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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Having looked up the lyrics to this, I'm very struck by the comparison with VB's "Awesome God".  These are two songs with the same title, but so very, very different in content and in the aspects of God's character which elicit the response of "awesome".

Charles Wolff said:

Because of the lines about "God wasn't kidding when he kicked 'em out of Eden" and (especially) the one about "the judgement and the wrath He poured out on Sodom."  Our church (like many of the east- and west-coast US Methodist Churches) leans toward the liberal on LGBT issues, and those two lines seem particularly judgmental.  Yeah, I know many here lean the other way, and even the official UMC stand is that we "agree to disagree."  But in general, this song tends to come across as very judgmental to some...

Good thought provoking topic Phil.

I don't know much about these artists or their songs as I've only been back in church since April 2014 after a 10 year prodigal journey.

Song writers create from their personal relationship with God. A song is an expression of heart.

I'd agree with the thought that these writers have written from their revelation of who God is & what they know of His love towards His children.

Even though they are not living or walking according to His word I suggest that at the time these songs were penned, it was a heart felt cry. Whether they fake cancer or attracted to the opposite sex or adultery, they all had an encounter with God & He blessed them.

But like King Solomon who built God's temple, in his later years, he built temples & high places for the foreign gods that his wives introduced & the long term result was Israel's constant struggle with these foreign idols & God's disappointment of His people.

What we know about God, is He hides His Face from His people when they follow after idols. He gives them up to their own desires & let's them be plundered by their enemies.

Some people tend to create God in their own image & rely on His Grace. But the truth is we all fall short of God's love & we all are born into sin. There are various shades of grey that exist in the church & no sin is too large or too small. A simple lie will cost us the Kingdom.

I expect there is no right of wrong answer regarding using these songs because there is truly an abundance of new material available that have the same messages if you chose to boycott these artists songs. I really think these artists live in a place where they would say 'he who has no sin, let him cast the first stone' & thats why they can still proclaim a faith.

In summary:  i would say the songs were written from a heart cry & true revelation of who God is. They were strong for a time, but have fallen away & given into the desires of their heart. God loves them & desires to have relationship with His people.

Thanks for sharing this Dan - great points!

Ah right, now it makes sense! Most of the time only the chorus from that song is used, which is much less controversial :-)

Charles Wolff said:

Because of the lines about "God wasn't kidding when he kicked 'em out of Eden" and (especially) the one about "the judgement and the wrath He poured out on Sodom."  Our church (like many of the east- and west-coast US Methodist Churches) leans toward the liberal on LGBT issues, and those two lines seem particularly judgmental.  Yeah, I know many here lean the other way, and even the official UMC stand is that we "agree to disagree."  But in general, this song tends to come across as very judgmental to some...

Phil Williams said:

Thanks for sharing Charles! Out of interest - why are you/your pastor not fans of "Awesome God" by Rich Mullins? (The VB 'Awesome God' is a great one btw!)

I'd never heard of the verses of that song prior to this discussion. TBH I could never see them being used for worship because they seem there to make a point, rather than to worship God. This explains why we sing the orphaned chorus.

I came across this post searching for Kevin Prosch, and it prompted me to write a response.  To me, the most important thing is whether they are members in good standing of valid Christian churches.  There are churches that will allow you to mail order your marriage license, spouting any doctrines, valid or invalid.  Members of those churches should have their songs used sparingly, critically, and with great caution.  If they are from churches that have bad doctrine, it would be like inviting the Mormon tabernacle choir to lead worship - or inviting your local death metal band, whose lead singer is in an adulterous relationship and is an alcoholic, to play some Christian ballads.  They may be very skilled, but worship leaders they do not make.  Of the people I see in this list, I have only heard a song of repentance from Kevin Prosch.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoLYEdwC204&index=22&list=P...

He is a member in good standing of a valid Christian church.  He has walked through the steps of repentance as organized by his pastor.  If he wrote songs that were not from a wholesome character, I would expect him to condemn those songs himself.  The rest of these musicians, to my knowledge, have not taken these steps, and I would be very reluctant to use their songs.  I may use them as I would a Star Wars movie clip in a sermon.

So - do you actually investigate the life and church membership of each songwriter before you use a song?  And the doctrine of the church they belong to?  Can we reliably investigate the life / church of those songwriters at the time they wrote the song?  How about the old time hymnwriters?

To me, it seems much more appropriate to look at the song and ask, "is this song appropriate for OUR congregation?"  As a (perhaps extreme) example, I wouldn't do "The Heart of Worship" with our congregation; there is nothing theologically wrong with the song, and AFAIK Matt Redmon is a member in good standing of a "valid Christian church", but, quite honestly, our church has not gone to the point of getting so wrapped up in the worship music that we've taken our eyes off God.  Okay, that's my opinion, you might judge us differently.  There's nothing wrong with the writer, that song just doesn't fit where our church is at.

On the other hand, there's a song we use fairly regularly (I won't name the song or the author) where I found a while ago that the writer is now one of those rather militant atheist "Done" types.  We stopped using the song for a while, because I thought he might not want us using it, but I was able to connect with him on FB and I asked if it was okay if we keep using the song.  His response was, "sure, that song was how I believed at the time, and if it works for you, you're welcome to use it..."  So it's back in the rotation now.

When Vicky Beeching first came up here (another thread), I wasn't aware of who she was, but in order to be part of the discussion, I listened to 20+ of her songs and we ended up using a few of them.  Looking at the songs, it seemed like she started out writing songs that were... I dunno, Christian but not judgmental.  Then she went through a phase of writing songs that were really... "God, show me the way."  And then (once she had a career) she went through a phase of writing songs that were what the Bible Belt churches wanted to hear.  The songs from those first two phases were great songs, they fit our church. 

It would be impossible to know the backstory of every song author.  For one, it would take a lot of time, and for two, a lot of their story is hidden from us.  You just go on what you know.  If I knew that someone who once wrote great worship songs was now an atheist, a militant one, I would not use his song(s).  I'm not going to condemn you for using it, because I'm commanded not to condemn, but there may be people in the congregation that groan every time that song comes up, knowing the backstory.  It's not the songwriter that creates worship, but the worshiper.  So any song could potentially bring us there.  We could sing Witney Houston's chorus, "I will always love you."  But by using those songs, we are also advocating for the author, making them more popular.  You could get spiritual truth out of a TED talk, but I'd rather go to a good Bible teacher.  What I'm getting at is there are good musicians who are in good standing at good churches, and using those songs is better than using the songs of musically talented wolves.

I just finished reading through this entire discussion.My hands are shaking to get through my future ramblings. Please hear me out.

My name is Terrance McCoy. I have been singing in the church for 33 years. I am 42 years old. I was sexually molested when I was 9 years old ( a week after I accepted Christ as my personal Savior) A month later, I found a pornographic magazine in our ditch (thrown out by someone). I became addicted to porn and sex for many years after. All those years, I fooled the church as I lead music, sang "special music" and lead in the church..all while loving porn with most of my heart. I cannot remember a day that went by that I did not feel the heaviness of conviction in my gut. It became a bit callous, but still, conviction. After worship leading, youth directing and other church jobs for many years. I was worn out. What I was doing was deceptive and wrong, my entire life was a lie. In the midst of this bloody war, I had moments that I felt close to God. I cried many tears, asking Him to take this away. I started writing music but could never finish songs. I wrote choruses and put them on the shelf. 20 - 30 songs in all.

I went through 3 marriages and 3 divorces in less than 8 years.I was destroying everything with my lies. Teens from past churches (that  never knew my struggle) were coming out of the closet, no longer believing in Christ, prison....I was tormented by my failure to be real. A few years ago, I broke down and unveiled everything and with the help of many people that loved me and some professionals..mainly my Savior, I came to a knowledge that Christ has already died for all of this and I am fully equipped with everything I need to resist the devil and live a Christ centered life. From that day, I did! I have been very quiet in the church for the past few (4) years while I grew in my relationship with God. Until this year. God started bringing those "closer moment" songs back into my life and I have recently finished them. God has opened doors that I could not imagine. I believe with all my heart, I am called to write songs for Him and for His church. I have a wonderful relationship with my 13 yr old daughter (Haley). When I was put on my knees, I found that I could finally stand.I tried to force my plans on God and that never works. His timing and His ways are perfect. If it is ok, I want to share the first chorus I wrote...below. I wrote "Unveiling Love" in 1996. God is good.

1996: Unveiling Love

It's like an unveiling Love. Like an uncovering.

Like a blinding light, taking a picture of me

2015: finished

Now all will see, I've been set free

By the One who loves me

By the One who unveiled me

Bridge:

Shine, shine down on me

Chase away the shadows

It is for freedom we've been set free

Rom 3:23, all have sinned and fall short to the glory of God. Everyone sin, just like Jesus said, be the first to cast a stone on her if you don't sin. This is my personal opinion, if a song leader's been found currently sinning and not repenting, maybe he/she should be stopped and proper disciplinary action must be carried out, But their works, i think is anointed by God, assuming they made a song, (unless the message is anti-Christian) but everything is according to the Bible's teaching, if others would want to use it, then maybe it can be as effective as any other typical song for the Lord.

Well, they may have sined, whow!

Who did not?!

Are we the ones who can judge between the weight of differnet sins?

Or.

Who would like to throw further stones on them.

Cause as the live or lived a public live, which is not just the simplest thing...

They need first second and third, ... Your mercy und prayer.

Gods Mercy is for shure-Thanks so far!!!

And the one who  thinks he stands, may take care that he may not fall.

It s a bit hard for me to read some of them public discussions about living and may be hurt people ...

Blessings

Sepp

Thanks for resurrecting this thread Sepp! :) It's a good discussion.

Like the rest of you, I've chewed on this topic at times as well. Of course, the more recent example is Israel Houghton. For personal reasons, his story was even more disappointing to me.

It's true that we ALL have sinned, of course. At the same time, I know that one of the most mis-quoted ideas from the Bible is that we are not allowed or supposed to judge others. We ARE supposed to judge those that claim to be with us as a part of the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul condemns the church for their pride and for not addressing the sin among them. He clarified that he wasn't talking about unbelievers, but rather those that claim to be a believer yet indulge in "sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people." He followed that with "Don't even eat with such people." 1 Cor. 5:13 says "You must remove the evil person from among you", again, talking about someone that claims to be a believer but practices a lifestyle that is contrary to that.

Everyone sins... we all make mistakes... but I think this goes beyond that to those that CHOOSE every day to live a lifestyle of sin. You can't ask for forgiveness and just keep doing it. That isn't how it works. Those people are not walking in forgiveness and are not true believers.

A few other related Scriptures to read:

James 5:19-20
Galatians 6:1-2, 7-9
Proverbs 28:13
James 5:16
Proverbs 12:15
Galatians 6:7-9

So... when this applies to a songwriter or artist, do we still sing their songs? I don't think there is one blanket answer that covers all scenarios. I don't think many people still consider using any Boltz material from the 80s/90s anyway, so his stuff is probably out of the conversation by default... hahaha... but I know that I occasionally will use "Healer" and it can be very effective. Will I ever do a Houghton song again? Probably. One thing I realize and think about is this...

99% of your congregation has no idea who actually wrote the song you are singing and could care less even if you tried to tell them. All they know is who sings the song on the radio, if it's a song on the radio. So I don't personally think there is much of an argument towards it affecting the congregation. I also don't believe that the writer's sin puts a bad mark on the song or lyrics themselves. God can certainly use someone to create a powerful song, despite who that person is. God has used some very questionable people at times, and will continue to do so, but I think it's safe to say He knows what He's doing. :) If He can use a donkey... and He can use you and me to lead others in worship despite our occasional hangups... He can use someone to write a song despite their sin, and allow that song to minister to countless numbers of people.

Now, if a song was popular enough that the common person had a decent chance of connecting it to some sort of scandal or sin issue... then yeah, I'd stick it on the shelf. No need in bringing question towards you, your church, ministry, etc. But as I said, the common person has no idea where the songs come from that you are singing each Sunday, so I wouldn't sweat it too much.

At the end of the day, I'd say the answer is for YOU to pray about it and do whatever you feel God is leading you to do... or not do. As long as you are following His lead, you'll be just fine! :)

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