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Cruciform Music

Providing music that moves the Church to glorify God in worship and move out in mission


All true Christ followers have the same basic goals and desires. We want to be faithful and we want our ministries to encourage the development of other faithful Christ followers. Unfortunately we often come up short of these goals. Church history and personal experiences illustrate the universal tendency of Christians to cycle downward into a style of living and a type of Church that might be called “self-serving Christianity.” Any form of discipleship that relegates service and witness to a department of the church or a group of zealots is unbiblical. This is a “Jesus-and-me” distortion of Christ’s call. It is a vampirist caricature in which religious people try to suck blessings out of the Savior while continuing to live by their own interests.


Diet and Doctrine

This deterioration of vital Christianity might be related to the types of messages that fill the minds of many believers. A great percentage of what we hear about following Jesus has to do with our “personal” lives — my forgiveness, my home in heaven, my family, my peace, etc. Although these are wonderful aspects of the Christian life, a diet — what we read and hear — that only includes these type blessings inadvertently encourages our selfish tendencies.

All Christ followers need a balanced diet, a consistent flow of teaching and encouragement that connects our personal relationship with Jesus and our participation in His ministry in the world. This balanced approach to life and ministry might be called cruciform. The vertical line in the Cross reminds us of the necessary interaction between holy and loving God and His children. God reaches down to us in grace, and we respond in faith, confession, praise and allegiance. The horizontal line in the Cross reminds us that joining God in mission to lost and hurting people is vitally connected to authentic faith in God through Jesus Christ. Without the horizontal axis of the Cross, the form becomes a big “I.”

The doctrine and teaching of Scripture come to us in two primary ways: proclamation (oral or written) and music. Even if sermons, books and teachings match the cruciform description, there is still the issue of music.


Types of Music

The Bible has many texts, psalms and prayers that are vertical in nature. But it also has countless passages that are horizontal. Sometimes the two are linked in the same passage (Ps. 46:10; 67:1-2). Using this as a pattern, we can think of Christian music fitting into one of three categories:

  • Vertical. This music exclusively deals with topics related to the character of God and our relationship to Him – praise, confession, thanksgiving, God’s attributes, heaven, etc. This type of music dominates worship services as well as the airways. The vast majority of songs used in worship are vertical.
  • Horizontal. This music exclusively deals with topics related to the mission of God and/or our role in His mission – go, preach to the nations, serve the poor, etc. These songs are generally treated as “novelty” songs and are used almost exclusively in settings such as a “Missions Sunday.” Worship leaders rarely include a horizontal song in a worship set since these songs do not seem to keep the “flow” of praise and worship. Horizontal songs, however, play an important role in mobilizing the Church as Christians hear them in concerts, by radio or on iPods.
  • Cruciform. This music addresses vertical as well as horizontal aspects of the faith – praise and service, thanksgiving and witness. This music correlates with the two directions of the Cross. Relatively few of the popular songs used in contemporary worship fit this description. Worship leaders may be more open to using this music since it can continue the flow of worship as it connects the vertical and horizontal aspects of our response to God. Samples: Missions Flame (Matt Redman), You Said (Hillsong), Give Me Your Eyes (Brandon Heath), Follow You (Leeland), and Until the Whole World Hears (Casting Crowns).


Cruciform Music Project Goals

A rising wave of pastors, mission leaders, musicians, song writers and publishers are exploring ways for music to become a greater tool in the renewal of the Church and the mobilization of Christ’s body in His mission. Here are the bold goals of what has emerged as the Cruciform Music Project:

  • Encourage artists and production companies to write and record more songs that include a horizontal message.
  • Encourage worship leaders and radio stations to use more songs that are cruciform or horizontal in focus.
  • Provide churches, worship leaders and radio stations with a greater variety of quality songs that include a horizontal message.




Explore our Cruciform Song List which includes links to listen and purchase songs. You can also submit your suggestions of songs to add!


Music Rating System

The Cruciform Music Continuum is our rating system to categorize music as a way to help worship leaders design cruciform worship experiences.


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