I just read another article defending opening a worship service with a secular song.* The usual culprits were there: reaching the lost by using something they are familiar with; being sensitive to the culture; the element of surprise; yadda, yadda, yadda.
Please, don’t get me wrong, I love music. My tastes are quite eclectic. Whether I’m picking up Good Vibrations with the Beach Boys, Walkin’ this Way with Aerosmith or Boomin’ with TobyMac I enjoy music. So when I go to church I can worship in song whether the melody is driven by an electric guitar or an organ.
And I will also be the first to tell you that worship is much deeper than music and going to Sunday services. Worship is a lifestyle dedicated to something or someone greater than yourself. But we cannot deny that the Bible is filled with examples of both Old Covenant and New Covenant believers coming together for times of corporate worship. These times were filled with fellowship, with teaching, and with music. In fact, Paul encouraged the early church to sing ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ as part of their encouragement of one another (Colossians 3:16). So music is one of many ways we express worship to God.
But don’t call it worship when it’s a gimmick. Don’t call it worship when it was not written with God in mind. Don’t call it worship when it is intended to appease the culture instead of ascribe worth to God. Don’t call it worship when it bows the knee to entertainment instead of drawing me to the throne of God.
Call it a concert.
Call it a performance.
Call it an opening act; but please, don’t call it worship.
Call it trendy.
Call it edgy.
Call it culturally relevant; but please don’t call it worship.
Call it a ploy to get butts in the seat.
Call it a chance to show off the band’s talents.
Call it entertaining; but please, don’t call it worship.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned. Maybe I am just too out of touch. Maybe I have trouble ‘getting it.’ I am sure some critics (some of which may even be my friends and colleagues) will have some other words to describe me, but when someone walks into the church I serve, I want them to encounter something different than the world has to offer. Our teaching, our prayers, our ceremonies, our preaching, and yes, our music should point to, glorify in, exalt in, exult in, lift up, praise, delight in and ascribe worth to God. Then, we may call it worship.
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:1-3
*usually I try to stay away from the secular/Christian divide, so let me define what I mean by secular: A song written by an artist that may or may not be Christian that was not written with worshiping God in mind. And yes, there are many ‘Christian’ songs out there that would fit this definition.
What if secular music is used in a service as long as it is not referred to as a worship song. Kind of like Paul quoting secular poets. Is that permissible?
That’s a great question Tommy. My beef is not with using it as a teaching tool. I have often applied Scriptural truths to our culture by referring to movie clips, recent popular books and even music. My concern is the practice of using the song as the first song of the service. I know I am old fashioned, but it is a far cry from the ‘Call to Worship’ that I grew up with. I just feel it sets the wrong tone for a service that is supposed to be dedicated to God.
That’s why I use the term “song service “.there are songs I would love to hear as praise, not going to nitpick over the melody, or the instruments used for praise
I like your thoughts Dave! I believe one of the characteristics of our current church culture is that most equate worship with music and that is simply not the truth (just as you noted). I would have to agree with you…I do not think a secular song should be part of the worship service although I may use one or part of one as an illustration….Thanks for your thoughts!
I agree Dave….Please don’t call it worship!