A fellow Christian recently asked me this question.   His worry is rewriting worldly music and performing it in church.  It can remind the church of those songs real words and or meanings and the worldliness of the artist who originally wrote them. Not to mention music rights issues which I don’t know how they apply to worship music. Here is the specific question.                     “I would love some biblical input on this: Rewriting well known songs from the world and singing them for church service. Does an artist’s actions/what they “symbolize”(Lady Gaga,Rhianna or Nicki Minaj) make using their music “unclean” or not beneficial for church? We’ve done songs by “worldly” artists for special events (A&E conference,Art&Soul,etc), but is worship service different from a biblical standpoint?  Thoughts?


This is clearly a gray area, and should be treated that way. Technically, a set of notes on a music scale cannot be “unclean.” A set of syllables from our mouth cannot be unclean. It is the context. A curse word in one language is a word of praise in another. It is the same with music. The notes are not unclean. It is the hearts and minds of the hearer which might make a set of notes set off unclean thoughts.

There is admonition in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 for how we, as Christians, should treat those with “weaker consciences” on such issues as whether using the melody of a worldly song is a stumbling block. I believe that, if you read these passages, it is better to be overly careful than to be cavalier about such things. Therefore, if you or someone else is going to use an adaptation of a very worldly song in a Christian setting, I advise you get some advice from a couple of people, particularly ones a bit older and more experienced. One can be insufficiently sensitive and one can be legalistic. There is not hard and fast answer, so you need to learn to steer a middle road on this. The decision might depend on the generation of the hearer, so a broader audience (such as Sunday AM) should call for more caution. Perhaps you can ask yourself, “Am I more likely to be a bit on the legalistic side, or am I more likely to be a “whatever” person?” This could help you to decide in which direction you ought to move to find the middle path between legalistic and not sufficiently sensitive to the consciences of others.

As to Sunday vs a devotional, I do not see a big difference there. Any worship service is a worship service. The difference is that on Sunday AM, the audience is broader, so more sensitivity is needed. 

John Oakes

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