Carman: 1956-2021

I was saddened to hear the news of Carman’s passing this evening and was compelled to share some thoughts. Carman’s music was a huge inspiration for me when I first became a Christian in 1994. After my Bible, Carman’s book Raising the Standard was the first book I purchased. His album, The Standard, carried me through many ups and downs in my early walk with Jesus.

I pulled Carman’s book from my library a few minutes ago and as I was flipping through, I see that I had underlined a quote on October 14th, 1994: “No matter how incapable or weak you may feel, God has supernatural strength for you far beyond anything you have imagined. Like salvation, you can’t earn it – you can only receive it by an act of faith. It doesn’t’ matter how many times you’ve blown it. God still wants to use you.” (Raising the Standard, p. 18). I was 20 years old and had been a Christian for 7 months when I underlined this quote.

No matter how incapable or weak you may feel, God has supernatural strength for you far beyond anything you have imagined. Like salvation, you can’t earn it – you can only receive it by an act of faith. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve blown it. God still wants to use you.

Carmen, Raising the Standard, p. 18.
I was 20 years old and had been a Christian for 7 months when I underlined this quote.

Off the top of my head, here are three reasons why Carman’s ministry had such a positive influence on my early Christian journey.

1. he kept it simple.

Carman’s message was simple: God’s Kingdom is invading and is powerful enough to overcome the forces of the enemy – stay true to Jesus and God’s word, and you’ll be victorious. I’ll never forget the music video to his song, Great God. The setting is a classroom where a group of students are about to take a history test. The teacher explains that the Bible is like a sword and by putting its teachings into actions, it can defeat the spiritual enemies of the day. This cosmic conflict view helped me to interpret the world through different eyes and gave me confidence that God would give me the strength to endure.

Carman’s message was simple: God’s Kingdom is invading and is powerful enough to overcome the forces of the enemy – stay true to Jesus and God’s word, and you’ll be victorious.

2. his message was uncompromising.

His message was one of uncompromising commitment to Jesus. As a 20 year old Christian, living on my own and having few Christian friends, I was concerned that I might not be able to stay faithful to God. When I would listen to Carman’s music, I would be reminded that we are on the winning side, but to be on the winning side meant uncompromising commitment to follow and serve Jesus. I found this message to be exactly what I needed at that time to help me push through some dark days.

3. his teaching was prophetic.

In many ways, Carman’s simple message went beyond quoting Bible verses and teaching Christian lessons. He spoke about the world that we lived in and the challenges that people of faith were facing day by day. He wove history and basic doctrine into his message of encouragement. He also spoke against elements of culture that he believed were threats to the the gospel. At that time in my life, his simple, uncompromising, and prophetic message was exactly what I needed to keep me going. In many ways, Carman’s ministry helped me to lean into God when so many forces were trying to pull me away.

What about Carman’s music?

Interestingly enough, even though Carman was a successful CCM artist, his music was secondary to me. His hooks were catchy and his videos were well made. I purchased everything I could at the time. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to attend one of his live performances, which I hear were electric.

I admit that I have not listened to Carman’s music is a long, long time but this evening, thanks to YouTube, I was able to take a fun walk down memory lane as I watched his videos once again.

My faith and understanding has grown considerably since those early days (I still have a long way to go though). As I reflect, I do recognize that there are some aspects of Carman’s message that I no longer agree with but I suppose we could say that about just about nearly any Christian musician or teacher that we followed as a young person. In my experience, the benefits of his ministry in my life far outweigh anything that I may not 100% agree with theologically in 2021.

Carman’s music and ministry will always hold a special place in my heart. I think I’ll go watch the video for “Great God” one more time before going back to bed.

And this tune is still in my head at 2:30 AM!

He’s a great God, a righteous King
Ruler over everything
He’s a great God, we will proclaim
Honor and glory to his name

See you on the other side, brother!

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