Why Don’t We Sing Patriotic Music in our Worship Gatherings?

I am the pastor of an awesome church. It is 125 years old and located in the Southern United States in Houston, Texas. It has been a very patriotic church in the past for great reasons. We are a church in transition in an American culture that is changing. Our theology has been the same for 125 years but our practices are morphing. Why? This is the first in a series of posts addressing common hallway questions. Welcome to the “Why Series.”

Recently I was asked a great question. Why don’t we sing patriotic songs in our worship gatherings especially around the 4th of July? It’s not a lack of patriotism on my part. I fly our flag in my yard each day and I think there’s no place like America on earth. We (my family) will gather with friends and watch the fireworks and celebrate our country’s freedom on the 4th of July. We (my family) choose to be missionaries in the country of our first love: America. There are however, two reasons for this shift in our approach to traditional expressions of patriotism in worship as a church.

First, we reserve Sunday for the worship of God and the exaltation of Christ and His Kingdom which, if you read the scriptures, includes all nations.

Secondly, and maybe the clearest reason, is that America is not the country of our past. It is impossible for me as Pastor to lead us to sing songs like “God bless America” in corporate worship when I realize that we are a culture that is much like Israel in King Hezekiah’s day. “So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children – as their fathers did, so they do to this day.” (2 Kings 17:41) As long as America continues to reject God and embrace idolatry we cannot hail a great America in the presence of God in corporate worship. We will thank God for our freedom. We will support the men and women who serve and protect our freedom. We will hope in our God whose gospel can change the American culture. We will pray for our nation and we will seek repentance in corporate worship times. We can’t confuse the America we remember that enjoyed God’s blessing and the America of today that is rejecting God completely. We will raise one banner in corporate worship. The banner of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. After all His kingdom is the hope for our nation.

  One thought on “Why Don’t We Sing Patriotic Music in our Worship Gatherings?

  1. Michael L. Haynes
    July 5, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    A friend has a small bookshelf with diaries and photos of Christians exiled to Siberia. One diary contains the story of a man with several children. He was exiled when he refused to renounce his faith. Today all of the children are Christians.

    Could it really happen in America?

    If we say no, we are becoming complacent. Getting too comfortable where we are. Those of us who have served in combat know that complacency brings bad results.

    America as a nation has been pulling away from the Bible most of my life … marijuana, abortion, homosexuality, freedom for chaplains to pray, Bible teaching in the schools, prayer in the schools, etc. I think Pastor Brian is trying to get your attention. Many American Christians have become complacent. We need to move out of our comfort zone. In the Bible, God only tolerates so much complacency and then He takes corrective action.

    Patriotism in the Church definitely has a place. America is blessed because of her Christian foundation. We must sustain this blessing by, “Praising the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation”. Listen to your pastor and pray.

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  2. Jimmy
    June 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Brian,
    I want to thank you so much for your blog entry discussing this topic. I am a member of a Southern Baptist Church in a small town in North Florida. For approximately 30+ years, our church has hosted “God & Country Sunday” the week of July 4th. We pledge allegiance to the American flag, Christian flag, and the Bible. We sing only patriotic songs, The church is adorned with red, white and blue banners. Everyone is encouraged to wear their red, white and blue. Local and state politicians are invited and attend. We recognize those individuals that have served our country. The choir sings the “Salute to the Armed Forces” and the preacher usually has time to preach a short, 20-minute sermon, usually about being Christian in America or the moral state of America. We have about as many people attend this service as an Easter service. I also find it interesting that many people will sing the patriotic songs, but on any other given Sunday, they wouldn’t dare sing a hymn. It is really a spectacle.
    However, I have had a problem with our church having this service. Now don’t anyone get me wrong…I love America. I get chill bumps, and some times tear up, when I hear the National Anthem. I am so blessed to have been born and live in America. My father served in the U.S. Air Force and patriotism has always been a big part of my family. My problem with our “God & Country” service is that we come together for church, and instead of praising and worshiping God, we are praising and worshiping America. Like you said in your first point, Sunday is reserved for the “worship of God and the exaltation of Christ and His Kingdom”. And like your second point, I, too, find it extremely hard to “hail a great America in the presence of God in corporate worship…as long as America continues to reject God and embrace idolatry”.
    I have mentioned my concerns to a few within the church, but I’m usually made to feel like I’m ridiculous, and no one else seems to share my concern. So, I have just decided to stay home on this day. Our pastor of over twenty years just retired back in April, so I’m hoping when we find our new pastor, he may view things a little different, but I’m afraid the folks in the church won’t appreciate doing away with “God & Country Sunday”.
    Brian, thank you for letting me know that I’m not the only one that feels this way. And just because I do, it doesn’t mean I’m unpatriotic, I just believe it should be “God, then country”.

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  3. June 27, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    “Respectfully, singing patriotic songs in church will not save the sick nor bolster Christians. Only Christ and His gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit can do that.”
    Thanks for always speaking the truth, Pastor Brian. I’ve felt a growing frustration for years at the way American Christians confuse patriotism with following Christ. And the way that we (believers) are so often at the forefront of angry political battles makes me seriously worry that we’re getting the battle to preserve a nation confused with the much more important battle for the souls that make up that nation.

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  4. June 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    So where can I ask a why question?? 🙂

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  5. Matt Powell
    June 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Well said, Brian. I think you addressed it very appropriately with, ‘we reserve Sunday for the worship of God and the exaltation of Christ…’ I’m grateful for your model of faithful obedience.

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  6. Michelle
    June 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly. How can we dare to ask the Creator of the universe to bless America when she is behaving like a rebellious child? Does a father not punish and require repentance from his teenager before returning the car keys? 🙂

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  7. June 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    No matter how wonderful America was in the past (and no longer is), blessing is not based on goodness. It is based on God’s grace. We need God’s grace and blessing more now than ever. Let’s ask for God’s blessing, and may that blessing call us to turn our faces and hearts to Him no matter how good/bad we are . “God bless America, land that I love”…even when she is behaving badly.

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    • June 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks Sherry. I love America too. I am praying for her beginning with the church of Jesus Christ in America. Nominal, Bible-belt Christianity must be replaced with Christ-centered, gospel-driven, Spirit-filled believers who are salt and light in the culture. The hope of America is the gospel. The spreading of the gospel in America will begin with the repentance and revival of American churches. I hope God blesses America with that.

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      • June 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm

        This is a good point. This nation was founded by people of faith, with numerous references to our Lord and the Scriptures. Somewhere along the way we dropped the ball and started fighting the wrong battles.

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      • July 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm

        Thanks , Brian. I think we are on the same page. I appreciate your response and admire your work to pass the good news to the next generation too. Sherry

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  8. June 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Respectfully, I strongly disagree with this article. As reported and debated during the recent presidential election campaigns, a pastor named Wright is noted for saying the exact opposite of “God bless America.” Are we to take up that same cursing of this country because the current political environment is polluted?

    I think this is the very time we need to be more vocal in our calling for God to bless America. When we do so, we are not asking God to help the current downward slide of morals, but for Him to bless us with the same Christian spirit we have shown the world for the last two centuries.

    Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy. When the patient is most ill is not the time to stop calling for God’s blessings, but time to turn up the prayer volume.

    God bless America, more today then in times past!

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    • June 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment Bob. Just to clarify, I am not cursing the country nor am I referring to the current political environment. I am referring to the hearts of individual Americans who make up the culture. Respectfully, singing patriotic songs in church will not save the sick nor bolster Christians. Only Christ and His gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit can do that.

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      • June 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm

        I am not one of those who insists on the (supposed) separation of church and state. If we don’t pray in corporate worship services for the health and well-being of this nation as a haven for lost souls who are denied the right to worship God in their own homelands, then where else should we? Should we raise a prayer, spoken or sung, in the political meetings? Or the civic meetings? We are being closed out of those venues. In the house of God is where God’s priests have always prayed for God’s blessings and protection for the nation. Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.”

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      • June 27, 2013 at 11:06 pm

        Bob, I am not advocating for the separation of church and state. If you read the post you will see that I said we will pray for our nation, we will support the men and women who serve, we will thank God for our freedom, we will pray in repentance. However to sing patriotic songs in worship gatherings set aside to exalt God is in this season of our nations history is unsettling to me as a pastor. For instance, “God bless America. Land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her, through the night with the light from above.” I like the song and I love America but it is my belief that we are in a season in which God will abandon this nation who collectively is rejecting him as illustrated in Romans 1 unless a sense of repentance sweeps across the land. This is a present tense form of His wrath that occurs when a nation rejects God. Please do not misunderstand His blessing. God’s blessing is His presence and we, as a nation, have rejected His presence. To ask Him in worship to stand beside our nation and guide her when she is rebelling and rejecting is well…blasphemous. So in our church we will repent and seek forgiveness and beg for mercy and thank Him for our current freedom but we aren’t going to attempt to worship God by singing songs that convey national pride.

        You quoted Psalm 33:12 speaking of the nation of Israel and not the United States of America. There are many times in that nation’s history where God’s wrath is poured out in judgement. 2 Kings 17 and 18 illustrate this principle. God is not pleased when a nation that knows Him and has much access to His word rejects him. The result is devastating resulting in either repentance and revival by His Grace or calamity by our response to Him. We need men like Hezekiah to spread it out before the LORD in intercession. That is much different than singing patriotic songs in worship.

        Ok, you and I need to go back to standing together to equip families in these United States. Be blessed Bob.

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  9. Beth Francis
    June 27, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Amen Brian!

    Like

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