Popular worship leader Israel Houghton is on “indefinite leave” from Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church while he goes through a “process of restoration.” In February, he announced that he and his wife of 20 years had divorced because he had “failed and sinned” in their marriage.
Should churches stop singing the songs of fallen worship leaders? Here's how experts weighed in. Answers are arranged on a spectrum from “yes” answers at the top to “no” answers at the bottom.
“When songs are sung in churches on Sunday mornings, songwriters make money. Though indirect, it is a business deal. If Paul suggests that we should not even eat with certain brothers who are immoral—as in living an unrepentant lifestyle—then should we sing their songs?”
~Josh Davis, coauthor, Worship Together in Your Church as in Heaven
“Churches may remove the song from the rotation for a while, because usually the song has a strong association with its writer and thus recalls their moral failure and could cause confusion or unease. If the writer’s life has been restored publicly, a song may be used again as a means of edification.”
~Jaewoo Kim, director, Arts in Mission Korea
“A boycott would be valid if the worship leaders are decidedly unrepentant, continue to violate Christian principles, or have opted to reject the integral tenets of the faith altogether. But as long as they are engaged in a restorative process, singing their songs in church should be permissible.”
~Eric Lige, director of worship, Ethnos Community Church, San Diego, California
“If the criteria for singing songs in worship depend on the writer’s life, I suppose we would never sing the Psalms, given David’s failings. That said, it’s probably wise to refrain from offering worship to God for a time with a particular song if we cannot offer it freely, on its own, as our own, without a troubling association.”
~Emily R. Brink, resource development specialist, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
"While I think we should be wary of embracing songs from songwriters who repeatedly scandalize the church with their choices and actions, those who seek to repent of their failings makes them no different than, well, the rest of us. Instead, we should pay far more attention to the theology proclaimed in our musical repertoires and the industrial structures that give rise to our worship music."
~Wen Reagan, director of worship, All Saints Church, Durham, North Carolina
“If the songs are faithful to Scripture, the issue is not whether to sing songs by a certain writer. The songs reflect that which is true about God. If that wasn’t the case, we’d have to boycott many of our historic hymns or sermons written by leaders who held slaves, or were complicit in selling or buying trafficked peoples.”
~Sandra Maria Van Opstal, author, The Next Worship
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