How Top-40 Pop Relates to Worship


[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sarah Anne Brown. When Sarah sent this devotional in, I was so excited! I LOVE taking top-40 songs and turning them into worship songs! My personal favorite top-40 song that really gets me in a worship mood is “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit. Thanks so much for sharing your story today, Sarah!]

When I first heard “Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld, I did what most people did: put it on repeat for about two weeks and then forgot about it. But thanks to my comprehensive Spotify playlists, I revisited the song a few months ago. When I heard it again, I was undergoing a lifestyle change that was brought about by a realization that I had drifted away from my Christian faith.

And that’s when Starving – the top-40, mainstream pop song intended for secular audiences everywhere – became my #1 worship song. Well, the song became (and is, really) the expression of how I feel about my relationship with God.

The more that I know you the more I want to

Something inside me’s changed

I didn’t know that I was starving til I tasted you

Don’t need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn zoo

By the way, right away

You do things to my body

I didn’t know that I was starving til I tasted you

Growing up, my youth group leader, pastors, and other spiritual authorities would emphasize how empty the world is in comparison to God’s presence and his love. Apparently it went in one ear and out the other for me, because I made lifestyle choices that indicated I believed the opposite of that.

I did have a heart for God, but I was also curious about the other side of life. In my life’s journey, I’ve experienced ups and downs through a year abroad with a mission organization, three years in my hometown for college, and finally, two years in New York City. It was in the City that I was required to face my rebellion. Every day here, I witness the diversity of human need and grow more aware of the brevity of life on earth.

Ironically, it took moments away from God to show me how hungry I am for him: for his presence, for his Word, for his guidance, for his love. It really is irreplaceable. He provides physical peace in my body; he transforms my mind and gives me a greater thirst for integrity; he fulfills me even in suffering and hardship. He makes it all feel worth it.

“Don’t need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn zoo.” I mean, it’s God – he made the zoo.

The more I listen to top-40 pop (of which I am an unabashed fan) the more I am able to hear the longing for God in the hearts of humanity. We are all looking for the satiating kind of love; the kind of love that is eternal, self-sacrificing, and all encompassing. Sadly, even in the Christian church, few of us understand God’s love.

We think we need to earn it, as if somehow we could; but if we could, it would not satiate the kind of love for which we are longing.

When I doubt of whether or not I can have his love, I return to the promises of Scripture:

“11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103: 10-12, ESV)

“38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)

Out of the darkness I came into his glorious light. I am starving no more.Sarah Anne Brown is a worker bee and writer based in New York City. She is passionate about celebrating the diversity and the complexity of human beings, which is why she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She now uses her education to help others understand and appreciate themselves. Aside from her love of helping people, Sarah is an avid blogger who enjoys sharing her perspective and experiences on her sacred corner in cyberspace.