What’s in a song?
A man I know recently wrote a song that included lyrics like “chasing after You, Lord, is my great delight” and “Before I chose You, God, You chose me first.” It has all the lyrical impact of a church worship song. It might, then, surprise you to learn that this man left the Christian faith seven years ago. He has been writing songs with Christian worship lyrics in the hopes of being able to sell them to one of the bigger worship publishing companies. His interest is making money crafting words that he is both familiar with and good at.
What should we say of his song? Would you sing his lyrics? Would you have sung them before you knew that he wasn’t a practicing Christian?
I have a childhood friend who has been a Christian all his life. Back in the 90’s, we were talking about the Amy Grant song, “1974” which chronicles her own childhood salvation experience. She had recently been in the media because of her secular blockbuster “Baby, Baby” and because she had recently divorced her husband and started a relationship with country music singer, Vince Gill. My friend told me that we shouldn’t listen to her music because she wasn’t living a godly life and presented a bad example for Christian girls everywhere. It might amuse you to learn that my friend’s favourite bands of all time are Black Sabbath and Mötley Crüe.
Are Amy Grant’s secular songs less godly than her overtly spiritual ones?
Recently, Hillsong Church has been handling an enormous scandal that has shaken them. Founder Brian Houston has been accused and charged with concealing the child sexual abuse of his father, Frank, for over 14 years. The Hillsong Church has been actively engaged in teaching the Prosperity Gospel and it has impacted how they govern themselves, more as a corporate entity than as a church. Hillsong’s collection of worship songs are well-known and well-sung on Sunday mornings all over the world. Should churches stop singing these songs as a way of protesting all that Hillsong is about?
What’s in a song?
Does God use broken people in a broken world to break hearts with ground-breaking music? Is a song only a good one if the person singing it is also good?
Psalm 57:7 reads, “My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.” I submit to you that God is the source (not necessarily the composer) of all music. Even when lyrics and melodies are not well-written, I maintain that if there be any virtue or praise in it, then God has his hand on it.
Should we have stricter song rules about what we sing in church on a Sunday morning? Maybe. The appropriateness of a particular song in a church service considers a number of factors, lyrical content being only one of them.
But remember, good music, like all good gifts, are from above. If we needed sinless people to write our music, we might as well all go see Jesus today.