For many people, music labeled as “Christian rock” evokes thoughts of repetitive, mid-tempo songs sung by large groups of singers performing in front of an arena filled with people mindlessly holding their hands up in the air.
It’s Christian music, but it’s not Christian rock. Some of the best Christian rock bands make music that’s more than just the message. They craft songs and sounds that rock just as hard as the stuff on charts for secular music.
And like other bands, there are plenty of Christian musical groups that have created songs so amazing their work changed the genre. Here, we’ve listed 13 of the greatest and most famous Christian rock bands that have done just that. Read on!
San Diego rockers P.O.D. continue topping charts even as they begin their third decade as a band. They combine elements of hip-hop, punk, metal, and hints of reggae. Their first major release, 1999’s The Fundamentals of Southtown, put them on MTV in heavy rotation.
Two years later, on September 11, 2001, they released Satellite, the album that spawned the uplifting single “Alive.” The timing was impeccable, as Americans were looking for something positive in those days.
Lead singer Sonny Sandoval courted controversy over a 2012 song with a song containing the f-word. He reasoned that forgiveness is for everyone, even Christian singers who occasionally use naughty words.
Their works have gained them three Grammy nominations and other accolades from awarding organizations. So far, they’ve sold more than 12 million albums and still pushing.
American band Switchfoot never set out to be a Christian rock group, and frontman Jon Foreman has long talked about how the band isn’t a Christian band, but rather a band of musicians who happen to be Christians.
Landing songs on the soundtrack to the 2002 Mandy Moore film A Walk to Remember, like “Only Hope,” got the band some national attention, and they’ve held on to relevance since then.
They record as a “regular” band but get heavy airplay on Christian radio and win Dove Awards, the Christian music industry’s version of the Grammys.
The band’s positive lyrics go a long way to justify their placement in the genre, even if the band members feel like the “Christian rock” label pigeonholes them.
3. For King & Country
Take two Aussie brothers and let them rock as hard as they want to, and you get For King and Country. The band has perfected the art of arena-rock, anthemic songs with positive messages.
Critics and fans love this style. So does Dolly Parton, who made a guest appearance on the band’s remix of its 2019 single “God Only Knows.”
For King and Country charted multiple times, won four Grammys and an armload of Dove Awards, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and even snagged a spot at RodeoHouston, a major gig.
With or without the “Christian music” tag, For King and Country continues making noises that make people happy.
4. David Crowder Band
Baylor University alum David Crowder had ample success as the frontman of the David Crowder Band. They’re a six-member Christian band known for their nonstandard techniques in creating music, like a robot drummer and a game console controller as a MIDI instrument.
Four of their six studio albums topped the US Top Christian Albums chart and had great success with the single “Everything Glorious.” The song, featured in their album Remedy, was their first top-five in the Hot Christian Songs chart.
David Crowder disbanded the group in 2012. He has embarked on a solo career known simply as Crowder, while the other members have formed their own band.
Hailing from Tennessee, Skillet makes the kind of music that you’d play for someone who says Christian music all sounds the same—without telling them that the group is a Christian act.
Like P.O.D., whom frontman John Cooper cites as a major influence, the band makes hard-edged music, far from the usual gentle ballads of contemporary Christian music.
Though they have several songs that have topped the Christian music charts, “Whispers in the Dark,” “Hero,” and “Monster” are their greatest hits, with the last two charting in mainstream music charts as well.
Chunky guitars and driving rhythms have helped the group garner awards, Platinum-certified records, and more than 25 years of fan love.
6. Thousand Foot Krutch
Ontario’s Thousand Foot Krutch is that rare Christian rock band that not only charted on a mainstream chart (Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums) but also reached the top five. Oh, and they did it twice.
As a nu-metal band, they made great strides in the early ‘00s with songs like “Falls Apart” and “War of Change,” bringing the rap-heavy hard rock sounds of the genre to Christian airwaves. The band’s sound is reminiscent of Sum 41, but without the smarm.
Thousand Foot Krutch has endured many personnel changes but still managed three #2 and three #1 Christian albums, all in a row.
In 1999, a few Tennessee kids decided a few things: They wanted to rock hard, they wanted to do it for a living, and they wanted to spread the Christian message. Doing one of those things? Sure. But all three? That’s a tough sell; however, Disciple continues doing them.
They are one of those bands that you’ve probably heard whether you know it or not, especially if you watch television. Their song “Game On” has appeared in a few police procedural TV shows, some NFL football preview shows, and even a WWE event.
As the band evolved, Disciple moved away from nu-metal and began courting more of a southern rock sound. The group continues to release Christian music to this day.
Since the Rinehart brothers’ dad was a pastor, it’s not a surprise that NEEDTOBREATHE, the band they formed in South Carolina at the turn of the 21st century, was to be a Christian outfit.
Over two decades, the band released six #1 albums, toured the world, and won 15 Dove awards. In 2015, they released “Brother,” which went on to become their first Platinum single.
Bo Rinehart left the band in 2020, citing personal issues, but the remaining Rinehart, William Stanley (also called Bear), continues with the NEEDTOBREATHE legacy.
When Bart Millard formed MercyMe in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1994, the band had a bit harder sound than the one they’ve cultivated over the years.
MercyMe led worship services in the area before moving to Texas in 1997 to lead worship at a Baptist church there. After they released Almost There, their debut album, they started to gain a wide following and eventually ended their gig at the church to focus solely on creating Christian rock songs.
The band’s four-times Platinum single, “I Can Only Imagine,” from their debut album, wasn’t the hard rock sound like others on this list, but it sold. It became the most-played Christian song ever.
After some changes in the lineup, MercyMe continues to sell, tour, and win awards from the Gospel Music Association as well as mainstream music awarding organizations like Billboard and American Music Awards.
Next up, we have Flyleaf, another band that puts music above genre labels. The group actually doesn’t consider itself a Christian band despite having four singles topping the Hot Christian Songs chart.
But then again, they have had a few appearances on mainstream Billboard charts—Memento Mori, their second studio album, has topped both US Alternative and Hard Rock charts. The singles “Again” and “Chasm” helped push the album to its Platinum status.
Regardless of what the band says about their lyrics and style, Flyleaf’s music has been influenced by their faith, and fans love their work, encouraging the group to continue creating their signature sound.
11. Family Force 5
In 2005, brothers Solomon, Joshua, and Jacob Olds came together with their two friends to make Family Force 5 (or FF5, as they’re now known). These guys have cultivated a party-hearty image with sounds blending dance-pop with rap metal.
Though most of their lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, having little or nothing to do with God or anything else religious, they’ve landed two albums on the top of the Christian Albums chart—Dance or Die and Time Stands Still. Both charted on Billboard‘s Top 200 as well.
FF5 has endured lineup changes and departures that have reduced the act to only two of the original Olds brothers. We last heard from them with the 2018 EP El Compadre.
The Newsboys began life in Australia in the late 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1994, following several lineup changes, that they hit it big. The band’s fifth album, Going Public, spawned four #1 hits and put the group on the map.
As the 2010s began, lead singer Peter Furler left the band and was replaced by DC Talk alum Michael Tait, and a whole new era began. They released God’s Not Dead, a huge hit album that gave rise to three feature films based on the title. The band appeared in all three movies as well.
The Newsboys have continued to write, record, and tour. Over the years, they’ve collected four Dove awards and several Grammy nominations.
When Bob Hartman formed Petra in 1972, the band was playing songs that sounded like 1970s music—southern rock in the Lynyrd Skynyrd vein. Since petra means “rock” in Greek, Hartman and his mates wanted to rock, but they also wanted staying power—to be rock-solid forever.
With that in mind, Petra shifted its sound over the years to relate to new generations of listeners. They succeeded, as throughout the ’80s and ’90s, they had eight songs topping the Hot Christian Songs chart, with others also #1 in mainstream Billboard charts.
Petra may not be the most “rockingest” band on this list, but they were pioneers. As such, in 2000, they became the first Christian act to be added to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Christian Rock Bands
As you have read, Christian music does not have to be boring, slow, or repetitive. With the proper blend of sounds, it can move not just your soul but also your body to headbang or dance to the beat.
These rock bands have worked to cultivate unique sounds for themselves while applying good songwriting skills to the message of Jesus they want to spread.
Christian rock music might not be your cup of tea, but give the hits from these bands we’ve listed a shot. Perhaps you might find a few you’ll like.