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Gospel and Secular Music

Is There Grounds for Commonality?

Recently I found myself at an event and the playlist was a mixture of gospel music and secular music. It shocked me to see a crowd of people who were praising God with their hands lifted high one second and shaking their behinds the next. I couldn’t ignore the fact that this didn’t sit well with me. Not that I’m Sister Holy or anything because I too was gettin’ down in this ‘booty shaking’. However, having had some time to acknowledge the uneasy feeling I had. I asked myself this question: is there grounds for commonality between secular and gospel music?

For the sake of clarity and understanding I looked into both types of music. Gospel music, put simply serves to promote the gospel message. The word gospel is a translation from the Greek noun euangelion meaning “good news”. This good news is about Christ Jesus. He died to cleanse all humanity from their sinful nature and introduce them to a new life. Gospel music is therefore a selfless type of music. It shifts the focus from the individual and directs it totally to God. On the other hand, secularism is a term used to describe practices or behaviours not concerned with religious or spiritual matters. Secular music tends towards self: self-empowerment, self-belief, self-love and selfishness. It seems the two are worlds apart.

Effects of music and division in opinion

Music is undoubtedly an important part of everyday life and it has the power to influence us. Christians and non-Christians alike are susceptible to the effects music has on emotions and behaviour. Whether we realise it or not!

With the rise of platforms like YouTube and Spotify, music has become easily accessible. Each song has an underlying theme which promotes some sort of message. Themes range from positivity and motivation to drug use and murder.

Having experienced a Christian upbringing, a healthy choice of music was encouraged. My exposure to many Christian circles shows me that there is an obvious division in opinion. Some believe that total abstinence from secular music is the most profitable. However, others believe in listening to both Christian and secular music. Provided this is done with an air of caution. Surprisingly, within gospel music itself, further division arises when it comes to genres such as hip-hop and rock and whether these musical styles can still be classed as “proper” Gospel music.

Is this topic important and should it be given much thought?

Yes and yes! Recently, there have been some musical collaborations between gospel and secular artists, namely, Tasha Cobbs featuring Nicki Minaj, Lecrae featuring Ty Dollar Sign. The list goes on and this trend is worrying, if only from a perspective based on the following points.

There are several points to consider:

The intention of the artist for their music.

Some people argue that these collaborations bridge the gap between the secular and Christian audiences. It is true that this could allow non-Christians to hear the gospel message with the end goal of salvation. This is supported by a statement Tasha Cobbs made in an interview with Essence magazine defending her collaboration with Nicki Minaj. She stated that her assignment for the song was to target a particular audience who actually responded positively saying “This is the first time I’ve ever felt God”. It is amazing to see lives touched for the glory of God but one prays that this leads to true salvation which can only come through the repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ.

The impact on the featured artists.

Having been involved in the creative process, having heard the testimonies of the artist and been given the opportunity to understand the gospel message, should it not scare us when we see little or no change in their own lives? It can be misleading when the song is so filled with emotion. The issue is that many can proclaim with their lips that they love God but their hearts i.e. their actions say the opposite.

The impact on the Christian audience.

Jesus says “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). The reality is that for many new believers and old believers alike, music can be a stumbling block. For the new converts it may blur the line between their old nature and new found identity in Christ. We are called to be renewed in our thinking and not conformed to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2); mixing secular and gospel artists could look like conforming to the ways of the world. A friend of mine admitted that listening to certain artists was an open door to a lifestyle she was so desperately trying to shut out.

Who is all this for?

The Bible says so whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is not just an instruction but also a warning against the deceitful heart of man which can lead people astray under the guise of doing seemingly good works.

“For there is no respect of persons with God.” Romans 2:11 (KJV)

If God states that people will only be saved through Jesus Christ then that is the only they will be saved. Gospel music and secular music will not together accomplish the work of God to a much greater extent than the gospel itself otherwise God would have promoted it. Let’s not get it twisted.

-NS

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