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Contemporary Christian music

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Contemporary Christian music (or CCM—and occasionally "inspirational music") is a genre of modern popular music which is lyrically focused on matters concerned with the Christian faith. It formed as those affected by the 1960s Jesus movement revival began to express themselves in a more contemporary style of music than the hymns, Gospel and Southern gospel music that was prevalent in the church at the time. Today, the term is typically used to refer to pop, rock, or praise & worship 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]


The growing popularity in the styles of Rock 'n '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.[2]

The genre became known as contemporary Christian music as a result of the Jesus movement revival in the latter 1960s and early 1970s,[3][4] and was originally called Jesus music.[5] "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, 'hippies' became 'Jesus people'".[6] However, there were people who felt that Jesus was another "trip".[6] It was during the 1970s Jesus movement that Christian music started to become an industry within itself.[7] "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."[8]

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.[9] 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?".[9] He is remembered as the artist "who first combined rock 'n' roll with Christian lyrics" in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.[9] Though there were Christian albums in the 1960s that contained contemporary-sounding songs, there were two albums recorded in 1969 that are considered[by whom?] to be the first complete albums of "Jesus rock": Upon This Rock (1969) by Larry Norman initially released on Capitol Records,[10] and Mylon – We Believe by Mylon LeFevre, released by Cotillion, which was LeFevre's attempt at blending gospel music with southern rock.[11][12] Unlike traditional or southern gospel music, this new Jesus music was birthed out of rock and folk music.[13]

Pioneers of this movement also included Keith Green, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Barry McGuire, Andraé Crouch and the Disciples, Evie, Benny Hester,[14][15] and The Imperials, among others. The small Jesus music culture had expanded into a multimillion-dollar industry by the 1980s.[7][16][17] Many CCM artists such as Benny Hester,[18][19] Amy Grant,[20] DC Talk,[21] Michael W. Smith,[22] Stryper,[23] and Jars of Clay[24] found crossover success with Top 40 mainstream radio play.

The genre emerged and became prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s.[25] 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.[26][27]

It has certain themes and messages behind the songs and their lyrics including Praise and worship, faith, encouragement, and prayer.[28] These songs also focus on themes of devotion, inspiration, redemption, reconciliation, and renewal.[3] Many people listen to contemporary Christian music for comfort through tough times. The lyrics and messages conveyed in CCM songs are aimed to evangelize and to worship Jesus.[25] One of the earliest goals of CCM was to spread the news of Jesus to non-Christians.[3] In addition, contemporary Christian music also strengthens the faith of believers.[3]

Style and artists[edit]

Contemporary Christian music has influences from folk, gospel, pop and rock music.[25] Genres of music such as soft rock, folk rock, alternative, hip-hop, etc. have played a large influence on CCM.[29]

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.[30] Contemporary Christian music has also expanded into many subgenres.[25] Christian punk, Christian hardcore, Christian metal, and Christian hip hop, although not normally considered CCM, can also come under the genre's umbrella.[31] Contemporary worship music is also incorporated in modern CCM. Contemporary worship is both recorded and performed during church services.

Some prominent artists who assisted CCM to become popular include Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Phil Keaggy and John Elefante.[25] 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.[31] Other artists representing the genre include MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, Third Day, Matthew West, tobyMac, Chris Tomlin, Brandon Heath and Aaron Shust. Historically, Jars of Clay, dc Talk, Steven Curtis Chapman and Newsboys have also belonged to this genre.


Contemporary Christian music has been a topic of controversy in various ways since its beginnings in the 1960s.[31] The Christian college Bob Jones University discourages its dormitory students from listening to CCM.[32] 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.[31] This controversy caused by evangelical pop music was explored by Gerald Clarke in his Time magazine article "New Lyrics for the Devil's Music".[33]

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.[34]

Contemporary Christian musicians and listeners have sought to extend it into settings where religious music traditionally might not be heard.[vague] MercyMe's song "I Can Only Imagine" was a crossover success despite having a clear Christian message.[35]

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."[36]

"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."[37]

Many studies on church growth show that churches have grown in size after changing the style of music.[38] 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.[39]


The contemporary Christian music industry has grown over the years. Album sales have increased from 31 million in 1996 to 44 million sales in 2000. Since EMI's purchase of Sparrow Records, sales have 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.[40]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

The music of God


  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. McDowell, Amy D. "Contemporary Christian Music" – via Oxford Music and Art Online.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Banjo, Omotayo O.; Williams, Kesha Morant (2011). "A House Divided? Christian Music in Black and White". Journal of Media & Religion. 10 (3): 115–137. doi:10.1080/15348423.2011.599640.
  4. "Who killed the contemporary Christian music industry?". 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  5. Forbes, Bruce David, and Jeffrey H. Mahan. Religion and Popular Culture in America Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 2000. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. February 8, 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Frame, John M. Contemporary Worship Music. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. p. 10. ISBN 1-56563-679-1. 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. Search this book on
  8. Baker, Paul. Page 140. Contemporary Christian Music: Where it came from What it is Where It's Going. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1985. Print.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Hevesi, Dennis. "Larry Norman, 60, Singer of Christian Rock Music." New York Times 4 Mar 2008: 1. Print. 3 Feb. 2016
  10. John J. Thompson, Raised by Wolves: The Story of Christian Rock & Roll (2000):49.
  11. Oord, Bill. "Mylon LeFevre Biography". Retrieved June 26, 2010.
  12. Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. p. 520. ISBN 1-56563-679-1. 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. Search this book on
  13. Di Sabatino, David (1999). The Jesus People Movement: an annotated bibliography and general resource. Lake Forest, CA: Jester Media. p. 136. Search this book on
  14. "CCM Legends – Benny Hester".
  15. "CCMs 500 Best Albums – Benny Hester / Be A Receiver, 1978".
  16. "It's a long way from 'Jesus music' to CCM industry". Archived from the original on February 15, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  17. "News Digest". March 16, 2003. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  18. Billboard Top 50 Adult Contemporary Chart – Nov 7, 1981 – 'Nobody Knows Me Like You' Debuts No. 44 Mainstream. Search this book on
  19. "CCMs 500 Best Albums – Nobody Knows Me Like You".
  20. "Amy Grant – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  21. "dc Talk – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  22. "Michael W. Smith – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  23. "Stryper – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  24. "Jars of Clay – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 Nantais, David (2007). "What Would Jesus Listen To?". America. 196 (18): 22–24.
  26. "CCM Magazine". Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  27. "CCM Magazine Subscription Options". Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  28. Adedeji, Femi (2006). "Essentials of Christian Music in Contemporary Times: A Prognosis". Asia Journal of Theology. 20 (2): 230–240.
  29. 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. Web. February 8, 2014.
  30. Evans, Mark. Studies in Popular Music : Open up the Doors : Music in the Modern Church. London: Equinox Publishing Ltd, 2006. eBook.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 Powell, Mark Allan (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music (First printing ed.). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. ISBN 1-56563-679-1. Search this book on
  32. "BJU ~ Residence Hall Life". Bob Jones University. Archived from the original on January 25, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
  33. Clarke, Gerald (June 24, 2001). "New Lyrics for the Devil's Music". Time.
  34. Schwertley, Brian. "Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God".
  35. Adams, Ramsay (July 6, 2003). "Christian Rock Crosses Over". Fox News. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  36. Baker, Paul. Page 133. Contemporary Christian Music: Where it came from What it is Where It's Going. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1985. Print.
  37. Ellsworth, Donald. Christian Music in Contemporary Witness: Historical Antecedents and Contemporary Practices. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1979. Print.
  38. Fast Facts about American Religion. (May 6, 1998). Retrieved on 2013-09-04.
  39. Miller, Steve. The Contemporary Christian Music Debate. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale Publishers, 1993. Print. p.3
  40. Black, Beau. "CCM's growing pains: a survey of labels finds the message—if not the creativity—is intact. (music)." Christianity Today March 11, 2002: 75+. Fine Arts and Music Collection. Web. February 8, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

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