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The 10 Most Influential Songs of the Early Years of Contemporary Christian Music

The world of contemporary Christian music (CCM) changed throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. What began as church youth groups developing music that their kids would enjoy and artists and bands turning to Christ and expressing their new faith, became a full-blown industry within a few years.

Those fledgling years of the CCM movement brought several influential artists to the forefront and produced a bevy of songs that defined the new method of expression for a generation of believers. Some of those songs became as dated as the pop music of their time, while others have come to represent the industry, and a few have even made their way into modern hymnals.

Here are ten of the most influential songs of the first decade and a half of contemporary Christian music. They may not have been the biggest hits of their time, but each one of these songs advanced the CCM genre in its own way.

10. “Home Where I Belong” (B. J. Thomas, 1977)

One of the more interesting features of early CCM was the appearance of “secular” artists who had come to faith in Jesus and recording albums that reflected their new lives. One of the biggest hit songs on Christian radio at the tail end of the ‘70s was Barry McGuire’s weirdo “Cosmic Cowboy” (McGuire also co-wrote and appeared on the ubiquitous Christian children’s album Bullfrogs & Butterflies).

While some artists recorded pretty traditional-sounding Christian albums, by the mid-‘70s some newly believing acts attempted to record music that sounded more like their mainstream output. One of those was B. J. Thomas, who became a Christian when his wife threatened to leave him if he didn’t change his ways. Thomas’ next move after coming to faith was to record a Christian album.

The title track to the Home Where I Belong album was penned by Pat Terry, who would go on to write more hits in both the Christian and country realms. It’s a beautiful expression of the thought that heaven is our home as followers of Jesus. Thomas won the first of his four Grammy awards for the album, and that title song was the best-known song from that record. Four decades later, it can still warm the heart of believers.

9. “More to This Life” (Steven Curtis Chapman, 1989)

With a baby face and a penchant for musical and lyrical hooks, Steven Curtis Chapman burst onto the CCM scene in the latter half of the ‘80s as a fresh musical force. Early on, he proved he could rock, but he soon discovered that his bread and butter was middle of the road Christian pop, and he perfected that formula in the decades to come.