Christian vs Secular music...

Philippians 4:8. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. NIV This is the verse that comes back to me when I have conversations about music in church. Specifically, christian vs secular music. In conversation, this verse is used to imply that we should only listen to "christian" music. And should only use "christian" music in our corporate gatherings. I struggle with this. I don't see that anywhere in the passage. And in context, it seems to say just the opposite. Paul is writing to the Philippians who are being persecuted severely. He is encouraging them not to throw in the towel in regards to the rest of the world. If you look back to the beginning of the chapter, Paul is encouraging the believers to get along. And to rejoice in all things, in good times and in bad, not to worry, and to pray. Then, we get to vs 8. He uses the word "whatever." Not "whatever - within your own church" or "whatever - in your own family." He says "whatever." In the context of the letter, he's got to be saying "look at the world and don't focus on the bad things. Focus on whatever is good..." I like the way the NIV Application Commentary puts it.
Paul's list of virtues in verse 8 assumes that the world contains many good qualities that merit the believer's consideration and affirmation. It also assumes that the pagan world has some notion of good and bad, right and wrong, duty and irresponsibility, beauty and ugliness, honor and shame... Paul assumes, in other words that absolute moral standards exist, that people other than Jews and Christians have affirmed them, and that the believer can benefit from pondering examples of them wherever they occur, even in the pagan world.
So, should we use only "christian" music? Should we listen to only "christian" music? What do you think???


3 Responses to "Christian vs Secular music..."

Kevin said... July 16, 2008 at 4:56 PM

No doubt, you're right on the money here. Most people will make the Bible say whatever backs up their argument. You know, Tim Stevens book "Pop Goes the Church" would be a helpful way to initiate a good conversation here. Don't know if folks in your church are willing to look at the issue openly, but if they are, that book could help.

Studying the book of Phillipians inductively could also help too! :)

Anonymous said... July 16, 2008 at 6:21 PM

Is secular music in church inherently evil? No, of course not. God can be praised in many different ways, and in some churches secular music is entirely appropriate. My college church changed a few words to "Nothing Else Matters" and made it a fantastic praise song. However, if I myself were a Worship Narts pastor, I think it would be my job to find the best way to focus the worshipful response of my church, which might not be secular music. If I play, say, John Fogerty, and a whole bunch of people get riled up and can't worship, I don't think I've made any gains. If I play southern gospel hymns, and my church is yawning, I haven't done any good either. I suppose you have the unenviable task of pleasing everyone so that they, in turn, please God.

Tahd said... July 16, 2008 at 10:05 PM

I agree with frank523's comment, "is secular music in church inherently evil? No, of course not.", and I would offer the corrollary - "is a 'Christian' song inherently worshipful?" I would argue that it is not, because worship is an attitude of the heart, not about words on paper, or music, or giving money, or praying, or going to church, or serving, or any of the other outward things we do. All of those things can be done in worship, but none are worshipful in and of themselves. I don't think it's any more Christian or more worshipful to sing "Holy Holy Holy" and not mean it, than it is to sing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" or any other secular song.

I don't think the worship pastor's job is to please everyone, to enable them to worship. I think your job is to lead the church in the direction you (and hopefully the rest of the leadership) agree on, and gently tell those that don't like it that they are free to find somewhere else to worship. Not that we don't want them at Harvest, but we (and they) have to recognize that Harvest isn't going to be the right fit for everyone, and that's ok. I think a lot of people have a problem with that, and I don't really envy you that challenge...

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