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Can popular music be used for praise time?

Bon Jovi silhouette
Bon Jovi silhouette

I spent a week with some friends a few years ago at their home in Michigan; I played with their awesome kids, ate their food, just relaxed. Good times. I visited a new church plant they had been working with. It was a good group; they were a small but vibrant congregation. They met in a local school and, as people entered, they promoted a disarming slogan—“No perfect people allowed.”

The ministers, congregation, and service were laid back, but competent. I remember an MC inviting visitors to get up in the middle of service to get a cup of coffee if they wanted one; I enjoyed trying that one out halfway through the service. The first few songs in the praise set were pretty well-known; you’ve likely heard them in your church. Then the band busted into a song that I started singing along to energetically for about a minute when it hit me that I knew this song, but not from my memory bank of Christian music. “Where do I know this from?” Then when I heard the worship leader hit the New Jersey rock-twang ‘day-hey-yay’, it hit me—this is Bon Jovi’s “Have a Nice Day”.

I busted out laughing. As I’ve tried processing this, I have two different thoughts.

One, I’m kind of old school. I grew up with hymns and praise choruses, way before Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and Hillsong professionalized the worship music scene. I’ve come to accept and appreciate it all. As long as the song magnifies God and His Son Jesus Christ with lyrics and thoughts reflecting the truth of Scripture, I’m good. It’s just that this song (which was on my iPod, by the way) didn’t really seem to explicitly do that.

But on the other hand, we have sermons, books, seminars, meditations; why not “wisdom songs”? Look at the song’s chorus:

Ooh, if there's one thing I hang onto
That gets me through the night
I ain't gonna do what I don't want to
I'm gonna live my life

Shining like a diamond, rolling with the dice
Standing on the ledge, show the wind how to fly
When the world gets in my face
I say, have a nice day
Have a nice day

Though the song makes no mention of Christ, its message inspires us to figure out what we believe, take responsibility for those beliefs, and live them out the best we can; and if the world doesn’t like it, not our problem. That is a message Scripture definitely communicates, though within a Christian context.

I’m not sure how frequently I would want to experience this approach or under what guidelines it could/should be practiced; but at the very least, it gives us a chance to understand music in general as a spiritual expression, and to a much greater degree than our vague categories of “spiritual and secular” would previously allow.

What are your thoughts? Does it help ease the unchurched into church culture or is it a gimmick? Does it help or hinder the church's mission? Could/should pop music be used for praise time?

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