Should Secular Songs Be Used in Church?

Image: (Kyle Baker)

So I mentioned in this week’s worship service recap post that we opened our services at SSCC with a secular song, “When A Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge.

We don’t typically cover a lot of secular songs but from time to time we’ll choose one if it fits.  I’m all for integrating these into our corporate time if the song enhances the overall theme for the day.  In this case, the song was a perfect match to our sermon title.  I felt that overall, it was lyrically safe. Because it’s such an old standard, I felt it would be a good ice breaker.

In searching for a good image to use for this blog post I came across this image (and blog) from Kyle Baker in TN.  His post about “Secular vs Sacred” can be read here.

So what’s your take on this issue?  Should secular songs be used in church services? Leave your comments below and join the discussion.

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135 comments on “Should Secular Songs Be Used in Church?

  1. Tracie says:

    Yes. There may be a non Christian who is encouraged that Christians are real people. I don’t know the right answer. But I don’t think in the bible there is a separation of secular and christian music, just music that is is pleasing to the Lord and lifts others up.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks for kicking us off! 

  2. Mark Cole says:

    I wouldn’t be comfortable using secular songs in a worship service… it doesn’t fit with my purpose of getting people focused on God. I feel that my job is to get people to stop thinking about the outside influences and focus on the Creator.. singing songs that praise God and worship God seem to be a much better use of my 30 minutes of music each week.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      I lean this way myself – it’s very rare that I’ve actually used them within the actual service itself – in this context, it was a “walk-in” song that we did 5 minutes prior to the service start.

    2. bloodymurderlive says:

      @aa8a2ab85b03787f9eb24c1f9bc7f451:disqus ,

      I think that many people focus so much on God that they neglect the relationship between themselves, as humans, and God.

      1. fmckinnon says:

        Hey, thanks for jumping in … very interesting thought there …. hmmmm …

      2. Mark Cole says:

        Thru human history.. people focusing on themselves and others has not generally been the problem.. people not keeping God in the #1 place has been the problem… my main job is to keep people focused on God… then others… People have the whole week to work on their relationship with others and also are surrounded with music that focusing on the world around them… Sunday is my time to give them 30 min of music that exclusively focuses on God.

        1. fmckinnon says:

          I applaud your resolve, bro. I totally respect what you’re doing, and know your people are blessed to have such a focused, direct time.

  3. Kevin Riner says:

    We’ve started doing this a little. We’ve integrated secular songs in our opening itunes playlist as well as occasionally opening with a song that might tie into the overall theme and message. It’s works really well with connecting with those who are unchurched or dechurched,

    I might disagree with Tracie on the bible not separating the two though. He said in Amos 5. 23 “Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” But this was music that was created for selfish pleasure and not worship to Him.

    So I think if a song can reach someone and bring them closer to the gospel of Christ without damaging His name and reputation, go for it!

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Interesting – I always interpreted that passage in Amos to actually be referring to our “worship” … not so much music for selfish pleasure.  You’ve sparked my curiosity, I need to go back and read that passage again in context.

    2. Chicagojan says:

      Hi Kevin and others….    
           When reading Amos 5:23 in context with the rest of the chapter, God is telling Israel that He will bring judgement upon them for their sins of taxing the poor, oppressing the innocent, taking bribes, etc, and that He will not accept their burnt offerings, tithes, music, etc, because they are obviously only phony acts of worship, phony acts of redemption.
           I imagine you learned a different interpretation of that verse by someone who had taken it out of context, and possibly they were taught under the same circumstance.  Even checking things out ourselves doesn’t guarantee understanding unless we know the original languages of the OT and NT, as well as a solid knowledge of the culture associated to the respective scripture.
           LOL..!! 🙂  I just now saw that Fred conveyed a similar thought without being so wordy…. a skill I haven’t been blessed with yet 😉 
           Thanks Kevin…. I think this scripture will help me to be more aware for a little while of the ways I continue to sin against God before and after “singing” praises to Him.  I hope you all have a fantastic week and I appreciate you sharing space with me!
      –Janet ♥~♥~♥

  4. Anonymous says:

    I miss having sacred space in my life. I think, as a worship leader and songwriter, it all runs together. Sometimes I admire the congregants that really get to enjoy Sunday worship as a place of sacred space. Part of me wants to keep the secular songs out so the “sacred” mystery can be maintained. And I think our generation is leaning towards that anyway–towards sacred space and mystery and wonder and transcendent moments. Coldplay, while inspiring, doesn’t always feel transcendent.

    OneRepublic, on the other hand, does. 😉 I jest.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      OneRepublic – can’t say I know that band … I’m curious.  I’m with you on the sacred, and I believe, like you, that there is a generation that wants the line between them to be much more distinct.

    2. bloodmurderlive says:

      Sounds like “a time for this, a time for that.” A time for sacred space, and a time to examine – even appreciate – the humanity that we all share as God’s creation. These are not mutually exclusive.

  5. jkriggs says:

    On a regular Sunday morning we don’t sing secular songs.  If my pastor asked me to do one – that went along with his message, I would.  However we would be very intentional to make sure the congregation knew – the song wasn’t part of the worship of God.  Congregational worship should be a representation of private worship throughout the week – and I don’t think it is possible to worship God by singing secular songs in private or corporately.  

    My two cents.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks for chiming in … a thought … what makes it “secular”?  I mean, I can feel immense worship to God when listening to a beautiful symphony … it’s not exactly worship music, but I’m inspired and lifted by it’s beauty …

      A far stretch to compare “When A Man Loves a Woman” to a symphony … but see my point?  Just asking …

    2. Conner Byrd says:

      I love this discussion. A question to think about: What is “secular?” No offense to some well meaning worship leaders but I’ve had more intimate worship moments with U2 than I have had with songs intended for private and corporate worship. So how do we separate the two? 

      1. fmckinnon says:

        And THAT is the million dollar question!

        1. Perhaps before asking “how” to separate sacred and secular, we should ask “should” we separate sacred and secular.  The separation implies that there are parts of life that are apart from a relationship with God.

    3. Brandonpetaccio says:

      Worship is about the person, not the music. I think if we reduce worship merely to musical selection, we’re objectifying worship. Can I worship in song? Yes. Can I also worship in my career? In my daily chores? On my afternoon walk? While sharing with Chopin in the emotional expressions of his music? The answer to that is also Yes.

        1. Anonymous says:

          Wonder what song David played in 1 Sam 18:10 that repelled the evil Spirit from Saul? Think it was “Give it away now?” by the RHCP? 😀

          1. fmckinnon says:

            That’s just funny.

  6. wordsong says:

     The Levites who were in charge of worship in the old testament were given charge to teach the people the difference beween what is sacred and what is common.  God wants us to use discernment, and I believe that God’s anointing will rest on what is sacred.  Man’s intentions will rest on what is secular.

    As I read what was above, I noticed that you had a lot of reasons why YOU thought you should use the secular song…but what did GOD say about it?  After all, worship is about ushering in HIS Presence and meeting with Him.

    As for making non-Christians feel comfortable in church or to help them realize that we’re “real” people, why?  I mean, God wants us to live for Jesus, not for their opinions.  If we live for Jesus, then Jesus in us will capture the hearts of the non-Christians and ignite His love and life and bring true salvation to them, as well.

    God is seeking worshipers who will worship in SPIRIT and TRUTH. 

    Thanks for giving an opportunity to share.  I hope what I’ve said will provide opportunities for increased searching out of God’s heart in His Word regarding this matter.  If this were my opinoin, what would it matter, and why even share it?  But, God’s heart…we have to speak what we carry, if we’re to help one another grow in the body! 🙂 

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks so much for your comments! 
      I can say that I wouldn’t do something in the service that I felt God disapproved of.  I think every person’s purpose in their corporate gathering may not exactly be the same.  If our sole purpose is to worship … it wouldn’t belong.  If part of our corporate gathering included community, worship, teaching, fellowship, etc., then I could see it more appropriately.

      This particular song was not intended to be worship, nor was it intended to facilitate worship.  It was a preliminary song to sort of “break the ice”.  When people walked away from our worship service last week, I’m pretty sure that what they really were moved by was the corporate worship during our communion time … the song we chose to play during the prelude was more of a “sit back” and get ready.

      There’s definitely a tension … a tension to manage in using them, I think.

      1. wordsong says:

        Hi, Fred!  Wanted to say that my CAPS were not in any way to attack you.  I hope that there was no hurt feelings or offense, because none was meant! (I don’t sense any! But, I had wanted to write that!).  I am just being emphatic about that premise… I wonder how much time we all inquire of God and get his heart beat, instead of just setting the setlist and getting the program going to our good intended purposes—all at the cost of His flow.  Ya know?

        I’ve thought about the whole secular/sacred for a while, and all I keep coming back to is…why is the church feeling the need to compromise to bring in non-Christians?  The church is supposed to already BE the Bride of Christ, and our purpose IN church isn’t to entertain or bring converts. But, the purpose of the church is to encourage and exhort one another and build up the already set together BODY of CHRIST, so that we’re strengthened and SENT OUT.  To make converts.  To meet non-believers.  To share the Gospel and bring new believers into fellowship.  I guess this is my candid response to this.

        I honestly believe that God wants us to pursue Him in holiness together as a body from the start of when we open the doors to the close—that there be no mixture of sacred and profane, but just His Holy.  I look at the model of worship leading from the old testament, and I see how it’s all been a shadow of what’s now our worship.

        Our ice breakers should be the cross.  ya know?  From there, we get to eventually reach the throne room and Holy of Holies where we meet with God in our hearts, and He transforms us from glory to glory.

        Thanks for letting me share. 🙂  Have a great day!

        1. wordsong says:

          *isn’t to entertain or bring in non-converts.  (By the way, I’m not saying that non-Christians shouldn’t come to church!  No, I say, YES, let’s invite those who don’t know Him to the house.  But, what I’m saying is…we don’t set our hearts on pleasing them, but on pleasing God and worshiping Him.  That’s how the non-Christians will know God among us in church.  And, when we leave our doors of fellowship and walk out into the world, we have a responsibility to share the Gospel and bring new believers into fellowship. 🙂  Hope that clarifies! 🙂

          1. Worshipone says:

            I often say that the greatest single evangelistic “tool” of the church is authentic worship.  When Jesus is lifted high, people are drawn to Him (His beauty, His holiness, His being, etc.)…period.  They are not drawn to us OR the music we use in our worship.  
            Lyrics, like our broken & healed humanity, proclaim His glory and majesty in ways we can understand…feeble as it may be…using language and words we find “worshipful.”  
            Music, the melodies, harmonies, rhythms, and more, being neither sacred nor secular, serves as our “medium” for expressing those words.  The heart of those “playing” make it a sweet aromatic offering to the Father.  
            We would be foolish to think that anything we do could ever compare to His drawing of humanity to Himself.  It is, in reality, the testimony of Who He is and what He has done, whether shared in the market place of life or in a worship environment, that draws attention to Him.  As a life-long worship leader, I find that the question is not secular or sacred, for me anyway, but what am I doing that hinders or helps others know and express authentic worship to Him…in a corporate expression or in living life daily.

          2. fmckinnon says:

            I think my comment is just a repeat of what I said earlier – it’s a “tension” that we choose to manage.  Ideally, the real win is for an empowered Christian to go out into the world, outside of our church gathering, and win the lost.  The reality is, many people bring the lost with them to church.  There will always be unbelievers present in our corporate gatherings (which is why Paul addressed certain things about order, and how they appear to the nonbeliever).

            Here’s the funny thing, though, that hasn’t really come out yet … most people will MISS THIS without reading all the comments:

            No where did I say that our purpose for singing that song was to entertain unbelievers.  Heck, the majority of the people there are Christians, and they applauded when it was over, they loved it.  It was entertainment and fun to them … and ultimately, I’m OK with that, because I know two things:
            1.  It gave them a sense of enjoyment and made them smile, laugh, and helped them relax a bit, and not be so uptight.
            2.  I knew that from the other elements we had planned in the service, they would have a definite opportunity to have worship in spirit and truth, and have a serious “God-encounter”, and a strong sermon from the Word of God that was not diluted in any way, where Truth was spoken boldly.

        2. fmckinnon says:

          Thanks so much for your comments.  I totally sense such a peaceable and genuine spirit behind what you’re saying.  I have to say I agree a lot … I constant manage the “tension” of using our corporate time exclusively to build the believer, versus recognizing the presence of non-believers and trying to not dilute the gospel, yet at the same time, make them feel connected and welcomed.

          I don’t think the two have to be separate – I do think you can do both.  After all, as you refer to the “church” …. “the church is supposed to already BE the bride, etc” … I agree … however, the Church (the people) and a corporate meeting are not the same thing.

          At the end of the day – if our people were merely entertained, and the non-believers were just warm and fuzzy, we failed … and we failed MISERABLY.  And that is why we manage the tension with great prayer, counsel, and planning.

    2. bloodymurderlive says:

      Why? Because once upon a time, we Christians were human too. Church needs to stop being the place where the “more perfect” lead the “less perfect”. We don’t walk through the church doors because we didn’t need God, because we were inhuman. We are united in our humanity and in our need for grace. I’m afraid the modern church has removed that humble sense of commonality and has instead become a pedestal that unbelievers are loathe to approach.

      It is human proclivity, not faith, that presumes to know the mind of God. Examine the fruits, not one’s own suspicions about God.

  7. Steve says:

    I think that many times in churches, while we are striving to be relevant, we miss being relevant. What I mean is, if we are presenting a service or sermon topic that warrants using a particular secular song to add to, or drive home a point/theme, we should not be afraid of doing that (unless lyrics are questionable, of course). You even confirmed this above – “from time to time we’ll choose one if it fits” … “In this case, the song was a perfect match to our sermon title.” In my opinion, our main set of music each week should be worship music, because it is a worship service, but using the odd other song, if it fits, should not be frowned upon.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Steve, I agree – thanks for chiming in!

    2. bloodymurderlive says:

      Exactly. As a worship leader, one of my core values is to minimize distractions. If something distracts from the worship, rather than enhancing it, I remove it. I think this is a good application of that core value.

  8. dmartin says:

    When considering this question, the first thing to ask is, “What IS the purpose of this service?”  If worship, then it is not about the unbeliever.  It is about the believer giving honor and praise to his Creator.  However, in Psalm 40:3, the Psalmist does mention that when the lost “see” the song of the worshiper, they will “fear and trust in the Lord”.  If the service  is focused on evangelism and outreach, then perhaps there is a place. Those songs would perhaps open the front door by showing, as Tracie said, that Christians are real people.  I agree with jkriggs,  if one were used, we would make sure to note that it is used as an illustration to enhance the message, not part of the participant’s worship.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Yes – great points … thanks for jumping in. 
      Question:  does the purpose of the service HAVE to be exclusively one or the other?  Can it not have a dual purpose – to experience worship in spirit and truth, and to also welcome unbelievers?  Can you have both in the context of a single gathering?

      Are announcements “worship”?
      My point is that I’m not sure it has to be all or none.  Can we structure the way we communicate in such a way where an unbeliever enjoys attending our service overall; and may hear a song they are familiar with (making them a little more at ease), yet … moving from that place into a place of genuine, authentic worship?

      We have a saying at SSCC that is something like this:
      we try to be a safe place for people to bring their unbelieving or lost friends, where we try not to be offensive, except in proclaiming God’s Word, which can (and often is) an offense to the unbeliever.

      1. dmartin says:

        Good question, Fred.  I think back to my childhood when I would read in the bulletin, the title of our “services”….Sunday morning was our “worship” and Sunday evening was our “evangelistic”… (Yet they were exactly the same.)   BTW,  I try not to include announcements either.  For the very reason you ask.  I think in my “obsessive” nature, I’m just trying to be true to what I “say” we are doing…But I totally understand your question…does it have to be one or the other…Hmmmmmm. 

    2. bloodymurderlive says:

      I would say that “secular” music is more of a teaching tool that can guide us into a more genuine place of worship. I would agree that it does not tend to be worshipful in itself. Though, note my careful wording.

    3. bloodymurderlive says:

      I would also add, however, that going so far out of our way to issue a “disclaimer” would, I’m sure, distract from the worship by creating an air of controversy. Disclaimers tend to create the feeling that you’re responding to something you don’t approve of. Frankly, I think it’s unnecessary, and likely counterproductive, if the “secular” music is used as a tool to teach or add perspective to worship.

      1. fmckinnon says:

        Good point – a disclaimer has to be used with wisdom.  For me, because it’s a good bit “out of the norm”, I opened our pre-service walk-in time with a quick “Hello everybody”, got their attention and said something like this:

        “This morning as you’re coming in and being seated, we’re preparing to wrap up our series called “The Man Series”.  Today the sermon will be about “When A Man Loves A Woman”.  As I thought about tunes that could set the stage for this sermon, all I could think of was this tune that I bet you’ll recognize … so sit back, enjoy the music, sing along if you want” ….

        People nodded, smiled, laughed … and let applauded when we were done.  (not that the applause makes it “right”, and it certainly wasn’t praise to God, nor was it meant to be).

        After that, the Pastor comes up and makes a joke “so, are we ready to slow dance, or ready to begin our time of worship, or both” …  everyone laughs.

        People are relaxed, smiling, comfortable, and we kick off an hour:10 of spirit-led worship.

  9. Conner Byrd says:

    Absolutely! We could have a fun but tried and old debate about what really is “sacred” and what is “secular” (ie. record labels, personal testimony, song’s intent) but to me that’s all become irrelevant. I think the pitfall is when we use current hot item songs to stay hip and relevant. I think the church should be more about redeeming and exemplifying what God is doing. That could be in or outside the Christian bubble. Personally, when something outside IS redeemed then we show God’s expansive impact, He becomes bigger and we become smaller. And that’s always a good thing. 

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks so much for diving in. I remember LaMar Boschman saying to me once “what makes a song a Christian song – did it get saved’?

    2. bloodymurderlive says:

      A good thing … unless it minimizes our role as humans in our relationship with God. Let’s not make God so big that we become invisible, or else we lose the relationship. That’s what I think, anyways.

      1. Conner Byrd says:

        “Let’s not make God so big” …I don’t think making God as He is would jeopardize the relationship He indeed sought to establish. I think we settle too often for the “friend of God” because it is more comfy. The tension does sit between the God that IS so big that we are irrelevant and the fact that through Jesus we are united to Him and He knows us by name. We should be in AWE of Him and so thankful of that relationship. They must both exist. 

  10. Jan says:

    When the song fits the purpose — why not. I’m sure our Father has heard all the music of this world anyway! Any maybe when the congregant hears the song in another context, he might remember the moving sermon etc. that used the song to amplify the message. 

    1. fmckinnon says:

      That’s a splendid point, actually … the way we can remember … people hear a song, and it brings them back to that place. Of course, it can work the other way, too … my Dad used to hate hearing any Christian song that had a country sound to it because it took him back to the bars and drinking in his mind ….

      Totally subjective by the person.

  11. Jeffrey says:

    I’m a former Christian/former worship leader who still appreciates the art and music, so I’ll throw in my two cents for those who are interested.

    When I first saw the post, I thought ‘interesting topic’, then when I saw what song he used, I failed to see the connection. Did you draw a connection after the fact? Or was the secular music just used as a attention getting device. I’ve seen secular music used effectively in a worship setting, and I’ve seen it used as a gimmick. I would say it depends more on intent more than content (although content should not be ignored). Why are you singing the song? 

    I’ve also seen secular songs used by slightly modifying the lyrics. This can be good (if done tastefully), or it can be distracting (if taken too far-South Park episode on Christian music is a hyperbolic example). 

    And to the lady who said Coldplay couldn’t be used: one of the most powerful uses of a secular song in a sacred setting that I’ve ever seen was the use of the song ‘Fix You’ as an introduction to a sermon. Beautifully, masterfully done. 

    1. fmckinnon says:

      IN this case, there didn’t need to be much of a connection drawn, because the title and lyrics pretty much set it out.  I’d have to say this was border line “gimmick” … and it’s not the norm for us.  I wouldn’t call it a “gimmick”, but it was definitely an intentional usage of a song that we knew would be familiar and a rather clever integration.

      Why sing it?  The song is somewhat humorous, of what a man will do when he’s in love.  The title was an exact match to the sermon, reinforcing that phrase.  I’m pretty sure when people hear that classic song now, they may recall and remember this sermon, and the challenge to men.  Among other reasons.

      Plus, it was as I said before, just a fun way to break the ice, before our time of corporate worship began … before we started, the room had it’s usual, stiff, tired feel … like most services, before people get “warmed up” a bit ….  after the song, the room was laughing, light, smiling, and the people were awake, attentive, and when we started with our worship time, they were ready. 

  12. Dan Wilt says:

    There is no such thing as a secular world in the heart and mind of God, so the answer is easy, and challenging to implement. 


    Not categories. Discernment.

    1. Conner Byrd says:

      I wish I could have said it as simply and straightforward as this! 

    2. fmckinnon says:

      Beautiful, Dan!  Thanks.

  13. Dkkim23 says:

    I think it all depends on the manner it is used.  If the song is used to support a message or used as an example in the deliverance of a message, then it could be used.  But if it is used as a replacement of worship, addition to our worship, or even a way to touch non Christians, then I believe that it should not be used in church.  
    We use secular examples all the time in our messages to help prove a point or help us understand.  So secular songs could be used in the same manner, but in no way can it be used to worship God because He was not the focal point when those songs were written. 

    Even if secular songs are being used as examples, I believe they should be closely reviewed to make sure it is age appropriate, just like the writer above said they did with “When a man ..”

    In reaching out to non-Christians, it does help to show them that we are just people too.  But I don’t believe using secular music to do that is necessary or even proper in some cases.  They should see God for who He is and see His worship for what it is.  There are many worship songs out these days that non-Christians can relate to because of the style of music.  They can enjoy that rock guitar solo or hip hop beat, all while experiencing what it means to worship God.  I have shared many of LeCrae’s worship rap songs to kids in a tough neighborhood near my church.  They absolutely love it because he creates awesome beats and music, but only talks about love and Christ.  They were blown away by that.  How could someone rap about something positive? 

    I’m stepping off the pulpit now.  I hope someone finds this encouraging.  God bless you!

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks so much … great feedback. 

  14. Kevin Woolley says:

    I have done so – but with some altered lyrics – so that the Lord is worshipped and magnified and it is not just a case of singing a secular song. This obviously means some work in advance on the song.
    Lately most of my worship leading has tended to be spontaneous with no set list of songs to do – I follow the Holy Spirit’s flow.  

    1. fmckinnon says:

      I love me some spontaneous flow, ooooh yeah!

  15. Jeanie says:

    For a new babe in Christ it opens a door to a place that they are trying to close. For an old convert, depending on how romantic or lonely you are, it could stir up some old “stuff.” Music is a powerful aphrodisiac, it is an element that enhances one’s high and when you are depressed it helps to keep you down. Hearing that old “slow drag” could stir up some strong old emotions and make you want to leave the service and act on it.  When I was in the world I did worldly things but when I came to Christ I surrendered All.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Good point … that’s definitely possible (see my earlier comment way up high about my Dad at one time, not wanting to hear anything country). 

  16. Annewiltshire says:

    this is a very interesting discussion. i’ve heard people sing secular songs and put God and Jesus at the end or substitute for pronouns, does this then make the sound sacred. i think that we need to check out some of these songs first to find out why they were written. I understand “the prayer” is really not a godly song but i guess it songs good, with some christian words so we sing it in church. We need to stop “christianizing” the secular and common and treat God better as He deserves.

    1. Kevin Riner says:

      Stop christianizing the secular? Where do you think the older hymns came from? Old bar songs that the lyrics were rewritten.

      1.  Don’t generalize every hymn
        Only hymns written by salvation army,were tunes from the bar.

        And if you know the history of hymns,many of the lyrics were written before music was actually permitted to be used in church.There was not much melodies or notes yet explored,so that is why salvation army took music already made and used it for the church.

      2. Kyle Baker says:

        that’s a very common anecdote, and no doubt you got if from a reputable source, but its historically inaccurate.

        “Hymns” initially only referred to the words. Printing music was deemed a scandalous distraction of True Worship.  (sound familiar?) Different congregations would use different melodies (to this day there are two different melodies that fit Away In A Manger)  a la Greensleeves/What Child Is this.   Greensleeves is a folk melody, what Child is this happens to be one of the many poems that fit it. 

        So it’s true you can find celtic and british folk tunes/marches with melodies that are also in our hymnals, its more because they pull from the same sources than any outright copying

        Incidentally, one of the oldest hymns, O Come O Come Emmanuel, predates notated music.  We have no idea how it was originally sung. 

    2. Conner Byrd says:

      I do agree that all too often we try to cater to culture by playing a secular song and tweaking a pronoun or verse to “make it fit.” I’m not a fan of that. I am a fan of playing a secular song as is 🙂 I think redeeming what God is doing through creation no matter who it’s written by is an incredible thing that aids worship. 

      I think all the argument of due diligence in determining “why and heart” etc. behind songs and artists is impossible. I wish it wasn’t though. When Fee came out with the news of his adultery, did that negate his repertoire of songs that he wrote during that time? Can we count out the song Healer? Sure Hillsong is the artist who made it popular but the writer wrote it out of a lit from a disease that he didn’t even have. Sometimes out of brokeness comes great heartfelt authentic worship for who God is. 

  17. hitchface says:

    Man, talk about comments!

    Y’know, everybody kicked up all kinds of dust when the folks over at NewSpring (haters, keep it respectable please) played “Highway to Hell” before a sermon. 

    Now get this. The lyrics of that song very perfectly encapsulate the mentality of people who either a) don’t care about the existence of an afterlife or b) think hell is a place where we all get to party with Satan while the Christians go follow all the rules in Heaven.

    So aside from the fact that this song is majorly popular, the message is a fantastic one to speak into and shine light on. However, a whole shmoz of people completely misunderstood the context and purpose of the song, thought that NewSpringers were worshiping the devil while the rest enjoyed a really great illustration and sermon that won’t soon be forgotten.

    Reducing ourselves to placing a dividing line between secular and sacred, in my probably not so humble opinion, is a waste of our time. Your “church time” ought to be no different than your “other time”, because you ARE the church. God LIVES in YOU, and your lives are characterized by CONSTANT praise and worship. Stepping into a church (which is not holier ground than any other) should not and cannot change your attitude towards God.

    God made everything. All of it. Satan didn’t, even though he tried to take credit for it and elevate himself above God. Satan does not inherently own a single thing. The way I see it, we can either attribute to Satan what isn’t rightfully his or we can redeem, by the power of God, all twisted things and make them right.

    Using the enemy’s tools against him sounds like a fun plan to me.

    1. Nic Boyd says:

      The ‘Highway to Hell’ song is an interesting one.  While it does show the depravity of man and that the unredeemed are on a highway to hell to song glorifies that fact.  When preaching it is right to draw peoples attention to their sin and then lead them to the cross where there is forgiveness.  Should we be using illustrations that glorify sin??

      Aside from that particular song a large part of the modern church understand “worship” in the church setting to be the corporate singing part of the service we maybe we usher in God’s presence or enter the throne room etc.  The fact is this understanding is a modern construct.  Worship, for most of history, in church has referred to the whole service, from the call to worship at the beginning (when a man loves a woman??) to the benediction or dismissal at the end.  Every element in the service was designed to point to Christ and the Gospel.

      Worship happens as a result of us responding to Christ because of who he is and also what he has done.  Songs which talk about the might works of God and his Holiness and the contrast of our sinful lives when sung with intent do that, sermons which expose our sin and then bring us to the cross do that, a good presentation of the Lord’s Supper does that. – Highway to Hell, for me when I hear it, does something else.

      The tools the enemy uses are lies and false doctrines – how do you use them?  Songs like Highway to Hell are not tools of the devil but fruit of our own sinful nature.   Could we use prostitution as a tool against the devil?  An outreach to wondering men maybe?

      Am I a hater if I disagree with the playing of Highway to Hell in church as a sermon illustration?

      1. hitchface says:

        No, there are just a lot of anti-NewSpring church sentiments out there. You can disagree all you like. Blind hatred is another thing entirely 😉

        I think the song is effective because it is that glorification of sin that the pastor challenged and rebuked in the sermon.

        We as Christians have a tendency towards giving answers to the wrong questions. Addressing the needs of the people around us starts with identifying the need through relationships with them. Properly identifying the need is our stumbling block.

        The world thinks that sin is awesome. They don’t care that they are sinning, and will generally admit to sin. Telling someone that they are a sinner tells them something they already know and don’t really care about. Ask me how I know.

        By singing a song like “Highway to Hell” as an illustration, you don’t automatically subscribe to what it preaches. You wear it like a costume to get a point across.

    2. fmckinnon says:

      Love NewSpring – what’s your actual name … this isn’t Lee, is it?  (I met Lee and hung out once, super cool dude).

      This is a knockout:
      Your “church time” ought to be no different than your “other time”,
      because you ARE the church. God LIVES in YOU, and your lives
      are characterized by CONSTANT praise and worship. Stepping into a church
      (which is not holier ground than any other) should not and cannot
      change your attitude towards God.

  18. Kathyjimberlin says:

    I am wondering about using a secular song and changing the words. Our band feels that if we sing “I’m a Believer” (The Monkees) that they can make it sound like believing in Christ, but I think that the original message  would stick in my head .Or using Beetles songs (Here Comes the Sun-[son ]), when the original lyrics are not about worship. Your thoughts?

    1. Kyle Baker says:

      Yeah.. not a fan of that kind of ‘christianizing’ of music.. but it’s a double standard I have. I disagree with it when it’s a bubblegum pop song (of any era) but I don’t mind it when it’s a postmodern ‘metaphysical’ song – often songs dealing with existential topics: suicide, angst, etc. Like, I think Linkin Park’s Shadow of the Sun could be sung as an illustration, so could Audioslave’s Show Me How To Live.   But I’m also trying to pair the artists question/issue with the Bible’s response… not just switch words in the chorus.  “Nail in my hand, from my creator, you gave me life now show me how to live…”  But then again, i would preach the gospel THROUGH the use of this material, and not every pastor is called to that.

      1. Kyle Baker says:

        i mean, Ecclesiastes would make a great rock record.

    2. fmckinnon says:

      I suppose you ask “why” … just to be hip and cool?  When we get into this, I think we need to evaluate the service, the motive, and the purpose …

  19. F Brimbuela says:

    I think no… better to sing songs created and composed to exalt and exult the name of the LOrd… there must be a separation between the christian music and the secular music..

    1. hitchface says:

      What is your response to the linked article? It addresses your thought quite directly.

      1. fmckinnon says:

        I tend to agree w/ the article, actually, for the most part.

    2. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks for the response – a question for thought:
      What makes that separation? Is it the lyrics only?

  20. John Darrow says:

    Some churches sing secular patriotic songs, songs praising the nation with perhaps a peripheral mention of God, around the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, etc.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Interesting you point this out – I’m planning on “sticking” an old blog post about patriotic songs up later this week!

  21. John Darrow says:

    Some churches sing secular patriotic songs, songs praising the nation with perhaps a peripheral mention of God, around the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, etc.

  22. Admiral_Kang says:

    The song ‘Annie’s Song’ by John Denver is one of the finest worship songs ever written.

    Think of it:

    ‘You fill up my senses like a night in the forest
    Like a mountain in springtime, like a walk in the rain
    Like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean
    You fill up my senses
    Come fill me again’

    And so on. Don’t be put off by the fact that is a secular song. The Methodists and the Salvation Army ‘pirated’ lots of popular tunes of their day in order to make their songs more accessible. And even these days, people sing hymns to the tune of ‘The Dambusters March’. Don’t narrow your worship for some false notion of what God likes or doesn’t like – as long as you are worshipping from your heart, we likes it.

    Finally, to quote Don Francisco, ‘Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s a sin’!

  23. Admiral_Kang says:

    The song ‘Annie’s Song’ by John Denver is one of the finest worship songs ever written.

    Think of it:

    ‘You fill up my senses like a night in the forest
    Like a mountain in springtime, like a walk in the rain
    Like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean
    You fill up my senses
    Come fill me again’

    And so on. Don’t be put off by the fact that is a secular song. The Methodists and the Salvation Army ‘pirated’ lots of popular tunes of their day in order to make their songs more accessible. And even these days, people sing hymns to the tune of ‘The Dambusters March’. Don’t narrow your worship for some false notion of what God likes or doesn’t like – as long as you are worshipping from your heart, we likes it.

    Finally, to quote Don Francisco, ‘Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s a sin’!

    1. fmckinnon says:

      I’m backed up on responses, but had to just say “wow and amen” to this one. (PS: I love that John Denver song, it’s stunningly beautiful). There’s always that rumor that the tune to “A Mighty Fortress” came from a pub song as well.

      1. Kyle Baker says:

        Fred, I was taught in my music history class by an Episcopalian (at a SECULAR conservatory) that Luther got in trouble for playing A mighty fortress to raucously and too fast.. the lutherans straightened it out and slowed it down for the hymnal.

        1. fmckinnon says:

          Glad you could stop in!  Luther got himself into trouble … a lot.

    2.  Using secular music is like walking on ice,it can break and lead you  to a hole,where you shouldn’t have fallen into.Think,is their secular songs in the Bible? If something being used, causes confusion,rejection,etc,It is not a choosing of the spirit,but a choosing of your own.Would something of God cause confusion and backlash in the church,by using something circular?

      As well,what image do you portray by endorsing those songs in church.I’ve heard “oh were just using cause of the message of the song,and not of the artist lifestyle.” I’m sorry,but that is total nonsense.Playing Ac/dc endorses as well their lifestyle and tips their hat to them.When other music artists sing songs from other artists,whats their motive? It is to tip their hat to them,endorse them,and speak of their influence.You are actually doing the same,by singing secular songs in church.As well,some secular songs brings back memories in people,where they don’t even want to remember that time.Like I said,with something that has so much cons that pros,it is not a choosing of the spirit.

      1. Conner Byrd says:

        Was the ‘altar to the unknown god’ that Paul redeemed and used to speak truth into the people’s life secular or sacred?

        I think for me, Christians are the same as non-Christians when we look at a broken lifestyle. Sure, it might not be out in the open but let’s not make the mistake of thinking we’re perfect. In fact some of the most honest and worshipful songs are from some really broken and messed up people. Isn’t that the way in our life when we experience renewal and a deeper understanding of who God is in our personal life? How can we not say that isn’t God working through that artist? Bringing that to life and into the light can be incredibly impactful. Just because something’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. In fact, it usually means we should. 

      2. Kyle Baker says:

        Are we condoning adulterers and frauds when we use certain songs by fallen worship leaders? 

        1. should we stop singin psalms,cause David sinned with bathseba?
          Theres a difference between falling and picking yourself up.When sin is a constant pattern in your life,it also reflects in your lyrics.How many artists wrote a song while they were high or drunk? Did these so called fallen worship leaders wrote the songs while in sin?or it is the aftermath they’ve fallen in sin?

          1. fmckinnon says:

            I think Kyle’s question was rhetorical … but not quite sure.

          2. Conner Byrd says:

            I’m guessing these questions are rhetorical too since no one knows. And since we’re all broken people. Why is it that I’m able to even sing someone’s song up on stage leading a congregation? I’m certainly not perfect. 

  24. Admiral_Kang says:

    Thanks 🙂 In one worship session some years ago now, I felt very strongly ‘led’ to actually strike up that song (and as worship leader I could easily have done so), but I did not. I have always regretted not following what I firmly believe was the Spirit’s prompting on that day.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Wow, we all have those moments of “regret” we wish we could get back, even in worship leading!

  25. Admiral_Kang says:

    Thanks 🙂 I once felt very strongly ‘led’ to strike up Annie’s Song in a worship service some years ago, but I did not (and I had every opportunity as I was the worship leader). I have always regretted not following what I am still certain was the Spirit’s prompting that day.

  26. David R Garza says:

    I have nothing against certain secular songs, cause I myself sing a few to my wife.  Now, the issue of bringing secular music into the church itself is something that I cannot agree. There are many people that come to the Lord with problems from the secular, or shall we say the world. And to add secular to worship or what it may be would just disrupt the expectancy that an unsaved person would have coming to church in the first place.  Remember, if we claim to be the representatives of Jesus Christ, then we must stand out like representatives of the Lord.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks so much for chiming in w/ your thoughts!

  27. Russ says:

    I think for me the question (as originally asked) has more to do with “church” than worship. Many of the responses are answering as if we’re trying to shoehorn a secular song into worship. The original question wasn’t should secular songs be used in worship, but should secular songs be used in church.

    Personally, I make a huge distinction between church and worship. Although, my heart’s desire is that my “church” would be worship from start to finish (the start being the second I walk in the door and the finish being the second I walk in the door, i.e., ALL THE TIME!)…

    That being said, I have no problems using music in church as long as it ultimately glorifies God. If it’s just a small piece of the puzzle that ultimately helps people (believers or non) to connect with God (or even to catch a glimpse of Him) thatn I’m cool with it.

    If for any reason, it’s more about how cool we are or how talented we are then I’m out!

    1. Russ says:

      To clarify, I mean that “church” for me is communal living that I try to engage in throughout the week. I think it’s great that we have our sacred spaces, and I’m all for that. I think it’s Biblical to come together in the name of Jesus to worship our Lord, but I also think sometimes we separate and compartmentalize so much that we end up with a whole lot of sacred on Sundays and none Monday – Saturday.

      1. fmckinnon says:

        Word, bro.  Word.

  28. Chuck Harris says:

    i think there has to be a discussion of context. we’ll do a “secular” song as a feature song every once in a while.  the question is what is the context?  in the 130 year old Methodist church that I lead in, peoples expectations are of a vibrant, celebratory service that glorifies God, but in the context of our friend Ramy Antoun at Gateway Church in Austin, they do their “worship set” at the end of the service, after the sermon.  I asked him and Vince Marotte about this and they said within their context of trying to help people on their spiritual journey that they’ve found doing two secular songs up front is a great way to invite people into the front door of their church. so often we expect people to understand our content. we ask them to come into the back door where we feel comfortable kicking off our shoes, but yet if we invited them into our home, we’d want them to come in the front door not by the washer and dryer. I am a worshipper in Spirit and in Truth, but I never take myself too seriously, and if God can use a donkey and prostitutes, certainly he can use a Coldplay song.

    1. holmes,your using the use of donkey and prostitutes totally out of context.First off,a donkey was simply allowed to speak,it wasn’t something being used.The donkey was allowed to talk to Balaam.As for Rehab,she stated she believed in God,and it wasn’t a non believer being used.

    2. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks for stopping by my friend.   Context is everything.  Despite some strong opinions by some, the reality is – we’re not all doing “corporate church meetings” the same way.

      Context matters, as does, the fruit on the tree, right?

  29. Susan Fontaine Godwin says:

    Thank you for asking this important question. You can look at this from many angles, depending on where the music is used in your service, the purpose and the goal. I have heard many personal stories re: certain secular songs touching the  hearts of non-churched people when they walked into their first church service, and we know that many of our most popular hymns were set to common tavern songs as a vehicle to touch & reach the lost. One scripture that helps guide me in the decision making process is Jn. 4:24 “God is spirit & His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” No matter what vehicle or instrument we use to worship (lyrics, music, Christian or secular), the true litmus test is: “are we authentic and true and led by God’s Spirit in our worship?”

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Susan, thanks so much for stopping by!  John 4:24 is my life Scripture, for sure. 

  30. Yaavette says:

    Some secular songs lack reverence for God and do not represent what it means to be Christian, but overall if a secular song fits the expression or the tone of the conversation we are having it doesn’t appear to be out of place.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks for chiming in … so glad you stopped by.

  31. Secular songs in Church is really treason..

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Takwa – wow, that’s strong.  Appreciate your willingness to come and share your thoughts. 

  32. I will put my 3 cents in here:
    1. The question is using secular music in a service not if we can use it in “worship” I think that is a huge distinction.

    2. I see no difference in using a secular song soundbite to illustrate a point or create a mood as I do a pastor using Spiderman 3 as a sermon illustration

    3. The argument that we have no clue their heart while writing such song is absurd when we think about using songs from Steve Fee who for the first 4 years of his bands career was having an affair. Does doing “glory to God forever” in worship now promote adultery? 

    4. Everything we do in our service she point to trying to tell the greatest story ever told and fulfilling the great commission and we need to use every tool we can to get the point accross.

    5. Jesus used cultural and secular illustration to reach the lost and the “religious”

    6. There was also a practice of old hymn writers to marry Christian lyrics with secular tunes. Was this wrong? many of the churches who now do those song would NEVER have a modern worship song in their service much less a secular song. example: O sacred Head now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded With thorns Thine only crown….
    The tune which we commonly use for this hymn appeared as a secular love song, in 1601. The song was called “My Heart Is Distracted by a Gentle Maid,”

    7. Everything we do on stage should be paid attention to and used to bring people into the kingdom and not be a stumbling block. This includes our dress, mannerisms etc. While I am ok with doing a secular song to set a mood or set up an illustration I will also say that if your church is “not there yet” and it is a stumbling block then it will be a distraction and force people to focus on it and not on God.

    1. A few points,pertaining to your input
      point 2-
      You just confirmed the difference of using a song versus using a illustration of spiderman 3.Spiderman 3 is to show an illustration or backup a point.While music creates A MOOD.Music has power to incite feelings,memories,and so forth.

      point 3
      Using Fee’s example is like using David’s sin,and the reason why we shouldn’t use Psalms,is cause of David’s sin. There is a difference when sin is consistent and a pattern in someone’s life,Fee seeked counseling and ways to bounce back his faith.I don’t see secular artists pulling the same moves,until it leads to some to their deaths.

      Point 5
      There was nothing “secular” in the parables Jesus used. In fact, it was an illustration,and everyday story,which people were used to,in their daily lives. How can telling someone a story,be considered “secular” in your books? During the time the New Testament was written,their was countless greek philosophers,poetry available,that could have been used to exemplify their stories.Instead,you never see the Bible “borrowing” from any writings of the other literature at that time.It was always counter-cultural.

      Point 6

      For some time,many of the hymns written, were written without music.Music back then wasn’t advanced as it is today. They didn’t have the luxury of “crafting chords”Therefore,the mentality back then,due to limited resources,was to take a tune already played,and mesh it with the song.Now we have the progression and vast resources,to create our own music.

  33. Hi guys,Do the musicians secular theme or use some portion of our songs in your music?We must remember that God is our source of inspiration and infinite wisdom.”I will be sanctified in them that come to me and I will be glorified before all the people.”Leviticus 10:3Oh, and before the end must remember that ‘in Christianity, the end does not justify themethods’.The subject is good, congratulations on posting.Until He comes,Pb Olavo Lima

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Thanks so much for jumping in with us!

  34. Hi guys,Do the musicians secular theme or use some portion of our songs in your music?We must remember that God is our source of inspiration and infinite wisdom.”I will be sanctified in them that come to me and I will be glorified before all the people.”Leviticus 10:3Oh, and before the end must remember that ‘in Christianity, the end does not justify themethods’.The subject is good, congratulations on posting.Until He comes,Pb Olavo Lima

  35. Cynthia1313 says:

    I have never understood WHY we would use artists and musicans from the secular field to minister to the people or potential people of God when we have SO MANY spirit filled, spirit led anointed ministers in the body of Christ?  Why do we seek a secular Christmas song to bring a supposed balance to our Christmas programs and think we will minister Christ to our congregations?  Would we actually bring these secular singers/musicans in person upon our platforms and have them minister ?  Why do we think it would bring life to use the material they have invested their lives into and think it would please God when from the pulpit we have heard our pastor tell us that our lives speak louder than any words can ever say?  Why then do we want to use these secular artists?  I just don’t get it!

  36. We have used ‘secular’ songs in our Services in the past – they were specifically related to the sermon topic and help to bring the point home – the band even wore Beatles wigs for one.
    It was done with intent, with purpose and really worked. 
    That being said, we rarely use them because we want to create a space that is about  Him.  Not sure Rihanna would point upwards, even if it brought in seekers….
    And, I can’t forget, there are times when ‘sacred’ worship songs, with a sick heart, are also more noise than truth.
    For me, it comes down to Spirit and Truth and Him.  I have to ask.  He usually tells me.  If He doesn’t (or I don’t hear) I err on the side of caution…

    1. fmckinnon says:

      And, I can’t forget, there are times when ‘sacred’ worship songs, with a sick heart, are also more noise than truth.

      Wow. That is so true Maggie!

      Connected by DROID on Verizon Wireless

      —–Original message—–

  37. The global mission field is having this same conversation, in terms of ‘contextualization.’ How much should new believers remain a part of their culture and how much should they completely extricate themselves? 

    It’s a great question that runs equally hot. One of the more constant themes in that discussion is that the ‘gospel has to dictate the context of the context.’ Is it appropriate to translate the Bible into non biblical languages? That is an example of taking the sacred and completely secularizing it. Unless the word itself somehow redeems the context. 

    Mike Yaconelli used to say something like, the church doesn’t celebrate the secular…it redeems it.

  38. We have used secular songs occasionally in worship over the last few years. Usually, they fall in the category of “performance” or “illustration” songs. They are not typically sing by the congregation but only by the worship team to illustrate a point, ask a question or setup a message. I think, used in this way, there is nothing wrong with using secular songs within a worship service. All truth is God’s truth and there are certainly examples in scripture. For instance, Paul in Acts 17:28 cites the poets of Athens to help reinforce his point. 

    Whether or not any song, secular or otherwise, is appropriate in a worship service depends on the role that song is playing in the service. There are a lot of “Christian” songs that I wouldn’t use just because they are “Christian.” Like any song, if it’s not being used to communicate the message we are sharing that day it doesn’t belong in that service. 

  39. And really, if we want to get really legalistic and say that secular songs don’t belong in worship, then we must also say that pastors cannot cite secular works in their sermons. Only clips of Christian movies can be used as illustrations. No secular clip art in the bulletin… it get’s crazy real fast. 

    1. Kevin Baker says:

      GREAT POINT Matthew!!

  40. Cynthia1313 says:

    Did we really run out of spirit-filled, spirit-led Christian artists/singers /songs to present the gospel message that we need to go to the unbelieving community to get our material?  Seriously folks!  If our Pastor goes on vacation/missionfield or wherever do we get a message from Oprah to present to our congregation?  Just my 2 cents. 

  41. Fairly recently, as we began to spend a lot of time in worship and we ran out of songs to sing, I began to sing a lot of songs which nobody here had heard before, because they came from way back. I grew up in the old Southern Baptist days when we still used those old chorus books. Have you ever heard read one? Most of you probably haven’t. It was the old, old choruses that they used to sing in the early Southern Baptist churches.

    But you know what? During that period, the Spirit of God was moving. And even though I was young and I did not understand it, I grew up in the presence of God. And I can remember meetings and times and moments when they began to sing a chorus and the power of God began to fall, the anointing began to come down, and I began to sense the presence of God. You know the amazing thing is as I began to sing that song from way back, I began to feel the same feeling that I had back there.

    You say, “Man, those must have really been anointed songs.”

    Actually, a lot of them were absolute garbage. I am not being facetious. A lot of them were given in total ignorance. They were building doctrines that I consider heresy. But I have seen people being filled with the Spirit while singing those songs.

    You say, “Well, how can a song that is false, bring the anointing of God?”

    It is because that extra frequency was added by the people that were singing it at the time. And if you as a young person listen to the kind of music that you heard during your adolescent period when those templates were being formed, I will guarantee that that is the kind of music you will always like to hear. And when you want to grab yourself some gospel music or Christian music, I will tell you what style of music you are going to go and look for. You are going to look for somebody that sings just like Elvis, if Elvis was your thing. If you were into the Bee Gees you are going to be listening for somebody that sings like them. If you listened to 50 Cent, then you just have to find a Christian rapper that raps like him. If you liked Abba, then you just have to find that Christian group that sings like them. And if you were into Metallica, guess what you are looking for? You are looking for a Christian metal band.

    “How can you have Christian metal? Metal is vile, horrible music. It’s devilish.”

    Yes, but when people take that music and put it in their lips and add the anointing of God, people get saved. People get healed. The power of God comes forth.

    You say, “But that’s conforming to the world.”

    Then you had better not sing. Then you had better not use ANY music. Then you had better not use the stuff that Hollywood is using, because that is of the world. You see, it gets back to the same thing again. The world is using something that GOD CREATED. And all we need to do is to TAKE BACK that power and begin to use it the right way.

    Frankly, the music style you like best says more about YOU–YOUR BACKGROUND AND PERSONALITY–THAN IT DOES ABOUT GOD. One ethnic group’s music can sound like noise to another. BUT GOD LIKES VARIETY AND ENJOYS IT ALL (AS LONG AS IT IS IN ‘SPIRIT AND TRUTH’). Rick Warren says,


    1. Its funny how people state not to use music, and bring it at the same platform,as music being secular.Then why would psalmist David encourage everyone to praise him with music in Psalms 150;4??? Music has an importance just as the songs.
      And we do have some instruments still in existence,that was used in the Bible,
      string instruments,tambourine,drums,trumpets,…still in existence

  42. Josh Lange says:

    Wow, what a discussion.  I read a good chunk of the comments, but not sure if this was said.  I would fall on the side of not separating into the sacred and secular.  That being said I think its also important to know what you are called to do and what type of people are in your community.  Are you copying the latest trend or being led by God?  If it worked in a big city environment would it even work in a rural community?

  43. I haven’t read through all the comments, so I hope I do not duplicate thoughts here:

    Fred, this is always a tough question.  I have to rank this one up there with “Can Christians get tattoos?” and “Can Christians watch rated R movies?” and “How far can Christian couples go before it is considered sex before marriage?”  When you ask 20 people, you’ll get 50 opinions.  🙂

    Honestly, I always have to ask about motive.  When we have a desire to do something, do we go to the scriptures looking for “loopholes,” or do we go to the Father to see what we can do to bless his heart?  Granted, there are freedoms for believers that we can do without raising questions of conscience (1 Cor 10:23-33).  However, whatever we do, we should do to the glory of God and for the sake of others.  If we cause others to stumble or if we seek our own good, we need to stop.  Otherwise, we should continue in doing good because it always blesses others (and God) more than ourselves.

    I know that is a broad statement, but motive is always at the forefront our actions.  Thus it should be the first we question.  Hope all that made sense.  Great discussion!!

  44. I feel that us as Christians sometimes get too caught up with these sort of topics and we start over complicating the matter. Worship should be simple with a basic goal – build that 1-on-1 connection with Him our creator. God does so many miracles in peoples lives through worship and there are many cues that could trigger that connection with God, unfortunately those cues are different for each person. 

    I see no problem in using a “good themed secular song” as a “walk-in intro song” to grab the attention of the people attending. It would help break down the guards and walls of the skeptical and unsaved. Sometimes the song just fits and triggers that cue for God to reach into someones heart and do His work.

    Where I would draw the line when it comes to congregational singing, when you want people to enter into His presence for that 1-on-1 connection. I don’t see how any secular congregational singing of a song could work…

    “Walk-in intro” or a “band performance” of a song are the only ways it could work… as for congregational singing and use I just don’t see how… do you?

    1. I agree, Craig.  I have one example, though, of a secular song used in congregational singing.  A friend of mine is a professional musician.  He leads worship wherever he goes.  One evening, he’s leading worship, and no one is worshiping with him.  So, he subtly turns to the drummer and says “work with me here.”  He breaks out into an Elvis song, and also did an impersonation.  The crowd went nuts!  Then my friend said in the microphone, “Oh, so you wanna worship THAT king?”  OUCH!  Doing this “secular song” during what was supposed to be a worship time turned into a lesson to reveal spiritual duplicity.  I’m not sure how effective that action was to wake people up to pure worship, but it hit me hard when I heard about it.

      My thought is, if no one is worshiping the living God during our “worship times,” it doesn’t really matter what songs are sung — which is sad.  Many need a heart change to truly understand authentic worship, and worship leaders are tasked with nurturing an environment to allow it to grow.  I hope we all are headed in that direction.

  45. Jennifer says:

    I am currently directing a “praise band” in which most of the songs sung on Sunday morning are secular.  We believe that there is good secular music out there to help connect the scripture to the sermon/theme.  For example, doing Beyonce’s “Halo” on Easter Sunday.  I feel that it could be a version of what Mary was feeling when she first saw Jesus after rising from the dead.  We did “Show me the Way” by Styx in a theme centered around figuring out the signs to look for in your life journey. For the Creation story, “What a Wonderful World.”  Community/Oneness; “If We Hold On Together” from the Land Before Time.  In addition, U2 has many songs that fit well in a service.  These are just a few examples.  I believe that if a song can move you into a spiritual place and connect you, it doesnt matter if it is from a hymnal, sung by Michael W. Smith, or by Alicia Keys. All that matters is that you are connecting and praising.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      These are great examples, thanks so much!

  46. Chuck says:

    I’ve only done three “not written for worship” songs in my 20+ years leading worship. The most effective, by far, was “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to introduce a series in Ecclesiastes. There hasn’t been a “written for worship” song that captures the theme of Ecclesiastes( nor the world’s “chasing after the wind” mentality contained in it) better. Like I wrote, I almost never use NWFW songs. And I really oppose stretching for connection. For example, just because “Living on a Prayer” has the word prayer in it doesn’t make it appropriate for worship. If you go down that road, it won’t be long until you’ll be changing “Walk This Way” to “Walk His Way” and who knows where you’ll end up from there.

  47. I know its been some time since you posted this, but It got me thinking, and I posted my thoughts and responce on my blog. Feel free to check it out fred. I really spent some time thinking on this rather than just giving a rash emotional answer. Thanks for challenging me.

    1. Great post, Mathew! Totally respect that conviction, too!

  48. Danny Wilson says:

    I can’t imagine it ever being a positive thing. I’m sure that no matter what the song or situation, someone present will think it’s awfully neat, reall cool, very progressive or something similar, but I don’t think it’s ever appropriate in the worship of a holy God.

  49. ReNae says:

    I don’t believe secular music belongs in the church. A secular song isn’t anointed by God and we all know the anointing destroys the yoke. Then God does not share anything with the devil and remember Lucifer was the anointed praise angel before he fell. God said, come out from among the world and the world system and secular music is worldly music. I don’t believe it has a place in a Christian life. It takes you back to places, or people that God forgave you for. It plants negative seed in your mind and God wants you to have faith. God tells us to be careful of what we listen to, watch and hear. So take it from there. This is my personal believe. I know the power music can play in a person life. Music can rule over your life.

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