About a year ago, I was at a church meeting for youth and young adult leaders from churches throughout the area, and a local worship team kicked it off with a few songs. Much to my chagrin, I heard the band transition from Desperation Band’s “I Am Free” to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”. Oh yes. That actually happened. True story.
I get it. You’re young. You’re hip (do people say “hip” anymore?). You don’t want to go to one of those stuffy, old people churches where they play songs from 50 years ago. You don’t want to hear music written by people with last names like Carpenter and Green. You’d prefer music written by people with last names like Cyrus, or Levine, or Gaga (not a real last name) (none of the aforementioned people actually write songs).
So what do you do? You go on that noble quest to find a church that’s a little different. A church that embraces a new concept designed to attract today’s generation. The concept is where contemporary, secular, easy-listening music replaces some or all of the worship music. As long as they’re songs about happiness, peace, and/or love and not Satan, they’re ok. Instead of your usual Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, and Jesus Culture, you have U2, Oasis, and Rush.
I hate to break it to you but Coldplay does not play worship music. When Chris Martin sings, “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you”, it’s a lower case “y” on the “you”, not an upper case. He’s most likely singing about a pretty girl, probably Gwyneth Paltrow (his wife, for those of you less informed). Hate to break it to you, but he’s not singing about Jesus.
I’ve heard two halfway decent arguments in favor of this type of music being played in a church.
1) It fits the theme the pastor is speaking on that week.
Really??? It fits the theme?? Give me a break. You’re telling me that you can’t find a better song than “Let it Be” to match your sermon topic? If I personally hear that song played before a sermon, the sun will definitely not come up tomorrow.
2) The lyrics and musical style promote love and peace which is what Jesus is all about.
I found a post on a blog written by a guy named Al Di Salvatore (Check it out here) who uses this argument. Here’s what he said:
“Why can’t music be just music. Based on truth and excellence. One of my favorite quotes is by Author Holmes who said, ‘All truth is God’s truth.’ So couldn’t music if it had truth, honesty, brokenness, redemption, love, (sounds like Psalms of David to me) and rising guitar solos and soaring vocals be Worship. Could Non-Worship (secular) Songs be Worship?”
My answer to that question is, “Dear Lord, no!” When Matt Redman and Israel Houghton write their music, their thoughts and their focus is on Jesus. Their goals and motives are to glorify God. When Phil Collins or Sheryl Crow write music, what are their motives? Where is their focus? The bottom line is that these non-worship songs were not written to praise God. The lyrics are not giving honor to Him. No matter how much you try, you can’t make it work. You can’t fit a round peg in a square hole.
The blog post also reveals another flaw in the argument. The author lists specific songs that he thinks are “worshipful” and some of the top ones are written by artists such as the Rolling Stones and Kings of Leon. Maybe he doesn’t know who exactly the Stones are. Maybe he’s not aware that Kings of Leon wrote a song glorifying promiscuous sex on the same album as the song “Use Somebody” (mentioned in his list).
The glaring issue that this author and many others do not address is the fact that you can’t take the supposed “good” without the bad. You can’t just pick out the fun, happy songs some dude sings and ignore the crude, profane songs that same guy sings, and even ignore the crude, profane lifestyle the artist may lead.
Whatever argument people want to use to justify why they bring secular music into the church just won’t ever be enough to sway me. Some Christians simply don’t want to admit that they’re just scared of what the rest of world thinks of them and they are so desperate to boost attendance every Sunday morning that they’ll compromise as much as they think they can get away with.
There is no question that music is something special. It can stir up emotions and have an impact in a way nothing else can come close to matching. But if music is so important and influential, how dare we try worshiping to songs written by people who not only are not saved but have meanings behind their lyrics that are often the antithesis of who Jesus is!
I appreciate a lot of non-Christian music, just like everyone else. I love everything from the Beatles to Mumford & Sons (I still loathe Nickelback). I’m not saying that listening to and enjoying secular music is a sin (Nickelback is). What I am saying is that by labeling secular music as “worship”, we’re permitting room for compromise. And that is extremely unwise.
So when you walk into your church next Sunday morning and the band is rocking out to a song by Snow Patrol or Green Day, maybe you should think twice before raising your hands in worship.
A few pointers to leave you with.
1) “Imagine” by Lennon isn’t worshipful even though he says the word “heaven” in the song. You’re trying too hard to make it work. Plus, I haven’t forgiven him for bringing Yoko into the fold.
2) Josh Groban is NOT singing about Jesus in “You Raise Me Up”. He’s not. Just accept that.
3) I understand that you can find Creed’s albums in your local Christian bookstore. Still doesn’t count, I’m sorry.
4) If you need some new tunes to mix things up, there are some incredible lesser known Christian bands out there. Check out Bellarive, All Sons and Daughters, and Gungor. They are amazingly talented and are consistently passionate about Jesus throughout their music and their lifestyles.
What do you think? Do you firmly disagree? Are there bands/songs that you think are exceptions? Does your church jam out to T-Swift and One Direction? Weigh in below!