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Secular “worship” songs

July 23rd, 2012 | Posted by jamie in Secular Worship | Songs

I’m not always so excited about worship songs. I think they often lack a certain something. Like substance.

I know it’s tough to write worship songs. I get it. People like me rag on them. But there’s become such a formula for worship songs that they’ve kind of lost their luster.

Which is why I get excited when I discover a secular song that seems to have spiritual undertones. A song that makes me feel something inside. A song where I’m not just going through the motions of verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.

Many months ago, I wrote a post about Mumford and Sons and how their music isn’t Christian, but often worshipful. A reader commented that I should do a post about secular songs that inadvertently speak of God’s grace. I thought it was a great idea, and accepted the challenge.

Sort of. I’ve put it off for months because I wasn’t sure where to start with it or how to handle it. Someone else mentioned that they would love to see a list of “secular” songs that have Christian undertones and might be suitable for worship. Again, great idea, but not real sure how to start.

So here’s what I’d like to do. I’m going to share some of these secular songs, and what “spiritual” message I get out of them. And I’d like you to help. Please share a non-worship song that is worshipful to you. Share in the comments, or shoot me a private message through the contact page.

These songs may not be suitable for Sunday morning corporate worship, but I find it so important to find music that connects on a deeper level. Music that speaks to me in a unique way.

I’d like to start with the first suggestion from a reader; the song Falling Slowly, from the film Once.

Falling Slowly

I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can’t react
And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ll make it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice

You’ve made it now
Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing it loud

First off, I just love the melody of this song. It’s singable, catchy, and passionate. It’s the kind of melody that makes me want to grab my hairbrush off my dresser and wail right along.

Second, the words. They make me think. I appreciate a song whose meaning isn’t totally surface value. I really had to take time to think about these words.

I think the spiritual message I get out of it is that there is always hope, no matter how hopeless a situation. The line in the chorus, “Take this sinking boat and point it home,” makes me think of a God whose grace is never ending. Always time for a second chance.

What do you get out of this song? Anything? Nothing? What song would you like to see discussed?

Check out the list I’ve compiled of secular worship songs.ย 

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  • I couldn’t listen, but I find many songs to be worshipful despite the fact they aren’t explicitly meant for that. In fact, I think singing and music is a worshipful experience, period. It just mighg be we’re worshipping the Lord or something else.

    • Was there a problem with the video, or were you just unable to listen because of where you were?

      • Yeah, couldn’t listen in the cafeteria at work.

        • That probably wouldn’t go over well. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yeah, at work in the cafeteria made if difficult.

  • Mark Allman

    A secular song that I have trouble with because people make it out to be such a song christian statement and that is Butterfly Kisses. I know I will have knives thrown at me for saying so but I have heard this sung in church. I don’t get it except the guy keeps saying that he must have done something right. Kind of always turned me off as egotistical but still it shows up as a “christian secular song”. What do you think Jamie. Another post for you ” secular songs we think make great christian songs but don’t really have a good message”.

    I now prepare for those knives from all those Butterfly Kisses fans!

    • I’m with you on that one. Not a huge fan of that song either. I thought it had a sweet sentiment when I first heard it, but now I’m kind of over it. I agree; it’s a Christian secular song. It’s appropriate for a wedding perhaps, but I can’t understand how it fits into church.

  • claudia

    beautiful! sounds recognizable to me, though I don’t remember seeing the movie. this strikes me as VERY worshipful……and would be one of those songs I might be listening to with John as we garden…..and suddenly find myself praying. that happened recently with a Jim Croce song, too.

  • We sang “Firework” by Katy Perry at the student worship service a few years back. Of course, there was a lot of drama around it. But it happened.


    • I can see how that might work for youth and students. The words (though I haven’t read them carefully) are encouraging.

  • Jamie, have you ever composed your own music, or know someone at your church with a talent for lyrical/musical composition? It might be worth a shot! my wife was in Senegal (west Africa) a couple of years ago, and she was kind of sad that the only worship songs the churches in Senegal sang were French-language versions of classic European hymns. There’s nothing wrong with hymns, but it was obviously not their music – not an outpouring from their hearts in their own native language. I wonder if there are microcosms of that in local churches?

    I don’t think our church bands necessarily need to restrict themselves to music composed by Hillsong and Chris Tomlin any more than pastors need to restrict their teaching to sermons preached by Billy Graham. Nobody needs a degree from Julliard to be able to compose and write heartfelt worship music. Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

    Also, to answer your last question – I LOVE Owl City’s (!!!) version of “In Christ Alone”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ipl-rLRxOrs&feature=related

    • Josh, thanks so much for reading and commenting. Sorry I’m just now responding. I just saw your comment.

      To answer your first question, I just recently started writing some songs, and my first song was a worship song. I blogged about it. http://rebootingworship.com/2012/03/you-are/
      I hope to write a few more worship songs, so we’ll see what happens.

      Thanks for the song suggestion. Listening to it now. I recognize it, but never read the lyrics. Cool song!

  • secular songs we have used in worship, beer with jesus, all you need is love, lean on me, One Tin soldier, Let it be, amazing grace to sweet home alabama tune, among others

    • I heard Beer with Jesus for the first time recently and it made me smile.

  • image of the invisible… thrice. enough said.

    • Travis Francis

      Thrice is a band of Christians. The lead singer himself is a worship pastor.

  • Terry Johnson

    Am I missing something…but shouldn’t we be focusing on Jesus the work He has done on the cross, shedding His precious blood to wash away our sins??? John 14:6 comes to mind when I think of the importance of who Jesus is and why I worship Him. There is no other name given to men by which we must be saved….the name of Jesus is precious.

    • I appreciate your comment. Yes, we should focus on Jesus and the cross. Sometimes I feel that much of musical worship doesn’t focus on this… it seems more focused on the show.

      I am learning to worship God in all things. I am trying to see Jesus in every aspect of my life, and sometimes that is through songs that aren’t specifically designed to worship Him.

      Thank you for the reminder of what worship needs to be about. Sometimes I get so caught up in my junk that I forget that.

      • Terry Johnson

        Jamie I’m a Pastor of a small church…(Calvary Chapel Westwood) way up in the mountains of Northern Calif. I like your comment that “sometimes I get so caught up…..” I think that is one of the attacks of the enemy to get our eyes of our Lord. I find it a day by day ordeal, but a joyful one as I walk with Jesus. God Bless and I look forward to seeing what the Lord does through the gift you have.

        • Thank you for your prayers, and for reading.

  • B Lidds

    I see this post is over a year old, but I felt led to comment. I’m currently in the Philippines working on the relief effort here and one of the folks I’m working with found an amazing cover of 10,000 Reasons that is a jazz acoustic. I simply couldn’t get the version out of my head. It’s so worshipful and so I began looking at similar artists, scouring for covers of songs that had the same feel. Jokingly I kept saying that this trip needed more Phil Collins… then when listening to an acoustic cover of “In the Air Tonight,” I just couldn’t get the image of Peter sitting on this boat…. the drums start and there’s this ominous fog on the water, he starts singing to himself… he knows something is happening, something supernatural. He is singing about his future denial of Christ, his creeping doubt…

    I have heard this song a kajillion times and never, not once have I thought about it in a spiritual way, but as soon as I looked at it through a Jesus focused lens, I found new meaning. If you look at the lyrics from Peter’s standpoint, there was always some doubt (he jumps out of the boat and begins to sink; he denies Christ 3 times). I think this song is a real reminder that our actions betray us in our walk with Christ. Phil Collins has stated over and over there’s no meaning to this song. He wrote it out of being alone after a marital breakup and playing around with a drum machine.

    However, I think sometimes God uses even the most unsuspecting people to convey something through music that even they don’t understand. I really liked this post as well because the music in Once can be interpreted in so many ways. Obviously there is some discernment that needs to be made, but overall, I’ve been to several worship services where secular music has been used to praise God. I just wanted to express how much I appreciated that other people see this as well.

    • Thanks so much for sharing. I love your thought that God can use people in ways that even they aren’t aware of.

      Good luck in your work in the Phillippines!