Bridging The Gap: The Music Itself

Can Music Help Bridge Its Own Divide Between Black and White?

My initial article, “Yes, We Went There…” posed the question: Why are there no Black Gospel songs in the CCLI Top 100? There are cultural and industry-related factors that we can address in other articles. But for now, let me ask another question:

Is music strong enough to help break down its own barriers?

Back in the late ‘90s, I remember being very intrigued by a particular collaboration. The song was “Lean on Me,” and no, it’s not the Bill Withers classic. It was written by Kirk Franklin, but Crystal Lewis had a major vocal role in the song. So did Bono. I was struck at the time seeing artists from totally different camps come together and create such a powerful statement. It’s song #2809892 in the CCLI database. Check out the video:

Fast forward to 2018, and I’m even more intrigued by another collaboration: “Gracefully Broken” (CCLI song #7091509) by Matt Redman, Bryan & Katie Torwalt, Jonas Myrin and Tasha Cobbs. Both Matt and Tasha have released versions of the song.

I wonder if collaborations like these could be the quickest and most effective way to begin to bridge what divides us.

Songwriters from different publishers, record labels and performance rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC) write together all the time. And the industry adapts. It’s a little more complicated and messy from a business standpoint, but we make it work. If industry barriers can be broken by music collaboration, why not more significant ones as well?

Songs will always drive the bus. And if songwriters from black, white, Latin, Asian and all other cultures start coming together, there’s no telling what can happen. Reminds me of the quote originally attributed to Andrew Fletcher, Scottish writer, politician and patriot, “Let me write the songs of a nation and I care not who writes its laws.”

What’s exciting is—it’s already happening: Matt and Tasha’s co-write on “Gracefully Broken.” Tasha singing Will Reagan’s song, “Break Every Chain.” Tasha, Israel Houghton, Travis Greene, Kierra Shead, Tye Tribbett and The Walls Group joining Elevation Worship on their Collective, Evidence. I love the gospel-tinged worship that I hear coming from People & Songs recently. “Enter In (Psalm 100)” is just one example.

And the “Praise Break” after “Cleansed” is pure joy.

I’m sure there are many more collaborations and songs like these that are ready to burst forth. It’s time.

Who’s your dream collaboration? Chris Tomlin and CeCe Winans. Donnie McClurkin and Hillsong. Bethel and Hezekiah Walker. Marvin Sapp and Jesus Culture. Matt Maher and Tamela Mann. Israel Houghton and Darlene Zschech and Kari Jobe—oh wait, that one already happened. “Victor’s Crown” (CCLI Song #6454621). And it was awesome.

I’m just throwing out names and possibilities, but what if collaborations like these became the norm? Powerful songs that start to rise up in ALL churches. And divisions begin to fall.

Could it happen? We come together, collaborate and share the best of what we love—to the Glory of the Father Who first gave it to us. And begin to heal what divides us.

I say, let’s find out.

As a songwriter, worship leader and a member of the marketing team, Paul is connected to CCLI in every possible way. Paul serves as CCLI’s Content Creator in the U.S. Service Center in Vancouver, Washington. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from George Fox University and has served as a marketing/communications specialist and a worship leader for a number of churches and ministries.


  1. I think this article does a good job of pointing out the ‘good start”. I am also really glad that person asked the question. My heart aches a little every time I am looking for songs and clearly don’t see any diversity on CCLI. I don’t want “my group” to be left out of this discussion. There are some browned skinned people like myself who find it difficult identifying with most of the ‘cultural norms’ when it comes to my skin color, church included. I’ve always tended to go against the grain when it came to ‘being black'(in the popular stereotypical senses); and certainly I didn’t do so because I believed any other color’s culture was better. I’ve always listened to whatever music meant something to me. I think this has helped me be able to write music not based on the fact that my skin is brown. Whatever the color or culture, if it was bad for community, then I disregarded it. When it comes to music that facilitates worship, I believe it should be based on the heart of God and not serve to entertain me. I suppose I get it when my non-black friends say that gospel music can be distracting because its too dramatized and when my non-white friends say that CCLI music can be distracting because its too plain and boring. My response to either group is to pick songs that “facilitate the communication with God”. Lastly, can we stop saying “black church” and “white church” please! This only lends to further segregation and restricts a person’s reason for choosing to attend either to skin color.


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