I have a deeply theological rule of thumb when it comes to measuring whether or not the lyrics in a corporate worship song violates the regulative principle: If I can insert my wife's name, "Lisa," in the place of "Jesus" without losing much in terms of clarity and meaning, then it probably violates the regulative principle. This illustrates the beauty and simplicity of having Scripture as the irreducible authority in determining the elements used in corporate worship. In Reformed worship traditions, Scripture sets the boundaries for the elements of worship as well as the tunes and texts that are sung to the one true and living God.
However, there are some evangelical voices who would argue precisely the opposite: if you can sing it to the culture and insert "Jesus" in the place of "my girlfriend," then, hey, why should the devil have all the good music?
So, assuming for a moment the validity of this "pop music normative principle," let us examine a few pop/rock songs that just might make the cut for worship driven by such a view. I realize many of these are 80s songs, but what would one expect from the Reagan years? (The astute reader will soon realize that the author of this "article" grew up during the era of parachute pants and torn sweatshirts.)
So you think pop/rock music can't be sung to the glory of God? Think again.
Here they are, "repackaged worship songs," (RWS) coming soon to a mega-church near you:
--"Jesus is Just All Right With Me" (Doobie Brothers). That’ll preach.
--"Jesus Just Left Chicago" (ZZ Top). An ode to mainline Protestantism.
--"Jesus, He Knows Me" (Genesis). Dedicated to the sons of Sceva.
--"Stairway to Heaven" (Led Zeppelin). C’mon, that one’s obvious.
--"God is Watching Us" (Bette Midler). On ode to Deism, but it would take an ounce of theological discernment to make such a determination, thus it would likely work for much RWS worship.
--"Celebrate" (Kool and the Gang): For our charismatic brethren and sistren.
--"I’m So Excited" (Pointer Sisters): Another one for the charismatically-minded.
--"I’m High On You" (Survivor): Ditto.
--"I Want a New Drug" (Huey Lewis): Ditto. Rumored to be a fave of the "Holy Ghost Bartender" Rodney Howard Brown.
--"In the Air Tonight" (Phil Collins): Particularly useful in the Christian context because Phil Collins says "Oh Lord" a couple of times during this song.
--"Ya Gotta Have Faith" (George Michael): Might cause an End of the Spear-type of conundrum for the more discerning RWS lover since Michael is gay, but, oh, what the heck, we’re the King’s kids and we can claim it all, right?
--"Free Ride" (Edgar Winter Group). A no-brainer.
--"Wheel in the Sky" (Journey). See "God is Watching Us."
--"Family Man" (Hall and Oates). A parable on the Seventh Commandment.
--"Don’t Stop Believing" (Journey). An Arminian’s intercession.
--"Everything I Do, I Do it For You" (Bryan Adams). An ode to 1 Cor. 10:31.
--"The Power of Love" (Huey Lewis). An ode to 1 Cor. 13.
_"I Wanna Know What Love Is" (Foreigner). This one even includes a gospel choir singing in the background.
--"Jesus Is Love" (Commodores). Lionel Richie sings the Gospel.
--"Rapture" (Blondie). Inexplicably missing from the Left Behind soundtrack.
--"End of the World As We Know It" (REM). Inexplicably missing from the Left Behind soundtrack.
--"Papa Don’t Preach" (Madonna). That venerable egalitarian anthem.
--"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (Charlie Daniels). For those who still hold to a ransom-to-Satan theory of the atonement.
--"Keep Your Hands to Yourself" (Georgia Satellites) A perfect anthem for a "True Love Waits" rally. Okay, maybe not.
--"Lost in Your Eyes" (Debbie Gibson). Might make the men in your congregation squirm as so many explicitly Christian worship songs do already. If the men in your congregation do not squirm, be worried...very worried.
--"Rockin’ the Paradise" (Styx). From the creation/redemption-themed album "Paradise Theatre."
--"Here I Am, the One that You Love" (Air Supply). Repugnantly schmaltzy yes, but that’s beside the point. Surely an astute music minister would be quick to point out that John was the disciple called "the one whom Jesus loved."
--"I’m So Lost Without You" (Air Supply). See "Here I Am…"
--"Happy, Shiny People" (REM). Almost as theologically sound as "Shine Jesus Shine."
--"C’mon Get Happy" (Partridge Family). Replace the partridge with a dove and you’re all set.
--"I Can’t Fight This Feeling" (REO Speedwagon). Don’t fight it…just let go…surrender.
--"Open Arms" (Journey). Could easily replace "Just As I Am" as an altar call anthem.
--"Be Good To Yourself" (Journey). Reportedly Joel Osteen’s favorite Journey song.