Here’s a little follow up to my article on Bethel. One of our young men asked me a couple of weeks ago about Bethel and music. You see, one of the reasons they have a high profile is because of the music they’ve produced. They wanted to know if it was okay to buy, listen to, use the music in worship.
I suggested some general principles for wider application.
1. As another, older church member suggested, we can become needlessly censorious, fearing that something we hear will affect us by association. Our primary focus should be on the content of what we listen to and we should listen to everything with discernment. Godly preachers can say the most foolish and unhelpful things from time to time. Then we can be surprised when someone we would least expect to says something true, valuable and lasting.
2. Part of the problem with that type of censorship is that I can spend my whole life hunting and tracking down things. I can also get into a mindset of guilt by association. A song is referenced on my CD as performed at Bethel. Is that because it is from Bethel Music originally or because their musicians have performed it or because the songwriter appeared there once? Assuming that every Christian songwriter who has appeared at Bethel is in full alignment with their teaching may be both cynical and naïve at the same time.
3. However, I need to continue to be aware that I can be complacent and naïve about what I listen to as well. Whilst there may be some okay songs with some fair enough lyrics, I wonder what is the impact of song writing arising out of a particular teaching diet. If I allow the songs from that theological culture to become my regular diet then I risk allowing that diet to subtly influence me.
4. In terms of public worship, could my use of a song cause others to stumble either because they are offended and their mind is on the origins of the song so it affects their engagement with the service or because it leads some to assume that if that song is okay then everything is okay.
5. I need to be aware that when I buy, download or use a song in corporate worship then royalties are involved. This is why some churches chose not to use Vicky Beeching’s songs after she came out in favour of same sex relationships. I think we need to be aware of this but careful as well. On the one hand, we do need to think about where our own financial support is going, are we tacitly supporting something that isn’t healthy or helpful. However, we can also become legalistic on this. Should the church really be denied a helpful song of praise for worship because the writer has changed their position and slipped away from orthodoxy? What about when I bought that book I disagreed with? Am I financing Steve Chalke or Bill Johnson?
I offered these thoughts not to lead to a hard rule on this because I think this is another example of where wisdom thinking is needed and I want to encourage people to think hard, carefully and Biblically about their decisions