The Importance of a Worldly Christian Part 1

I often receive messages, emails, etc. asking questions similar to this message that recently came my way via facebook. I’ve decided, with permission of the sender, to respond to his inquiry in my blog, because I think many people would find my response helpful. Plus it may save me time from responding to many similar questions:


This question is from Richard:


“I was just wondering if you have any convictions/ thoughts about playing music for a living as a Christian? When I first heard of your music I noticed you had two myspace accounts set up… it seemed like it was to divide the worship type songs from the others. Have you ever struggled, wondering if you should be fully devoted to worship music and play with the goal of ministering every time? I assume you do play with the goal of ministering every time, though. 

“I haven’t really followed your tours fully, but do you play in bars/clubs or do you just do conferences and go around to churches? I’m just asking because I’ve always had on my mind the idea of being a musician or some kind of artist… but there always seems to be a conflict of where the purpose would be. Like, would it be for my own gratification or for God’s glory. I just think of bands like Switchfoot.. and I think The Fray is like this… they steer away from being considered “Christian” which is fine by me and they kind of just go on like any other rock band with this hidden message that most people know is a Christian message anyway. The conflict there is being a “friend with the world.” John said we can’t have a love for the world and a love for God… I think he meant in terms of being accepted by the world and being in common. I just see a lot of bands that claim to being playing out of faith and they have acceptance with the world and it just doesn’t align to me.”

“I guess (I’m) just asking if you can be out in the world using your gift without being overtaken and trying to cater to the wrong audience? I like a lot of the bands you have mentioned under your favorite music… my morning jacket is amazing, but I’ve steered away from listening to them… when I listen to them, I can’t totally just sit and enjoy it because the whole time I just think about being in there place.. and I think I covet a thought. I also just feel like they are fully a “friend of this world” and totally lost and it makes me sad in the end.”


Here is my response:


Thanks for inquiring Richard. I think I understand your conflict. I’ll do my best to answer your question to the best of my ability. These things are not always as black and white as we’d like them to be, but here is my take on the issue:

First of all I’d have to say: yes I have convictions. My conviction is that I MUST play in the world as well as in the church. If Christianity only works in church buildings, then it doesn’t work.

If you are a Christian, everything you do is “ministry”. Everything you do is supposed to be “as unto the Lord”. Playing worship music in a church building is no greater calling than serving tables in a restaurant or playing music in a club. Music isn’t holier or less holy than any other profession.  Should a plumber feel bad for working on a house as opposed to a church building? And if he works on a church building should he not work on houses anymore?

Not only is it OK to serve in the world, Jesus actually commanded us to do it: “Go ye therefore into ALL THE WORLD…”. When John is telling us that we can’t love both God and the world he is saying that we shouldn’t be so attached to our things that we miss our opportunity to receive that which is greater. He goes on to outline specifically what he is talking about in 1 John 2:16 which is lust and pride. But to say that the Love of God isn’t in us if we want to do great things in the world can’t be an accurate interpretation of this passage. Otherwise, we have a pretty massive contradiction throughout the weight of scripture. John himself also said that God himself absolutely loves the world (John 3:16). So, if God loves the world and the love of God exists in us, then we must also love the world. 

I think the conflict you feel is more with a traditional mindset that often seems to communicate that anything not related to an institutional church activity isn’t a valid expression of the Kingdom of God. In my opinion this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. The New Testament church actually didn’t even have a word for “secular”. The idea of sacred and secular (which is called dualism) came from Greek philosophy that mixed with Christian thought when Constantine (the pagan emperor of Rome) made Christianity the official religion of the world (for political reasons). The Bible seems to say to me that any religious institution should only complement and assist us with our “secular” lives, but not become our lives.

As far as being a “friend of the world”. I would say look at the lives of 3 major leaders in the Bible:

Joseph had to dress like an Egyptian, wear make up, and shave his body (Jewish men of his day were not even supposed to shave their beards). He did all this to serve and be accepted by a wicked pagan ruler who considered himself to be a god (Pharaoh). Joseph had an enormous impact on the world because of this placement and because of his friendship with worldly people.  Joseph actually saved his entire family (the bloodline of Christ) from starvation during the 7 years of great famine. 

Look at the life of Daniel. He was called to be a political leader in a Pagan society. He had to be well versed in all of the Pagan mythology and literature of the day. Had he not, he wouldn’t have been able to be the force for change that he was among the most powerful men of his day.

Ester is very similar. But she actually concealed her beliefs until the proper time when she saved the Jewish race from extinction. 

All of these people required an audience with the world in order to be effective for the Kingdom of God. And I think the biggest mistake the church has made in these last decades has been to remove our brightest stars from their worldly platforms. We point the finger at the tastelessness and darkness of the world but we are the ones who have removed every grain of salt and ray of light from the places where they are needed the most. People criticize groups for “watering down their messages” but I think people don’t understand how many times a subtitle message can be more powerful than an obvious one. Jesus knew that. That’s why he often spoke in parables that even his disciples didn’t fully understand (john 6).  

As far as your motives go, here’s my advice: Don’t over evaluate your motives. Remember, it’s not about you.  It’s not about your motives. I think if you’re in the will of God at some point you won’t even know what your motives are, because you’re not focused on yourself. Just focus on doing what is good and let God deal with your heart.  Its Gods job to change you; it’s your job to change the world. I would say to focus on your job and let God do his.


I recommend you read a book called “Imagine” by Steve Turner and/or check out the teachings of Lance Wallnau.


  1. Tom said:

    That’s a really helpful response John to a question I have also wrestled with for a long time. Thanks for taking the time.

  2. Andy said:

    I thought you said with all your revelating you COULDN’T make sense of this gravity we’re in….made sense of that gravity…

  3. this is brilliant. permission to be free. thank you for writing this.

  4. Well said, John Mark! Good to see echoes of the topic from Something More here in print. Keep keepin’ it real!

  5. S said:

    Very well said and certainly brought clarity to some similar issues I have come across from time to time. Thank you! Keep running as you are doing well.

  6. S said:

    Thank you for clearing up some issues we all had to consider from one angle or another concerning our place as a Christian in the world.Well said – continue running – you are on the right path.

  7. Deidre said:

    What wisdom! Thank you for sharing.

  8. John Mark – This is probably one of the best “articles”/letter I’ve ever read. I hope they make you publish it in the journal. Ever since I came ‘back’ to Jesus, I’ve ‘loved’ the world…Guess part of it is because I was one ‘of them’ for a while. Jesus came to me where I was at, I didn’t go to Him first. So, I’ve always tried to do the same for the people I come in contact with….This made me cry. You did an incredible job.

  9. JD said:

    You and Crowder should hold a conference called: “Don’t be scared to live!”Dualism drives me nuts. Most people can’t see outside the combination of Greek philosophy and Christianity that we’ve made up. I always appreciate others attempting to clear that air on matters such as this.PS-Did DC*B really record one of your songs for their new album?

  10. Diana said:

    Hmm, I definitely needed to hear that. Awesome response!

  11. Arro said:

    Wow. The point of dualism was great. Did not know that.

  12. Lance Wallnau… haven’t heard that name since Grace Center days! Incredible job formulating these thoughts.

  13. Hey John:You made an error with the assertion of greek philosophy and christianity, especialy since it didn’t develope during the time of constantine. This didn’t happen till around the 13th century with st. thomas aquinas, and look again at constantine to see that he did not do it for only political reasons( seriously, take a good look). Also, there was never any asumption or teaching, that would point to this kind of idea of making a christian life an institution, at any point during the time period. Check out the marters of the time, st. Augustine, the evangelization of the Slavs, Ireland, and the germanic cultures. There was more evangilizm during the 4 to 8th century then there has ever been. Such ideas didn’t develope till the reformation with Luther and nationalism. If you want proof look at how the arts flurished in catholic communities and look at the art after the reformation. Quite a difference. You don’t have to like the Catholic Church, just don’t lie about the history to make a point. If you would like to talk more about this please shoot me an e-mail at I’m also aware that this sort of thing goes straight against your grain, and that you will probably dissmiss it, and use it to continue your point. But please don’t be afraid to take a good look at the past and see it for what it really is, I think you’ll find a lot there that has been ignored and twisted. God bless you in all that you do. Peace.

  14. pastthemusic,First of all, what your saying does not, necessarily, “go against the grain” of my point. Let me establish what my point is. Here is my point: I don’t believe God looks upon specific objects or activities as sacred or secular. Secondly, it would appear that our disagreement has more to do with the point at which this thought entered the church. I’m guessing we would agree that it wasn’t a prominent thought during the first hundred years of the church. Thirdly, as to my history, I’m reporting most of what I learned in “secular” school. I’m not saying that Constantine didn’t do any good for the church. He certainly did end the persecution and return rights back to believers of the day. Still he also maintained his headship over the pagan church and continued throughout his life to build monuments and make sacrifices to pagan deities. With that said I’ll certainly brush up on my history. If I’m wrong about Constantine then I’m wrong, however it would be very difficult to say that the idea of sacred versus secular didn’t begin until the reformation period.Finally: I would never call this issue a Catholic issue or a Protestant issue. It is a human issue. You see it throughout the Old Testament and history in general. People want to make God out of stuff: activities, objects, words, sounds, images, other people, etc. My point is that Jesus came to do away with this. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus…” 1 Tim 2:5Sorry if I offended you. I wasn’t trying to “take a swing at” or “lie abour” any movement or community of people. Just trying to help people understand where I’m coming from.

  15. Oh wow, I really didn’t think a response would happen, thanks a lot. It’s so hard to be clear and show my intent when posting on a blog. I really don’t mean to be deragatory or anything as well. I wish I could talk more about these awesome things with you, but for now I want to say thank you for your kindness and generosity. keep rocking for Christ and peace.

  16. The Bible says to be "in the world" but not "of the world." A lot of Christians try to be "out of the world" as well as not being "of the world."

  17. So, what exactly do you think this means Larry? Please expand a little.

  18. Richard said:

    I figured I should give a thank you for your time and thoughts with this. I mostly like the point of "Just focus on doing what is good and let God deal with your heart" because there are just too many variables to consider with this and it's a lot better to just be in touch with the Holy Spirit's guidance on things. The examples of people throughout history are awesome, that's a great connection that you made.I didn't mean for my message to sound like I was questioning using gifts "out in the world", I'd say there's no doubt that we need to be salt and light and noticeable beings. It was more a question of, is it really the most effective tool to create a sound with musical influences who aren't exactly inspired by God and then sneak in some truth of the gospel, lyrically. I guess it's just about having the right balance and knowing the setting your in. You wrote about this in the second to last paragraph.Thanks again. I think about you a lot and the life you live, I'm excited to witness the different ways you bring people to Jesus, through touring/recording/whatever. Hope to meet you someday.

  19. Richard said:

    ps. or the way people are brought to Jesus, through you, empowered by him. you know what I mean!

  20. Thanks Richard. I hope I helped you with your question but you may have still missed my primary point: If you are a believer and you love God, then you don't have to "sneak some truth". If it's in you then it's in what you do no matter what you sing about. And as far as I'm concerned the musical influences of the "world" all get their sound and inspiration from God. The Bible says:"He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Mt 5:45) and "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Rom 11:29) This means that God hands out gifts generously to all, both believer and pre-believer.They just don't all know where it comes from and they don't always use it for the better. Sure you have to use a filter in any situation but even a semi mature believer should be able to do that. "Greater is He that is in me than he who is in the world". It's all from God bro. In fact the stuff in the world feels more like God to me than the alternative (personal opinion). It's not about the source, it's about what you do with it that matters.

  21. Nice blog… really thought provoking.I like what you said about "If you're a believer and you love God, then you dont have to 'sneak some truth'. If it's in you then it's in …"I feel like most christians never really get a handle on this… we just go through life waiting for God to do "something"… maybe God's waiting for us to do 'something'??

  22. Richard said:

    Hmmm… I got you!! And I'm with you, I think!! It's a beautiful thing that people are out playing music and the power of God is evident in it, but it has been corrupted, right? It was dumb of me to say we can't have a musical influence from certain people. I guess what we can't have is the lifestyle influence. I can't seem to fully enjoy music from a lot of bands because I always go beyond just listening to the music… I start think about the members personally, their souls and that they are stuck in a fleeting life.That's why I mentioned some bands in my first message. I used to love MMJ and I still do, but it's just hard to listen because I get caught up in the life I had when I used to listen to them consistently. When I mentioned "coveting a thought" before, I meant I wanted to be in their position or at least return to the time I used to listen to them all the time and be free from any worries about things beyond my own enjoyment and any fear of God. I guess it's just a personal problem or I'm weak, everybody's different. I think it's best if I just stay away.

  23. What an awesome discussion here! I found a link to this post through junctionj, an online meeting place for believers. John Mark, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this and challenging your readers. I have thought along these lines for a long time and believe very similarly to you. I am married to a "pre-believer" and this has helped me keep my eyes open in a lot of ways, as to how we are to "love the world" like God does, and not be "of the world". There used to be a time when I hated when my DH would put on the radio and listen to what I used to refer to as "secular" music (I have come to detest that word!). At first this really bothered me. I only wanted to hear songs of worship written by Christians. But my DH detested all the "Christian" music that I loved. For awhile there was a battle going on between us and it was no fun, believe me (especially on road trips! LOL) Then one day the Lord broke through the wall I had up. He opened the ears of my heart and suddenly I heard Him singing to me, through all the love songs that were on the radio stations that my DH was playing! The lyrics I was hearing may or may not have been written by a Christian, and may have been intended to convey the love between a man and a woman, but for me, they began to minister the love of God to my heart. This shocked and astounded me, because it went against a lot of what I had been told in Church meetings regarding music, and what is sacred and what is not, what is sanctified and what is secular (ew, there's that word again! lol) And to further break down my walls, Holy Spirit began to reveal how those same songs I was hearing on my husband's radio stations could become songs of worship to Him! Even though they were written by some guy singing to his girl, it suddenly didn't matter anymore; for me as I listened, I was singing those words to Jesus in my heart. It did not matter what the writer's intent for the song was, my heart came alive to God at the sound of the words as they expressed the love I have for Him. I think we all need to remember that our Beautiful Jesus died to save and to sanctify US, and that we are holy and acceptable to Him. We are the temple now, not the building made with human hands, nor the song made with human pen. Where is Jesus now? Inside every believer. We don't have Him on the outside anymore, He is within us, our Hope of Glory. I think that the way we are to "love the world" is to lay down our lives for the people in it, to love them, to serve them, and to become a friend to them, just like Jesus did (scary and impossible without Holy Spirit!). I also think the way we are to not be "of the world" is to not ever do anything independently of Him, to stay connected intimately with Him, to surrender daily, all our talents, time, and EVERYTHING to Him, to not serve our own flesh or fall into temptation to sin. Also, and this is a more subtle one, to not find our identity/security in the things the world can give us (be it praise, applause, position, power, or money). To know and act out of the conviction that we don't truly own anything in this world, as it is passing, but that we are truly owned by Him now. I believe all of this is also impossible to do without Holy Spirit. Thanks for taking the time to answer Richard. I really enjoy sharing on this topic!

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