Christian music (or its religious neutral term Inspirational music) is music that is written to express a person's belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to main stream music. Currently, Christian music can be broken into several categories: Hymns, Contemporary Christian music,Gospel music, and Christian alternative rock. Additional popular categories are Gospel music and Southern Gospel music. Hymns are songs that are specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer. Contemporary Christian music would be the closest sounding style to pop or Top 40 music. It is by far the greatest selling of all the categories. It consists of a variety of styles that focus on mostly spiritual topics, such as prayer and praise (including artist like Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Pablo Perez Mark Schultz and Rebecca St. James.) Christian alternative rock encompasses a variety of artists and styles. In recent years, it has started to be accepted into secular circles including bands like Mae, Relient K, Switchfoot, mewithoutyou and POD. Many alternative Christian rock bands focus on Christian beliefs and the struggles that they have encountered, often leading to an interesting insight into Christian beliefs. Gospel Music is divided into two types. Urban Gospel would be similar to pop and r&b with artists like Kirk Franklin, Smokie Norful and Yolanda Adams. Traditional Gospel music features more of a choir sound. Southern Gospel has a country sound and uses gospel quartets. Interestingly, the only 4 grammy awards Elvis won were for his Southern Gospel albums. There is record of the earliest music of the Christian church in a few New Testament books of what are probably hymns. Some of these fragments are still sung as hymns today in the Orthodox Church, including "Awake, awake O sleeper" on the occasion of someone's baptism.
Being Jewish, Jesus and his disciples would most likely have sung the psalms from memory. However, without a centralised music industry, the repertoire of ordinary people was much greater than it is today, so they probably knew other songs too. Early Christians continued to sing the psalms much as they were sung in the synagogues in the first century.
 Early Biblical references
The gospels of Matthew (26:30) and Mark (14:26) state that Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples immediately before his betrayal. The apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians (5:19) exhorted the church at Ephesus to speak to each other "in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord". In the book of Colossians (3:16) he also encouraged the church at Colossae to teach and admonish each other with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs".
 Early Church history
Aside from hymns taken from the Bible itself, the earliest hymn still in use today is probably O Gladsome Light (Greek Φως 'Ιλαρον, Phos Hilaron). In the fourth century, Basil the Great referred to it as already being a rather old hymn.
Some of the popularity of Arianism in the fourth century can be attributed to the catchy songs that the priest Arius composed in its support. The popularity of the songs helped increase the popularity of his teachings. Ephrem the Syrian composed a number of hymns later in the fourth century that supported what eventually came to be recognised as more orthodox doctrines.
Hymns are formal expressions of praise or declarations of God's truth. Troparia and Kontakia are two early forms of hymns that became incorporated into the Church's worship.
At the conclusion of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, Emperor Justinian I is reputed to have composed a hymn summarizing the council's conclusion, Only begotten Son. That hymn was since incorporated into the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom and is still widely sung today.
For the most part, only the text of these hymns are known, not the music. The earliest known hymn with music notation is the so-called Oxyrhynchus hymn, named after the site of the discovery and dated to the 3rd century. It is one of the last known pieces written in an ancient Greek letter notation. It is difficult to make statements about the musical qualities of the early Christian music because of the dearth of evidence, and it is not clear what influence this sort of hymn had on later Christian music.
 Byzantine chant
Byzantine music is the music of the Byzantine Empire and by extension the music of its culture(s) as they continued in the Orthodox Christian parts of the population after the fall of the empire to the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
 Western plainchant
Several traditions of plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied singing, developed in the Christian West: Celtic chant in Ireland, Mozarabic chant in Spain, Gallican chant in France, Ambrosian chant in Milan, Beneventan chant in Benevento, and Old Roman chant in Rome. Around the 8th to 10th centuries, Gregorian chant arose. It is believed to derive from a Carolingian synthesis of 8th-century Roman chant and local Gallican chant traditions, which quickly spread across Europe under the auspices of Charlemagne and later Holy Roman Emperors. By the 12th century, Gregorian chant had effectively supplanted all of the other traditions of Western plainchant, except for Ambrosian chant of Milan and Mozarabic chant in a handful of Spanish chapels.
The name "Gregorian" probably originally referred to Pope Gregory II, but the chant eventually became associated with his predecessor Gregory the Great, whose great stature gave Gregorian chant a reputation for antiquity and spiritual authority. So strong is the myth of Gregory's authorship of the chant repertory that it is popularly believed even today.
Gregorian chant was classified into eight modes, influenced by the oktoechos of Byzantine chant. The texts that are chanted are mostly from the Bible, and mostly in Latin (there are some Greek texts such as Kyrie eleison and Hagios Theos}. Gregorian chant has gone through periods of decline and revival, most notably, the revival by the monks of Solesmes Abbey, who produced the current official edition, the Liber usualis. Most editions of Gregorian chant available today can be traced to the work of the Solesmes monks.
Since Vatican II, the use of liturgical Latin has declined, and with it, Gregorian chant. However, the popularity of the recordings of the Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos in the 1990's suggests that there is an audience for chant.
The tradition of Christian hymns in the English language is closely tied to Protestantism. Protestant hymns can range from the Reformation organ pieces of J. S. Bach to the American folk hymns found in The Sacred Harp. Martin Luther composed a number of hymns in the 16th century, reportedly borrowing some of their melodies from popular tavern drinking songs of that period. Another famous hymn composer is Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley. Dwight L. Armstrong, younger brother of American evangelist Herbert W. Armstrong, was a prolific composer whose scripturally based hymns appeared in the Worldwide Church of God's hymnals, as well as in the hymnals of churches whose origins are in the Worldwide Church of God. Herbert W. Armstrong believed that the words of many traditional Christian hymns were unscriptural, and thus commissioned his brother to write hymns based on the psalms and other scriptures.
Some hymns, particularly Christmas carols, are widely embraced by various denominations while many hymns are restricted to certain religious traditions. In some cases this is due to doctrinal differences reflected in the words of the song but in many cases it is the result of tradition and the use of denominationally produced or approved hymnals.
The use of hymns was a factor in several historic schisms among Protestant denominations with more traditional members insisting on the use of only the psalms in the service.
 Contemporary Christian music
 United States and Canada
The most recent common form of Christian music in the United States and Canada is Contemporary Christian music, or CCM. This draws most of its influence from secular music of the late 20th century and is the most popular kind of Christian music in the Western world. Although there are many Christian music acts in the mainstream music industry, the term CCM usually refers specifically to artists within the Christian music industry that are played on Christian radio. There is a "Christian music" counterpart to nearly every popular musical style. Besides Contemporary Christian music, Black Gospel, Southern Gospel, and Christian country music are also popular in the US.
 Brazilian Christian music
While Brazilian Protestantism came to be dominated by CCM-influenced pop music, there was a period from the 1970s to the early 1990s when there was a creative movement adapting various Brazilian styles, mainly MPB, to religious meanings and even congregational singing.
While very little is left of this movement, known simply as 'Música Evangélica' to contrast with the pop, commercialised, CCM-like 'Música Gospel', there are still some groups and persons continuing the creative tradition, such as Guilherme Kerr. Furthermore, there are a few individuals creating Brazilian Christian music out of any specific movement or school, the most famous one being Elomar Figueira de Mello, known for his erudite, regionalist music escaping current nihilism common in Contemporary music.
 See also
 Christian Popular Genres
 External link