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It’s an age-old debate in the Christian music industry: Should artists attempt to “crossover” to mainstream audiences, or should they reserve their gifts and talents for the Lord and His followers?

Kirk Franklin, one of the most successful artists in gospel music history, was met with considerable flack when he burst onto the scene with his contemporary blend of R&B, hip hop and traditional gospel. On his 1997 album, God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation, he began the lead single, “Stomp,” with a pointed message:

For those of you who think gospel music had gone too far; you think we’ve gotten to radical with our message? Well, I’ve got news for you: You ain’t heard nothing yet!

Fittingly, the song featured Cheryl “Salt” James, member of the groundbreaking, all-female rap group, Salt-N-Pepa. Fueled largely by that single, God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nationrose to the top of the (mainstream) R&B chart and #3 on the pop chart, and it has since gone triple platinum.

On the CCM side, rock/pop band Sixpence None the Richer found themselves embroiled in a similar controversy following the release of their self-titled album in 1997. Despite the fact that the project contained considerable faith-based subject matter, it was a love song that garnered all the attention.

“Kiss Me” thrust the group into the national spotlight and was featured in the films She’s All That andNot Another Teen Movie, as well as the uber-popular television series Dawson’s Creek.

So what gives? It is really a bad thing for Christian and gospel artists to have fans outside of the church? Geoff Szabo, songwriter and music publisher with Szabo Songs says no – and he actually believes that artists should strive for mainstream acceptance.

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