Contemporary Christian music

From Academic Kids

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Love Song, Love Song (1972)

Contemporary Christian Music (or CCM) is a classification of Christian music as well as popular music in general. It is not a musical style or genre, as it refers to several types of music. Instead, it is called "contemporary" because it is distinct from traditional and southern gospel music. It is called "Christian" "on account of a perceived connection to what [self-identified fans of CCM] regard as Christianity" (Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, 2002).



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For Him Who Has Ears to Hear Keith Green (1977)

Contemporary Christian music first came onto the scene of popular music during the Jesus Movement revival of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unlike traditional or southern gospel music, this new "Jesus Music" was birthed out of rock and roll. The pioneers of this movement included 2nd Chapter of Acts, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, Love Song, Barry McGuire, and Larry Norman.

This small culture of Jesus music had expanded into a multimillion-dollar industry by the 1980s. With much more varied styles of music, and generally higher quality songwriting and recording, artists like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Petra, and Stryper were successfully raising the standards in CCM. Most of these artists, however, had difficulty finding mainstream radio airplay, even when singing about nonreligious subject matter. In most cases, radio stations simply passed them over.

By the 1990s, though, many Christian artists rebelled against the imposed stereotypes of the industry. Artists such as the Lost Dogs, Starflyer 59, Vigilantes of Love, and Joy Electric were creating compellingly original music, and some artists were even leading the pack in certain genres (third-wave ska and rapcore, for example).

Also, beginning in the mid-90s with releases from Amy Grant, dc Talk, and Jars of Clay, the lines between CCM and mainstream music were beginning to blur. Several artists found "crossover" success and received Top 40 radio play. Contemporary Christian Music is now more popular than ever, and artists such as P.O.D., Sixpence None The Richer, and Switchfoot are finding success in the mainstream music industry, while more traditional CCM acts like Michael W. Smith are still selling millions of albums. Currently, Christian music sales exceed those for classical, jazz, and New Age music combined[1] ( Nonetheless, as with mainstream music there are also a number of alternative rock and punk bands playing their music with a christian perspective.

Common Views and Criticisms

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Age to Age Amy Grant (1982)

Inevitably, throughout its short history, Contemporary Christian Music has met with a number of varying responses and criticisms. These can be generally gathered into four groups: the separatist, purist, spiritually reflective, and incidental positions. [2] (

The Separatist Position This position states that Christians should not be listening to or making pop/rock music at all. Many that embrace this argument trace rock's roots to Satanism, and claim that any association with it is wrong. Jimmy Swaggart, a famous televangelist and CCM oppositionist, summed up this view when he said that "so-called Christian rock... is a diabolical force undermining Christianity from within... I turn on my television set. I see a young lady who goes under the guise of being a Christian, known all over the nation, dressed in skin-tight leather pants, shaking and wiggling her hips to the beat and rhythm of the music as the strobe lights beat their patterns across the stage and the band plays the contemporary rock sound which cannot be differentiated from songs by the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, or anyone else. And you may try to tell me this is of God and that it is leading people to Christ, but I know better." [3] (

The Purist Position In this view, Christians should use music as a tool of spreading the gospel of Christ to others. Steve Camp, a CCM musician and advocate of this view, states that "Those of us who are privileged to represent our Lord Jesus Christ in the arts should be galvanized by mission, not by ambition; by mandate, not by accolades; by love for the Master, not by the allurements of this world. Is there justified concern that Contemporary Christian Music has abandoned its original calling from the Lord, left the Biblical standard for ministry and has failed to remain accountable to the local church? I believe it so." [4] ( Those in this group may also point to the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther who said "I am not of the opinion that all arts are to be cast down and destroyed on account of the Gospel, as some fanatics protest. On the other hand, I would gladly see all arts, especially music, in the service of Him who has given and created them. Why should the devil have all the good music?" [5] (

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A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band, Rich Mullins (1992)

The Spiritually Reflective Position This position states that Christians should embrace pop and rock music more as an art form than a preaching tool. Journalist Lev Eakins explains that artists in this camp "sometimes produce songs that have no anchor in anything vaguely spiritual, and instead create their art simply because they are artists and that's what they are compelled to do. What separates these artists from the incidental definition is that their own spirituality acts as the main (but not exclusive) engine for their work, fuelling their desire to continue expressing themselves." [6] ( T-Bone Burnett, a Christian musician and producer, summed up this view well when he said that "You can sing about the Light, or you can sing about what you see because of the Light. I prefer the latter" [7] ( Many artists who hold this view experience frustrations with the CCM industry for a lack of originality, creativity, and depth; in fact, some have cut ties with the industry altogether (e.g. Sam (Leslie) Phillips), questioning the need for a separate Christian music "ghetto".

The Incidental Position This position holds that the artists' intent is irrelevant. In other words, Christians can find beauty and truth in certain music, regardless of the author's intent or spiritual stance. An example of this is Jeff Buckley's cover version of "Hallelujah" (originally written and recorded by Jewish singer Leonard Cohen), a song that resonates with many Christians but was sung by an artist not normally associated with the CCM industry. Eakins explains that music of this sort "is allied to no spiritual or Christian tradition and may form its inspiration from any source. Where as the purist or spiritually reflective positions have inspiration in God, any Christian music produced from the incidental position is precisely that, incidentally created." [8] (


See List of CCM artists:
By Decade
By Music Genre

CCM Websites

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Jesus Freak DC Talk (1995)

Record Labels

Further Reading

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The Beautiful Letdown Switchfoot (2003)
  • Alfonso, Barry. The Billboard Guide to Contemporary Christian Music. Billboard Books, 2002.
  • Di Sabatino, David. The Jesus People Movement: An Annotated Bibliography and General Resource. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1999.
  • Granger, Thom. CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music. Nashville: CCM Books, 2001.
  • Howard, Jay R and John M Streck. Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1999.
  • Joseph, Mark. The Rock and Roll Rebellion: Why People of Faith Abandoned Rock Music-- And Why They're Coming Back. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999.
  • Powell, Mark Allan. The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. Hendrickson,ścijański rock

zh:当代基督教音乐 de:Christliche Popmusik


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