Today’s Christianese phrase might fall into the category of “Christianese that people love to hate.” I guess that could be said about both the term contemporary Christian music (CCM) as well as the music itself. I myself enjoy CCM quite a bit, and I also love the fact that we coined our own word for our brand of popular faith-related music. Does any radio station you’ve ever heard of have a format called “contemporary Buddhist music”? Didn’t think so.
In the definition (scroll down to see it), you’ll see that I mention the eligibility requirements for the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards, because if you know anything about the history of CCM, you could easily think of that tiny eligibility clause there as the “Sixpence None the Richer’s Kiss Me” killer. Yes, in 1998, “Kiss Me” was the huge CCM hit, not to mention a giant crossover hit on the secular pop stations. The song was poised to win big awards everywhere except for one problem when it came to the Dove Awards… the song never directly mentions God, and the song is, in fact, about the romantic love the lead singer of Sixpence has for her husband. Yes, this song is about a godly marriage whose passion still smolders hot enough that the wife croons to her husband, “Kiss me!”
A song about husbands and wives kissing—and no mention of God! Utterly scandalous! The GMA didn’t want to set a precedent of allowing just any old song to be eligible for the Dove Awards, so they inserted a clause that year that seemed (in the eyes of critics) to be designed specifically to disqualify Sixpence’s “Kiss Me.” Well, hopefully I’ve said just enough to either tease your interest or satisfy it completely. If you want to read more about it, you can click here.
But now, without further ado, the definition of CCM…
contemporary Christian music n. Often abbreviated *CCM. A genre of music with a pop or rock sound and lyrics that are related to the Christian faith.
Definitions of “contemporary Christian music” abound. For example, the Gospel Music Association says that albums and songs being nominated for the Dove Awards must be “based upon the historically orthodox Christian faith contained in or derived from the Holy Bible; or apparently prompted and informed by a Christian worldview” (2011–2012 Policy & Procedures Manual IV. C.).
Ron Moore, a musician and music critic, is frequently credited with coining the term contemporary Christian music in 1976 in his review of Richie Furay’s album I’ve Got a Reason, but the term had already been in use for 15 years by then (see citations for 1961, 1970, etc.).
Earlier terms for this genre of music were *Jesus music and *gospel-beat music.
See also *praise and worship 1.
• 1961 The Walther League Messenger vols. 70–71 21 : The body of this program will be the church-oriented work of Ed Summer…. There will also be a quick look at other contemporary Christian music such as the “20th Century Folk Mass.” 1970 Ridenour It’s Your Life, So Take Your Choice 181 : “This past year, I was in a contemporary Christian music group, singing and playing drums. Some adults didn’t like the style of our group’s music—okay, so they don’t like it but that’s no reason to turn against them. We had to still love them. It’s hard to do, and I admit that I don’t love everybody, but I’m learning to let God’s love work through me.” 1970 The Am. Baptist: The Indiana Baptist Observer 86 : In addition, the BWA [=Baptist World Alliance] offered a bookstore with the latest in contemporary Christian music, literature and jewelry. 1970 Broadcasting vol. 78 82 : Here’s a sustaining program of contemporary Christian music that holds an audience. New on 10 stations, including San Francisco rocker. Send for audition tape. 1973 “Pubs. Attempting to Establish 1st Church ‘License’” Billboard (14 Jul.) 1 : Cook explained that his firm, which is primarily in contemporary Christian music, “such as that used in guitar masses,” found that churches were copying hymnals and individual songs instead of buying them. 1975 Baker “Christian Music on 400 U.S. Stations” Billboard (6 Sep.) 12 : More than 400 radio stations are now programming contemporary Christian music, according to a survey compiled by Myrrh Records, a division of Word, Inc. 1979 Tepper “Retail Witnesses Financial and Distribution Challenges” Billboard (28 Jul.) R-20 : The success of “christian music with a beat”—which is primarily what contemporary christian music actually is—spurred others into the field. 1980 Billboard (27 Sep.) G-8 : It’s hard to pin down a standard name for the music, partly because there is still disagreement over what to call it. Don Butler, executive directory of the Gospel Music Assn., prefers to call all of it “gospel,” regardless of whether its style is traditional or contemporary…. Butler, and many others within the industry, feel that the term “contemporary Christian music” or “Jesus music,” as a lot of it is called among the musicians, is too confining and often alienating. 1981 Hustad Jubilate II: Church Music in the Evangelical Tradition 471 : Carefully chosen examples of Contemporary Christian music will appeal to younger worshipers more than the old- fashioned gospel songs which older folks still enjoy. 1986 Modern Drummer 10/1–6 26 : Over the last few years, Joe English has been performing on the “Contemporary Christian Music” circuit, mixing excellent pop music with a Christian ministry. 1989 The Catholic World CCXXXII. 32 : A second direction that has proved less acceptable in liturgical circles is an exploration of the relationship between contemporary “soft rock” and religious music, often called “contemporary Christian music” and very popular in the Sunbelt states. Music publishing houses have recognized the commercial success that Word, Inc. (Waco, Texas) has had in marketing this music to the evangelical churches. 2005 McNeil Encyc. Am. Gospel Music s.v. “Amy Grant” : [Amy] Grant’s album marked a new direction in gospel music and, in some ways, spearheaded the movement toward what is now called contemporary Christian music, a combination of pop rhythms and stylings and lyrics about salvation, heaven, and other traditionally Christian topics.
CCM n. Abbreviation for *contemporary Christian music.
This abbreviation was probably influenced by the title of the magazine Contemporary Christian Music, which was founded in July 1978 by John Styll and was frequently abbreviated CCM. In 1983, about the time that the abbreviation CCM started to be used as an abbreviation for the “contemporary Christian music” genre, Styll changed the magazine’s name to Contemporary Christian, perhaps to prevent confusion between the name of his magazine and the genre of music his magazine was reporting on.
See also *CWM; *PW.
• 1984 Bill Rock and Roll 74 : If you want the beat without the bad news, there is good news. You have a super option—contemporary Christian music (CCM). CCM, like regular rock, comes in a wide variety of musical flavors. 1984 Quaker Life XXV. 37 : Brent’s book follows a natural progression, beginning with the history of rock and roll and its stars. Youth and adults are each given a chapter to look at rock and roll from a perspective other than their own. He provides the alternative of CCM (contemporary Christian music) which has the beat and the sound of rock but is specifically Christian in orientation. 1985 Peck Rock: Making Musical Choices 76 : In fact, one book about rock and CCM even finished with a chart called “Sounds Like…” The chart compares CCM performers to popular rock groups in order to help young people find contemporary Christian music to fit their current tastes. If CCM’s fans define their music in terms of rock, is there any difference? Or is contemporary Christian music no more than a sanitized substitute for rock? 1986 Darden “Gospel Lectern” Billboard (16 Aug.) 37 : There are too few Pam Mark Halls in contemporary Christian music…. In a time when people think CCM began with Amy Grant, she is around to show that it is really much older than that. 1989 The Northwestern Lutheran vols. 76-77 193 : Contemporary Christian music (CCM) promotes moral behavior and faith in Jesus Christ.
Related words: Jesus-per-minute, Jesus-is-my-girlfriend song, happy-clappy