Over the past few decades, churches have added some fun secular songs to the worship routines, messages and walk-in playlists in an attempt to be more inviting to people unfamiliar with the church experience. This trend is likely to increase with the recent conversion of Kanye West.
Using Worldly Music In Church Isn’t New
This isn’t a new trend, over 10 years songs like “Savin Me” from Nickelback and “You Had A Bad Day” from Daniel Powter were used to introduce something highly familiar. Prior to that, “Stand By Me” was a staple for many years in progressive churches. What is new (or newer) is the use of songs from artists that have songs on the same album that glorify sin.
When “Happy” was being played on the radio so much it made you sad, some Churches thought it was appropriate for the worship stage. As a standalone song, it has nothing to do with Christ but it’s uplifting and edifying. Who’s to say Happy doesn’t make God happy? The problem for some is that by playing this in the Church it endorses the Artist, Pharrell, who’s next song after Happy was, “Get Lucky.” Unfortunately, Mr. Farrell isn’t talking about the marriage bed in his song. More recently, “God’s Plan” from Drake was played during a walk-in playlist for a youth group.
Save The Sinner, Offend The Saint
I love music, however, I’m no expert. In order to get a better handle on worship, I talked to my friend, Worship Pastor at Victory World Church Todd McVicker about this topic (Secular music in church). Todd was one of the Pastors that made a decision to play “Happy” a few years ago and I was really blown away by his response.
Initially, when I read about and experienced churches playing secular music, I thought it was wrong. Something in me said, “that’s not right.” “Be in the world not of it.” When I talked with Todd, my eyes were opened a bit. The decision wasn’t about being cool or hip, it was about reaching the lost. Saving the sinner at the expense of offending a saint. He reminded me of the story of the samaritan woman at the well.
In John 4, we see Jesus going out of His way to go to Samaria, an area that Jewish people would have avoided, to talk to a woman that Jewish men would have ignored, that was living a lifestyle that pretty much everyone would have judged and shamed. After a brief exchange, Jesus tells the woman He knows everything about her and yet came to talk with her.
If your Pastor went to the dark part of your city late at night alone and started to converse with a woman on the street, what would you think? Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus did. He met a known promiscuous woman in a public place, in an area that no upstanding person would be found.
Don’t Mistake Personal Conviction As A Rule For Entire People Group
If you’re a Christian, then the story isn’t about you anymore. The story is about bringing others into the family. The woman at the well isn’t a justification to lower our morals, but rather about changing our perspective.
We might have certain beliefs about what is right and wrong but I can guarantee you those beliefs shift over time. “The older I get, the less I know,” said Todd when we talked. Not so much about what the Bible points out as sin but about what he is judging to be right or wrong in someone else’s life.
What he’s saying is that when he became a Christian, he thought secular music was all the work of the devil. Now that he’s older, he’s able to see that music has a bunch of different components. From the beat to the artist’s intent. Music is multifaceted and it wields power.
Now that our perspective has hopefully shifted, let’s answer this question a bit more directly
What’s “God’s Plan” For Secular (Worldly) Music In Church?
As I looked into this I had a bunch of questions. If a church plays a song is that an endorsement of the artist? What if the artist lives a sinful life? Does it matter where in the church building the song is played? Is worship time sacred but the walk-in time before the service ok? What about instrumentals of secular songs? What about Christian artists that team up with secular artists, is that an endorsement?
Unfortunately, this is where I started. I didn’t have the right mindset. I’m not advocated secular songs at church, what I’m advocating is the holding off of judgment to understand the purpose behind it. Let’s dive deep into one of these questions and find the real answer.
If a church plays a song is that an endorsement of the artist?
To me, this is the quintessential offending saint question. If the church plays “Happy” does it mean that the church endorses Pharell’s music? How often have you heard a song at church and then looked it up? I think a lot of newer believers may mistake a worldly song played at church as an endorsement. Especially, in the youth groups.
The counterpoint is your answer to this question. What if a Christian artist falls away from the faith or gets caught in a “scandal?” Does this mean we can no longer worship God through songs written by this artist?
So what’s the real answer?
It doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what God thinks of the choices the leaders He put in place of my church. It matters to the unsaved people coming to the church. Does this song make them more open to receiving the Gospel? Can this song help get 1 more saved? Then who am I to judge.
What Should You Do If You’re Offended By The Music?
Be mature. If something offended you, check your heart. Why are you offended by what the church is doing? Be curious and seek to understand. Have you talked to anyone in leadership regarding your offense? Sometimes it’s not possible to talk directly to leadership but you have a few choices. Listen to what God is telling you about why that is offensive to you. Look at it through the perspective of the unsaved. Finally, after prayer, you can either speak up, leave or move on at the church.
Why are we even talking about this? Because music has power. Check out Montel Jordan’s message “The Power of Music”
What do you think? Let’s discuss it!