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What's the greatest song ever made in contemporary Christian music? CCM thinks it knows. The Christian music magazine has released a new book, "100 Greatest Songs in Christian Music." The list is subjective, and the editor, Jay Swartzendruber, admits so.

But with the help of a group of music industry executives and 2,500 Christian music fans, he has whittled thousands of songs down to the top 100.

"Before we began sifting through thousands of potential nominees, we also had to clarify what made for one of Christian music's greatest songs," Swartzendruber said. "In this case, did 'great' mean excellent, innovative, popular or influential? Actually, all of the above."

They did a commendable job picking the songs. You'll find favorites such as Amy Grant's "El Shaddai," Rich Mullins' "Awesome God" and Michael W. Smith's "Friends." The list also includes everything from music pioneers Keith Green and 2nd Chapter of Acts to current artists Mark Schultz and MercyMe.

I won't give away the top 10, but the rankings are solid, though debatable. If you've listened to Christian music for a very long, you'll recognize many of these as standards played regularly on the radio.

One of the best features of the book is that with every song you learn the story behind it. Other artists offer comments on how they were affected by the song, and interesting factoids are interspersed throughout.

"100 Greatest" is a good reminder of the many worthy contributions Christian artists have made to Christian culture and entertainment. If you've never given the genre a try, this book could be a valuable guide in sampling some of Christian music's best offerings.

The Gospel Music Channel, a 24-hour Christian music station, is looking for the next superstar of Christian music. It is hosting a nationally televised talent search called Gospel Dream 2006.

The Gospel Dream auditions begin June 17 in New York. Twelve recording star hopefuls will be chosen from six regional auditions to compete in the national finals.

Contest details and registration are available at

"It's all about honesty and transparency. Never come across like you're 'Super Saint,' and always show your battle scars." — Kirk Franklin in an interview with the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion Ledger.

Brent Castillo can be reached by e-mail at

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