Ed Stetzer of Lifeway has seven helpful tests to filter through song selections for worship, five of which are cultural rather than theological.
The third (Association test) has this anecdote:
I was…speaking to a group of pastors, some of whom were Jamaican. I was challenging them to consider that there is no such thing as Christian music, only Christian lyrics.
I asked if God could use jazz; they said yes. I asked if God could use country/western, they said yes. I asked a few others; then I asked if God could use reggae. They were shocked and clearly expressed that it was not appropriate. Reggae music was about drugs and there would be no reason to sing about drugs in church. They had a point.
I then asked if it would be OK to use reggae music in my church where we have no concept of the drug connection. They agreed. The music was not the problem, the association was.
The key question for the association test is this, “What does the music bring to mind in the heart of the worshipper?” Note: not what does it inspire in my heart– but what does it inspire in the heart of the worshipper.
The history of church music suggests that every generation has its own music. Today, many older Christians reject the contemporary music of the younger believers, while the younger don’t understand or use the music of past generations…
God can use ANY form of music. God has no musical style or preference. Therefore, with the exception of the message and purpose test, the only tests that we have provided are cultural.
The question is asked, “What impact does this music have on the culture via association, memory, emotions, understanding, and music?” These are not easy questions–but they are essential.
Read the entire post here.