I have always said that if you have something that solves a problem for a church – that you have something good.
Several years ago Howard Rachinski saw that there was a need for his local church and a few other ones. From there something quite significant has grown and is now serving the church worldwide. I can personally testify that Howard and his CCLI organization has served not only this magazine but also our Christian Musician Summit conferences for 14 years now… their partnering spirit and friendship has encouraged me countless times.
Howard was recently honored by being inducted into the Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame… we thought it would be interesting to speak with him about those humble beginnings of CCLI.
WORSHIP MUSICIAN: Take us back to when you first got the idea of creating a vehicle for churches to help them with their licensing… what were you thinking at that time?
HOWARD RACHINSKI: I was Music Minister for a large church in Portland, OR – Bible Temple. We had an 80-voice choir, 30-piece orchestra and I was very involved in writing, recording, arranging, creating dramatic musicals and overseeing the Northwest Worship Conference. I was “at peace” with doing what the Lord had placed within me. In April 1984, our local newspaper reported that the Diocese of Chicago was sued $3.1 million for copying lyrics without permission. Ironically, one of the songs in the publisher’s catalog was “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love (We Are One In The Spirit)”. We were shocked!
I was thinking, “How could a church be sued for doing that? That doesn’t seem right. This is our worship expression!” Our church had 400 song transparencies and an extensive tape ministry that included our worship services. We definitely didn’t want our church to face this type of embarrassment! I was upset, even angry, that churches could be treated that way.
At the end of 1984, I began to study the U.S. Copyright Law and began to realize what was really involved in song ownership and song usage. The Copyright Law was fair… but it wasn’t practical. Churches have a copyright exemption for singing songs, but they don’t have an exemption for copying songs. Simply, a song is an asset and in order to make copies of songs, a church needed to get permission from the song owner. A report in the mid- 1980s stated that 56% of the churches in America were copying without permission.
When I told my pastor (Dick Iverson) this, he said, “How can I preach from the pulpit about honesty and integrity when behind me we are making copies of songs illegally?” I told my Pastor that I think we can come up with a solution so that we wouldn’t be sued.
In February 1985, I created a document called the “Permission of Use”, whereby song owners could make their songs available to churches for an affordable annual fee and, in return, song owners could be paid royalties from this fee. We called our copyright service – StarPraise Ministries – and introduced this concept to 300 churches at the Northwest Ministers Conference in May 1985 for $75.00. We birthed and operated StarPraise Ministries in our church music department. Initially, we thought this copyright service would only be used by the few hundred churches that we were in close fellowship with. After one year, we had 500 churches working with us and, after two years, we had over 1100 churches. We then realized that this was a need much larger than just our own circle of church acquaintances – churches wanted to be honest, they simply didn’t have a resource to help them in this matter. As a result, in January 1988, we separated StarPraise Ministries from the church, in April 1988 we changed the name to CCLI and in October 1988 we launched our “new” service, which now contained 180 publishers. The rest is history…
The driving force in my heart at that time was simply to help churches deal with copyright legally and to support the songwriters fairly.
WM: As this good idea grew and grew, what was one of the first moments when you realized that CCLI could become something quite significant?
HOWARD: I remember this very clearly! In 1988, I was given a prophetic word from Pastor David Schoch (Long Beach, CA), saying I was going to be a protector of worship, not only in this House (Bible Temple) but around the world, so that churches could experience the Glory of God like never before. By 1990, we had over 20,000 churches working with CCLI, and we had expanded our service to the churches in Canada (my “roots”).
In April 1990, our executives were having lunch at Gustav’s Restaurant in Portland, OR. As we were thinking about what and how we should strategize for our future, I distinctly heard the Lord say to me, grab a napkin and start writing. I quickly began to write down what the Lord said – Licensing, Lyrics, Lead Sheets, Song Charts, Audio, Visual. I was on sensory overload as I began to realize the Lord was launching us out into these needs around the world.
2 Corinthians 10:13 was impressed upon my spirit:
We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you.
The Greek word “metron” is used – the limits of the sphere which God has appointed us. Although we sometimes think we can do everything, God says He has put a limit on where our calling should be. I felt the Lord say, “Don’t limit Me, let Me limit you.” Wow! We have committed ourselves to staying within the sphere that God has appointed us and to keeping a humble spirit while fulfilling His global purpose for our ministry.
WM: Looking head, what are your hopes and dreams for CCLI in the future?
HOWARD: As wonderful as the past has been, we are even more excited about the future. Our new Vision Statement is “Simplifying Access” and our new Mission Statement is “To empower worship by providing affordable and legal content, resources and media”. We, first of all, see an exciting future with international expansion. Our new agreements with the song owners now enable CCLI to make its resources available to churches in every country. We are currently developing our website to accommodate servicing churches everywhere. And, we anticipate having CCLI Service Centers in India and China over the next several years. Secondly, we are excited about providing additional resources to the churches that will help them with their respective worship activities. Such new resources include performance licenses for non-worship events (concerts, banquets, prerecorded lobby music, etc.) and additional SongSelect resources, including rhythm charts, orchestrations, video tutorials, song tracks, etc.
At the core of everything we have done, and everything we anticipate doing, we simply desire to serve the church.