So, what is the bestselling Christian album of all-time? To answer that question we must first set some parameters for just what qualifies as a “Christian” album. Since the question at hand concerns album sales, I suggest we define a Christian album as any album which was marketed to a Christian audience. Therefore, I will consider albums which either charted on Billboard as Christian or featured songs which charted on Christian radio. With that out of the way, what is the bestselling Christian album of all-time?
In 1991 Amy Grant released her eighth studio album Heart in Motion which would go on to sell over 5 million copies and be certified 5x Platinum by the RIAA. The album would reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart and spend 32 weeks on top of the Christian albums chart. No doubt, the lead single, “Baby Baby,” which reached the No. 1 position on the Adult Contemporary chart played a big role in making Heart in Motion the bestselling Christian album of all-time.
What’s the second bestselling Christian album of all-time then? I’m glad you asked.
Without knowing the exact figures, we will call the second bestselling Christian album of all-time a three-way tie. Let’s start with Amy Grant’s 1992 Christmas album, Home For Christmas. Maybe it’s not fair to count a Christmas album, but selling over 3 million copies is nothing to sneeze at. Moving on, Kirk Franklin also had an album that went 3x Platinum, God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation which was released in 1997. Lastly, let’s not forget P.O.D.‘s fourth album Satellite from 2001 which also sold over 3 million copies.
But Amy Grant, Kirk Franklin, and P.O.D. all had the benefit of being artists who crossed over into the mainstream market. What is the bestselling Christian album that didn’t benefit from mainstream crossover marketability?
By my calculations it would probably be Casting Crowns‘ self-titled debut in 2003 which sold over 2 million copies and was certified 2x Platinum. One might also consider Michael W. Smith‘s 2001 album Worship which also sold over 2 million copies. However, while Worship itself never achieved any mainstream success it may have benefited from Michael W. Smith’s crossover success in the 90’s. I’ll let you be the judge.
So what Christian artist has had the most albums certified Platinum by the RIAA?
That would be Amy Grant again. She’s had seven albums certified Platinum or better. Oh, and it’s probably worth mentioning the WOW I Love Christian Music compilation album series. There’s 17 of those that have been certified at least Platinum over the years.
Okay, one more question, has any Christian album from the last decade been certified Platinum? Maybe. It depends on what you mean by “Christian album” and “decade.”
If you use the criteria listed above then Twenty One Pilots‘ last album Blurryface from 2015 would be the last Christian album to be certified Platinum by the RIAA. I hear you, calling Blurryface a Christian album is a stretch, but it did have several songs make chart on the Christian Rock charts. Setting that one aside though, to find another Christian album that was certified Platinum, you have to go back to 2009–which was less than 10 years ago, so we can say last decade, right? In 2009 there were 5 albums that were certified Platinum: Until the Whole World Hears by Casting Crowns, The Fray by The Fray, Ocean Eyes by Owl City, and Awake by Skillet. Not a bad year.
So did I miss an album? Do you want to argue that The Joshua Tree by U2 is actually the bestselling Christian album of all time? I’ll just leave the list of albums I made while researching here for your consideration.
Amy Grant – Heart in Motion 
Amy Grant – Home for Christmas 
Kirk Franklin – God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation 
P.O.D. – Satellite 
Amy Grant – House of Love 
DC Talk – Jesus Freak 
Jars of Clay – Jars of Clay 
Kirk Franklin – The Nu Nation Project 
Various Artists – WOW 1999 
Various Artists – WOW 2000 
Various Artists – WOW Worship: Blue 
Lifehouse – No Name Face 
Various Artists – WOW Hits 2001 
MercyMe – Almost There 
Michael W. Smith – Worship 
Casting Crowns – Casting Crowns 
Switchfoot – The Beautiful Letdown 
The Fray – How to Save a Life 
Third Day – Chronology Volume 1 
Third Day – Chromology Volume 2 
Amy Grant – Age to Age 
Amy Grant – A Christmas Album 
Amy Grant – Unguarded 
Amy Grant – The Collection 
Stryper – To Hell With The Devil 
Michael W. Smith – Go West Young Man 
DC Talk – Free at Last 
Michael W. Smith – Change Your World 
Carman – Absolute Best 
Carman – The Standard 
Kirk Franklin & the Family – Kirk Franklin & the Family 
Steven Curtis Chapman – Heaven in the Real World 
Michael W. Smith – I’ll Lead You Home 
Various Artists – WOW 1996 
Kirk Franklin & the Family – Whatcha Lookin’ 4 
Point of Grace – Life Love & Other Mysteries 
Various Artists – WOW 1997 
Jars of Clay – Much Afraid 
Six Pence None the Richer – Six Pence None the Richer 
Various Artists – WOW 1998 
DC Talk – Supernatural 
Point of Grace – Steady On 
P.O.D. – The Fundamental Elements of Southtown 
Steven Curtis Chapman – Speechless 
Mary Mary – Thankful 
Third Day – Offerings: A Worship Album 
Various Artists – WOW Worship: Orange 
Various Artists – WOW Hits 2002 
Kirk Franklin – The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin 
Michael w. Smith – Worship Again 
Various Artists – WOW Christmas: Red 
Various Artists – WOW Hits 2003 
Various Artists – WOW Hits 2004 
Various Artists – WOW Worship: Yellow 
Chris Tomlin – Arriving 
Third Day – Live Wire 
Various Artists – WOW Hits 2005 
Flyleaf – Flyleaf 
Kirk Franklin – Hero 
Third Day – Wherever You Are 
Casting Crowns – Lifesong 
Various Artists – WOW Hits 2006 
Chris Tomlin – See the Morning 
Various Artists – WOW Hits 2007 
Casting Crowns – The Altar and the Door 
Various Artists – WOW Hits 2009 
Casting Crowns – Until the Whole World Hears 
The Fray – The Fray 
Owl City – Ocean Eyes 
Skillet – Awake 
twenty one pilots – Blurryface 
I wonder if that list would change if bands that identified as “we don’t want to be labeled a Christian band. We’re a band with Christian members who sing songs about Jesus” instead identified as simply, “Christian”
It kind of depends on which bands you are referring too. A band like U2 would blow Amy Grant’s sales out of the water. The Joshua Tree for instance sold over 25 million copies worldwide and at least 10 million copies in the US to be certified Diamond by the RIAA. Someone on Facebook brought up Creed which sold over 11 million copies in the US at their peak. If you want to go farther back than that you could start looking into artists like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Elvis. It’s unlikely any of them would greatly shake things… Read more »
I would add Alice Cooper to that list as well. He has claimed time after time that his Christian faith saved him from addiction. To me that is a very powerful statement coming from one of the biggest staples in the metal community. By the way, you did a great job on this list. I used to love Amy Grant growing up and was taken aback that she had achieved such success. I was born in 83 and wasn’t paying attention to chart achievements even when I was in hs so I didn’t have a clue. Keep up the great… Read more »
Good research put into this. I was intrigued!
Did you miss one?…. Hmmm…. I don’t know…. How about, one by a rather obscure band, like “To Hell with the Devil” by STRYPER?!??!!!?!?!?? O_o
Right you are. Some things are better forgotten.
Wow Noah such a hater. Hah! Give credit where credit is due! Stryper did something no other band was doing at the time and is a staple in Christan music. I know it isn’t for everyone, but that album is important especially in a list like this.
I just took the comment as jestful banter and responded in like fashion. I’ve got nothing against Stryper. Their exclusion from the list was purely an oversight on my part, not a sign of ill will.
It’s all good Noah! Thanks for putting together a fun article to read. I know it’s hard to include everything and I just wanted to make sure that Stryper found it’s spot on it.
Heavenly Place (1996)
Good catch, I missed this one.
So impressed at the research that went into this! Well done!
On the other news, just now I found out ‘ChristianRock.Net’ removed their music catalog. That was my go-to page (early 2000s) to look up current and past band/music.
Wow, it’s pretty barebones compared to what I remember it being in the past. Looks like stripped it back to nothing more than a player and a recently played playlist. What a shame.
hi Noah. I see what you mean aso I am sad with you. I care and love people. Um what do yuou mean, nothing more hta a player?
Correction. P.O.D. is #1 of this chart they sold 7 million copies worldwide!
I started to gripe that Bill Gaither’s Alleluia and a Dallas Holm album (both from the 1970s) should be in there too, but I think both only achieved Gold status. And I could imagine the gold list would be lengthy.
Compiling a list of gold albums would be quite the feat. I didn’t look too closesly at either Southern Gospel or Gospel music when I compiled this list so it’s entirely possible I could have missed an album. But of the few artists I checked that I thought might have a platinum album only one I found was Kirk Franklin. Really if you look at the albums on the list almost all of them had help from getting mainstream radio play. I’m kind of guessing the Christian market probably tops out around gold unless you really really hit it big.
1996’s The Preacher’s Wife Soundtrack is #1. It sold 6+ million albums.
As a member of the band Candle as well as Silverwind, you may want to research some of our albums. I know our album “Music Machine” went Platinum and was the FIRST Christian album ever to do so by a Group as opposed to an Artist. As well our album “Bullfrogs and Butterflies” (both of these albums are on Sparrow) went triple Platinum last I heard. Thanks and Lord bless you
NF’s album Perception has gone Platinum.
Skillet’s Awake is 2X Platinum and Comatose is Platinum
I think you forgot NF’s song Let You Down. That was triple Platinum, and the album Mansion also sold a lot…
I didn’t include singles. There are just too many. I’ve got my eye on Perception, but last I checked it had only been certified Gold. I wouldn’t be surprised though if it didn’t reach Platinum status someday.
I believe you may have forgot Lauren Daigle’s first album which I can see from Wikipedia was a platinum selling album, and she just released her 2nd album earlier this month September 2018.
I truly believe Lauren Daigle has a more dynamic and beautiful voice than The Queen of Christian Pop, although I have fond memories of my youth hearing Baby Baby and Every Heartbeat on the radio. I also believe Lauren’s new album is superior to her first album. God knows what the future holds, but I don’t believe his power is done working through his followers and in the realm of popular music.
It wasn’t forgetten, it just wasn’t certified platinum when this article was written. At some point I need to take the time to write a revision.
Hello! Great article and research! I am looking around for articles like yours that address the assertion by the makers of the movie “I Can Only Imagine” that it is the # 1 best selling Christian single of all time. Is that what you found in your research? They don’t provide data parameters. I would think Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah would hold that bragging right. Also, I might be missing it but would love to see a last updated date stamp to know at what point this article may have evolved past the point of current/late 2010s contributions. Finally, very surprised… Read more »
Sorry, March 29 2018 – you did have a publish date. My bad! Also the thumbnail for Amy Grant Christmas album not conveying correctly in second best selling trio.
Thanks for the feedback. I’ve not done any research on the best selling Christian singles, but the RIAA would probably be a good place to start. I know this lists is already a bit dated only 6 months after publishing. For one I know that Lauren Daigle needs to be added to the list after getting her first platinum album this summer. A revision might be order along with a little more fact checking on a few albums.
It’s hard to judge these things. For example, didn’t Underoath’s Define The Great Line hit no.2 in the charts. I know they’ve come out and said they aren’t a Christian band now but they were definitely talking about Jesus from the stage at that point and some of the success can be attributed to the Christian market ( just look at the current criticism from “Christians” about their new singles…!)
Looks like that album only sold 500,000 copies so it would still fall short of everything else on this list. But you’re correct that’s exactly what makes it hard to judge who should be on these lists.
Surprised No Name Face is the only Lifehouse album on the list.
Considering the numbers in sales and popularity in both secular circles and Christian circles during a time where they had no YouTube, Amazon, FB, or any social media. STRYPER should have been there perhaps in second place, but their work was ground breaking. Something was definitely missing in this research, it should be reconsidered in my opinion.
I did research Stryper after their absence was brought to my attention. They only had one album sell over a million copies which means they are tied for fourth. It is notable however they were the only other artist besides Amy Grant to sell over a million copies in the 80’s.
I have vivid memories from childhood of my sister playing Amy Grant’s ‘Heart in Motion’ cassette over, and over, and over… until it drove me crazy!