Shake It Off – Should Churches Play Secular Songs on Sunday Morning?

In many modern churches, it has become common practice to feature a secular song at the beginning or end of a worship service. Pop music — including Taylor Swift, U2, Coldplay, and countless others — now functions as an outreach tool in Sunday morning gatherings. Whether it’s singing the popular Frozen anthem “Let it Go” in a series on anger, or AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” before a gospel presentation, many churches are expressing complex biblical themes and ideas through content that is familiar and approachable, especially for unbelievers.

This practice is, more often than not, an attempt to soften the culture shock of entering a church for the first time. For many lost people, the presence of any music in church can be confusing, and a familiar song from the radio can establish familiarity and cohesion between two life experiences. This motivation represents sincere thoughtfulness on the part of church leaders who hope to welcome unbelievers into their congregations. But it comes with a cost.

Worship Guidelines

As Scripture makes abundantly clear, certain qualities should define our worship, including our times of corporate singing.

The Bible calls us to worship with “reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28) and frequently reminds us that we should worship God alone (Exodus 20:4–52 Kings 17:381 Corinthians 10:14). The biblical authors describe worship as sacrificial and separate from the patterns of this world (Romans 12:1–2Colossians 3:2–5). And they command us to sing his praises (Psalm 95:1–2Colossians 3:16Ephesians 5:19).

Beyond these guidelines, the specifics of style and form can vary greatly; there is more than one right way to worship in church. Nevertheless, every choice we make — from style to production to lyrics — can drastically shape our faith.

Where’s the Glory?

Among the many purposes of corporate worship, two primary ones are to glorify God and form God’s people into Jesus’s image. When we plan our gatherings with this foundation in mind, we are able to more effectively shape the content of our church services. A responsible leader should always seek to minimize distractions and provide an atmosphere conducive to corporate worship’s core purposes. Singing Katy Perry songs, regardless of the intention, will almost always move our minds somewhere other than the glory of God.

In its proper context, secular music has a lot of merit: we’re created in the image of a creative God, and music can often express this creativity without being explicitly about God. But these songs rarely raise our affections for God. It is difficult to find merit in an element of Sunday-morning worship that neither moves us to glorify God nor molds us into his likeness.

But this is only one part of the problem.

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SOURCE: Desiring God – Joshua Dunn