Most Popular Christian Bands of 2016: Who's Moving the Needle

When it comes to Christian bands, there are a lot of different sounds out there. If you’re looking for a group with a pop sound, you may go one way. Want some worship anthems? You’ll likely go a different route. Taking all of these different sounds into account, who are the most popular Christian bands of 2016?

As we said before in our Top Christian Singers & Performers of 2016 post, not every band can be at the top every year. While there’s nothing negative to be said about bands not appearing on this list, we want to share some of the groups that are having a really good year.

Here are the popular Christian bands that are bringing it in 2016.


Most Popular Christian Bands of 2016: Who's Moving the Needle



Needtobreathe - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

This South Carolina rock band has been around since the turn of the century consistently turning out one solid album after another.

Fronted by brothers Bo and Bear Rinehart, the group spent its first few years as an independent artist before being picked up Atlantic Records and Sparrow Records. Their first album, “Daylight,” received positive reviews, but it wasn’t until the follow-up album, “The Heat,” that the band really started to get attention.

Since then, the band has released a total of six albums. Their latest, “Hard Love,” was released in July 2012. Featuring the hit songs “Happiness” and “Hard Love,” the album peaked at #1 on the Christian Albums chart and second on the Billboard 200.

Known for their Southern rock influences and Bear’s signature voice, the group is considered one of the best live bands in the business. They were even nominated for Best Live Show at the 2016 K-LOVE Fan Awards.

Needtobreathe kicked off a 53-city tour in September where they’ll play with Mat Kearney, Parachute, and others.



Crowder - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

As a student at Baylor University, David Crowder began playing worship music at a church that he had helped plant.

Writing his own music for the services, he eventually began touring with some musician friends. This led to Crowder getting attention from people like Louie Giglio and others who wanted the David Crowder Band to reach more people with their music.

The band quickly became one of the most popular Christian bands around, especially for younger listeners, after the release of its albums “Remedy,” “Illuminate,” and “A Collision.” These albums delivered powerful worship anthems like “Here is Our King” and “Never Let Go” while also producing experimental sounds that weren’t popular in the mainstream at the time.

Since the David Crowder Band called it quits in 2012, its frontman has begun a new solo project embracing more of those experimental sounds.

His first solo album, “Neon Steeple,” released in 2014 and peaked at #9 on the US Albums chart. Featuring strong tracks like “Come As You Are” and “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains),” the album showed that the artist had plenty of creativity left in the tank.

The work also earned him 3 nominations at the 2016 K-LOVE Fan Awards, including Best Live Show and Worship Song of the Year.

Crowder’s latest album, “American Prodigal,” came out in September of this year. The first single is an upbeat foot-tapper of a song called “Run Devil, Run.”



MercyMe - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

After spending a few years as an independent artist, MercyMe signed with INO Records (now called Fair Trade Services) in the early 2000’s. Shortly after that, they released the album “Almost There,” which features their biggest hit to date, “I Can Only Imagine.” The album was a massive success, garnering over 2 million units sold and double platinum status.

While “I Can Only Imagine” enjoyed years of airplay, the band went back to the studio and released their second studio album, “Spoken For,” the very next year.

Since then, the band has gone on to put out 8 studio albums as well as several Christmas and greatest hits records. Of these albums, the majority peaked at #15 or better on the US Albums chart. That kind of consistent success means the band must be doing something right.

MercyMe’s latest album, “Welcome to the New,” came out in April 2014, but it shows no signs of stopping any time soon. It currently sits at #14 on the Top Christian Albums chart after peaking at #1 its first week. That was over two years ago.

They also released a Christmas album late in 2015 featuring their renditions of holiday classics like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” among others. In 2016, the group was nominated for Song of the Year at the K-LOVE Fan Awards for “Flawless.”

The band is currently touring and will headline a cruise in January 2017. While no announcement has been formally made, we anticipate a new album coming soon.



Hillsong United - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

As one of the many branches of music to extend from Hillsong Church in Australia, United was born from the church’s youth ministry and the young talent brewing there.

With over a dozen live albums and four studio albums, the band has been making some of the most popular worship anthems in the world for over 15 years.

The band rotates members fairly often. While Joel Houston is often seen as the leader of the band, it’s more of a worship collective than a traditional band. Past singers like Brooke Fraser have also made a name for themselves.

Among the band’s dozens of popular songs are the worship anthems “Lead Me to the Cross,” “From the Inside Out,” and “Mighty to Save.” Their most recent studio album, “Empires,” hit number five on the Billboard 200 and features the singles “Touch the Sky” and “Say the Word.”

In 2016, the band released a visual album titled “Of Dirt and Grace: Live from the Land.” This bold project repackages the songs from “Empires,” as well as a few others, and produces a live recording from the Holy Land. With some amazing visuals that not everyone gets to see in their lifetime, the band’s powerful music packs an extra punch.

Hillsong United was also nominated for Group or Duo of the Year and one other award at the 2016 K-LOVE Fan Awards.



Casting Crowns - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

Around the same time that the young people of Hillsong’s youth ministry were preparing to become United, Mark Hall of Casting Crowns was a youth pastor looking to establish his own band.

In 2003, Casting Crowns signed with Beach Street Records and released their first studio album. The self-titled album featured Christian hits “If We Are the Body,” “Voice of Truth,” and “Who Am I.”

Producing radio singles left and right, the band has released a total of 11 albums. These albums went on to sell over 10 million units.

Casting Crowns has gone back and forth between pop/rock and worship over the years, giving them a healthy catalog of songs to reach listeners with. Some of their biggest hits include “Praise You In This Storm” and “Just Be Held.”

Their new album, “The Very Next Thing,” was released in September 2016 and features the single “One Step Away.” Among their many other awards, the group was nominated for three K-LOVE Fan Awards in 2016.



Elevation Worship - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

Elevation Worship is another worship group that is based in a church of the same name. Elevation Church, found in North Carolina, is the home to this worship team that has been steadily releasing worship anthems for 10 years.

Finding success with their 2010 album, “Kingdom Come,” the group has since recorded five live worship albums. An American alternative to Hillsong and other similar options, Elevation has played to sold-out arenas in recent years. Their music isn’t quite as mainstream as some other worship leaders, but their music has certainly found an audience.

With their recent album, “Here As In Heaven,” the band hit their highest mark on the US Albums chart. Released in February 2016, the album reached #15, as well as peaking at the top of the Christian Albums chart.

Their hottest single off of the new album, “O Come to the Altar,” is a powerful anthem that will pull you into a worship experience no matter where you are.



For King and Country - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

Joel and Luke Smallbone are the brothers that form the core of For King and Country. Living in a music family, they didn’t have much of a choice in doing anything else.

With influences ranging from U2 and Coldplay to Switchfoot, it’s clear to see that For King and Country is a band meant for big stages. After years of wrestling with different band names and sounds, the brothers finally settled down to their current status upon signing with Warner Music Group.

In 2012, the group released their first studio album, “Crave.” Reaching moderate success, the song “The Proof of Your Love” reached #8 on the Hot Christian Songs chart.

For King and Country’s second album, “Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.,” improved on the first album’s success by reaching some pretty insane numbers. The album peaked at #2 on the Christian Albums chart in 2014, a list that it currently sits near the top of two years after the fact. It’s hard to argue with the success of over 100 weeks of being a best-selling album.

Although their fans would probably enjoy some new music, the band has other ideas before they head back into the studio. In Fall 2016, the brothers will be taking part in the release of a film their brother Ben directed. “Priceless” (named after one of the band’s popular songs), is a feature film about human trafficking and overcoming your circumstances. The film stars Joel Smallbone and is produced by Luke.

The band also received 4 nominations at the 2016 K-LOVE Fan Awards, winning Group or Duo of the Year and Best Live Show.

Between an album that refuses to die, an incredible live show, and the brothers’ new filmmaking adventures, For King and Country is a very popular band with a lot of things going for it.



Skillet - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

Not all bands in Christian music consist of praise and worship or easy listening. Skillet is a band that proves even church people know how to rock out.

Formed in Memphis, TN, in the late 90’s by John Cooper, the group has experimented with different sounds more than just about anyone in Christian music. The band first started as a Christian response to the grunge movement. Their first two albums, “Skillet” and “Hey You, I Love Your Soul,” were the epitome of 90’s rock.

After losing two of the band’s founding members, Skillet’s sound changed pretty dramatically for their next album, “Invincible.” With John’s wife, Korey, joining the team on keyboard, a techno influence made its way into the rock.  That sound stayed with the band through the next studio album as well.

Since 2001’s “Alien Youth,” Skillet has been growing more and more into the hard rock category. Their seventh album, 2006’s “Comatose,” was the band’s first to go platinum.

As their sound got heavier, the band carved out a strong following of devoted fans.

With their tenth studio album released in June 2016, Skillet has shown that they have some strong crossover appeal. Not only did the album peak at the top of the Christian Albums chart, it also got top prize for the hard rock category. The album, “Unleashed,” features the popular songs “Feel Invincible” and “Stars.”



Tenth Avenue North - Popular Christian Bands of 2016

Started at the beginning of the 21st century, Tenth Avenue North calls West Palm Beach, Florida, home.

Signing with Reunion Records in 2008, the band released their debut studio album, “Over and Underneath,” shortly after. Featuring the singles “Love Is Here” and “By Your Side,” the album sold 100,000 copies.

After winning Best New Artist at the Dove Awards, Tenth Avenue North recorded their second album, “The Light Meets the Dark.” This album’s warm reception was followed by similar feeling for their next two albums, “The Struggle” and “Cathedrals.”

In the eight years since their first album, the band has produced many hits including “Healing Begins” and “Losing.” Their vulnerable lyrics and catchy riffs attract an audience eager to consume each new album.

Speaking of which, their latest album, “Followers,” dropped on October 14th. While these are only a few of the great musicians to call Contemporary Christian Music home, we believe that great things are in store for the genre in the near future.

If you would like to attend the 2017 K-LOVE Fan Awards, where you can see many of these popular Christian bands and others, click on the link below.


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