Top 25 Christian Albums of the Last 25 Years: 15-11

25 in 25 top Christian albums

In the last 25 years, Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) went from an obscure and often copycat genre of music to one that consistently produces quality artists known beyond Christian audiences.

You can see the entire top 25 countdown along with a Spotify playlist or you can look at the other groups of five and see why we chose each one:

Let us know what you think. Tweet about the list using the hashtag #25in25.

Albums 15-11

15. The Anatomy of Tongue in Cheek – Relient K
2001 – Gotee Records

There might be more musically sophisticated music out there, but you’d be hard pressed to find music that is more fun to listen to than Relient K’s. Who doesn’t love the occasional flashback to watching Thundercats or hoping that cute girl in your high school is interested in you? And somehow, in the middle of these seemingly juvenile punk-rock songs, they find a way to communicate about spiritual longing, the hypocrisy they see in the church and in themselves, and especially the hope found in Jesus.

From the goofy playfulness of “Sadie Hawkins Dance” and “I’m Lion-O” to the soul-lifting power of “For the Moments I Feel Faint” and “Less is More,” The Anatomy of Tongue in Cheek perfectly captures the joys of listening to this fun-loving group!—CO


14. Go West Young Man – Michael W. Smith
1990 – Reunion Records

Let’s clear the air and identify the elephant in the room right out of the gate: Michael W. Smith’s Go West Young Man is adorned with what has to be the most 90s album art the world has ever known.

Released 23 days before I was even born, Go West Young Man is really known for one song and one song only: “Place in this World.” I remember listening to this song when I was a kid, gazing deeply into the Midwestern sky, wondering what God’s plan was for my life.

Not really, but it is still a catchy song.—CM


13. Rehab – Lecrae
2010 – Reach Records

2008’s Rebel was Lecrae’s first album to chart in the Billboard 200. 2012’s Church Clothes mixtape brought him to the attention of mainstream listeners and Gravity won a Grammy and sold more albums than any other Christian hip-hop album in history. But in 2010, Rehab elevated the Houston-born, Atlanta-based rapper to the forefront of the growing “Reformed Rap” movement and into the consciousness of millions of listeners.

Rehab challenged the idea that a Christian could never deliver a rap album with the highest levels of production, powerful beats, along with theologically-sound lyrics delivered in a creative manner. It even shocked the mainstream hip-hop world by outselling rap icon Dr. Dre, who released an album the same day as Rehab. Hard-hitting rap songs like “40 Deep” and “New Shalom” coexist perfectly with the hit pop rap song “Background.” As the latest Lecrae highly anticipated album, Anomaly, is set to drop next month, listeners can look back to Rehab as the one to turn the corner.—AE


12. Kansas – Jennifer Knapp
1998 – Goatee Records

Likely one of very few, if not the only, albums ever produced which opens and closes with an acapella version of the same song, Kansas broke the mold of what CCM music was in the late 90s—especially for women. Jennifer Knapp went from playing coffee shops in the Midwest to opening for the biggest acts in the industry almost overnight.

Knapp was no pop clone of Amy Grant or Point of Grace. She single-handedly carved out a space for female singer-songwriters in CCM and did so with an album that sold more than half a million units, featured multiple number one hits, and won her a pair of Dove awards.

Though she exited the CCM scene in 2002, Kansas remains one of the best albums of the last 25 years with a sound that holds up to this day and lyrics that are filled with passion and poetry. Knapp’s current theological beliefs may put her at odds with many in evangelicalism, but on this we can agree: Kansas was a masterpiece, and Jennifer Knapp will always be a favorite of many, including me.—JH


11. Time – Third Day
1999 – Essential Records

Picking one album by a group that so exemplified CCM for over a decade was difficult. Arguments could be made for several of their albums. Time is a return to the band’s more southern rock roots. In fact, they said “with Conspiracy No. 5 [their previous album], we were really setting out to prove something. With Time, we just tried to be ourselves.” The personal album features “I’ve Always Loved You” and “Your Love Oh Lord (Psalm 36),” hits that are still sung in worship today.—EH


Lecrae’s Background

The video for “Background” features Lecrae and fellow Reach Records artist Andy Mineo.


The selection committee

7 Comments

  1. Though I see why you chose Time (and I LOVE “Give”), I’m partial to their first two albums. The debut felt groundbreaking to me at the time – Mac Powell’s voice got everyone’s attention. And then Conspiracy No. 5 was just so gripping.

    Meanwhile, the Jennifer Knapp album you included is timeless. Every song meant something to me at one point or another, especially “Martyrs and Thieves”. So glad to see it mentioned.

    I was in college when these albums were released. So I am eager to see what Jars of Clay and Caedmon’s Call albums make the top 10 here. 🙂

    • Yeah, it really could have been almost any Third Day album (as Elizabeth said in her review).

      And yes, the Jennifer Knapp album is fantastic. It would easily be in my top 5 (and was). I loved (and still love) her voice and the transparency mixed with deep truth that happened on Kansas.

      Third yes, both of them will be coming up on the list. 🙂

  2. Jonathan Howe

    Dawn

    It’s funny you mention the Knapp album with such fondness. It was actually that album which was the genesis of this list. Aaron and I were discussing it and where it might land in the top albums of CCM. 30 seconds later I was scribbling a top 10 list on Aaron’s window and it just went from there.

    And both Aaron and I had it in our top 5. The other panelists were just not as smart as us and that’s why it wound up around the middle of the list.

About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.