Q&A : Can I Sing Worship Songs of Artists Belonging to a Questionable Group?

At the outset itself, I want to make it clear that theology and doctrine are highly important in everything we believe and do as Christ-followers. It is thus important in what we sing to the Lord also. Worship in the Bible is always a response to God’s revelation. Thus worship which follows the imagination of man, whether in its conception of God or in its articulation of praise to Him is deficient and displeasing to God. One of the characteristics of true worship is that it is firmly grounded on biblical revelation. However we can go overboard with that emphasis and quench worship. There are of course some who completely deny any place for contemporary songs in our congregational worship. However even those who do include contemporary songs can go overboard with this emphasis.  

One way to go overboard for them would be to embrace an absolute banning of  certain songs simply because they come from groups with questionable beliefs. Now I am not recommending a mindless embracing of anything which sounds good to us. Throwing discernment out of the window is not biblical Christianity. However on the other hand, an absolute curtailing of all such songs is not fair either. For in the choice of a song for worship, the primary criterion employed should never be who wrote or made the song. That is always secondary. First of all we should read the text in itself and see if the song is well within the bounds of biblical orthodoxy.  Here we should be careful to distinguish core doctrines from characteristic doctrines. What we are testing is basic orthodoxy, those doctrinal convictions surrounding the revelation of our God and His gospel, which are so essential to being a Christian. We are not testing their convictions regarding secondary matters on which even true Christians can differ. 

We should then check whether the manner of articulation is fitting to the weightiness of eternal matters dealt therein. A song might be pretty orthodox, but it can be written and sung in a manner most unworthy of its matter. By manner is not meant style or genre. For we can have a soft and chirpy melody with poor lyrics and even poorer delivery, not matching the dignity of our God and a metalcore (or rap) song with thoughtful words and engaged delivery so highlighting the greatness of our God. So what I mean by manner is not style or genre but articulation and disposition. A lot of contemporary songs fail this test and cannot be used in private or public worship. I can just play them while riding my car as a substitute to worldly songs. In other words, they end up as a form of Christian entertainment.  A further check could be the kind of affections the song is inviting from its listeners towards the great God of the gospel.  If the song passes these  tests of logos, ethos and pathos, then personally I feel free to listen to and sing it, whoever be the artists.  

By no means am I therefore indicating that knowing some background information about an artist or a group is not useful in making wise judgements on this issue. Knowing the background and theological lineage of a group is highly helpful in understanding their songs, especially if certain theological emphases are embedded in their songs and not apparent on the surface. However even then we are faithfully dealing with the text of the song and not being prejudiced. In other words, such knowledge is crucial to our effectiveness in conducting the logos test. 

We need much humility and wisdom to hit the balance between openness to the Spirit’s working  through diverse groups in the body of Christ and being critical of everything originating from human flesh.  We need not keep track of every event and group an artist associates with but only worry about whether or not the text of their songs, the manner they write and sing, and what affections they arouse are in accord with divine revelation.

For more on corporate worship and worship leading :

Gravity and Gladness: The Pursuit of God in Corporate Worship By John Piper :  DVD  | Watch Online