Four Reasons Christians Should Listen to Secular Music

More and more, I’m meeting Christians that know less and less about secular music. Whether it’s because it’s “the devil’s music” or because they simply don’t enjoy it, secular music is practically a foreign language to far too many Christians, in my opinion. Here are four reasons why Christians should listen to secular music:

  1. It expresses the values of the current culture you live in. For the Christian, music is one means of worshipping God. For the non-Christian, music is no different. Hip-Hop, Rock ‘n Roll, Country and Rap artists alike often sing about what they love (or worship). Streaming on Pandora are countless artists expressing their joy in and longings for love, sex, meaning, fame and fortune. Music has also often been used as a means of expressing protest and outrage in regards to a timely issue. Albums like Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Green Day’s American Idiot are two notable records among many others that were filled with far more than catchy tunes; both albums voiced their generation’s dissatisfaction and desire for change amongst their government. By listening to secular music, we are able to gain an understanding of what our current culture worships and longs for.
  2. It shapes the values of the current culture you live in. Personally, corporate worship is a time for me to reflect on and respond to the Truth of Who God is, what He has done, what He is currently doing, and what He will do. Through the powerful means of beautiful, catchy music and rich, heart-felt lyrics, my thinking becomes transformed into the mind of Christ and begins overflowing in heart-engaging worship. For the non-Christian, music can have a similar power. Music not only expresses the values of culture but also has the power to shape culture. Just like meditating and reflecting on God’s Word transforms a Christian’s thinking, so can secular music for the non-Christian. 
  3. It’s a means to relate to non-Christians. Many Christians I know don’t want to listen to pop music because it’s pointless, dirty, cheap, etc. I’m not saying buy every record that a non-Christian artist releases and play them on repeat. I am, however, saying we should see the songs of our culture not as simply pop music but as songs of worship. By listening to the songs and reading the lyrics of our culture’s songs, we begin understanding the values of the current culture we live in. This then will allow us to better be able to engage the thinking of those around us with the gospel. Jesus and Paul both engaged the culture of their day; so should we.
  4. Music is just shy of being a universal language. There are nearly 7,000 languages being spoken at this point in human history. Though language differences place barriers between numerous cultures and people-groups, music is one means that unites countless. Since music has such a powerful means of transcending and influencing culture, we must not ignore it; we must engage it with the gospel.

For similar content in regards to Christians living in and engaging with a non-Christian culture, check out the recent post Jesus at the Movies.

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11 thoughts on “Four Reasons Christians Should Listen to Secular Music

  1. I don’t think Christians should be encouraged to listen to secular music…secular music has nothing to do with true worship; we cannot serve two masters…there always has to be a distinction between what’s profane and what is holy. Ephesians 5:19
    Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,(NIV)

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, bro! I would say that secular music does have to do with worship. Non-Christians worship just as much as Christians worship. It is not the action of worship that is different but the object of worship. Christians worship God, non-Christians worship idols. My intent in the post is point out that we as followers of Christ are called engage non-Christian culture for the sake of witnessing to a non-christian world. I’m not saying that we should listen to secular music for the purpose of joy, first and foremost, but for the sake of understanding and engaging with non-Christians.

  2. Tyler,

    Good points for why we should do it missionary thinking, as we seek to engage our culture with the gospel (Acts 17, 1 Corinthians 9, John 1:14).

    I think it is also good to note, that the sacred and secular divide isn’t necessarily God’s original intention. With God, all of life is sacred (Genesis 1-2, 1 Corinthians 10). This means, that a Christian teacher, barista, business man, or artist doesn’t necessarily have to run a “religious business” etc. However, because of the grace and redemption of Jesus in all of life, we can live out the implications of the gospel in our everyday lives. I say this in short, that “secular music” can actually reflect God. All gifts are from God (James 1:17) common grace logic. We are created by a Creative Creator, who calls us to image him. Non-Christians can do this as well, though tainted by sin. If it is good quality, creative, etc it can actually be attributed to God’s common grace and beauty in all of life. Just a throughout, and something to add.

  3. I cant help but think how far off u are on this subject and a couple others. I follow u on twitter and can appreciate most things u put out there but I dont need to listen to secular songs about sex, drugs, lust to reach the world. I agree we need to get out of our christian boxes to reach this world for christ, but christ didnt have to commit adultery to save the adulterer. It is best to abstain from the ungodly. Touch not the unclean thing, come out be separate. Christ did not partisipate in ungodly things. If we do what the ungodly do then why would someone want to be saved. I have seen too many teens taste the ungodly then become addicted to sin and cannot control it. Again I agree we need to get out of our comfort zones, and what we did 50yrs ago may be different, but we should stillstay away from the thing that lead to sin. We teach kids not to play with matches because it can cause a greater fire. Same here. Thanks for your time. Keep preaching the gospel!
    @jwlautenbach

    1. Thanks for the feedback, bro! I think you’re missing my point and misquoting me. I did not say that Christians are to find joy in ungodly things (not that all secular music is ungodly). My point was for Christians to not fear so much that which is “non-Christian” that they are isolated and removed from the heart and mind of non-Christian culture. Numerous times, Jesus and Paul quoted the non-Christian “rockstars” of their day in messages and then showed how their thinking is flawed and missing Jesus. That, too, is now our responsibility as ambassadors of Christ.

      Also, I would add that although Jesus did not have to commit adultery in order for Him to reach the adulterer, He did however get really close with them along with other sinners. He went to parties and hung out at the equivalent of 1st century bars/clubs but still did not sin. This all goes back to the doctrine of incarnation: in order for Jesus to reach a certain group of people (humans), He became like them in physical and cultural appearance. This allowed Him to identify with us and us with Him.

      Lastly, the match analogy I would argue is flawed because at some point the kids grow up and have to responsibly use the matches whether it’s to light a candle for light or build a fire, etc. The same goes for Christians engaging in our non-Christain world. Yes, some may be too spiritually weak for a temporary period of time but at some point Christians will need to grow up spiritually and responsibly engage secular culture for the sake of advancing the gospel. Jesus did it. Paul did it. So should we.

      Thanks bro and love you, man!

  4. I think the definition of secular music is pretty broad. Being a child of the 70’s, 80’s and more of a music fan from about the 40’s to the early 90’s or so I can find a lot of truth and can see a lot of people seeking God through their music and lyrics but I come from the opposite side of the spectrum I suppose and I’m not very fond of non-secular music.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thought Andy! I’m very similar in that I don’t enjoy too much Christian music for a few reasons: 1) much of it stylistically lacking, 2) it can be corny and too self-centered at times, 3) sound-wise, they’re usually ten-to-twenty years behind contemporary music, and 4) I don’t think Christian music should be considered its own genre because it shouldn’t be a distinct sound. Christians should be free to express themselves in every genre. I do, however, appreciate music coming out of Mars Hill Church (Citizens, Dustin Kensrue, King’s Kaleidoscope, Ghost Ship, etc) as well artists like Jon Foreman, Lecrae, and Rend Collective.

      1. Oddly enough Tyler and I suppose this sounds a bit strange but I find christian music a bit too worshipful to me. I know it should be, I get it, I love God and worship Him everyday. But, I need to identify musically and lyrically with my own walk which hasn’t been easy at times. For example give a listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan and some of his material off his In Step album. He was a born again christian, which many people don’t know. Tightrope and Wall of Denial and songs that rock a bit on the hard side but the speak of his journey back to God. That’s real to me. Jonny Lang, incredible bluesman and guitarist, made a bit of a switch to gospel themed music and did a great cover of Edgar Winters Dying to Live and then wrote Only A Man which is just gorgeous and very personal. I’d link them on Youtube but let the listener decide I guess. Check them out. It’s pretty good stuff.

        1. I love Jonny Lang! My family and I go and see him live whenever we get the chance. Awesome to hear him use his incredible talent and raw passion to proclaim the glory of God now!

  5. I don’t even like listening to current “Christian” music. So much of the lyrics have more pronouns like me and I than of He, His or Him that I might as well listen to secular music.

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