists as a benevolence in “providing financial assistance, in the event of an emergency or major catastrophe, terminal or severe illness, to individuals who have derived a substantial portion of their income from the field of Gospel music” (source, GospelMusicTrustFund.org).
Moser then spent the next several months seeking additional missional partners for We Will Stand that incorporated some level of connection with the Christian music industry. Among the many that are now officially on board are organizations like Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman’s Show Hope and Voice Of The Martyrs, an organization that industry veteran and long-time friend of Moser’s Stephen Yake is now involved. Compassion International is also listed as an official ministry partner.
With production, video, artist management firms, record labels, and music publishers confirmed — oh, and LifeWay Christian Resources stepping up to the plate by donating their live streaming services and expertise — what started as a casual conversation between old friends has given birth to an event that could truly be remarkable.
“We believe this is God’s timing and His desire. We’re simply joining Him as he works. We are truly ‘experiencing God!’” exclaims Moser.
THE POWER OF A SONG
Stan Moser got his start with Word Records, then headquartered in Waco, TX, as Vice President of Marketing over music and books. “I know the power of the songs that have come out of contemporary Christian music.” Moser jokingly claims to be “born again — again!” A testimony that many can relate to, but Moser’s impactful and literal “come to Jesus” moment actually occurred at an Imperials concert at First Baptist Church Waco in 1970.
“I was radically changed through contemporary Christian music. I had come to Christ as a child, but my life was far from where I knew the Lord wanted it to be. Dave Will gave an altar call and in that powerful moment I fully accepted Christ—but I was already the head of marketing over all of Word Records and Word Books!” He chuckles a little, “There were about 150 of my colleagues in attendance that night, so I struggled with moving forward to make a public profession of faith.”
Moser recalls “The next day I went to my boss’s office (Gerald McCracken, founder Word Records) and explained what the Lord had done in my life the previous night. I then suggested to him that he would more than likely need to officially relieve me of my duties at Word.” He remembers McCracken responding with “Stan, that’s wonderful news, but I don’t understand why I would need to fire you?” Moser answers “I’ve decided from this day forward that everything I do will be to serve Christ, so you will probably need to find someone better qualified to run this business.”
As he harkens, he laughs and says “McCracken looked at me like I had two heads, or something, and then said: ‘Stan, this is the best news that I could have ever received— now get back to work!’ So, I have experienced the power of the songs that have come out of contemporary Christian music.” He leans in and adds, “And I know the power of the songs that are coming out even today.”
Supporting this, among the We Will Stand lineup of classic Christian artists such as Love Song, Sandi Patty, First Call, and Don Francisco—modern artists like Newsboys, Francesca Battistelli, Kari Jobe, Mark Schultz, and Laura Story are scheduled to perform. You can view a listing of all scheduled appearances by logging on to CCMUnited.com/pages/artists.
MAJOR ON THE MESSAGE
Overriding this apparent momentous opportunity for music and the support of missions, Moser’s main objective for We Will Stand is the potential for outreach. “We want to capture as many performances by as many of the greatest artists of all time, as they are available. With this, we want to create a platform through television, audio/video recordings, and live streaming where these songs have yet another chance to simply do what they were intended to do—draw people closer to Christ and to encounter real hope that can only be found in Jesus.”
Through CCM United’s partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources, Jesus.net, and other media relationships, Moser estimates that the potential reach for the January 21 live streaming event could top around 40 million people in a multitude of countries around the globe. “We are praying for at least one million viewers world-wide to be tuned in to the live event” Moser confidently remarks.
BECAUSE FRIENDS ARE ‘FRIENDS FOREVER’
A running theme throughout all of this is unity, as it is intentionally implied behind the event’s name “We Will Stand.” An adopted title from the Russ Taff classic, the lyrics of the chorus echo the sentiments of Stan Moser’s 40-plus years in the Christian music industry and now for CCM United’s efforts. “You’re my brother / You’re my sister / So take me by the hand / TOGETHER WE WILL WORK until He comes.”
One particular moment he is looking forward to experiencing the night of January 21 is when the Newsboys and friends (again, tune into CCMUnited.com to find out what is really going to happen!) perform the instant classic “We Believe.” “Think about it,” Moser gazes “A large cross section of the past forty years of contemporary Christian musicians and artists declaring together ‘We believe in God the Father / We believe in Jesus Christ / We believe in the Holy Spirit / And He’s given us new life.’ It’s hard to get much better than that!” It is there where Moser prays the marriage of sight and sound will also convey the underlying message of unity. “We all thought we were competing — we were trying to beat each other’s brains out!” as he talks about his day-to-day experiences in the Christian music business. “We were trying to steal their artist—they were trying to beat us to the Number One spot… all of this ‘stuff’ that an industry does. In hindsight, however, we were working together to advance His Kingdom, to glorify God all along.”
As he mentions his companion book — additionally, CCM United will
release a We Will Stand live compact disc and DVD this year — Moser recollects a story surrounding the release of Amy Grant’s “Age To Age” album in 1985. He, along with Amy and a group of executives, found themselves at the same Los Angeles studio where “We Are The World” was recorded just six weeks prior. Myrrh Records had recently combined forces with A&M Records and the two teams gathered for a first listen-through of the new album.
“In the midst of that huge moment,” Moser says, “Amy leans over to me and asks ‘You know the best part of this?’” He laughingly fumbles around with the words to express that what he was thinking was, “DUH!”
“Amy then says ‘We’ve all done this together from the very beginning — and we’re still together. That’s the coolest thing!’”
“I didn’t know what she was talking about then, until now, some thirty years later while writing this book. A story like this cannot be written until it is lived.”
In the book, also titled We Will Stand (releasing March 10, pre-ordering available on CCMUnited.com), Moser expresses to me that the majority of its 230-plus pages are dedicated to the stories of these relationships and friendships. “In the unity of Jesus Christ working though all of us,” Moser says, “this is really a story of grace, redemption, and hope.”
As he graciously shares more of his stories, even in our brief time together, it’s amazing to hear of so many intersections and commonalities between the numerous executives and artists alike over time – through Stan’s accounts I was able to gather a sense of the deep friendships that have been made and cultivated through the work of this industry across label, business, and musical lines.
This group of friends will stand on one stage, for one night, on Wednesday, January 21. If Stan Moser has his way — and if the Lord’s the Lord of them — the spotlight will be shining brightest on the memories, the music, and the life changing message of Jesus Christ.
Stan Moser’s passion to see people coming to know Christ through the medium of contemporary Christian music, as he personally experienced in Waco, TX in 1970, is immediately apparent. His countenance expresses how the message in that moment has permeated his 45-year body of work in the business of Christian music. It’s easy to glance at “We Will Stand” and consider it a culmination/celebration of contemporary Christian music, but to him, it’s just a continuance of the work that the Lord called he and his friends to do many years ago.