What do you think of Secular Music in Church?

This is a controversial subject, but we wanted to get some insight of your views of Secular Music in the church. 

We heard and amazing testimony weekends ago how this one gentleman heard an 80″s metal song at the opening of one service, from an outside loudspeaker. He was just eating breakfast at the restaurant next door. He came over and the people outside were friendly enough to make him venture inside. Within weeks he had given his life to Christ. 

What is your take on Secular Music in the Church?

Team IML


23 responses to “What do you think of Secular Music in Church?

  1. I think its a great testimony. The real question is, does the secular world have a place in our churches? Is it sin? What would Jesus do? Did Jesus take a secular approach to reach people? Maybe not, but he did use parables with real life scenarios to explain kingdom principles.

    Paul said that he would become all things to all people so that some might be saved:

    1 Corinthians 9:20-22
    20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
    21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
    22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

    However, can we continually water down or create mixture in our services or worship? How do you balance the milk and solid food of the Word and growing in God’s kingdom? I guess I struggle with seeker sensitive churches being only that. How secular do you become to make secular people feel comfortable? Does conviction of sin feel comfortable?

  2. Thanks for your insight. Even Paul used secular quotes from poets back in the day. At Lifechurch.tv, they are extremely far from the seeker sensitive approach, which is great from the balance. Craig Groeschel makes a strong invitation for Christ at the end of each service. But secular music is the norm for our culture. Worship music is foreign, so you can’t really reach out to people with Worship Music that are not familiar with it.
    I was at an event years ago and Jon Foreman the lead singer of Switchfoot mentioned that when they started writing in Southern California, they were not familiar with the Church Language most people are today. So they started writing songs the way they felt authentic with God.

    I strongly believe that we copy the cheesy worship elements of the church today to sell round and round in circles to our own people.

    Just some more thoughts.

  3. When I was leading worship, I always wanted to do a series that would resolve around some classic hits from the late 1960s. For people in their 40s and 50s some of those songs are extremely evocative, and for those younger, some of them represent “new” music. There are some great themes in those songs.

    Some would think this a waste of valuable worship time, but then again, I think the announcements are a waste of time!

  4. Depends on your purpose as a church. If your purpose is to reach churched people, then the answer to secular music would be no. If your purpose is to reach those who are far from God, then it is a great connecting point.

  5. i personally think that it’s an abomination to the foundation of what we believe and stand for. why would we invite such debauchery into the church and make it commonplace amongst believers? maybe it’s to be relevant and make a non believer feel welcome and comfortable in a church that they never would have come to in the first place…. oh yeah, that’s it!

  6. Well, considering most modern worship music is made up of dumbed-down chord progressions and spiritual-sounding references to various forces of nature, I wonder if God doesn’t hear that and say, “Really? I think I’m going to go listen to what’s going in it Matt Bellamy’s head instead. Sure, he might not agree with me 100%, but it sure is interesting.”

  7. Personally, I believe that God can use anything to bring people to him. He’s God. He can do whatever he wants. If he wants to use a “secular” song to bring people to him, he will.

    The bigger question is, what defines a secular song? The person? The lyrics? The chords? The purpose? I would lean more to the purpose as the major point. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe cursing and vulgar references should be in songs in the church because the words that are said would be against Christian values. But if a church uses a song from a “secular” artist and it brings people to God, there shouldn’t be any problem.

    I believe you can worship with anything. Think about songs showing how much we love God. Couldn’t people turn those into a love song about a girl/guy? And vice versa. It’s all in it’s purpose.

    What about Daughtry’s song “Home.” I can see that as a worship song. Search the lyrics, they’re filled with Christian ideas. But most people label that as a “secular” song. It’s all about the purpose.

    And to respond to Mike. I really don’t think you can split up churches like that. The entire purpose of a church is 1) spread the love of Christ and bring people into the fellowship of the church and 2) disciple those who are in the church. So in reality, the purpose of a single church is to do both of those things you talked about.

    Example, if your church is only for reaching other people, an un-saved person comes into the church and hears the gospel and gets saved. But your church isn’t for reaching and helping other Christians, what happens to that newly saved member of your church? He can’t stay there and learn and become stronger in his faith. Do you think he’d really go to another church? No. The church needs to be doing both jobs. That’s what we’re called to do. Truly 3 things: Reach up to God, Reach in to other Christians, Reach out to the world.

  8. Let’s define secular. Is secular anything and everything else other than Christian music?

  9. Anything other than Christian Defined Music

  10. How do you define Christian music? Does it have to talk about God or Christ specifically?

    Example: Needtobreathe. Great band. Definitely a Christian artist. Played at the Dove Awards this year. Also, had a feature song in the movie P.S. I Love you. Also, the music in the background of the Homeland Security USA TV show ad is from them as well.

    Secular or Christian? Most people in the world would say secular based on the songs in the movie and TV. But those of us in the Christian world would say it was Christian music. Which is it? There are songs on their latest album that are very obviously pointing to God. Others are not. So are some songs on their album Christian and some Secular?

    Again I go back to the purpose of the songs they put out there. I firmly believe that if people went and heard the rest of Needtobreathe’s album after hearing the song on P.S. I Love You, they would be touched and God could move in their life. So a song used in a secular movie could be used for God. Does that make the song secular or Christian?

  11. Needtobreathe is a great artist, and amazing album. I agree that people are moved by them, the best part is they get outside the church and reach out to people.

  12. i think its a great idea. A lot of innovative churches around the country are using a secular song in EVERY service. Make the front door as big as possible, and close the back one.

  13. This is a great post and discussion.

    I have been meaning to post about our Christmas program. It was amazing, life’s were literally changed. We know that from the testimonies and follow-up, but I had a very staunch “protestor” because we ended with Maria Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is you”.

    It’s a great question for us to continue to ask ourselves. Honestly, the “pastor” side of me wanted to become defensive and almost take on a feeling of guilt. I’m glad I got the protest though, because it caused me to look inside myself and what we do and evaluate. I landed that our motivation for that service and our vision as a church is to connect with hurting, messed up, real people who don’t really know which Christmas song is “spiritual” and which isn’t, but they desperately need Jesus! That’s Who we led them to in that service.

    (For some reason this didn’t show up in my Google reader)

  14. Ron, thanks for your feedback. I agree, that connecting with the hurting, messed up in the world you have to connect on the same language.

  15. Great discussion and thanks for defining secular. Lots of good info.

    I’d step back and ask, for whom and what reason was music made?

    If music in context of church, whether Secular or Christian, does not address the whom and what reason music was made for, then I’d dig deep as to why it’s in the program.

    Relationship is a product of music. In context of worship, it’s relational between a Heavenly Father and his people.

    If music isn’t producing relationships within and and outside of church, why do it?

  16. Being a child of the 80’s and a ‘music freak”; I know for a fact that God uses music in my life to get my attention in major ways!! I think there is nothing wrong with using secular music in churches. How and When you use it is another question. Do you make it a part of your worship sets every week? or just throw it in for effect durring a presentation? I feel like the one commenter; God can and does use anything to get our attention. I think worship music has a specific place and time just as much as secular music does. Definately something to think about and pray about as a worship leader.

  17. One of the greatest sermon series I have heard over the past 5 years was one done at Southland Christian Church in Lexington KY. They did a “Behind the Music” series that featured a “secular” song…

    Looking For Love – Wylan Jennings
    (Samaritan Woman…Insecurity)
    Hurt – Johnnie Cash
    (Zacchaeus…Loving The Unlovable)
    Everybody Hurts – REM
    (Legion…Depression & Suicide)
    Show Me The Way – Styx
    (Nicodemus…Intellectual Struggle)
    Bring Me To Life -Evanescence
    (Lame Man By The Pool…Feeling Sorry For Myself)
    Front Porch Lookin In -Lonestar
    (Jairus…Family Dysfunction)
    You’ve Got A Friend – James Taylor
    (Paralytic…Helping People Find Their Way)

    You can see the connection they were making between the secular music, biblical stories, and a christian theme for preaching. Which was a powerful message to seeker and believers alike.

    I think biblically we are called to be in the world not of the world and that using appropriate secular music should be welcomed as an action of being in the world. If secular music is used for in a worship capacity…we should all be scared.

  18. Team IML,

    Good Post! Good discussion.

    Personally, I remember hearing a song done by a worship band: Ridin’ The Storm Out by REO Speedwagon (whey they still ROCKED) and it was a moment I will never forget. I was hesitant to walk into a church, at that time, but I was able to connect with the music.

    If you are interested in reading the story referenced in this article, you can check it out here: http://www.transparentchristianmagazine.com/2008/11/12/todd-abernathy-freedom-and-a-tank-of-gas/

    If it wasn’t for great music at a church, I never would have developed a relationship with Jesus. The music at Mars Hill Bible Church kept me going back, and finally I couldn’t ignore God anymore.

    Transparent Christian Magazine.com

  19. I am always lost during this question! Christian music is not necessarily separate from secular music. What amazes me is how many times people will boast about listening to or performing Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood, yet be oblivious to the sexual and jealous/violent tone of the lyrics in her other songs. Somehow just because Jesus was mentioned by name made Jesus Take the Wheel acceptable. It was mainstream, secular pop & country music though.

    There are other songs such as Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes that speak to my heart and cause me to worship the Lord, yet this is considered a secular song even though it is credited to be written about God.

    Saved or unsaved, we as a body of Christ need to learn to connect with the world and music is a great way to do so. Church service should not be exclusively for those already Christian. In fact, when I hear secular songs that are obviously written for God and about his glory and love it moves me to know that at some point God is going to use that song to grab a hold of someone and see them come to him. It’s a fallacy to think it is only going to happen in church at an alter call. We should embrace things from culture and take our place as light in the world, not as light hidden under a bowl or by 4 walls.

    PS. I probably should have just posted on my blog and tracked back…sorry for taking up so much space in this comment.

  20. Wonderful blog.

    Here is my humble opinion.

    It really depends on the song and what Jesus himself says about it.

    Here is a thought. Light always conquers darkness. Jesus always loved everyone he met, the problem was the religious crowd had more of a problem with Him. The scripture is clear that he was sternest to the religious and their self righteousness.
    I dont think Jesus is intimidated by the songs.
    Remember Peter and the Lord telling to eat of the animals in the sheet that came down. Jesus said it is not the external that makes us unclean rather what comes out of a man.
    In all things give thanks, prayer and praise can transform the most unholy into wholly devoted to the Lord.

    Here is another thought. If we are made in the image of God and we have a divine deposit of his nature within us then would it not stand to reason that those anointed for worship who decide to not follow the Lord at that time still write anointed songs. They may have unregenerated lyrics yet the music could still contain the anointing of their gift.

    While I say this I am also aware that some songs can be demonically inspired and that is where discernment comes in. As the body matures in Christ we should be able to discern for ourselves and not rely on the religious police (modern day Pharisees) to tell us.
    Remember Jesus is the head of the church, lets follow Him.

    Bless you all.

  21. Jason, thanks for the link! We will probably post tomorrow for everyone to read.

  22. I love/hate this discussion. I think the comments here are evidence of why too. GREAT discussion, don’t get me wrong but man “we” as Christians argue about the silliest things sometimes. I mean technically, isn’t “Christian” music simply music recorded by an artist under a “Christian” label. And like many of you stated here, I think God’s bigger than that. I’ve been drawn to God by songs from “non-Christian” bands just as strongly as I’ve been from “Christian” bands. I’ve been turned off and disgusted by “Christian” songs worse than I have by some “secular” songs. And while that’s so obvious to me, I read a comment like that from BFraz and see it’s not that obvious to everyone.

    I’m all for it! Obviously, as seen by our discussion here, it’s inappropriate to some churches because the church would find it inappropriate and distracted by the song. I think that’s more a reflection of the make up of the church though and not the song. I think as Worship Leaders we’re to encourage and foster worship, so lots of questions must be considered when deciding what’s appropriate. I think it’s just kind of sad that the recording artist’s label must be considered.

  23. Great subject for discussion! Our church was created by believers who just wanted to reach and bless folks – any folks! As to music, we used various forms each Lord’s Day – sometimes classic “Christian” music like “Last Words Of David,” “Ode to Joy,” etc. but sometimes it was anything from Country Gospel to arrangements of the great old Gospel music with which the older members were familiar, to the beautiful and moving Sandy Patti favorites. Each Sunday morning during the offering our two pianists performed a mini-concert, again using everything from classical to some of the popular hits such as Chariots of Fire, The Impossible Dream, etc. Sometimes our orchestra thrilled us with fantastic presentations, Christian and “secular.” We used to say: “If you didn’t hear your favorite music today, keep coming ’cause you may hear it next Sunday!” I personally believe God gave the gift of music – much of the so called secular music is in fact, sacred. I’m glad some of it is finding it’s way into churhes.

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