Music in the Church – Are You Happy?

TRC Music Editor, Karmann Powell, leading worship at You Matter Ministries, serving the homeless in streets of Phoenix.
TRC Music Editor, Karmann Powell, leading worship at You Matter Ministries, serving the homeless in streets of Phoenix.

A disturbing trend in worship music has become more noticable in recent years. Christian radio stations are dictating the music in the church. Worship leaders are not going any further then what’s popular on the radio to find songs for Sunday’s service. Worship music in the church is becoming more like a juke box than a time of praise and reflection. In fact, some churches are reaching past the Christian stations and bringing songs into the church from the pop stations.

I read an article by a local pastor inviting people to church to hear the worship team play the Pharrell Williams’ song, Happy.  He had a list of reasons justifying the worship teams selection–none of which were biblical.  Other churches must be doing the same thing. A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a church copyright organization encouraging churches to license Happy so they, too, could play it in their church.

Is it me or is that a blurring of the lines between the Godly and the secular? There are songs I sing, some of which I’ve written, where God is present. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, immediately comes to mind. I hear and feel God’s presence every time I sing it. However, it says nothing about God or contain any scriptural truths. It teaches me nothing about the bible, about Jesus, about grace and mercy. It just makes me feel good.

As a worship leader and music director of North Valley Christian Church, it is my responsibility to vet the songs we sing for biblical correctness and appropriateness. I ask myself, “what does this song teach? Is it based on biblical truths or scripture?  Does it support the pastor’s sermon and edify the congregation?”

A song like Happy, while it might be fun and make someone feel good, has none of the benchmarks of a song I would include in a Christian worship service.

It seems many churches have lost sight of the importance of corporate worship. We are called to be holy, to be set aside. Does bringing secular music into the sanctuary draw us closer to God? Sure, it might bring some people through the doors, but it does nothing to further their walk with Christ.  It makes it harder to tell the difference between the church and the world.

I personally think the church should be taking its music into the world.  This includes contemporary Christian, as well as country, folk, blues and  bluegrass gospel, spirituals, and traditional hymns.  God created music for His people to worship Him. The world has twisted it around and uses music to its own ends and purposes, often to worship the music makers. Isn’t it time for the Christians to take back the music? Think about it.


10 Replies to “Music in the Church – Are You Happy?”

  1. So do we throw Paul using Greek poets out of Acts 17?
    IS church merely about worshiping God? Or is it about outreaching? If it is about outreaching, then using culturally relevant music / poetry / TV / movies to connect with people I believe can be helpful. Of course, it needs to move from there to sharing Jesus.

    1. Karmann Powell says: Reply

      Nate, thanks for reading the article and taking the time to comment. With all due respect, I beg to differ with you about the purpose of the church. It is about worship, reflection, renewal and teaching. In my opinion, outreach should not be the main focus of the service. Why not draw people in by being who we are in Christ, instead of borrowing from the world? In Acts 17, Paul quotes the Greek poets to show that the poets had an inkling of the point he was making. Paul didn’t adopt the Greek culture to teach them about Christ. Instead, he showed them where their own culture supported what he was saying about God. There’s a big difference. I’m not saying to ignore the culture. I’m saying that we, as Christians and as the Church, should be influencing the culture.

      At the risk of sounding self-serving, here’s a quick story: We were playing at a coffee shop one night. I wanted to sing the Christmas classic, “Santa Baby”. It didn’t feel quite right to me. When I mentioned it to Joe Stolpa, who plays lead guitar with me, he said, “I’d rather not play that. It’s not honoring to the Lord or Christmas.” He confirmed what I was thinking. I’m a worship leader in the church. The guys who play with me are also on worship teams or lead worship. Even when we’re playing a secular venue, we’re aware that we are representing Christ. We’re careful about the types of songs we pick to perform. Later, I rewrote “Santa Baby”, making it a parody of the original. It turns the song around and embraces the Christian origins of Christmas, while having some fun, too. Our band, Karmann and Kompany, released the song in this edition of The Relevant Christian. It’s an example of turning the influence around. Here’s the link to the article, which is linked to the song:

      Thanks again!

      1. While I respect that some people feel that church is merely about worship, I wonder what you think of the Paul’s writing in 1 Cor 14. v23 particularly talks about unbelievers being present. If it is merely about worship and not outreach, why are the unbelievers there?
        The early church adopted a practice of having ‘communion’ (or whatever we want to call it) as a close worship thing, and other parts of the service as ‘open’.

        1. Karmann Powell says: Reply

          Nate, context is important. If you look at the verses directly before and after 1 Cor. 14:23, Paul is not talking about having church be an outreach. He is talking about the church speaking in tongues. Below is from the NIV.

          . 22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

          The emphasis is mine. Paul is saying true worship will have an effect on the unbeliever who is present. He doesn’t say to change the service to cater to the unbeliever that is present. In fact, in verse 25, he says just the opposite.

          As for communion, I’m not aware where it scripture it says the church cannot take communion in front of non-believers.

          Thanks for continuing the conversation. Whether we agree, disagree, or agree to disagree, keep your eyes upon Jesus. THAT is the purpose of church, life and everything.

          1. Karmann Powell says:

            Opps. The sentence should read:

            As for communion, I’m not aware where in scripture is says…….Sorry. Trying to type with a dog on my lap.

  2. I can’t think of a more moving experience than the one when the music is sooo moving and supports the message to come. It is preparing each member of the congregation to recieve and draw closer to the Father. I call that Worship and wouldn’t change a thing.Oh, and by the way, I am a baby in Christ and was drawn in by this practice.

    1. Karmann Powell says: Reply

      Amen. 🙂

  3. Karmann, you are right on with this one and I appreciate your boldness in sharing this growing concern. Apparently a church is nothing these days without a fully entertaining worship team. People seem to be flocking to churches where they will be entertained rather than being there to worship and praise the Lord. And sadly, this is becoming more and more common everyday…

  4. The last two churches I attended have a habit of playing a “secular” song before the worship starts, so on the way in I heard strains of a popular song being played…..I get enough of the world as it is, so when I walk into church, I want to be greeted with music that lifts and glorifies the Lord, not the popular songs of top 40. There definitely needs to be a distinction for me. We don’t need to bring the world into the church, we need to bring the church out to the world…..and whoever walks in out of the world needs to be ministered to and needs to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. As in everything, we need to look to the Bible to see what it has to say……..when I read the Psalms, I see songs that magnify the Lord and His presence. Great post here!

    1. Karmann Powell says: Reply

      Well said, Lori. That gets an AMEN!

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