If you ask Bart Millard and his bandmates to define their style of music, you'll likely get multiple answers.
It includes a little pop, a little worship, and a little rock. Sometimes, even a little disco.
"We have so many influences," said guitarist Michael Scheuchzer.
"The only rule we have is that if all five [members] don't agree, it doesn't go in the album," said lead singer Bart Millard.
In October, the band released its latest album, Always Only Jesus, which includes the hit single Then Christ Came. It is the group's 11th studio album.
The world, Millard said, needs the hope that Christian music provides.
"I think we just need someone to keep singing about Jesus, whether it's contemporary Christian or worship or whatever," Millard told Christian Headlines. "You might be able to make the case of, well, 'We may not need the [CCM] genre.' But what we do need is to just keep talking about Jesus – providing hope to people.
"Eddie DeGarmo years ago, he said what's funny about the Christian music genre is [that] every other genre is defined by the style of music – country, jazz, whatever," Millard said. "But Christian music has all of those in it. It's the lyrics that define the genre. There is country [Christian music] ... hip hop, we have it all. But it's the lyrics that sets us apart, which is really interesting."
MercyMe released its first studio album more than two decades ago, in 2001. It included I Can Only Imagine, the song that inspired the movie.
Millard said Christian music defines who he is.
"I can't imagine just singing in a bar or just singing about pop stuff that, to me, wouldn't have as much meaning," he said, referencing mainstream music. "The gospel changed my life years ago. Somebody asked, 'Why did you sign up for Christian music?' I was like, I don't think we signed up for it. It's just kind of who we are.
"We've tried to not sing about Jesus," he added, laughing, "but it's gonna show up by the second verse or bridge."
MercyMe is in the middle of a 19-city fall tour. In December, it launches a winter tour with Chris Tomlin.
Photo courtesy: ©Fair Trade, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.