We've seen some great songs over the years from well known Christian artists who have later changed, fallen into sin, rejected the faith or even been deceptive. Some artists that spring to mind are:

  • Vicky Beeching (now embracing a lesbian lifestyle)
  • Jennifer Knapp (same as above)
  • Ray Boltz (now embracing a homosexual lifestyle)
  • Kevin Prosch (admitted to a string of 'affairs')
  • Michael Guglielmucci (wrote the song 'Healer' while faking cancer)

We all know that the Bible's greatest songwriter, David, was by no means perfect. He was both a murderer and committed adultery yet penned many amazing Psalms.

Some questions that spring to mind:

  • Where should we draw the line when deciding to listen to or use songs to lead worship?
  • Should the history of the songwriter even come into the equation?
  • Or is it all about the lyrics and whether they are biblical?
  • What about if the songwriter is no longer a Christian?
  • Should we only use these songs in private so we don't come across as endorsing the songwriter's behavior?

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I was asked by a pianist before practicing, "What gives you the right to sing this?"

In the Guglielmucci case the lyrics of the Healer song remind me of the lies that were told and therefore does not allow me to focus on believing that Jesus is my healer. In this sense I am not able to use the song in worship because my focus is not in the right direction as a result of the songwriters sin. I think I would be happy to use other songs he has written as they wouldn't necessarily highlight what happened as much.

As I see it, one of our (many) callings as worship leaders is to help provide the most un-distracted possible encounter with God for the people He has called us to serve.

Distractions can come in all different shapes and sizes - technical (inadequate sound equipment / inadequate sound engineer), musical (either in the form of incompetence or a musical style that is distracting for one reason or another), lyrical (questionable / heretical song lyrics) are a few that spring to mind.

The personal background of either a song or a songwriter is only a distraction if people are aware of it.  In the case of hymn writers it would take a great deal of digging to discover some of the personal background of someone like Horatio Spafford or even John & Charles Wesley.

I guess it would depend on how "up" our congregations are on current Christian culture...

It depends why they wrote the song, really.

Vicky Beeching's songs often came out of her intense desire to please God while struggling with the desires she felt in other directions. That mirrors my experience of the Christian walk, and while her style doesn't always suit musically, I find the songs to be more relevent now than they were before she 'came out'. I can't think of anything by Jennifer Knapp or Ray Boltz, but if some of Kevin Prosch's songs were written out of his desire to be right with God while struggling with sin then yes, I'd be happy to sing them now.

Michael G seems (to me) in an entirely different category, cynical and manipulative, rather than struggling with failure.

Paul writes about doing everything out of faith. If singing a song depends on the writer's faith for it to be right then we should probably close the Christian music publishing industry (actually, we should probably do that anyway ;-) but if it depends on our faith, believing our worship is acceptable to God then it should not matter provided the lyrics aren't counter-christian. So someone could sing Healer in happy ignorance of the situation. Where there is knowing of intent behind a song then I would suggest this changes things. Taking Paul's example again, knowing that something was sacrificed to idols made a difference to whether it was acceptable or not, and knowing that something was written out of unbelief would be a deal-breaker for me.

There's a question I once asked in church, about how much sin is OK to confess if you're a leader. We want our leaders to be righteous, but they're human, and will fail sometimes. Is it OK for them to confess that they looked at facebook when they should have been working, or maybe took a pen from work, or saw down someone's top and couldn't stop thinking about it, or watched inappropriate TV, viewed porn, had an affair but broke it off because it was wrong.... etc. If you're a leader, do you need a handy stock of minor sins you can confess publicly while staying away from the big stuff? So Vicky B, struggling as she was, is someone I could admire and respect. Vicky B now, embracing the sin - calling it not sin - I can't go for, but that doesn't detract one iota from what she wrote before, and she may yet produce much annointed music.

Re endorsing artists, I don't see songs in the context of artists, and while there are some songwriters who tend to produce new songs that can be used in worship fairly regularly, they also write a lot of stuff that's not suitable and sometimes even write & record rubbish (but we can't call it that, because we're polite). Worship music has come to a very sad place indeed if we're endorsing and pushing an industry by selecting certain songs.

Some great thoughts here guys - keep them coming!

@Toni - Michael G was struggling with a porn addiction as far as I'm aware, but was 'faking' cancer. He knew he needed healing but most likely couldn't bring himself to admit from what. I'm therefore not convinced that it was written out of unbelief necessarily, but may have been - who really knows?!

Be interested to know what your reaction was to that George. 

GEORGE MARKOS said:

I was asked by a pianist before practicing, "What gives you the right to sing this?"

Phil, to me, faking cancer and writing a song about being healed is cynical and manipulating the understanding of others in order to sell a song. I can appreciate it may have been 'complicated', and far from straight foward - many Christian leaders apparently struggle with porn (and other addictions) to various degrees, but the usual behaviour is concealment while trying to hold it together, rather than outright deception and making money from it.

There may well be a subtlety that I'm totally unaware of, and glad that I have no responsibility for judging him on the bald 'facts' as I've laid them out here. It's difficult to write about these things without either seeming to condemn or condone the individual, and I want to do neither of those things, yet at the same time I don't want to be woolly and luke warm.

Phil Williams said:

Some great thoughts here guys - keep them coming!

@Toni - Michael G was struggling with a porn addiction as far as I'm aware, but was 'faking' cancer. He knew he needed healing but most likely couldn't bring himself to admit from what. I'm therefore not convinced that it was written out of unbelief necessarily, but may have been - who really knows?!

We are all sinners but not all of us are in the 'limelight'.  So, if I was to write a song whilst in the midst of grave sin, who would know about it but me and the Lord, therefore it would be between me and my conscience.  What I am getting at is that when these people wrote/produced these songs we do not know their spiritual state of mind and the reasons behind the song.  If I truly loved a worship song that had great meaning in the words then I would find it hard not to do it because the composer had fallen from grace.  Afterall, God works in all kinds or situations and sees the bigger picture and maybe, just maybe, that song could change a person's heart.

I pick up the hymnal, closed it and said, "I'll be right back."


I was a married student at Tennessee Temple University in 1981. The song was for our Sunday School class that included music majors and the dean of the music department. I was a country boy from a small church in Florida.

When they asked me to sing I said, "You know I'll do it.... don't you." Grinning, of course.

Her comment made me consider what I was singing, how I was singing it and I began claiming Psalm 71:23  "My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed," before I would sing.

I can do nothing without Him. I love to tell people about Jesus and how he saved me, but I'm a stammering fool if I try to do it without Him and His Holy Spirit leading me.

I'm thankful for the people like her that may not even know the impact she had on my life.

 
Lorraine Doswell said:

Be interested to know what your reaction was to that George. 

GEORGE MARKOS said:

I was asked by a pianist before practicing, "What gives you the right to sing this?"

That is a wonderful testimony George, thank you for sharing.  'People who have made an impact on your life but don't even know it' got me thinking, and yes, it happens and you may never have contact with that person ever again.  It is the same with us, sometimes you plod on, often feeling disheartened, thinking you couldn't possibly ever make a difference, but you just never know : )


GEORGE MARKOS said:

I pick up the hymnal, closed it and said, "I'll be right back."


I was a married student at Tennessee Temple University in 1981. The song was for our Sunday School class that included music majors and the dean of the music department. I was a country boy from a small church in Florida.

When they asked me to sing I said, "You know I'll do it.... don't you." Grinning, of course.

Her comment made me consider what I was singing, how I was singing it and I began claiming Psalm 71:23  "My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed," before I would sing.

I can do nothing without Him. I love to tell people about Jesus and how he saved me, but I'm a stammering fool if I try to do it without Him and His Holy Spirit leading me.

I'm thankful for the people like her that may not even know the impact she had on my life.

 
Lorraine Doswell said:

Be interested to know what your reaction was to that George. 

GEORGE MARKOS said:

I was asked by a pianist before practicing, "What gives you the right to sing this?"

Worship doesn't come out of my judgement on the songwriter but out of my relationship with God. Therefore, I'm cautious about the idea of vetoing possible songs based on what I think I know about the songwriter. What if they were walking faithfully with God when they wrote it, then publicly turned away and now have returned to faith? I suspect that, if I go down that route, I'll be straining out gnats and swallowing camels in no time!

Wulf

When Paul refused to allow (John) Mark to join him and Barnabas on their follow-up tour (Acts 15:36 - 40), I don't believe that he was "judging" Mark but discipling him. How can those who are claim to be called to ministry not realize that their actions and lifestyles have some impact and influence on others? To sing songs about how the cleansing power of the blood of Christ and being free from bondage while STILL being in bondage is just plain...well, hypocritical. And, those who are computer savvy (and, most, are) can find out whether or not you are living in the truth that you are singing about. We cannot lead if we are not true followers. And,if these artist are true followers than the best thing would be for them to repent....pick up the cross...and let go of fame. This will allow them time to grow more in their walk with the Lord while not causing others to stumble. We all are prone to moral failure. It's what we do about it that matters most to GOD....the only vote that counts. If He wants to use our stumbling for His glory, then He will allow us to share our testimony...in His time. But, if He should choose to take away that ministry for a season...than so be it. For we all know that, later, Paul requested for Mark personally (2nd Timothy 4:11) because he had grown into being useful for ministry. Amen?

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