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Secular Music


By Ryan McLouth

Friends, I am so happy to be here for the third installment of Music Matters! Things are going so well for music ministry this year at Central Methodist University, and I hope things are great in your congregation as well. For this month, I would like to continue discussing some of the topics that I opened in the November issue. Last month, we talked about selecting appropriate music for our Methodist church services. My purpose of that article was that we must choose our selections based on what would move our congregation members and guests to be worshipful, uplifted in spirit, and glorify God. Depending on who is in attendance, this may require us to facilitate traditional music, contemporary Christian music, or even secular music. This month, let’s talk about secular music.
As a Christian, I must admit that the first time that I heard secular music in a church service I was very much caught off guard. Experiencing this music in a church service struck me as something of a paradox. Until this point in my life, I had always thought of secular music as something that had little to do with God. Most selections from the genre in my experience were riddled with topics of sex, substance abuse, and money. How could this be connected to the divine? The experience made me stop and think to say the least.
After being a part of secular music a few times in church, and realizing the specifics of the songs that I had witnessed, I began to understand. Secular selections seemed to move certain members and guests more than traditional or contemporary Christian music did. It also seemed that the services I experienced secular music in were geared more towards guests than what I was used to. This led me to believe that secular music could be purposed in a way that could welcome certain visitors to our faith more easily than our contemporary or traditional Christian songs could.
Now that I am older and have been serving on worship teams for some time, I realize that carefully chosen secular songs can create a welcoming space for most people. To me, this rationale can be recognized in the Methodist mission which states, “God’s grace is active everywhere at all times.” In trusting this grace, I believe that blending secular music with our contemporary and traditional Christian styles can be used to reach people in a meaningful and authentic way. This is very evident in my line of work, which involves college students and youth every single day.
One of the most important components of using secular music in church services is the spiritual framework that we provide for the selection. I firmly believe that any time we re-purpose popular music in church, we must remember to frame our choices and purposes so that our participants may allow their hearts to be moved by the Holy Spirit. We must also always remember our audience. Let us always consider the choices most appropriate for the individuals that we plan to lead.
I would like to thank you once again for opening your hearts to my thoughts on worship music and leadership. I hope this information was helpful to you, and if you ever have questions, please contact me at any time. I would like to be a resource to you or your congregation, and I am happy to address inquiries. Remember, if you know a young person interested in worship leadership, we would love to speak with them at Central Methodist University. I can be reached by email at, or by phone at 660-651-9965. Until next time, keep playing and singing!