Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Joel Heng Hartse, a frequent music critic for Christianity Today , muses about coming of age in the heyday of Christian pop music:

Really, my concept of “Christian music,” which begins in about 1980 and ends in 2000 (around the time I got bored with it), is nothing but a snapshot. It ignores decades of gospel, country, blues, and folk music, not to mention centuries of classical and early music. These are musical traditions in which it was unusual  not to sing about God. The conventional line about Christianity and (rock) music being a contradiction in terms is about as inaccurate as a positive review of a Creed album. It’s music  without God that is, historically, an anomaly.

Perhaps the Christian pop I grew up with was simply reparation for a weird gap in time when, for some reason, music  wasn’t being made for the glory of God. And those of us who came of age in this Golden Era of Christian rock, were, despite the cheesiness we often mock about the culture we grew up with, forever shaped by it. Whatever the reason, we were born in the thick of a Christian rock explosion, and from the time we first heard albums like dc Talk’s  Free At Last , Poor Old Lu’s  Sin , PFR’s  Goldie’s Last Day , and The Newsboys’  Not Ashamed , our fate was sealed: these were the kind of records that were going to define us.

There are generally two reactions to Christian pop music (or as it used to be called, Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)). The hater dismiss it in toto while the fans feel an obligation to apologize for liking it. Both attitudes are understandable. Like all pop art driven by consumer taste, most of it is indeed dreck. However, there is also much that is worthy of championing. I dug through my CD (and cassette tape) collection and found 80 examples of awesome Christian pop. This isn’t necessarily a list of the best the genre has ever produced (though I think most all of them should make the cut) but it does show there are many gems to be found

(Note: The first 10 are my favorites, the rest are in no particular order.)

1. I Can Only Imagine — Mercy Me (live version)

2. Show Me Your Glory — Third Day

3. Why — Nicole Nordeman

4. I Still Believe — Jeremy Camp

5. The Finish Line — Steve Taylor

6. Breaking My Fall — Jeremy Camp

7. Savior — Michael English

8. In Your Presence — Jeremy Camp

9. More Than a Friend — Jeremy Riddle

10. Best Thing — Big Tent Revival

11. Let Your First Thought Be Love — Whiteheart

12. One Day at a Time — Jeremy Camp

13. Stay — Jeremy Camp

14. Take My Life — Jeremy Camp

15. Understand — Jeremy Camp

16. Walk By Faith — Jeremy Camp

17. The Man Comes Around — Johnny Cash

18. Don’t Stop Dancing — Creed

19. Lullaby — Creed

20. Don’t Let the Fire Die — Steven Curtis Chapman

21. Atmosphere — DC Talk

22. Jesus Freak — DC Talk

23. Strong Medicine — Bryan Duncan

24. Holding Out Hope To You — Michael English

25. In Christ Alone — Michael English

26. Love Moves in Mysterious Ways — Michael English

27. There’s Not A Crown Without a Cross — Michael English

28. It Wasn’t His Child — Skip Ewing

29. Revolution — Kirk Franklin

30. Go Rest High On That Mountain — Vince Gill

31. El Shaddai — Amy Grant

32. Father’s Eyes — Amy Grant

33. Streets Of Las Vegas — Benny Hester

34. Flood — Jars of Clay

35. Liquid — Jars of Clay

36. No One Loves Me Like You — Jars of Clay

37. Trainwreck — Mat Kearney

38. A Little More — Jennifer Knapp

39. Undo Me — Jennifer Knapp

40. Gravity — Shawn McDonald

41. The Day The Earth Stood Still — Bryan McKnight

42. When The Chariot Comes — Bryan McKnight

43. Here Am I — Mercy Me

44. Control — MuteMath

45. Peculiar People — MuteMath

46. John Woo — Newsboys

47. Love Liberty Disco — Newsboys

48. Shine — Newsboys

49. Burnin’ — Nicole Nordeman

50. Fool For You — Nicole Nordeman

51. I Am — Nicole Nordeman

52. Mercies New — Nicole Nordeman

53. To Know You — Nicole Nordeman

54. Tremble — Nicole Nordeman

55. Wide Eyed — Nicole Nordeman

56. Adonai — O.C. Supertones

57. Magazine — Pedro the Lion

58. Friends — Michael W. Smith

59. The Moshing Floor — Steve Taylor

60. Meant to Live — Switchfoot

61. This is Your Life — Switchfoot

62. Harder To Believe Than Not To — Fleming and John’s cover of Steve Taylor’s song

63. I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good — Steve Taylor

64. Agnus Dei — Third Day

65. King of Glory — Third Day

66. I Don’t Know — Third Day

67. It’s a Shame — Third Day

68. Nothing Compares — Third Day

69. When the Rain Comes — Third Day

70. Burn For You — TobyMac

71. Getaway Car — TobyMac

72. J Train — TobyMac (w/ Kirk Franklin)

73. Long Black Train — Josh Turner

74. 40 — U2

75. Gloria — U2

76. It’s Alright (Send Me) — Winans Phase2

77. Fly — Paul Wright

78. Your Love Never Changes — Paul Wright

79. Sweetly Broken — Jeremy Riddle

80. Gotta Serve Somebody — Bob Dylan

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles