Steven Curtis Chapman is one of the forefathers of contemporary Christian music. Through the years, he's given listeners some of the industry's most iconic hits. His style has changed over time, with pop anthems dominating one era and '80s-style contemporary ballads dominating another. Steven's successful album, For The Sake Of The Call, released in 1990 and came out at the peak of his "chamber ballad" sound.
As the album turns 30 years old this year, I take a look back at this gold-certified release.
An Emerging Artist
In 2020, artists tend to go years between album releases. Not so in 1990. It wasn't unusual to see artists drop new projects every 12 to 18 months. And, so it was with Steven Curtis Chapman, who released his debut in the summer of 1987. And, just three and a half years later, Steven was already releasing his fourth studio album, For The Sake Of The Call.
Steven had already found success on hits, such as "His Eyes," "More To This Life," and "I Will Be Here." His signature ballad style and warm vocals made him an appealing and accessible presence in music. (Not to mention that mullet. Big hair was the in-thing in music back then.)
Based on the artist's already impressive accolades, For The Sake Of The Call had some big expectations to live up to. From the safety of the album's 30th anniversary, it's easy to see that it more than delivered. The record would go on to become certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). And, it continued the momentum Steven rode to what could arguably be called his golden age in the coming decade.
"For The Sake Of The Call"
The driving force of this album is its title track: "For The Sake Of The Call." The song is one of Steven's most recognizable hits of his early years. Let's not forget that the song has an incredibly catchy chorus; it will have you singing along in no time.
Perhaps, more importantly, is the song's thematic impact. "For The Sake Of The Call" speaks of how the apostles had to leave everything behind to follow Jesus when He called. This also is transitioned into a challenge for us as listeners to be willing to lay it all down for Christ.
Despite how trying and challenging 2020 has been for us, one could argue Christians in today's America have a relatively easy time compared to most eras of Christianity in the past. Case in point, 11 of 12 apostles were martyred. (And, the one who wasn't was still tortured and exiled.)
Many of the early Church fathers died for their faith. Even today in many nations, Christians are killed for their devotion to Christ. Even looking at those who are not, many throughout history had to give up lives filled with riches and fame to follow Christ. A lesser-known modern example is old-school film actress Dolores Hart, who left the fame and glamor of Hollywood to become a nun.
What does all of this mean for us? Most of us are able to go through much of our lives without paying much of a price for our faith. So many of us are able to have our devotion with little to no sacrifice on our part. Of course, the turbulent winds of 2020 have offered some reminders that the threats to our faith are not gone, just lying in wait. At any moment, they may strike and we may have to make a choice.
When we are given the call of Christ, could we abandon all of the other things we treasure if it were demanded of us? For no other reason than for the sake of the call?
The Coming Years
The success of this album would keep the Chapman train chugging. In addition to the title track, several other cuts would become staple hits, such as the catchy "Busy Man" or "No Better Place."
In the coming years and albums, Steven would go on to produce some of his most famous hits. One could legitimately call the 1990s the golden age for Steven's music. This album kickstarted a trend that would be followed by The Great Adventure two years later.
Albums Heaven in the Real World and Signs of Lifefollowed suit. This culminated in the decade's end with 1999's Speechless, which gave us perhaps Steven's most famous hit, "Dive." Each album comes packed with classic after classic. Steven's prolific discography has few rivals within Christian music.
For The Sake of the Call may not quite be Steven's magnum opus. But, it definitely helped cement him as one of the industry's leading men. Steven's warm presence made each of his songs a welcome addition to many stereos back in the day. And, for those who dive in beyond just the melodies, For The Sake of the Call offers a challenge to detach from material things and be willing to make any sacrifice for the greatest thing in the world: following Jesus Christ.
J.J. Francesco is a longtime contributor to the NRT Staff. He's published the novel 'Because of Austin' and regularly seeks new ways to engage faith, life, and community.
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