Secular music in the church? Why IN THE WORLD?
Just this past Sunday, on Memorial Day weekend, our church just kicked off our Summer Concert Series. During this series, as people arrive for church, they are greeted with things such as flavored snoballs, corn hole games, and even bubbles for the kids. It doesn’t stop there however, each service during this series kicks off with a popular secular song. Most of the fun and games in the lobby area aren’t controversial at all, but once secular music is played at the beginning of a service it usually raises a lot of questions. Questions such as “How does this glorify God?” “Why would we ever play (that) in a church service?” “Is in sinful?” etc… Because all of these questions are valid and I believe should be answered, I’m going to share my thoughts to help us understand the heart behind the music and series.
The initial “why” for each song that is played at the beginning of the service, is that it serves as an illustration for the sermon that is being preached for that day. In the same way that Jesus taught in parables (common stories) or real life examples, our intention of using a modern day song is to illustrate the spiritual truth, or even lack there of. This past Sunday, because it was Memorial Day weekend, we played “For You” by Keith Urban. The song is about the brave men and women who are willing to sacrifice it all for our freedom. In itself, it is very honoring to those who have laid down their lives. If we examine the lyrics further we’ll see there is a line which says,
“From somewhere up above, no greater gift has man, than to lay down his life for love”.
We know that John 15:13 directly correlates to that scripture and ultimately we get an immediate picture of Christ’s sacrifice for us. This was pointed out in the sermon from Sunday and not only were we able to emphasize Christ sacrifice for us, but also look at the response of us being a living sacrifice for Him. So to wrap up the “why”, it’s a handpicked song for the use of illustration; to point us all to the real truths that lie in scripture.
How does this glorify God?
One thing I want to mention is that the secular song is not a part of the “worship set.” There hasn’t been an official “call to worship” in any way. The lyrics are on the screen so everyone can see and understand the story being presented. If they want to stand up and clap we are ok with that, but they know they aren’t clapping for Jesus, they literally are just enjoying the song.
So how can it glorify God?
I would argue that if the illustration helps anyone understand the gospel better and the Holy Spirit convicts one heart of their need for Christ then it glorifies God. Though the song or illustration has no power, God uses everyday ordinary experiences all the time to reveal Himself to us. We are commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:31 to do
“everything for the glory of God”.
Our mission and heart is that people would be become fully devoted followers of Christ. In this series we believe we can play these songs as illustrations to help people understand their need for Jesus more, thus playing and doing all we do for the glory of God. There is also another side of this, and it’s the fact that there are certain things we do as a church that are intentional to keep our congregation inviting and welcoming their lost friends and neighbors to church and ultimately to Jesus.
- We have doughnuts and coffee at our church intentionally.
- We have greeters outside of our church intentionally.
- We set our A/C at a comfortable 71 degrees intentionally.
- We are in a building as opposed to meeting outside intentionally.
Though these comforts have no significance in themselves, we know that people can invite their lost friends and neighbors with confidence knowing they will be in a loving, comfortable environment where the gospel will be presented clearly. They understand that everything we do is for the purpose of glorifying God, and leading people to Him.
Is it sinful?
No. Could be, but its not. Ok, short answer without any explanation. Life.church formally known as lifechurch.tv has a slogan, and it’s
“We will do anything short of sin, to reach people for Christ”.
I love that!
The songs that we handpick have no explicit language or even suggestion in them, so the content that is expressed isn’t sinful, and because the intention is not to bring glory to self or glory to anything but God it isn’t sinful. If people worship the songs, guitar playing, or anything else other than God then people could be sinning. The same could also be said with any kind of worship music or setting. If people are focusing more on the quality of voice, playing of guitar, or are lifting up anything but Jesus while worship music is being played, it could be seen in that moment as idolatry. Even in the traditional church setting with stained glass, an organ, etc., if people are drawn more to the actual instrument, more to the beauty of the building, or really anything, it could be seen as idolatry, which is obviously sinful. So we as people are sinful and can be easily distracted by our own lusts and desires even in a worship setting, but the songs that we choose in themselves are not sinful.
Thanks for hearing my heart on this! We always want you to understand our intention of why we do what we do. We are excited for what God is going to do in this series, and in our church this month. If you do have any questions about anything we do please let us know, and continue leading people to become fully devoted followers of Christ!