Christianity Knowledge Base

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Contemporary Christian music, also known as CCM, Christian pop, and occasionally inspirational music is a genre of modern popular music, and an aspect of Christian media, which is lyrically focused on matters related to the Christian faith and stylistically rooted in Christian music. It was formed by those affected by the 1960s Jesus movement revival who began to express themselves in other styles of popular music, beyond the church music of hymns, gospel and Southern gospel music that was prevalent in the church at the time. Initially referred to as Jesus music, today, the term is typically used to refer to pop, but also includes rock, alternative rock, hip hop, metal, contemporary worship, punk, hardcore punk, latin, EDM, R&B-influenced gospel and country styles.

It has representation on several music charts including Billboard's Christian Albums, Christian Songs, Hot Christian AC (Adult Contemporary), Christian CHR, Soft AC/Inspirational and Christian Digital Songs as well as the UK's Official Christian & Gospel Albums Chart. Top-selling CCM artists will also appear on the Billboard 200. In the iTunes Store, the genre is represented as part of the Christian and gospel genre[1] while the Google Play Music system labels it as Christian/Gospel.[2]


The growing popularity of rock and roll music in the 1950s was initially dismissed by the church because it was believed to encourage sinfulness. Yet as evangelical churches adapted to appeal to more people, the musical styles used in worship changed as well by adopting the sounds of this popular style.[3]

The genre became known as contemporary Christian music as a result of the Jesus movement revival in the latter 1960s and early 1970s,[4][5] and was originally called Jesus music.[6] "About that time, many young people from the sixties' counterculture professed to believe in Jesus. Convinced of the bareness of a lifestyle based on drugs, free sex and radical politics, some of the Jesus 'hippies' became known as 'Jesus people'".[7] However, there were people who felt that Jesus was another "trip".[7] It was during the 1970s Jesus movement that Christian music started to become an industry within itself.[8] "Jesus music" started by playing instruments and singing songs about love and peace, which then translated into love of God. Paul Wohlegemuth, who wrote the book Rethinking Church Music, said "[the] 1970s will see a marked acceptance of rock-influenced music in all levels of church music. The rock style will become more familiar to all people, its rhythmic excesses will become refined, and its earlier secular associations will be less remembered."[9]

Evangelical and Protestant Christianity formed a born again style of Christian music. Those involved were affected by the late 1960s to early 1970s Jesus movement, and colloquially self-referred to as "Jesus Freaks", as the counterculture movement of hippies, flower children, and flower power swept the nation. The Calvary Chapel was one such movement, which launched Maranatha Music in 1971. They soon began to express themselves in alternative styles of popular music and worship music.

Larry Norman is often remembered as the "father of Christian rock", because of his early contributions (before the Jesus movement) to the developing new genre that mixed rock rhythms with the Christian messages.[10] Though his style was not initially well received by many in the Christian community of the time, he continued throughout his career to create controversial hard-rock songs such as "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?".[10] He is remembered as the artist "who first combined rock 'n' roll with Christian lyrics" in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.[10] Though there were Christian albums in the 1960s that contained contemporary-sounding songs, there were two albums recorded in 1969 that are considered to be the first complete albums of "Jesus rock": Upon This Rock (1969) by Larry Norman initially released on Capitol Records,[11] and Mylon – We Believe by Mylon LeFevre, released by Cotillion, which was LeFevre's attempt at blending gospel music with southern rock.[12][13] Unlike traditional or southern gospel music, this new Jesus music was birthed out of rock and folk music.[14]

Pioneers of this movement also included Andraé Crouch and the Disciples, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Barry McGuire, Evie, Paul Clark, the Imperials and Keith Green among others. The small Jesus music culture had expanded into a multimillion-dollar industry by the 1980s.[8][15][16] Many CCM artists such as Benny Hester,[17][18] Amy Grant,[19] DC Talk,[20] Michael W. Smith,[21] Stryper,[22] and Jars of Clay[23] found crossover success with Top 40 mainstream radio play.

The genre emerged and became prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s.[24] Beginning in July 1978, CCM Magazine began covering "contemporary Christian music" artists and a wide range of spiritual themes until it launched online publications in 2009.[25][26]

It has certain themes and messages behind the songs and their lyrics including praise and worship, faith, encouragement and prayer.[27] These songs also focus on themes of devotion, inspiration, redemption, reconciliation and renewal.[4] Many people listen to contemporary Christian music for comfort through tough times. The lyrics and messages conveyed in CCM songs have had varied, positive Christian messages over the decades. For instance, some of the songs have been aimed to evangelize and some of the lyrics are meant to praise and worship Jesus.[24] One of the earliest goals of CCM was to spread the news of Jesus to non-Christians.[4] In addition, contemporary Christian music also strengthens the faith of Christians.[4]

Style and artists[]

Contemporary Christian music has influences from folk, gospel, pop and rock music.[24] Genres of music such as soft rock, folk rock, alternative, hip-hop, etc. have played a large influence on CCM.[28]

Charismatic churches have had a large influence on contemporary Christian music and are one of the largest producers of CCM. Hillsong Church is one of the many prominent CCM artists.[29] Contemporary Christian music has also expanded into many subgenres.[24] Christian punk, Christian hardcore, Christian metal and Christian hip hop, although not normally considered CCM, can also come under the genre's umbrella.[30] Contemporary worship music is also incorporated in modern CCM. Contemporary worship is both recorded and performed during church services.

Some prominent artists who have assisted in CCM becoming popular include Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Phil Keaggy and John Elefante.[24] Several mainstream artists, such as The Byrds, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Elvis Presley, Creed, Lifehouse and U2, have dealt with Christian themes in their music, yet are not part of the CCM industry.[30] Other artists representing the genre include MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, Third Day, Matthew West, tobyMac, Chris Tomlin, Brandon Heath, Aaron Shust and Lauren Daigle. Historically, Jars of Clay, dc Talk, Steven Curtis Chapman and Newsboys have also belonged to this genre.

In recent years, contemporary worship music with a distinctly theological lyric focus blending hymns and worship songs with contemporary rhythms & instrumentation, has emerged, primarily in the Baptist, Reformed and more traditional non-denominational branches of Protestant Christianity.[31][32] Artists include well-known groups such as Shane & Shane and Hillsong United and modern hymn-writers, Keith & Kristyn Getty[33] as well as others like Sovereign Grace Music,[34] Matt Boswell and Aaron Keyes. The format is gaining traction in many churches[35] and other areas in culture[36] as well as being heard in CCM collections & musical algorithms on several internet streaming services.


Contemporary Christian music has been a topic of controversy in various ways since its beginnings in the 1960s.[30] The Christian college Bob Jones University discourages its dormitory students from listening to CCM.[37] Others simply find the concept of Christian pop/rock music to be an unusual phenomenon, since rock music has historically been associated with themes such as sexual promiscuity, rebellion, drug and alcohol use and other topics normally considered antithetical to the teachings of Christianity.[30] This controversy caused by evangelical pop music was explored by Gerald Clarke in his Time magazine article "New Lyrics for the Devil's Music".[38]

Some writers from the Reformed Presbyterian tradition assert that the inclusion of CCM in a worship service violates the second commandment and the regulative principle of worship because it adds man-made inventions, lyrics and instrumental music to the biblically appointed way of worshipping God.[39]

Contemporary Christian musicians and listeners have sought to extend their music into settings where religious music traditionally might not be heard. For instance, MercyMe's song "I Can Only Imagine" was a crossover success despite having a clear Christian message.[40]

Paul Baker, author of Contemporary Christian Music, addressed the question, "Is the music a ministry, or is it entertainment? The motives, on both sides, were nearly always sincere and well intentioned, rarely malicious."[41]

"The responsibility of the church is not to provide escape from reality", according to Donald Ellsworth, the author of Christian Music in Contemporary Witness, "but to give answers to contemporary problems through legitimate, biblical means."[42]

Many studies on church growth show that churches have grown in size after changing the style of music.[43] James Emery White, a consultant for preaching and worship within the Southern Baptist Convention, made a statement about how many churches that changed styles to using more contemporary Christian music, appeared to have a quicker growth.[44]


Contemporary Christian album sales had increased from 31 million in 1996 to 44 million sales in 2000. Since EMI's purchase of Sparrow Records, sales had increased 100 percent. However, the main goal of the label continues to be aspiring to make a positive impact on the world through contemporary Christian music. The company has given back money to the CCM community.[45] Overall, according to Tyler Huckabee of The Week online magazine on February 17, 2016, CCM sales had plummeted to 17 million in sales (related in part to the decline in the sales, mostly of compact discs, seen also in the overall music industry in the United States during the 2010s and competition with legal, purchased digital downloads of individual songs).

See also[]

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  • Christian alternative rock
  • Christian country music
  • Christian electronic dance music
  • Christian hip hop
  • Christian metal
  • Christian rock
  • Contemporary worship music
  • Latin Christian music
  • Neues Geistliches Lied


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  1. In the US iTunes store, the section is entitled Christian & Gospel. In the UK iTunes store, it's Gospel. Canada's and Australia's iTunes section is entitled Inspirational.
  2. Google Play Music.
  3. McDowell, Amy D., Template:Extlink, <> 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Banjo, Omotayo O. & Williams, Kesha Morant (2011), “Template:Extlink”, Journal of Media & Religion 10 (3): 115–137, DOI 10.1080/15348423.2011.599640 
  5. "Who killed the contemporary Christian music industry?", February 17, 2016. 
  6. Religion and Popular Culture in America, Third Edition pp. 9–. Univ of California Press (2017).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Frame, John M. Contemporary Worship Music. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Hendrickson Publishers. “By the '80s, the special-interest network that Jesus music had spawned had developed into a multimillion-dollar industry. Contemporary Christian music had its own magazines, radio stations and award shows. The Jesus movement revival was over.”
  9. Baker, Paul. Page 140. Contemporary Christian Music: Where it came from What it is Where It's Going. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1985. Print.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Hevesi, Dennis. "Larry Norman, 60, Singer of Christian Rock Music". The New York Times March 4, 2008: 1. Print. February 3, 2016
  11. John J. Thompson, Raised by Wolves: The Story of Christian Rock & Roll (2000):49.
  12. Oord, Bill. Mylon LeFevre Biography.
  13. Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Hendrickson Publishers. “Musically, the 1970 album Mylon (a.k.a. We Believe) is deservedly a Christian classic, a raw example of down-home southern rock. A dominant organ, spicy guitars, and generous use of female background vocals give the project a funky-and-gritty combination of R&B soul and roots rock.”
  14. Di Sabatino, David (1999). .
  15. It's a long way from 'Jesus music' to CCM industry.
  16. News Digest. (March 16, 2003).
  17. CCM Legends – Benny Hester.
  18. Billboard Top 50 Adult Contemporary Chart – Nov 7, 1981 – 'Nobody Knows Me Like You' Debuts No. 44 Mainstream. (November 7, 1981).
  19. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Amy Grant – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  20. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"dc Talk – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  21. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Michael W. Smith – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  22. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Stryper – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  23. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Jars of Clay – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Nantais, David (2007), “Template:Extlink”, America 196 (18): 22–24 
  25. CCM Magazine. TodaysChristianMusic.
  26. CCM Magazine Subscription Options. CCM Magazine.
  27. Adedeji, Femi (2006), “Template:Extlink”, Asia Journal of Theology 20 (2): 230–240 
  28. Mumford, Lawrence R. "A variety of religious composition: the music we sing, in and out of church, is more varied and interesting than we've been led to believe." Christianity Today, June 2011: 42+. Fine Arts and Music Collection. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  29. Evans, Mark. Studies in Popular Music: Open up the Doors: Music in the Modern Church. London: Equinox Publishing Ltd, 2006. eBook.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Hendrickson Publishers.
  31. Keith Getty Is Still Fighting the Worship Wars (March 26, 2018).
  32. - Getty worship conference strikes a chord | Baptist News.
  33. Modern Hymn Writers Aim To Take Back Sunday. NPR.
  34. McEachen, Ben (June 25, 2018). What do you mean by worship?.
  35. Smith, Rew. Doxology & Theology conference: Churches need to sing the Word of God.
  36. Hymn Writer Keith Getty Becomes First Christian Artist To Be Appointed Officer Of The Order Of The British Empire (OBE) By The Queen (July 27, 2018).
  37. BJU ~ Residence Hall Life. Bob Jones University.
  38. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Clarke, Gerald (June 24, 2001). "New Lyrics for the Devil's Music". Time. Archived from the original on November 20, 2011.
  39. Schwertley, Brian. Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God.
  40. Adams, Ramsay (July 6, 2003). Christian Rock Crosses Over. Fox News Channel.
  41. Baker, Paul (1985). . Crossway Books.
  42. Ellsworth, Donald (1979). . Baker Book House.
  43. Fast Facts about American Religion. (May 6, 1998). Retrieved September 4, 2013.
  44. Miller, Steve. The Contemporary Christian Music Debate. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale Publishers, 1993. Print. p.3
  45. Black, Beau (March 11, 2002), “Template:Extlink”, Christianity Today (Fine Arts and Music Collection) 

Further reading[]

  • Alfonso, Barry. The Billboard Guide . Billboard Books, 2002.
  • Beaujon, Andrew (2006). Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock. Da Capo Press.
  • Di Sabatino, David (1999). . Greenwood Press.
  • Du, Paul (2003). pp. 422–423. Billboard Books.
  • Granger, Thom (2001). . CCM Books.
  • Hendershot, Heather (2004). . University of Chicago Press.
  • Howard, Jay R (1999). Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music. The University of Kentucky Press.
  • Joseph, Mark (1999). . Broadman & Holman.
  • Joseph, Mark (2003). Faith, God & Rock 'n' Roll. Sanctuary.
  • Kyle, Richard (2006). pp. 281–286. Transaction Publishers.
  • Lucarini, Dan. . Evangelical Press.
  • Miller, Steve (1993). . Tyndale House.
  • Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Hendrickson Publishers.
  • Romanowski, William D. Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture. Brazos Press, 2001.
  • Sears, Gordon E. Is Today's Christian Music Sacred? Coldwater, Mich.: [s.n., 199-?]. 32, [1] p. Without ISBN
  • Stephens, Randall J. (2018). The Devil's Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock 'n' Roll. Harvard University Press.
  • Stowe, David W. (2013). No Sympathy for the Devil: Christian Pop Music and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism. University of North Carolina Press.
  • Young, Shawn David (2015). Gray Sabbath: Jesus People USA, the Evangelical Left, and the Evolution of Christian Rock. Columbia University Press.

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