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Using Songs in Spite of the Songwriters

Congregants sometimes ask questions that cause clergy to polish a new edge on their philosophy of music in worship.

As minister of music and worship, I was recently faced with such a question. A congregant asked why we use the music of a composer who has been charged with certain sins. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
In order to answer this concern, I decided to look at the broader issue of criteria for composers and the music they write for use in the church. What follows is the result of that quest.
In answering the question, “What are the criteria for the composers we use in worship?”  I asked myself several other questions:
Who are biblical examples of worship song writers? What were they like?
First, David. He was loyal to the Lord in his testimony and worship. He was “a man after God’s own heart.” Jesus is called the “Son of David.” 
David was a highly skilled musician and poet, with much of the writing of the book of Psalms to his credit. He disobeyed the Lord when he committed the sins of lust and adultery. He also had Uriah murdered.
Second, Solomon. He was given the gift of wisdom and discernment. He built the temple.  He wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. He was also foolish. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. His foreign wives turned his heart toward other gods.
Do we believe that adultery, polygamy, murder and idol worship are pleasing to God? Of course not. Does God use David and Solomon’s writings for purposes of worship?” Absolutely.
Should we disregard the psalms or proverbs because their authors were adulterers or polygamists? No.
The psalms and proverbs tell truths and provide words for our worship because of the One that inspired them. Do we sing songs because of the character of the one who writes or because of the character of the One who is written about?  The answer is obvious. No one is worthy to write songs of worship; God alone is worthy.
If our criterion for using a particular composer rests on our interpretation of an individual’s righteousness, we may be setting up a flawed scale of measurement. Our criteria for worship music should rest on another standard.
The criterion becomes: Does a composer have an authentic relationship with God? Is there evidence that God is using the composer’s life? Does this writing honor God in quality and content?
By answering “yes” to those questions, we may better achieve the criteria for the composers and music we use in worship.
Rebecca Prater is minister of music at Leawood Baptist Church in Leawood, Kan.