Reclaimed Goods: Redeeming Culture for Worship

Finding ways of connecting Scripture and culture in worship.

Can pop culture be redeemed for Christian purposes? This is a question often asked by worship leaders.

Recently I had a chance to watch the movie “The Greatest Showman” with my family in part because its music was the basis of the 5-day camp that my daughter attended this past summer. Organized by The District, a local Christian recording studio in Fort McMurray, Alberta, camp activities included vocal training and other performance practices in the worship setting and they chose several songs from this film for demonstration purposes.

The choice of the musical repertoire at the camp exemplified how popular songs in the contemporary culture may be reclaimed, or redeemed, for God’s kingdom. For example: “This is Me” became a song about the inclusion of the lowest and weakest within the Kingdom of God; “for we are glorious . . .” says the song. “From Now On” became the call to respond to the truth that God has been revealing to us—whether for salvation or for following God’s call to be a worship leader (bear in mind it was a worship and arts camp). “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). “A Million Dreams” was the anthem of the camping week. “A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make . . .”; this became a call to service.

I watched as a group of Christians from at least six denominations began applying the concepts of sin, salvation, and service—the language used in the Heidelberg Catechism—but without realizing it. By creating a conversation that included scripture and culture, they were teaching children how to see God in “every square inch.” It made me wonder what else I could reclaim.

I began looking at songs like “Fix You” by Coldplay and used it as a call to confession. “Scared” by The Tragically Hip became a background song of lament in one worship service. Even songs like “Life’s a Happy Song” speaks about how we can have “the whole wide world in the palm of (my) hand” from “The Muppet Movie.” This became a children’s message and ended with the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” making the point that culture may tell us something, but we can know what is actually true through God’s word.

Not every song we discover in a movie should find its way into church, nor should every Sunday be filled with these songs. I believe in finding ways of connecting Scripture and culture in worship and I saw that clearly in this summer camp. Now, when my daughter walks around the house humming a secular tune, or when she sits in the front room singing these now reclaimed songs, I think about what else we can reclaim, in Jesus’ name.

Josh Friend and his wife, Tiffany, have four children. He is the lead pastor of Evergreen Community CRC in Fort McMurray, Alberta. He has been involved in worship leading, seminars, musical production and recording, and various media including The Bridge, 91.1 FM, a local radio station in Fort McMurray.