What Christian artists influenced J. most as a lyricist?
Let's ask J.:
I learned by listening to many Christian artists back then.
Steve Taylor taught me I could use my powers of humor for good. His solo stuff was incredible and I love what he's written with the Newsboys. Keith Green, Larry Norman and Tom Franzak taught me you could be funny in one song and dead serious the next, all the while keeping it totally Biblical. Don Francisco and Carman taught me about storytelling, from the first person and the third person.
Bob Hartman of Petra taught me that it was O.K. to talk about a really broad base of Biblical subjects and stories and to use the hook line of the chorus and even puns like country music's lyrics traditionally have used.
Jerry Davison of Jacob's Trouble was great at that, too. He's very underrated. I was glad when Third Day covered his song "These Thousand Hills" on their "Offerings" album. Speaking of songs on "Offerings," Third Day also covers one of my all-time favorite Christian songs and lyricists on that same album, "Saved" by Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan was probably the most influential lyricist for me, both Christian or secular. He can write serious or silly, simple or sophisticated. I think he probably influenced the lyrical style of rock and roll (and rap) more than anybody else by showing you could write about any topic and rhyme any words you wanted. An argument could be made for John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but Dylan even influenced them! Dylan's first two Christian albums, "Slow Train Coming" and "Saved" (and to a lesser extent, "Shot of Love" and "Infidels") are among the finest Christian songwriting I've ever heard.