the BLOG of stuart mcdonald

Secular Songs In A Sermon?
September 22, 2009, 8:45 am
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There are a lot of people who believe that you should, under no circumstances, bring secular music into the church. But some would vehemently disagree. Secular music can be used to glorify Christ just as much as the music we label as “praise and worship” or “Christian.” That may sound very opposite of what you’d expect, but what is it that makes music secular? What makes it “Christian” or sacred? Certainly it’s not the music itself; how can certain chords or keys be construed as glorifying God more than others? If it’s not the music, than it has to be the words. Take a love song — one that you might sing to your spouse at your wedding — sung to God, is that not worship? Don’t plenty of “Christian” songs sing about our love of and for Jesus? Where does the difference lie?

Recently, a friend showed me a video of Bishop Lester Love preaching at Mount Zion Baptist Church. When I saw his examples and how he incorporated the secular music into his message, I thought, “This is how it should be done. He’s taken popular love songs that we all know and changed the lyrics to glorify God.” Watch the video for yourself:

When he started singing Alicia Keys’ song, “If I Ain’t Got You,” I started laughing — but not for the reason you might think. I remember driving in the car one day, listening to that song, and it hit me — Stuart, you can sing this as worship to God. So I did; I changed the words, just as he did, and began to worship God by singing:

Some people live for the fortune. Some people live just for the fame. Some people live for the power, yeah. Some people live just to play the game. Some people think that the physical things define what’s within. And I’ve been there before, but that life’s a bore; So full of the superficial.

Some people want it all, but I don’t want nothing at all if it ain’t you Jesus — if I ain’t got you Jesus. Some people want diamond rings, some just want everything, but everything means nothing if I ain’t got You, Yeah.

Some people search for a fountain that promises forever young. Some people need three dozen roses and that’s the only way to prove you love them. Hand me the world on a silver platter and what good would it be with no one to share, with no one who truly cares for me.

Some people want it all, but I don’t want nothing at all if it ain’t You Jesus — if I ain’t got You Jesus. Some people want diamond rings, some just want everything. But everything means nothing if I ain’t got you, you, you. Some people want it all, but I don’t want nothing at all if it ain’t You Jesus — if I ain’t got You Jesus. Some people want diamond rings. Some just want everything, but everything means nothing if I ain’t got you, yeah

If I ain’t got you with me Jesus. So nothing in this whole wide world don’t mean a thing. If I ain’t got you with me Jesus

As I sang my remixed version of the song, I could feel the Presence of God come into my car in a real, tangible way, just as if I was singing a song originally intended for worship — something like a Fred Hammond or Israel Houghton tune. Think about it. It’s a powerful idea — saying to God: “It doesn’t matter what the world offers me; whether it’s diamonds or money or fame or any other temporal gift given to show affection, if I don’t have you in my life, Jesus, it all means nothing.” Shouldn’t that be our heart towards God? A heart that says, “God, if I don’t have you, I don’t want anything else. What could the world have outside of what You give?”

Some people will simply not agree, not matter how hard I try to persuade them. And honestly, that’s ok. To each his own. As long as at the end of the day we both serve the same God and are focused on winning souls into the Kingdom, what difference does it make?

However, for those who don’t believe that the man in the video, or anyone else for that matter, should be using secular songs, with different, revised lyrics, in the church, here’s what I want to ask: What’s the harm? Is God so concerned with the origins of the music rather than the lyrics that we’ve actually given redemptive potential to? Does he tune a deaf ear to the worship because of the way the song was first written? The Bible says that man looks at the outward appearance — the words, possibly the original song — but God looks at the heart, the intent — the heart of the person singing, and their motivation in worship.

Perhaps opposition comes from the thought that saved, church people shouldn’t be listening to secular music to know those songs in the first place. Maybe this had some merit — it is important to guard what we let come into our ears and eyes — but the fact is this: they already know the songs. It’s not as if we’re teaching them new secular songs and then turning them around. In fact, if this was a person’s first time hearing the song, they likely wouldn’t know the difference. But since the listener already knows the song, why not change the song’s meaning? That way, the next time the song is brought to their remembrance, they can sing the version that honors God, instead of the version that doesn’t.

At the end of the day, it’s a strictly person preference and one that could be argued and debated for quite a while. But if souls are being won into the Kingdom through rewritten secular songs, would God care? Wouldn’t He be more concerned and excited about the new souls than the methods we used? Think about it.

{For more from Stuart McDonald, check out his blog on Elev8 and follow him on Twitter}


8 Comments so far
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I just had to say that I have a secular song that I’ve turned into a “worship” song as well. It is the song by Keisha Cole “You Complete Me.” Check out the lyrics :

One night it dawned on me that this was something I should be singing to God. I don’t replace the words, however when I sing it, I dedicate it to Him.

Nice blog. Sidebar.. how are you coping with the rains down there?

Comment by Krystle

That’s a good one. There are SO many love songs that you can sing to Jesus… why not?

I’m doing good with the rain. Mom got a little water in the basement, but not more than about 10 inches. All in all, we’re doing well. Thanks for asking!

Comment by CreativeStu

I am in HUGE agreement to this blog. Back when I was in high school, there was a huge group of us at church that were all around the same age. This was around the time that Hammer was doing “Pass Me Not” and “Pray”. In order to keep us interested, our pastor suggested we sing these songs, and because of this, our youth group grew by at least double because friends wanted to come and join in.

Said all that to say… I think pastors needs to use whatever they need to to help present the message. If it’s one thing that folks can’t typically relate to, it’s music, so WHY NOT take something familiar? Besides, gospel has invaded secular long ago – “Jesus Walks”, Kirk Franklin & Mary Mary…

Comment by Shauki

Hi Stuart! God Bless you Man! Check out the comment I left on Facebook in response to this post. I left feedback on FB before I realized you had a blog.
It’s a little lengthy and took up two comment postings. My apologies. Have a great week!

Comment by Candace Daly

Hi Stuart I am an ex-metalhead. I lived and breathed this stuff and when I got saved I tried to incorporate that neo-gothic aura into praise and worship. Sir it did not work. I was very sincere in wanting to please my Heavenly Father.
But realistically how could I bring a genre of music founded within the ranks of Lucifer to the throne of the Most High God and expect Him to be pleased with it? I may be totally off base but there is a spirit behind music. When we hear an old hymn we can feel in our spirit it was consecrated from its very inception. When we hear “Christian metal” or “Christian” hip hop it is a feeble attempt to thrust what “we” like upon a Holy God, even though our motives may be pure. Just my 1.5 cents.

Comment by john

A large part depends on where that music takes you to… where does your mind go to? What thoughts come to mind? Metal is a great example of this because its origins are very steeped in the occult, whereas that’s not the case with R&B or hip-hop. Certain things can be triggers for us to remember certain things about our lvies before Christ that may cause us to stumble and it’s important to recognize those things and avoid them. Good point though. I hadn’t thought about that genre. Thanks for the feedback!

Comment by CreativeStu

Hi sir thank you for the response. I thought about my post during the day and I may have been projecting my own experience onto others and if this is the case I apologize. But in my case I am the only guy who can start playing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” and by the songs end it sounds like “I am Iron Man” lol so clearly in my unique case as Jesus said “If it offends thee, pluck it out” if you know what I am trying to convey.
I have seen your writing as well as other authors on Elev8 and have been blessed by it so thank you for that also. Have a great evening sir.

Comment by john

Bon Jovi, I’ll be there for you
I will pray for you, get on my knees each day for you, Jesus Christ saved you, he lived and he died for you, he made the sun in the sky for you, words they said what love can do, just read the book of Luke!

Comment by Melissa Brown

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