Can Christian Musicians Play Secular Music for God’s Glory?

Steve left a comment on a previous post, asking about the validity of a secular music “ministry,” referencing a comment Phil Keaggy made years ago about the lack of spiritual Christians involved in the secular music field. I received an e-mail recently asking a similar question about the legitimacy of Christian musicians pursuing a career in secular pop music. How should we think about it? Is it always wrong? It is something we should encourage?Here are some thoughts I’ve shared over the years with individuals who were trying to determine God’s will for their lives in this area.

The most important question to ask (and sometimes the most difficult to answer) is, “What are my motives for wanting to be involved in secular music?”

While I never assume someone’s motives will be completely pure, there’s a significant difference between someone who lives to play on stage and someone who lives to serve others with their gifts. If there’s any doubt about why I want to play music outside the church, it’s a good idea to ask others I respect for their honest evaluation of my motives.

A Christian’s success in the general marketplace is no sign one way or the other that the kingdom is advancing or the Gospel is being proclaimed.

A chart-topper isn’t necessarily a sign of God’s blessing. It might be the result of savvy marketing or great musicianship. In many “crossover” songs, the lyrics fail to communicate anything that’s distinctly Christian. Also, when a Christian song becomes popular people can assume there’s no difference between secular musicians and Christian ones – it’s all about the music and the money. God can use Christian musicians in the general marketplace to advance the Gospel – but he doesn’t need them. The church is and always will be the primary means God uses to spread the Gospel and to make disciples.

Secular music doesn’t necessarily mean godless or anti-Christian.

There are countless examples of popular songs that present moral values, insightful perspectives, and meaningful commentary on life that don’t specifically reference Scripture. The success of songs like “I Can Only Imagine,” “Butterfly Kisses,” and “Meant to Live,” are clear evidence of that. We can use our music to entertain without glamorizing or promoting the idols of materialism, pride, and self-centeredness.

We can’t be certain about a musician’s motives from a distance.

While we may be able to infer conclusions from a person’s dress, language, attitudes, and actions, it can be difficult to tell the difference between an unsaved rebel and an uninformed believer. Few of us would do very well if the details of our lives were published for millions to read about and critique. That doesn’t mean musicians who claim to be Christian are above public evaluation or scrutiny. It just means that in most cases we should focus more on disparities than pronouncing final judgments. At the very least, our private prayers for an artist should equal our public critique.

Being involved in secular music is no justification for abandoning the church or minimizing our faith.

A Christian musician may not overtly sing about salvation or the cross, or play music composed by Christians. But we can never state that our Christianity takes a back seat to our musicianship. There are no musicians who “happen” to be Christians. Our identity as Christians governs everything else we do. In a challenging little book entitled Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts, Steve Turner writes: “I sometimes hear Christians justify mentioning their weaknesses in their art because ‘I’m a sinner like everyone else.’ That is just not true. The Christian isn’t a sinner like everyone else because a Christian is a forgiven sinner, and this alters his or her whole relationship to sin.” Basically, the cross changes everything. The Gospel redefines our priorities, redirects our passions, and reshapes our worldview. We now live our entire lives “by the mercies of God” ( Rom. 12:1).

The world needs to see people in every arena who have been genuinely changed by the gospel.

Christian musicians in the general marketplace have the opportunity to influence non-Christians not only with their music, but with their lives. God may give them opportunities to share the Gospel with others who may never be reached otherwise. Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope are two artists who made a difference in that way. There are many more. Some Christians will serve the church in the church. Others will serve the church outside the church. Both are demonstrating through their lives that Jesus is the only Savior and sovereign Ruler of the world.

Not all music written and sung by Christians needs to expound the full Gospel.

Russ Bremeier, in a Music Connection e-mail, writes, “Some music explicitly shares the Gospel, and some merely plants a seed that can lead to the Gospel. Our art is a diverse reflection of who we are as the body of Christ. Whether it’s used in the church, on the radio, on a television program, or even in a 30-second advertisement, we can rest easy knowing that God can use the music we make in numerous ways to serve his purposes.” May there be music of all types that’s written from the perspective of those who live in light of heaven’s joys and realities.

Bottom line: Know your heart and seek to make music for the glory of Jesus Christ, no matter where you play or sing. Our music isn’t about us. It’s about drawing attention to the God who gave us music in the first place. No other kind of music is going to last anyway.

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59 Responses to Can Christian Musicians Play Secular Music for God’s Glory?

  1. Steve Inman January 18, 2008 at 8:17 PM #

    Bob — thanks for sharing your thoughts. A fuller explanation of my perspective follows.

    As a Christian who “happens” to be a musician, I am privileged to be able to serve God in my local church as a musician. This is my main musical area of focus (worship leader / guitarist). However, as a tuba player, I play classical chamber music in a local quintet in a variety of venues — some local church services, some completely secular settings. And as a guitarist, I’m also looking for enough spare time in my schedule to work up a set of “positive” secular music to play at the local “sandwich / coffee shop”, simply “just for fun.” As a Christian, I view I Cor. 10:31 as applying in all situations, from church guitarist to secular brass quintet performances to my day job as an engineering manager. And of course, this will apply to secular music in a local secular venue as well. I will most certainly look for some way to mention my primary use of guitar in a church setting, and perhaps toss out a commercial for my local church. But the audience in this secular setting won’t be there for a sermon, so I’ll have to be brief. If God uses this situation to draw anyone to visit my church (or any church), then great! If not, then at least I hope to do a quality job, to have fun, and to serve the audience so that they will also enjoy the performance.

    I am confident that a Christian, having fun in a secular setting, using “good clean lyrics” (modeling holiness without explicitly saying so) can certainly be used by the Holy Spirit to both bring glory to God, to dispel myths about Christians, and may even plant a seed of interest or curiosity that could eventually lead someone to peek into a church when they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    It’s too bad when I see fellow believers who somehow feel guilty about having fun, or getting involved in their community in any of a number of “secular” ways. It almost seems that some feel there must be some explicit spiritual rationalization for everything they do. I place “everything I do” squarely under the scrutiny of I Cor. 10:31, and also rejoice in the liberty permitted by this verse and by Scripture overall.

    It’s the community who needs salt and light, not the church. Pick your area or areas of service, and serve God as you have opportunity. This can be in a secular music setting or on a bowling team. Build relationships and let God provide the witnessing opportunities. We never know which situations will result in good fruit.

    I concur with Bob’s advice, above. Lots of good observations are listed. I think in addition to the above guidance, that a believer who spends regular time in God’s Word, who is living a Spirit empowered life, will be led into a wide range of “appropriate” situations consistent with their personality and interests, where they can glorify God — regardless of whether the setting is “spiritual” or secular. These situations will be very different for different people. And I believe the Holy Spirit will also provide conviction of improper motives and of improper settings that wisdom would suggest have the likelihood of “handicapping” a believer’s ability to be effective salt and light due to the circumstances or location involved. But we need to be sensitive to God’s leading.

    My approach is to seek God first, to make service to the Body of Christ my priority, and to enjoy the freedom God provides to enjoy other opportunities as I strive to walk with Him. If I’m filled with His Spirit, I’m confident that I can be used to provide a positive witness and influence, even in “secular” situations (musical or otherwise) — the salt and light Christ mentions in Matthew’s Gospel.

    Best Regards,

    Steve Inman
    Kokomo, Indiana USA

  2. Steve Inman January 18, 2008 at 11:08 PM #

    One more thing: The intent of Bob’s comments seem to come from the perspective that the two primary possibilities are that we either serve God with our musical talents in a church setting, or else our intention is to seek fame and fortune in the pop/rock industry. But what about a Christian who plays oboe? It is unlikely that he/she will find a spot in the Praise Band! (no offense intended to the oboists reading this) What about the clarinet player in the community band who is a Spirit filled believer?

    I have placed a follow-up post (more thoughts on this same topic) in the comment section of the original article Bob quotes in the first line of this blog: “Whose glory do we make music for?” I submit that this is truly the bottom line: are we striving to serve God as His ambassador, or seeking to boost our own egos, striving after vanity? The instrument, the setting, and the style of music being played are a very minor element in the equation when considering where a Christian who happens to be a musician can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring glory to God. Consider my comments left at the previous blog regarding Tony Kniffen!

    There are certainly situations that would be plainly foolish to attempt, as you’d be waving a few pearls in front of a large herd of swine. I wouldn’t try to provide a set of “wholesome folk music” to a drunken audience in a rowdy bar. But I would not condemn a brother or sister who had the resolve and conviction to try this. I wouldn’t recommend it either, and I simply wouldn’t consider this to be the best use of my time ….

    Rather than ask a brother, “Why are you doing THAT?”, I prefer to ask MYSELF, “Why SHOULDN’T I be doing this?”, when I consider the various ways I can creatively employ my musical gifts in the “hobby” context (outside of my primary focus as a worship leader). If the civic theater opportunity would merely provide musical support for a blatantly ungodly message, I have my answer to the why NOT question. If agreeing to teach guitar lessons in the local music store would leave necessary home projects undone, I again may have my answer. If the setting is a wholesome one, where folks are coming for general entertainment, then “Why SHOULDN’T” the musician be a Christian? … a Christian who will perform in a humble manner and who is seeking to be an ambassador for Christ? … rather than an unbelieving musician who may perform something outside of the quality standard Paul mentions in Phil 4:8? Why not?

    For His glory,

    Steve Inman
    Kokomo, Indiana USA

  3. Rich January 19, 2008 at 7:47 AM #

    Hey Bob!
    Thanks for this post… I think I shared this analogy with you a while back:

    For me, playing in a band outside of church is like playing on the church softball team. I’ve done both through the years and enjoyed both:

    - it’s fun
    - it’s rewarding
    - it takes hard work and diligent practice
    - you do it along with your friends
    - it hopefully doesn’t take up too much time out of the week
    - you end up doing it in front of some kind of audience
    - you get to meet and interact with new people, hopefully in a godly way
    - and… it’s ultimately not my primary “ministry”. Our whole lives are ministry, but our primary ministry is playing music for the local church.

    - RG

  4. Jonathan Baird January 19, 2008 at 1:03 PM #

    Well put Bob. I have been affected by this verse recently as it applies to my music and writing.
    John 7:18 “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory…” another version says “he who speaks from himself seeks his own glory”. I think that wether you are pursuing a career or just playing at a coffee house the question is where is the motivation coming from? It is so easy in this situation to let money or popularity or self fullfilment become the motivation behind the music instead of glorifying God and serving others. Is God sending me or am I sending myself… I think I wonder about that everyday.

    -jonathan

  5. Gabriel Gagnon January 19, 2008 at 2:22 PM #

    Where is our heart? Because where our treasures will be, also our heart will be there. It always comes down to that. Where is our heart.

  6. Lee Rumpel January 21, 2008 at 10:38 AM #

    The ministry of the 2 Christian musicians that you mentioned, Kerry Livgren and David Hope forever changed my life. God was pleased to use their musicanship and service in Kansas and later AD to bring me to faith in Jesus Christ. By God’s grace this wayward son is a Christian now!

  7. lisa January 21, 2008 at 1:06 PM #

    Hey, Bob. Great post. How about this situation: a band made up of Christian kids, writing Christian lyrics (although to be honest they are not always straighforward and they can be hard to understand because of the style of music), and truly desiring to be a light in a dark place, opens for a secular band in a secular venue, amid other opening secular bands that are decidedly raunchy. I know I’m not the first person to wonder whether this is a wise idea or not. At our house we call it the “P.O.D. touring with Korn” dilemma; it has been an ongoing discussion for quite some time now and is currently hitting really close to home. Because I have “separatist” leanings, I don’t trust my heart on this one, but I think I do have some legitimate concerns. I’d be open to any wise counsel from committed Christians!

  8. Alex January 22, 2008 at 2:21 PM #

    Thanks for the post. I’ve been watching for it for a while, and it was well worth the wait. It helps shed some light on this issue that is close to my heart.

  9. Alex January 22, 2008 at 2:28 PM #

    Lisa,
    I don’t really understand how a band that calls it’s self christian could tour with Korn. But I have a harder time understanding why P.O.D calls itself christian, because of some of the language in their recent albums. But I agree that Christians should deffinately watch who they are associating themselves with.

  10. Alex January 22, 2008 at 2:36 PM #

    I think it’s a shame how Christians have really pulled out of everything from the arts to universities and even politics to some degree. These days it’s very difficult to find christian people taking part in mainstream music. Thus I aplaud the efforts of Relient K very recently, and Switchfoot a few years ago. It’s been my dream for a while to follow them in that respect, because why does music have to be the domain of unbelievers? Why do Christian musicians have to be confined to a genre(CCM)? It’s a shame really that it has to be this way. But why can’t it change?

  11. Kathleen Edwards January 23, 2008 at 8:35 AM #

    As a worship leader I have recently run into an issue with a person interested in joining our church in order to be part of the worship band. Already I have a problem with the motive: this person seems driven by his desire to play music not his desire to serve God.
    Anyway, he plays in a secular band during the weekend. The band plays songs from the 70s and 80s. I pretty sure they aren’t concerned about lyrical content. I believe this person is saved but not very passionate about “worship”. Although he is passionate about “music”.
    He recently asked to come to our practices. I said ok, but he can’t participate until he has attended services for six months and become a member. (Church policy). Even if he meets those requirements I am dubious about having him on board.

    Any thoughts?

  12. Steve Inman January 23, 2008 at 8:21 PM #

    Thanks, Rich — well said, with far less rambling than my posts.

    To Lisa, and also (eventually) to Kathleen:

    When Paul says not to associate with wicked people in I Cor 5:9-11, note that he clearly states that he is not prohibiting Christians from associating with “immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters” who are unbelievers! Rather, he prohibits association with a professing Christian who behaves this way. Christians are able to associate with the lost, and indeed unless we hide on a mountain top, this is unavoidable. Our task is not to love the world system, but to be salt and light to the world — which requires association with people. “Separation” as I’ve often seen it applied, seems to miss the Biblical meaning, and to be far more narrow and restrictive than God’s “position” is on this topic! More on this below.

    Regarding kids and loud (or poor quality) music — it is the words that make music Christian vs. secular, not the music itself. So I believe we have to initially separate words from music and judge each element individually. (Effective song writing requires talent in both areas simultaneously, of course.) Are the words true to Scripture? Is the music of “reasonable” quality? It is possible to say, “that’s a Christian song, but it stinks” because of poor musical quality. Likewise a song can have great musical quality but be devoid of truth or contain false teaching as well.

    When mentoring kids, I would suggest focusing attention on both elements and encouraging progress and discernment in each. But regarding musical style — there is a wide spectrum of tastes. I don’t particularly like POD, but my daughter does listen to them occasionally. (Here I’m referring to the issue of musical style, not lyrics.) I try to choose the best quality, Christian music I can find and play it as a model for my kids.

    I have a friend who plays in a secular band and also occasionally in a church setting (not my church in this instance). The secular band’s repertoire is not chosen for lyrical holiness, so to speak. So the situation seems very similar. Yet the individual certainly doesn’t fit Paul’s description in I Cor 5 as a brother that should be avoided. Due to the repertoire of his band, I do certainly question his discernment. But maybe the music pastor at his church is “right” (or “okay”) to include him? He does not serve in a featured role in the church music setting. (read on)

    But the flip side of this is the element of unequal yoking, in my opinion. Will his participation in the music group enhance worship in your local body? Will he convey an attitude of fleshly pride in his musicianship? Will he be a detriment to the group?

    Now going right down the middle — is this a discipleship opportunity for the less mature believing musician? Might God cause spiritual growth?

    Ultimately you may have to honor your church’s policy, unless you have the organizational authority to impose additional criteria for membership on the praise band / team. But can you require a certain commitment to certain spiritual disciplines? 15 minute daily Bible reading? Daily prayer time? Prayer for your church’s ministries and leaders? Do you have the opportunity to provide a 10-15 minute devotional message to the praise team as part of your practice time? Do you simply offer a time of sharing what God is doing in each other’s lives? These are things that the Holy Spirit may use in this particular person’s life to develop him into a valuable member of your team.

    A few of my personal observations . . . .

    Steve Inman
    Kokomo, IN

  13. lisa January 24, 2008 at 12:37 PM #

    Thanks, Steve, for sharing your thoughts. I have always been an “it’s the words that matter” kind of girl, but lately I really have begun to wonder… what about words that are in and of themselves pretty good, but the lead singer of the band is literally screaming them? Is there really ever any good rationale for that? When can you legitimately say that something “sounds” evil or Satanic, based on HOW it’s sung? How far does it have to go before it’s no longer just a matter of personal preference?

  14. Steve Inman January 26, 2008 at 4:19 PM #

    Hi Lisa,

    This is fun to consider. To me, it brings up the issues of preference, quality, audience, purpose, worldliness and maturity. Depending on where this group performs, some or all of these must be considered.

    Preference:
    A former member of our church, and a mature brother, once mentioned that no music styles we used were ever far enough into the hard-rock / metal genres to match his personal preferences in music. I suppose he was the 1 in 100 member for our church here in a more conservative (“backward”?) area of the mid-west, but it does show that a mature believer can enjoy screaming, “death-metal” styles of music — I’m sure many do. So although I do not, I need to give some latitude to personal taste. More on this below.

    Quality:
    I have a hard time agreeing that what you have described is something I could call “quality music”. Perhaps within its genre it might be. However there are some art forms that I consider to be of “low quality”. When the volume of the lead vocalist and the annoyance factor of his voice seems to be more important than the musicality of the group, or the lyrics, I “deduct style points” in my mind for quality. However, for kids in this age group, the “draw” is often a chance for self-expression and a chance to hang out with friends (band members and audience members). Often these social concerns will trump any real consideration or concern for quality as something important to weigh or consider. Oh well ….

    Audience and Purpose:
    In a church setting, I am of the persuasion that the musical styles should be those that the majority of the people who attend can enjoy, or at least accept. If your church has multiple services with multiple different styles, there may be a place for this in church. But it’s more important to ensure those present can say “Amen!” and that the music will facilitate genuine worship than it is to provide a venue for a certain musical style. If this band is playing at a local teen hang-out spot, then it may be just what the audience wants. (refer to “Quality” above) Also — is the purpose “entertainment” with Christian lyrics, or to facilitate worship? Again, different conclusions may be warranted depending on the purpose.

    Worldliness:
    This is often a phrase of condemnation that comes with circular reasoning. However, if the purpose of choosing a style of music is to mimic a style chosen by the world’s (non-Christian) musicians (to be “cool”) AND if these “worldly” styles are “cool” because they appeal to a rebellious spirit, because they foster anger, because they annoy parents, etc., then I can’t see how a Spirit-led Christian would choose to use these musical styles.

    Maturity:
    Ah .. note above my use of “Spirit-led Christian! Some kids can demonstrate wisdom and maturity that exceeds their physical age, due to time spent walking with God. Others are still growing. Regardless, because they are kids, many of the above points may seem unimportant and hence won’t be considered.

    So what?
    Your perspective and the band members’ will be different due to spiritual maturity, musical taste, wisdom, discernment, etc. Maybe you’ve encountered a horror movie or two that leads you to associate this band’s sound as “evil” while the vocalist doesn’t have this association and is unaware of how some audience members perceive the performance? He may simply be trying to mimic his favorite group. Unfortunately, I suspect you face a situation where it will be difficult to find a way to influence any change, due to difference in perspective (and the other issues I’ve mentioned). As a parent, these are often the big challenges — “gray” areas where not allowing participation is hard to justify with good, hard, Biblical evidence — yet where your discernment says “no” — at least to you. On the other hand, I suppose you could also monitor the situation, provide non-judgmental yet discerning guidance, and endure this.

    From your post, I share your concerns. I would have a frank discussion with my son/daughter and list the reasons why they won’t be participating in this group. You could say you don’t want to trample on the group’s artistic freedom, so you won’t suggest they change their approach. But, with the current approach and due to your concerns, “such-and-such” is your decision for your kid(s). But as this is a gray-area parenting issue to me, I have no “right” answer — and others may reply who see things very differently. I’ve just tried to follow up with several observations for further pondering.

  15. Sam January 27, 2008 at 9:44 AM #

    I’m 16 years old, have been brought up in a christian family and gave my life to christ some years back, and this is a question that has been bugging me for quite a while now.

    I’m a singer/songwriter and would like to make a career from playing in a band. I’ve written worship songs in the past, but when I’m composing anything else I feel guilty about writing anything that doesn’t directly glorify God, but then I feel restricted in terms of what a I can and can’t write.

    For example I’ve heard the rock band ‘paramore’ (one of my favourite bands) say that their band members are christians, but they also say that they aren’t a christian band, and generally this shows through their lyrics.
    Then there are christian bands like Sanctus Real and Switchfoot that create music that sort of glorifies God and manages to gain some secular mainstream attention at the same time.
    (This is achieved by either being brilliant musicians or ‘watering down’ the lyrics, I’ll leave it to you to decide which).

    Is it right as a believer to listen to music like the above, or to compose and play it with the aim of making a career out of it in the secular industry?

  16. Melissa February 10, 2008 at 3:59 PM #

    Check out Sean McConnell: http://www.seanmcconnell.com

    He is currently in the process of breaking into the secular industry, but he has some very explicitly Christian songs. I’m slightly biased, but I feel like he does a great job of walking the line.

  17. Kyla March 18, 2008 at 3:23 PM #

    I found this blog after struggling with this issue that I have been having. My fiance and I are both christians and we LOVE the LORD. He is a musician but he does rap music. It is not explicit but it is in the hip hop world. His music basically talks about being yourself and not letting other place you in a box. It also addresses some social issues in the world, as well as diversity and different races coming together. The message is good, but I worry about “being” apart of the music world. There is so much sin in the music business (parties, drinking, women, money, power etc.) things that I feel is of the devil and things that can pull you away from God and being a christian and letting the world know. We all know that hollywood lifestyle is so fickled.
    I just become so concerned with getting involved in that business because it sometimes seem like God is not involved in these “celebrities” lives. I just want to make sure that GOD always stays ahead in our lives and we/he does not fall victim to the wreckless lifestyle involved. I have prayed about this and I just know God will lead us in the right direction.

  18. David April 23, 2008 at 2:23 AM #

    I can tell I’ve stumbled in to the middle of this conversation, but it hovers around the very point I’ve struggled with for decades. I grew up in the 70′s loving hard rock with a passion; Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Journey, Styx, Kansas, Grand Funk Railroad, etc. The list is endless. I was really bad about knowing every note played on every instrument, but never knowing more than the chorus if I knew any lyrics at all. If I sang the song, or the backing vocals, I knew them, but would forget them in a week. But the music? I can still play it note for note.

    I played clubs and arenas in the 80′s, from the lowliest biker dives to opening for national acts. No one could ever believe that a long haired hard rocker didn’t get high and have sex with everyone at the drop of a hat.

    I cut off all my hair, joined the Army and now I’m a cop counting down the days till retirement. I now struggle to study music at a local university and currently play viola in two orchestras.

    Since I was 15 I knew I loved music more than life and wanted to make it my life, but that’s all been on a shelf to care for a family. I retire soon and my soul yearns to finish my life playing music. Not teaching it, listening to it, selling it…PLAYING IT, again…

    Finally my point, sorry. A few years ago I got all fired up about playing Christian Contemporary Music. I had just discovered its existence with Steven Curtis Chapman’s early works, Michael English “Solid as the Rock,” the list was huge and I was on fire! I’d written songs in my youth that would be perfect, I NEEDED to feel like I was doing something pleasing to God, it all seemed perfect. I was writing songs by the bucket to get through losing my son, I HAD to show God how sorry I was for being mad at HIM for my son’s death.

    Then I watched in horror what was done to Michael English. Then I started studying the antics of the Christian labels. Then I saw my first Dove Awards…(last one too) I dropped it all and went right back to pounding the beat.

    I’ve seen more hypocracy in religion than in any other institution I’ve ever observed mankind involve himself in, and Christian Music is absolutely the worst of the worst. And it breaks my heart. God has given me wonderful gifts, but if I make a mistake like Michael English, forget about it! If I divorce Gary and marry Vince, forget about it! I could go on and on and all of you know it.

    If I were a carpenter, would I be admonished to frame only churches? If I were an electrician, would I be chastised for wiring a saloon? Why does every song I write or play have to be a hymn? Why does my music have to be a ministry? I’m not a preacher, I’m a musician.

    Christian musicians whining about seculars? Who was glorified on the Doves I mentioned? The musicians, JUST LIKE THE GRAMMY’S? That “Dino” guy with the white piano and the 32 letter last name, (sorry, can’t even say it much less remember how to spell it) Who’s HE exalting with his white piano, white suit, hairsprayed head, on the 12ft pedestall with the orchestra hidden behind a curtain somewhere? C’mon? I watch acts on TBN all the time where it’s horribly obvious that it’s ALL about the SINGER, not the SONG…in complete contrast to the old secular saying…

    I love God! but I also love my wife, my children…he’s been keeping one of them for me since he was 3 years old. But I also LOVE MUSIC. And shutter the thought, I love music for music’s sake to the point I can’t remember the words to a song no matter how catchy they are! I’ve been moved to tears by Paul Smith’s “Human Touch” album and by Heart’s “Alone.” I rocked my socks off to Stryper and Legend, and Bad Company and Ozzy Ozborne. I love everything I’ve ever heard by Mozart, Haydn, Hummel, Sibelius, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsokov, The Cars, Petra, Harvest, Pray for Rain…When I play Amazing Grace on my viola, I DON’T KNOW THE WORDS! But I have tears in my eyes! Same thing when I play poor Rich Mullins masterpiece, Our God is an Awsome God…I ONLY KNOW THE CHORUS! But having personally shaken his hand at a bible seminary concert, I cry about how he died every time I play that tune on my viola, and man, you should hear it on a viola! Or on a chainsaw flying V with double coil humbuckers!

    You know, there’s some of us out here that are reached in different ways than you were, who ever you are. And some of us would LOVE to show GOD how grateful we are for the gifts he’s given us, but PEOPLE get all hung up on how the pews are angled and what color the walls should be and whether the congregation will let their women wear pants and whether or not some poor little kid who loves music really ought to be ALLOWED to play at church because maybe, just maybe he loves the music just a little too much? Sorry, gotta repeat that…?????????? ?????????

    I haven’t been in a church for decades because of this behavior. And I’ve contemplated trying to release some of my own truly moving, God inspired music, but if I ever get His go ahead, I’m going to do it anonymously with no photos of me and all the orphans in Tanzania that people can see me hug, no nothing, cause I ain’t any better than Michael English, Amy Grant, or that poor little kid that just wants to play in a band at his church.

    Consider this; the only reason I didn’t die on the streets like EVERYONE I GREW UP WITH was God! He did it with his left hand and his right hand. His right hand was holding a handful of wise old street cops that took the time to be the only positive force in my childhood cause all the adults I knew where drinkin’ and whorin’ around all week and dragging me to every denominational house of worship on the list every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Michigan to Florida, Maryland to Kansas…all the same. Oh yeah, Vacation Bible School’s a lot of fun when your alcoholic, gambling 2nd stepdad, one of the church elders, gets arrested in the church parking lot. Those cops were what God sent to save me with his right hand. Ya know what he had in is left?

    An electric guitar and a Jethro Tull album, “M.U.” the white one….

    Praise the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph for creating my world and my life. And praise him for sending HIS son to die…and I know that pain…so that I don’t have to be judged by other Christians.

  19. John Ostroski April 23, 2008 at 10:58 PM #

    Whoa David – I hear ya – God bless you bro – I’m praying all the right doors open for you

  20. David April 24, 2008 at 10:00 AM #

    Thank YOU John, and may God bless you as well. And thank you for the prayers. But in my own humble experience, God is ALWAYS opening doors for me. I just seem more often than not to notice it too late, or fail to walk through before it’s closed! My fault every time! But His patience with me is never ending.

  21. sean April 28, 2008 at 10:22 PM #

    K. I am in love with Jesus, but to reference your last paragraph…”no other music will last anyways”

    Ever hear of Mozart? Bach? Vivaldi? Pagganini? Debussy? Sor? Do I REALLY have to go on?

    Hey! Watch a movie entitled “Amadeus”. Saliari is a “Christian” composer, who cannot understand why God blesses Mozart’s music, because Mozart lives in, embraces, and enjoys a life of sin, but ALSO realizes that music is bigger than himself (um, that would be GOD)

    Furthermore, consider the scheduling of artists at the GOSPEL: MUSIC ASSOCIATION in Nashville every Spring (ya know…DOVE AWARDS)

    Third Day plays with Robert Randolph at the WILDHORESE SALOON
    Caedmon’s Call at BURBON STREET BLUES AND BOOGIE, Toby Mac @ FUEL, Caedmon’s call. (Gospelmusic.org)search the showcase schedules. Personally, I applaud ALL of them for being salt and light.

    Hey…there is NO SUCH THING as the “Christian Music Industry”, only the music industry with a segment targeting the “Christian Market”

  22. Bob Kauflin April 29, 2008 at 7:05 AM #

    Sean,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I think you misunderstood the point of my last statement, “no other kind of music is going to last anyway.” I wasn’t speaking of music with Christian lyrics or songs that we sing on Sundays. I was referring to music that’s offered up for the sole purpose of glorifying the Giver of all music. That’s not related to a specific style or genre of music.

    And as far as there being a “Christian music industry, I have to disagree with you. Call it what you will, but there is a part of the music industry aimed specifically at those with evangelical Christan beliefs or produced by those with those beliefs. It’s built on and around people in the church. Similar distinctions exist in country music, classical music, rap, jazz, and other styles. The difference is that “Christian music” is defined more by the lyric than the sound or style.

    But the point of this post is that Christians can make “Christian music” with a wide variety of styles and lyrics, even no lyrics at all. Our goal is clear: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

  23. David April 29, 2008 at 11:42 AM #

    Sean & Bob,
    First, God bless you and all the others posting on this thread. Sure seems to be a lot of musicians who are also Christians (or vise versa) intensely interested in this category of questions.

    Sean,
    You’ve let me know I’m not the only one seeing these things the way I see them. I was driven away from “Christian Music” by Christians. The ones I know personally chastised me for using the Rock genre, or having overdrive on my guitar parts because it was “Satan’s Sound” or singing like David Clayton Thomas instead of one of the Gaithers, or having a driving beat that would cause young people to sin yadda-yadda…They also predominantly preferred Country music, regardless of how “sinful” a life their favorite artists lived. I would always trip them up on Classical Music. Those who complained that it didn’t glorify God shut up when I brought up Bach’s career as a church musician/composer. Trying to get them to listen to Bach’s Mass in B minor was a waste of their time and mine. Those who had no problem with Classical from a “God perspective” would always accuse me of “making up” the story of Paganini’s violin being rumored to have been made of wood from his father’s coffin and varnished with his mother’s blood because people of his day believed he’d sold his soul to Satan because “no one can play THAT good any other way.” Modern science now believes he had either Ehlers-Danlos or Marfan’s syndrome, either of which could explain his amazing speed and flexibility. These are just a few examples of the hang-ups I’ve encountered with the Christians that I know.

    Sean and/or Bob,
    As far as the “Christian Music Industry” goes, in my humble opinion, its position in the industry hierarchy isn’t as much of a problem, for me anyway, as the countless incidents of “secular” behavior of those who run that “industry” or “section thereof.” I’ve read countless books and articles on this topic; many were Christian publications that were pointing this out for a variety of reasons. I’ve read interviews of national artists who’ve gone from Secular to Christian, or the other direction, who’ve stated there were more “sharks in the water” in the Christian side of the industry than the Secular side. Some Christian artists have even started their own labels because of this very problem.

    Bob,
    I just kind of stumbled on to this thread and I already don’t remember how. So forgive my ignorance of your identity or the nature and scope of your work. But it does seem to me that you have a passion for this category of problematic questions, and God bless your efforts to address them. I had no idea that so many other musicians struggle with these issues in so many different ways.

    You touch on so many angles of these problems that I barely know where to begin, so I’ll start with your response to Sean, specifically the final paragraph. For me, this is the summation of all the other problems in this category. “Christians can make “Christian music…” is one of the aspects of this dilemma that I addressed in a previous posting above. And you hammer that same nail again with your quote from Col. 3:17. If I follow this as a logical progression, then I as a carpenter can only build churches. I as an electrician can only wire temples. I as a bricklayer can only wall synagogues. If I do otherwise, then I presumably had better be yelling “Praise The Lord” with every hammer stroke, “Halleluiah” with every feed of wiring and “Amen!” with every mortared brick if the efforts are performed on anything less than a Holy Structure. No one I know seems to have a problem letting those in these trades and others out of this box by simply rationalizing that it’s the “spirit of the phrase” not the “exact wording” that matters. Those in these and every other trade are simply admonished to be “a light” to others in those trades regardless of “what earthly project” they’re working on. Why then is this rationale so hard to apply to music and musicians? As I posed in my previous posting, “Why does every song I write or play have to be a hymn? Why does my music have to be a ministry? I’m not a preacher, I’m a musician.”

    Now, I understand the point with regards to lyrics as far as “glorifying acts or lifestyles” that fly in the face of all that a Christian is supposed to hold dear. I think that’s a no brainer, but I call your attention to those Christians I mentioned before with regards to their stance on, just an example, Country music and their favorite artists. (Bluegrass music too, by the way…) They turn a blind eye and a deaf ear when THESE artists sing songs that glorify, justify or excuse the ungodly and live lifestyles just as ungodly as those that they sing about. But GOD FORBID if a “Christian” artist stumbles even a little bit. GOD FORBID if a “Christian” artist uses the Rock genre, distorted guitars, raspy or soulful vocals, driving rhythms, again, yadda-yadda!

    To any who will listen?
    Without going back and reading all the previous posts, I think it was Steve Inman of Kokomo that made some references to personal tastes with regards to styles. Is it possible, in the minds of Christians, for me to write, sing or play anything, and have it be OK, if it’s not what they personally are used to accepting; regardless of lyrical content? If I manage to hit whatever musical style a given Christian will accept as being OK, is it possible for my song to be acceptable if it’s a love song, a life experience song etc, or does it absolutely HAVE TO BE A HYMN? If I’ve decided to make music, why do I have to have a “musical ministry?” I am NOT a preacher. That is NOT my gift. I AM a musician. Is it even remotely possible in the minds of Christians for me to mix songs of praise with love songs, or accountings of life experience, or simply write and perform instrumental music without red-flagging it as Christian, Secular or anything other than Music?

    Forgive my rambling, but this is one of the most important issues in my life. Sean mentioned Mozart and Saliari; I say I am both of them. God has both gifted me with the musical abilities that evoke jealousy from my peers, and bestowed upon me the ability to feel and love the music of others to the depths of my very soul; and to both these ends, completely regardless of musical genre or religious lyrical content.

    May He lead me in this passion that I have to show HIM how much I treasure these gifts.

  24. Sean T. January 19, 2009 at 8:30 PM #

    PAUL was all things to all men. It’s important to tap into that perspective in ministry. Paul even quoted secular philosphers to relate to people where they were in their perspectives, Acts 17:28.

  25. Maria Speight March 21, 2009 at 9:41 AM #

    Interesting blog to stumble upon……

    As a Jazz singer who is a Christian singing secular standards, I am fully aware of the questions, disillusionment, and confusion caused about this very emotional topic. As an artist, the lack of understanding in the local church of this desire to create doesn’t help. I encountered this problem when I went for prayer for my work one Sunday night, to be a strong effective witness. I was turned away, with the pastor of this church saying that they won’t waste their prayers on me. It has been their loss to hear of the countless opportunities I’ve had to show God’s love. Please let me make it clear that I believe in being accountable to my local pastor and church for the work I do, how I dress onstage, and what songs I sing. I’m 51 this year, and got married for the first time in 2004. Up until that time, I felt in my heart that singing songs that reflected love between married people, such as “Makin Whoopee” was completely inappropriate, as I was single and had to make a responsible representation before the Lord and man. Now I sing the “intimate” lyrics and think about my husband!

    I performed in a band in the CCM market for 15 years. In the end, I left the “Christian music industry” because of the inability for most of those who represent Christ in this capacity to be consistent in their sharing of love for all men. The words say one thing, whilst their lives reflected something else. I had lived in Nashville for a good many years before eventually living in Scotland where I am now. My calling is where I am at this moment.

    If you have never read this out of print book by Francis Schaffer, please find a copy and do so. It’s called “Art and the Bible.” I read it in bible college and it made an incredible inpact on my life. But the most important thing that I found was imperative: that no matter what we do creatively, whether playing worship at church, performing in a secular gig, or even running a bank, we must show the integrity of the Gospel to the world. This also means that we have to conduct our business as the Lord would have us to do it.

    I hope this makes sense!

    Thanks
    Maria

    • Bob Kauflin March 21, 2009 at 4:11 PM #

      Maria, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Sounds like you’re making the most of the opportunities you have to bring glory to our Savior. Schaffer’s little book is excellent, as is Leland Ryken’s The Liberated Imagination.

  26. Chris March 29, 2009 at 8:39 PM #

    Boy, can I relate to this conversation. I have just been hired full time at my church to lead worship after doing it part time for nearly a year and a half. I have played many secular styles through the years. I can say, since I’m a guitar player, that Lincoln Brewster really has influenced me in the Christian genre.

    For the last 3yrs I have been part of a very successful regional country band who has our own original material. As a condition of taking my new job, the elders have required me to leave the country band. I’ve found it’s very difficult to get them to tell me exactly WHY they think that is necessary.

    Now, I understand the issue with lyrics. I have had some tell me, though, that being in the bar is an issue. That part I have some issues with. How can we fish if we are just supposed to surround ourselves with Godly people? I know that is how many of our elders see things. For me, though, my position has given me the opportunity to have some great conversations with people who would not normally talk about God. It seems that since they know me, they are comfortable in asking questions and sharing with me. To me, this is such a powerful opportunity as a musician.

    This is why I really struggle with the whole secular vs Christian music debate. I think it’s wrong to be asked to isolate myself from the very people who need guidance.

    Those who have posted here have surely experienced the musician who goes religion crazy and shuns everyone they knew and proceeds to lecture. I don’t want to be that person. I would prefer to lead by example and make myself available to these people to witness to them.

    Make no doubt about it, I love God immensely and would give up whatever necessary for Him. I just struggle with what is His will and what is the will of elders…..many who don’t really see the relevance of music in the first place.

    It’s a tough conversation and I am glad I found this post.

  27. Paul Stokes July 12, 2009 at 5:25 PM #

    Hi all and blessings from the UK,
    Currently I am a Composer of Instrumental music who is a Christian. Will you bear with me little while I make a few suggestions or perhaps pointers? I do not consider my self as having all knowledge on worship/Christian Music but at 55 years old some knowledge from many angles.
    Historically, I have led worship from 12 years old on the piano, Led Christian conventions from piano, led a charismatic church in worship for some 30 years, have a thorough grounding in Jesus and the Holy Spirit and Gods Kingdom. Some points above cause concern.

    I have heard it said that there is no such thing as Christian Music and with that I mainly agree. Music in itself cannot be moral or have beliefs, but I believe can have undercurrents which can in extreme cases are unhealthy to an individual at that time in his Christian life. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and certain rhythms/notes/resonances can cause the brain to react in certain ways though not necessarily Christian/unchristian ways as I have outlined above.

    However, if the ‘old man’ is sensitive or hooked onto old resonances or sounds linked historically with unhelpful behavior or thought patterns from my pre-christian days-it may be that is why the Holy Spirit in me is pointing out to keep away from those particular sounds. Its not that the music is sinful in itself, but the sounds take me back to a particular unhelpful lifestyle or behavior pattern which may have had sinful or in extreme cases demonic influenece.

    If you listen to my music, I have some 11 or so albums on itunes and lots of other digital download stores. They represent a lifetimes work (so far) writing pieces to bits of Film and TV commercials etc and my own interest areas and solo albums-if you asked me if there was demonic stuff there, I would reply that I been required to write music for dark scenario’s though fortunately non overtly satanic etc

    To me there is only music-not christian or secular therefore.
    There is therefore no real debate! Even scientifically, it has been shown that the brain responds in varying ways to different types of sounds-classical producing calm and rest and increasing the ability to learn-rock causing joy to where intense, a near trance like state, etc etc. These two extremes are only the brains response to musical stimuli and whether the Holy Spirit or another spirit has anything to do with it, is between God and myself-”the spiritual man judges all things, but himself is judged by no-one”

    I’ve also heard it said that “we are sometimes more spiritual than God is!”, and with that I also agree. We have been set free-the freedom of the sons of God-go enjoy and make music-music that brings praise-music that explores difficult themes in life-music that enriches.

    I have explored the Thunderstorm in classical, written about what it might be like to experience Alien life (there’s one for debate?), written worship music, played in Christian heavy rock band-Giantkiller, written music for the Lions stalking and killing prey-yuck! But it has something to say.

    I have many themes to explore musically, and God gave us a universe for us to get aquatinted with in all its forms!! ‘walk by the spirit’ and I think carry out St Augustines challenge (or was it someone else?) Love God and do as you please-the thought behind it will be that if you out God first, you will only want to put His will first and the rest is a joy and blessing-like a young child forever discovering a new world-including Music!

    Thankyou Lord……….

  28. Eliana March 10, 2010 at 7:59 AM #

    Hello everyone i was reading your thoughts about secular or christian music.
    I finally found the answer to the question and dilemma that many Christian Musicians face when they are making music.(me included).

    I`m part of a very popular Church for their worship music and i faced th most difficult time in my life when i became christian cause i felt i was really called to sing praise and worship music and christian music only.

    While on the worship team most of the musicians where also involved in their secular career but for me wasn`t the same.

    I spoke with some of them but they didn`t know what i was talikng about and i wasn`t able to explain why i couldn`t sing for the secular industry anymore.

    This has nothing to do with the heart of the musicians so those who play or sing secular music shouldn`t feel that they should play christian music and feel that GOd doesn`t reward their work.
    but this is also for those who are called to play christian music to feel they should do the all way around..

    It is a matter of Identity and also more practical issue about Marketing…
    So in the end it is a very simple matter!!

    If you read the chapter about spiritual gifts in the bible you will know what i m talking about.

    Music is a talent but we might have different gifts in expressing our selves artistically.

    Now do you undrstand this is very deep issue and requires spending time with GOD so that it wont lead into misunderstanding.

    Natasha Beningfield is a devoted and strong Christian in secular music but she is supported by strong Christians people that advice her and support her on tour and so on.

    I would like to continue on this matter and share more but perhaps those who fnd helpfull my comment can let me know and i will continue to write next time.

    Pls also contact me on my space.

    Kind salut

    ELiana

  29. Wes May 24, 2010 at 10:07 PM #

    This is a great thread!. I am the front man and lead singer for a succesful cover band. The band has been around 20+ years and I am only the second singer. We have gigs like crazy, but the past year the lord has called me to lead a high school worship band at a local youth center. My walk with Jesus is intense and very involved. My heart says it is time to give up the secular stuff. The band in professional, the members are seasoned machines and man we love the attention.But now, today, for me it is about obedience. I have waited and waited but it gets harder each time I play and I find my self crawling back to the alter every sunday morning. I am faithful to my wife and I have been sober since I was 21 (8 years) but in my mind I entertain thoughts that go against what Jesus is doing in my life. I sing words that are not what you call good advice. I still wonder what will happen when I leave the casino and club stage. My peers and followers will call me crazy. The band leader owns the local music store so I just hope there is no fall out. My worship mentor says to lay it all out there for the other members and let god handle the rest.

  30. Hunter Reed June 22, 2010 at 2:26 AM #

    instrumental music is very soothing and relaxing.”~.

  31. Jessie July 31, 2010 at 10:54 PM #

    Finding this thread is truly God.

    I have read some of the posts and comments made. Some I agree with others I questions.

    God has called has opened a door for me to bring Gospel Jazz into a secular dwelling. To me this is wonderful and walking a fine line at the same time. Many Ministers have expressed their disapproval of me singing Gospel Jazz in a a secular setting. This really throws me for a loop because I’m know longer just singing jazz standards, I’ve given this up because God instructed me to do so and obedience is better than sacrifice. Yet I know in my heart of hearts if the owner has never had Gospel music in his venue and God has used him to open up a door for his word to be deposited in the atmosphere in that place THIS IS BIG! The potential for souls to be saved is HUGE. Yes my gift is for the body of Christ but also to be shared with a lost and dying world…..giving them hope and shining the word of God in their lives if for just a few hours. I will not be moved by what people tell me is right or what is wrong when I know that God is directing me to press forward. We christians can’t just keep all this salvation for ourselves. We have got to share it with the world. If they reject it well so be it. God has given everyone free will. But man, if they receive it God can do great things in there lives. But being in the secular realm means you have to stay fasted up, prayed up and have much prayer covering while out on the front-line because if not the enemy will set you up. We are the army of Christ and it’s time we do battle on. The victory has already been won through Jesus Christ. Now all we have to do is live it.

    Thanks you so much for this post. It could not have been more timely. I went on line looking for answers and God directed me to this blog.

    Blessing everyone,

    In Christ Alone,
    Jessie Laine Powell

  32. lois September 30, 2010 at 11:18 PM #

    looks like i’m not the only one puzzled by this issue. right now, my question is specific, would you play evanescence’s “wake me up inside” in a worship setting? our church wanted me to play this song. i just couldn’t do it, so i respectfully declined? they said i was legalistic. i really don’t know, there’s something about the song that just doesn’t bear witness with my spirit. what do you think?

  33. allen October 11, 2010 at 10:00 PM #

    Why are songwriters held to a different standards than, say, people who happen to be good at Business? Nobody gives entrepreneurs a hard time about not running a “Christian business” or makes salespeople feel bad about selling smartphones.

    I have written songs, both spiritual and secular, for 20 years. There was a point in my early 20s when I really thought about pursuing getting signed to a “Christian” label. But those connections never developed, and those opportunities never presented themselves.

    What did happen was that I recorded a batch of my songs on a 4-track cassette recorder and my friend released it at the height of the indie Lo-Fi movement in the mid 1990s, and I got signed to a large indie label and was offered a publishing deal with Sony music.

    Now, having experienced this firsthand, and having prayerfully considered my path and vocation as a songwriter, I am led to believe there is a reason these events unfolded the way they did. Yet I still feel this vague sense of guilt when church leaders talk to me about why I don’t write songs for the church.

    I’m trying to be the person I was designed to be. I just hope we’re all holding people to the same standard, whether they’re creative or not.

    • Bob Kauflin October 12, 2010 at 8:44 AM #

      Allen, thanks for commenting. You shouldn’t feel any guilt for writing songs that reflect your developing the gifts God has given you. I know a few people who struggle with writing songs for a congregation. As long as the songs they write aren’t contributing to or coming from a worldly perspective, they should thank God and seek to serve others with the gift of music.

  34. Lukas July 13, 2011 at 10:22 PM #

    a really interesting network of ideas and opinions and some passionate dialouge. My problem though is that some Christians can be very zealous, to a dogmatic fault, by insisting that ALL music is done for the sheer glory of God and an evangelical tool, without realizing that God also gave us music for pleasure and for self expression. Gloryifying God does not have to be in a close minded religious context of Christian worship industry circles. I belive some of the great classical composers of old found ways to glorify God overtly, or indirectly, through the sheer majesty of their gift that pointed to the creator. Putting God and Christian musicians in a box by insisting their lyrics have to always preach messages of their faith or be evangelical makes as much sense to me as saying that all art has to exemplify faith and that is the long and tall of it. I believe that God calls all of us as Christians to be responsible with our gifts, but I do believe that He calls all of us uniquely with our gifts. Some of us ARE called speciffically to the praise and worship musical circuit and we should honor that. Some of us may be called to simply make a living by using our gift as a musician..so long as we are being responsible with our lyrics and our personal voice ( i.e., one that does not contradict scripture). I find it dogmatic to insinuate that music cannot be appreciated for musics sake and that music’s only function is for ministry. Not exactly. I believe God uses music for ministry AND for expression. With expression, it is a gift that we can use to fulfill our talents and show the world the great creative designer of the universe…it gives us an oppertunity to share our faith as well, but also a way to be edified, enjoying the sheer majesty of this great art, much like a painter, sculpter or especially athlete uses their gift as a means to point to the creator indirectly, or if God calls them, very overtly as part of a Christian enterprise. In closing, the key issue is this : WILL we be responsible with the gift we have? If we are called specifially to the Christian or worship industry(and it still is a market and commerce where people pay to see the singer or band, not unlike the world) will we make sure our conduct matches offstage with what we do onstage? And if we use our gift to make a living or to simply be edified and enjoy it for hobby or career in a non Christian setting, will we be responsible with what we say and how we say it, realizing we still must retain a great and powerful responsiblity to still point to Christ with our attitudes and self projection? I think thats the key thing in both regards, something many people miss either by putting the gift of music into a private Christian industry box, or by not being responsible enough to realize that with this gift comes a strong level of responsilbity.

  35. steve August 8, 2011 at 3:58 PM #

    Hi music people! I love this thread and can’t believe all the powerful stuff you have shared on your life and experience with music. So, I’m going to try to make sense of what has been a long-standing and very confusing dilemma for me. Thanks ahead for taking the time to read and share your thoughts…help!

    I am a singer/songwriter and have written several worship and Christian songs that we have done in churches and at outreach and concert events over the years. Now before I became a Christian, I was a professional gigging musician doing secular bars/clubs, concerts and events. We saw a lot of success and had a large fan base across the western US. During that time, I got saved and for two years I spent most of my time off stage/behind the scenes talking to people about Christ, sharing the gospel, praying for people, and giving away New Testaments. I have never been offended by the words or actions of non-Christians, in fact, I have always felt more comfortable around unchurced people than church people.

    I remember being really happy and content doing this. Then someone told me I needed to go to seminary, get ordained, and become a pastor. Twenty years later (a long painful story), I am coming to my senses and trying to return from the ashes of a devastating series of church pastorates, back to my true calling which is evangelism, reaching out to people with the love and message of Jesus Christ. I feel like such a fake person, pretending to be what people want me to be at church. But inside is this edgy, high-risk, bold person who is totally at ease sharing with bangers, bikers, dealers, players, dangerous types – that’s when God uses me best!

    So I feel the Lord calling me back into the secular music scene with a mission to share the love of Jesus, break down barriers between the church and those who pretty much hate Christians, and to form trusting relationships with those outside the church in hopes of trying to regain credibility as a representative of God, reflect the love of God and share the gospel of Christ. I want to help reach those with questions and issues find their way to Christ and ultimately back to church.

    This calling is tough. I have found the last few years that almost without exception there are two kinds of people I meet: regular church-going Christians, and non-churched people who really dislike or even hate Christians and church. The population of these anti-christian folks is grow rapidly and the tide seems to be moving over this country really fast!

    I sense God is calling a TON of people back into the world music scene to restore and build relationships of love and trust with unreached people who probably believe in God, probably pray regularly and are pretty cool nice people, but have been hurt by church or Christians and so they are outside of the church experience and virtually unreached or not discipled into the fullness of everything God have for them – not to mention that they need to be saved and begin to enjoy a relationship and life in Christ! Man, I get excited when I talk about this! (see http://www.brianheadwelch.net
    and http://thewhosoevers.com/ for examples)
    Anyway, I am getting ready to write songs for a CD. So my question has to do with what kind of music I am going to do. It seems that if I produce a Christian album with songs for people who go to church, I will find a welcome reception with them for my music and opportunities to play church and Christian venues. However, everyone I play for will be saved. That’s good, but I really don’t feel called to “preach to the choir” – there are so many talented artists writing worship and Christian music today and that’s not my calling.

    I know that If I do secular music, the people in bars and secular venues will connect if the music is good/they like it, and it isn’t religious or preachy (using God-words and Christian language). I don’t want to be labeled as a Christian artist to the people I am trying to reach out to in the non-church world. I want to be a legitimate artist who is genuine and engaging so that I can have credibility with the people I am trying to reach. If they go to my website and see that I am a Christian artist pretending to be a secular artist, I will loose credibility and that will adversely effect my ability to build those relationships.

    Sorry to say this, but in the eyes of the unsaved world, Christian music and Christian artists just are not legit (no offense meant). My unchurched friends perceive Christian artists as living in a safe bubble, the church world, afraid to step out into the larger music scene and have their music judged and valued on its own merits in the highly competitive global music scene. So doing Christian music is great if I want to appeal to church people, but not good at all for reaching hostile unchurched people who need someone who can relate to them, without judgement, show them the love of Christ.

    I can try to reach some middle ground but that seems a lot harder when it comes to being judged by the church people that know me. This sounds tacky, but I am concerned that If the church folks sense that I have “sold out” to the world – they find “non-Christian” music on my CDs (i.e. not saturated with church language, religious-ese, and references to God) they will think I am not a legitimate minister of the gospel and they will not support my efforts to reach out to people in bars/clubs and secular settings. I really need their prayers and support, and don’t want to be separated from the body of Christ (i.e. parachurch).

    What’s crazy is that I feel that unchurched people have more tolerance of me having some sort of “religious” songs in my set list, than the church folks have tolerance for me doing secular music (lyrics that are not specifically religious). So I feel a lot of pressure to meet the expectations of my church friends and fear being judged and condemned by the churches with whom I would also like to share my ministry. I do not at all feel free to do what I know God wants me to do.

    So I’m really torn between doing a Christian release verses doing a secular CD. I feel like God would help me do either one. Maybe I should try to do both! Has anyone else faced this issue? Please let me know your thoughts which are greatly appreciated!
    Send me a message at: rockthekingdom@gmail.com
    Thanks so much for your help and God bless you!
    Steve

  36. Mrs. Lisa October 31, 2011 at 6:27 PM #

    I have a woman who is a Choir Director, who just accepted a position to sing with a secular R&B band. She wants to gain more experience and have a chance to sing in front of a larger audience to further her career. We have a small ministry of maybe 40-60 people. I am very concerned about this and I personally do not feel she should continue in a leadership role while she is singing with this band. I think it sends mixed messages. I do not think she should sing on the choir but I don’t think she is ready to lead. I love her and I would hate to lose her or offend her but I don’t want to compromise the holiness of the ministy of music. I’m concerned that she will draw others out of the church to hear her perform because of her influence rather than into the church… Please share your thoughts?

  37. Billy November 1, 2011 at 5:38 AM #

    I play secular music outside of church in many different venues. I recently started attending a church that I like a lot. A couple guys that attend there know me from 2 different P&W teams that I played on with them and spoke highly of me to the praise leader at this new church when they introduced me.

    The church had a special day of promoting their various ministries, kinda like a job fair to get people plugged in so I emailed the praise leader and offered my talents on a stand by or back up type bases.

    I included a couple videos of me playing electric and acoustic guitar. The electric song was “The Sky Is Cryin” SRV cover and the acoustic was an original called Jubilation, an instrumental that makes me feel Jubilant.

    The praise leader was reluctant to answer my email so I send a 3rd email and confronted him about it and this was his reply:
    Hey Billy, just wanted to let you know that the facebook link worked fine – good stuff. I also wanted to let you know that, while I appreciate the offer, I’m not really looking for any more guitarists right now. In the meantime, I would suggest devoting yourself more to seeking the Lord and less time living in the world. I know you make your living playing in bars, but I also know that if you give yourself completely to the Lord, He will honor your sacrifice and bless you more than you know. (2 Cor. 8:5, 2 Cor. 9:6-8)
    The truth is, being on a worship team is more than just playing and singing. It is an outward manifestation of how we’re already living our lives, and an awesome responsibility at that.

    Thank you and I hope you understand.

    I started playing lead guitar in church in the 70′s about the time “What A Day” came out – I was a machinist for 25 yrs and lost my job, I didn’t want to play in bars but I believed that the lord was opening the door.

    I have considered it my mission field. I don’t drink, smoke or chew or run with women that do. I have witnessed to and prayed with many backsliders and they are back in church and some even playing music. I have met many good Christians that I have prayed with and one is a P&W leader and has called me on several occasions to help him out.

    I witness one on one as the opportunity presents itself, and believe me if you are willing to share your faith in a bar God will send you plenty of opportunities.

    I must confess that I was appalled at the praise leaders reply but I sense that his issues with me are based on his insecurities about the praise I received from my former P&W band mates.

    I have not replied to him although I did write an email, didn’t send it yet because I want to pray about it and now that I’ve found this site I’m hoping that someone might give some advice.

    Thanks and God bless,
    Billy
    P.S.
    I wonder if ppl that judge me for playing in bars ever feel bad when they eat dinner at Applebee’s after church – they have a bar in there ya know?

  38. Jim February 6, 2012 at 7:17 PM #

    I’m not a worship leader, but feel this is a group that I would like to present my question to. I am a 56 year old christian man. I rededicated my life to Christ @ the age of 37. I’ve been a guitar player since the age of 4. I learned to play lead guitar by spending hour everyday as a teen setting in front of the turntable with my Santana albums. I played in classic rock bands for years. At the age of 26, I left the band scene when my first child was born. I wanted to spend time with my boys, not playing in the bars on the weekend. As I said, I rededicated my life to Christ @ 37. Now my boys are grown, and I have the desire to be playing Classic Rock in a band again. Some friends lost the guitar player in their band, so I told them I’d set in a while to help them cover the gigs they already had booked. They asked me to stay on full time, but I’m struggling with playing in bars and clubs like VFW and American Legions. I don’t drink or smoke and I’m faithful to my wife. I just love to perform classic rock to a local audience. My question is: As a good christian man, is it sinful for me to perform in these venues? Inside I feel that our entertainment in these venues draws people into these establishments and the bar scene lifestyle. This is really pulling my heart in 2 direction. I love the Lord with all my heart, and I love playing classic rock to a live audience. These are the only type of venues around our small town to perform in. I hope someone out there can give me direction and hopefully some scripture to support it. God will come first, no matter what decision I have to make. God Bless you all, and I hope to hear something soon. I’ve told the band I’ll need to leave by the end of the month, because of my conviction to Christ. Thank you in advance for all of your advise and direction.

  39. uwidia osalen February 13, 2012 at 5:40 PM #

    hey, al this here is good stuf, bt am a little confusd. Can i sing secular but non perverse sngs? Lyk luv sngs (nt d ones describing sex n such)? i usd to b a fan of such, but, while reading a devotional which touchd on d subject twice in d same week of my confusion plus hearing my frnd discourage me 4rm it, i quit. A lot of my frnds followd me, but now, most of em r singing it again. Am confusd because i think its one of those if your conscience lets u do it, u r free things.i lyk n even find myself huming d songs occassionally. Now i dont knw what to do. Help.

  40. sesugh royston iperen May 14, 2012 at 9:04 PM #

    wow! wow! what can i say? i’ve really been blessed by all your comments. Am a born again christian and i’ve always had the desire be a session musician(guitar, keyboard, bass). I’ve taken time to pray about it and i’ve come to accept the fact that music is more of a career(profession) than a ministry to me. This is what God wants me to do.(thanks for all your comments). Before now, i used to ask myself, if Ozzy Osbourne asked you to play the guitar on one of his concerts would you accept the offer? Thank God, now i know better. sesugh…

  41. Michelle September 30, 2012 at 5:20 PM #

    WOW! I have been struggling with this topic for many years.

    I am a vocalist, pianist, guitarist, and songwriter. I started singing and playing when I was 7 years old. I formed a Christian band that performed in our church as well as at local festivals and events at the age of 16-18. Following that, I began using music as my career, performing in hotel piano bar settings, weddings, socials, bands, teaching piano, and writing both secular and Christian songs.

    At times I pushed my pop artist career and at times the Christian artists path. Struggling back and forth as to what was the “right” thing to do. Honesty.. a lot of my life was wasted pondering over this issue and that I hugely regret.

    During this time, Amy Grant was the first that I knew to cross-over into mainstream pop. While “Christian” people mocked her, I went to every concert she had. At each concert I was touched by all of her music and I saw first hand that she had witnessed to people making a difference in their lives.

    I had always felt this same calling.. even though I could write beautiful Christian songs that I didn’t just belong ministering and singing to the church. However, in the both the secular and Christian realm this it not an easy thing to accomplish as each wants you to be a certain way, look a certain way, sing and write a certain way.

    More years passed, I moved to another state and then got heavily involved in the worship team and leading the children’s choir. Although I know that the people’s lives were touched.. I still felt that something was missing. I still heard God calling me to step out of the church and reach anyone I could with all of my music.

    I have come to the conclusion that some people have a calling to be worship leaders, some to be a Christian Artist, and others to be in the secular realm. Since God gave us emotions, feelings, and the world in which we experience all of these things.. I do not believe that secular music is wrong. However, there are songs that should not be out there for “any” ears to hear. Those are songs that influence people to do wrong things, drugs, sex, etc.. those songs do not do any good for anyone.

    But God did give us love, he gave us relationships, things happen daily to all of us. As a songwriter you can’t help but to want to express your emotions, your experiences, and the stories of those around us. Songs can be inspired by many things.. a color, a dream, a word. Songs can touch either people positive or negative no matter how they are labeled.
    To me the key is what you are putting out there.

    The sad thing is that artists who are Christian singers and musicians need to always be faced with these two opposing sides.. when really the ultimate goal is to reach people. Shining our light for others to see no matter where we are or what we do for me is the answer.

    Thanks for listening.. blessings to you all!

  42. Earl John October 9, 2012 at 9:36 AM #

    Well this is a good post.

    I think that music is not the tool for evangelism it is preaching. Most Christians are always scheming on how to reach the lost and justify that God had given them a wisdom how to do it. well in fact the bible has said how to do it, it is by preaching. We forget that God uses anything, and He chooses what tool not us..

    Yes we may say that music can be a vehicle that people will be curios about us, but ultimately it our lives, are we pleasing GOD having the LOVE OF GOD in our hearts and striving for holiness.There should be a distinction between a CHRISTIAN and not.

    Research the hymn entitled “ID RATHER HAVE JESUS” and hope this will help.

    Now, this is the reality, try to compare the quality of CHRISTIAN musicians in the past ( from the time of DAVID ) and the present so called professing christian musician. read the church history my brothers and sisters.

    I am a CHRISTIAN MUSICIAN and I only play for GOD.

    That having said, I am also trained in classical music and self taught in JAZZ but I see to it that the lyrics, music, arrangements, place etc everything in connection with my playing always glorifies GOD in accord to HIS WORD, bible.

    Blessings to all!

    Earl John

  43. Lilian Lambert October 19, 2012 at 11:59 AM #

    Living as believers in a world so full of deceivers is already so complicated.

    Our world would be easier if we made it simpler by focusing on one thing “LOVE”. The aim of love is to de-populate the kingdom of darkness and populate heaven.

    Our work is to sing songs to the glory of God, it is His work to draw even the worst of heathens to Himself through our very explicit Christian way of life.

    Please note that I have the temptation to sing just a little “inspirational songs” sometimes but the Spirit of God so mercifully reminds me that the Devil is very cunning. We don’t fall out in a day, it is a gradual process, a little today and a little more tomorrow and a little more the day after.

    “IF YOUR EYES SHALL HINDER YOU FROM ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF GOD, PLUCK IT OUT AND GO IN BLIND THAN NOT GO IN AT ALL.”

    This little passion is not too much a sacrifice for the kingdom of God. Ever wondered why this is bothering you, why you do not go ahead and do it without thinking twice? Remember the voice of conviction is a still small voice.

  44. Ryan January 10, 2013 at 4:08 PM #

    Do christian artists have to play ONLY God worshiping music? Or can they play non-praise songs? Myself and some friends are in a band but we don’t all share the same religious beliefs so we don’t play songs that praise God. Do we have to play God worshiping songs or can we play secular music?

    • Bob Kauflin January 10, 2013 at 5:19 PM #

      Ryan, Scripture tells us that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” That doesn’t mean you can’t play non-Christian songs, but that they shouldn’t violate biblical commands and principles. Is that helpful?

  45. Jayashree March 22, 2013 at 2:19 AM #

    Hi All
    I am a Christian and am not a musician but I love music. I don’t know much. I sure don’t know the soul-wrenching agony you guys are writing from. But will you all please allow me to say just one thing? And forgive me if I hurt someone? Its natural to wonder when Christian electricians can wire saloons and Christian editors like me can review business reports, why can’t Christian musicians play secular music? I think the answers is because MAKING MUSIC is distinctly different from sawing wood and checking grammar. Music is God’s chosen way to be worshipped. He chose Praise as His Throne, not a wooden chair. He chose music as a way to enter His Presence. He surrounds Himself with music and prayer in His Dwelling Place. Music has a spiritual dimension, identity, power and role unlike carpentry and engineering. Can we pray to secular deities (forgive the odd idea)? We can’t. Same way, we can’t sing secular music I feel.
    If I am wrong correct me. I am hard, forgive me. God be with you all. The worship music made by you and others like you has blessed me, and comforted me countless times. So behalf of all believers, thank God for you!

  46. Jayashree March 22, 2013 at 6:04 AM #

    Bro 44/Jim

    May be this is a little late. But I wanna saya word. Let it go. Die to this desire. Read MArk 10.29, Math 16.24 and 1 corinthisns 10.31.

    Dear bro 17/sam
    Play only for the Lord, son. You will never regret it.

  47. Even If Ministries March 29, 2013 at 10:47 AM #

    something I wrote recently that you might be interested in on this topic:

    http://evenifministries.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/do-lyrics-to-songs-matter/

  48. Scott Burrow April 21, 2013 at 5:20 PM #

    I always heard that there was no such thing as Christian music, but Christian lyrics. I’m a guitar player, been playing in the church for more than 20 years, serving god is always been paramount in my life. Started at a church around 800 people and it grew to over 20,000 people. What I’m going to say is shocking but even churches can get lost in purpose, become too corporate and loose focus, happens all the time. For me it went from being a guitar player to becoming a local celebrity, of sorts. Wasn’t my doing it was the churches growth and the seeker orientation of churches who want to be big. New Christians are new, they see a huge stage and a musician playing on it and it relates to what they see in the real world. Is it right, no, it’s just mirroring whats happening on MTV or concert stadiums around the world. My goal has always been to play clubs where seedy people go, because that’s where the people tha are in need go. Church people have god, because they go to church, other places is where the real ministry is. My job as a Christian musician is to get people ready to be in that moment emotionally to get to the place where it’s just God and them. Believe or not you can write a song about life without preaching in their face. To me it’s all about rubbing people with gods sand paper, and taking off little layers of them, so they can get to the inner layer of him.

    Serving God is what I do 24/7 wherever I am. Make life happen, you are the music bed of their lives. Don’t let an opportunity get by without seeing the possibilities, because, its God putting you there.

  49. Lindsay July 24, 2013 at 12:26 PM #

    My boyfriend has been playing in a metal band since I met him 3 years ago. Neither of us were Christians when we met. The band and its fan had us wrapped up in a very dark existence, full of the things you would think would accompany such a lifestyle. I shudder now to remember it. Thank God for his GRACE!

    I gave my life to God a year ago and he has now done the same. There has been an amazing change in our lives. I recently moved out of the home we were living in as I could no longer live in such a situation outside of marriage. We are doing everything we can to align with God and his ways.

    My boyfriend is struggling with knowing what to do about his band. He has poured everything into it and has a lot invested in the project. However, the band is very obviously not uplifting or glorifying to God in any way. The other members are involved in things that are definitely not Godly. The venues they play in and the crowds they play for are very dark, and again, very Godless.
    The head banging…the “Lamb of God” covers etc…it all seems very obvious to me that a man walking with God and desiring to be in the light has no business being in fellowship with and representing such a thing.

    I cannot be the one to tell him this. It is between him and God. I believe the holy spirit will convict him of whatever it is that he needs to lay down in his life.

    He thinks that maybe there is a place for it…that maybe he can be a light in the darkness by continuing to play in this band. Am I wrong to think that is a complete contradiction? I would love some insight on this from others. I would love to hear what everyone else has to say.

  50. evanjroberts April 3, 2014 at 8:49 AM #

    Hey, thanks for your response. It’s a good idea to clear things up. It’s difficult to come to an absolute conclusion on cross-over artists. You’d leave out some good people lead by God’s voice if you decided to negate all cross-over music.

    I have a question for everyone.. Does anyone know a band/musician involved in cross-over and pure good-old church music or CCM? If you do I’d love to know for some university research I’m doing!

    • Bob Kauflin April 3, 2014 at 9:16 AM #

      Evan, can you clarify who you’re wanting to talk to? Christians that are playing both in the church and in a non-Christian setting?

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