The band Jars of Clay can fairly be called a Christian success story. The four former students from evangelical Greenville College have made their mark on popular music with innovative, intelligent music animated by a faith that is neither preachy nor shy. Their 1995 eponymous album went platinum in a year. This fall they've been touring with pop rocker Sheryl Crow and enjoying critical acclaim for their latest recording.
But the most astonishing current example of Christians winning a hearing in secular pop culture are four musicians whose second album—released, by coincidence or providence, on September 11, 2001—went platinum in one month, double platinum in five months, and triple platinum in a year. At the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, they were the only serious rivals to foul-mouthed rapper Eminem. And while you might not want this heavy metal-hip-hop-reggae-rock band playing a concert next door while you're trying to lead a Bible study, P.O.D. represents a bright future for Christian witness in America. Actually—given that P.O.D.'s Satellite has also gone gold in Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and platinum in Canada, Germany, and Indonesia—make that the world.
There is no way to account for popular success; nor is it a foolproof index of cultural influence, let alone faithfulness. Still, lessons can be learned, and encouragement found, in the stories of both Jars of Clay and P.O.D. And perhaps the most important lesson comes in the striking difference between the two bands.
The four white guys in Jars of Clay would fit right in at any Gap-clad gathering of evangelical Christians. The four guys in P.O.D., with roots in gritty South San Diego, look like the world (with a few extra tattoos). Between them, ...1