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Should You Sing Good Songs By Bad People?

This question has been tossed about by worship bloggers as famous worship leaders have admitted various indiscretions. One blogger wholeheartedly encourages music directors to use the songs of those who’ve slipped – arguing that these songwriters are merely imperfect humans with struggles like the rest of us.

But the songwriters in the news aren’t struggling at all – some have confidently adopted wrong, un-Biblical lifestyles, have had extra-marital affairs and are unrepentant, or proudly hold errant views of Scripture. And they appear to have no intention of changing their minds.

Recently I received an email from a WorshipIdeas reader who asked “In light of what happened with [insert name of fallen worship leader] I’m having a dilemma about using the song in our services. Thoughts?” The old saying goes: “If it’s doubtful, it’s dirty.” If you have a question about using a song then I think that should answer your question.

But really, isn’t it this simple: Why on earth would you want your church to sing worship songs written by people who don’t believe the Bible?

It’s not like we don’t have other songs from which to choose. In 1980, worship leaders had relatively limited song choices – churches sang from hymnals that provided a choice of around 500 hymns. If you wanted a song for the Lord’s Supper you had a few choices. If you wanted an upbeat, majestic hymn, you had a few choices. If you wanted a song about God’s grace, you had a few choices. And you didn’t have to worry about the lifestyles of the songwriters because… they’re all dead!

I once called CCLI and at the time learned they have over 300,000 worship songs listed in their database – that number has probably doubled by now! Any worship song you could possibly want is instantly available at websites like praisecharts.com. If you planned this week on singing a praise song by a famous songwriter who’s turned from the Truth and isn’t looking back, I’ll bet you can find another song that’s just as good to replace it.

I read an interview with a famous former worship leader who has completely left and denounced the Church. In the interview the ex worship leader bemoaned the fact that their lucrative CCLI royalties have dried up and they’re wondering how they’ll make a living (I’d suggest they start looking for a job?) It appears most churches aren’t singing good songs by bad people after all, much to the chagrin of worship bloggers.

And speaking of royalties, I’d rather support the ministry and artistry of worship leaders who do believe and follow Scripture, and there are plenty – famous and up-and-coming. Many of them you know from the CCLI top 100, and there’s a reason you see these names over and again. The Redmans, Riddles, Baloches, Brewsters, Browns, Tomlins, Hughes, Kendricks, Morgans and many others have had long and solid musical and ministry careers that have stood the test of time. They’ve taken care to live lives of purity that honor God and follow His Word.

Of course, we can’t know the hearts of anyone, only God can. We’re all sinners and we all struggle with something. But some songwriters have plainly demonstrated and stated their unbelief. Why fixate on the handful of songs written by those who have thrown in the (Scriptural) towel?

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