the baby and the bathwater


Healer
September 4, 2008, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This situation is so tragic. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it now. I was on holiday when a friend sent me a text saying that Mike Guglielmucci, the writer of the song ‘healer’ has actually never had cancer.

My first reaction was a combination of anger and sadness. The fact that someone had purposely deceived a whole load of people in order, so it seemed, to get a profile for himself and, maybe more significantly (at least financially), a song, felt outrageous.

And part of it was frustration, because I had fallen for the song and the testimony hook line and sinker. I was really moved by the story and loved the song. The power of testimony is so strong, and this one was, on the face of it, one of the most powerful I had heard.

Now I’m not the sort of person who would say ‘I thought there was something strange’ or ‘I never really liked the song’. But I sort of wish that I was that prophetic that I could have smelt the wiff of something dodgy a mile off. But I’m not, and I didn’t, and it was frustrating.

And of course then the full story came to light. Mike was using the cancer story to cover up another issue in his life. And apparently he wasn’t ‘found out’ but he confessed. And he confessed in response to the voice of God telling him to sort it out. Of course we might want to view anything that is reported on this now with a fair degree of scepticism, but it seems like all the money is being paid back as well, and that Mike is going through counselling. All of which is good.

But how do I react as a worship leader who has used the song regularly, even at a national conference like new wine this summer.

Well, the first thing always on my mind is that my fundamental task as a worship leader is to gather people together for an encounter with God, and that everything I do should have the aim of setting people’s attention on Him. And for that reason alone, at this moment in time, my view is that I should lay the song aside and not use it, at least for a season while things settle down. Yes I know that the song is good, and was probably inspired by God, and speaks truth. But I think that at the moment if I use it either I, or the congregation, will have the current tragic circumstances brought to mind, and my job is to put people’s attention on God, not on someone else’s tragic circumstances.

The other thing that I feel tempted to do is make some sort of statement by using the song – you know, that every worship song is probably inspired by God, but written by someone with some measure of sin in their lives – which is probably true – so I will use it to make a point. But again, my role as a worship leader is not to make statements, or make points, but to lead people into an encounter with God. And for that reason also, I want to lay the song down for a season.

But I do hope this song will come back into the worshiping life of our church at some point. Once the story has faded away from our radars a bit, and hopefully we hear of a measure of restoration in Mike, then I see no reason why it shouldn’t. And just to show I am hopefully being consistent, I still use Prosch songs, and Carl Tuttle songs. Of course the other issue is that issue of money – some people will argue that, since a songwriter potentially gets a few pence when one of their songs is used in a church, then we should be sure of a songwriters absolute integrity before we use the song. Well good luck with that one. Ee may find our song-lists end up being very short.

This is a tragic story, in a long list of tragic stories for many worship leaders down the years. It is tragic firstly for Mike and his family, and then for his church. But one of the worst things we can do is let events like this harden our hearts, or stop us from seeing good things in people, or stop us receiving good things from God, or wanting to tell the story of good things in our lives to encourage people in the future.

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13 Comments so far
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Neil, thanks for your wisdom on this. I have heard and read so much about it… it feels like gossip.

I love what you say about having your role fixed on leading people into an encounter with God and not making points statements. That alone has helped me. Discerning what is right and appropriate for encounter is part of the ongoing journey through worship.

Comment by Ben Mizen

Fantastic post Neil – very well measured and thought through as ever!

Comment by Paul Kingsley-Smith

Ben/Paul – thanks for the comments

Comment by Neil Bennetts

wise words, neil. when i heard the news, i couldn’t bear to hear the song, or even the first few notes of the guitar intro. but after a few days of churning it it over, listening to God, and mulling over my mistakes and the grace God has shown me, I have been able to listen to the song and use it in my own worship times, as it speaks something new to me of God’s grace. i believe it was written as a genuine heart cry from mike g, and has God’s anointing on it. (God works in mysterious ways!)

yes, i think it is too raw for some people to sing it at this time in church, but i really hope we can sing it again.

i was planning on using it in my set at church
, and then when i hear the news, thought i’d use it anyway, but i think you’re absolutley right that it’s not helpful for some, and may take focus away from God. people’s healing journey will be at different rates for different people in regards to this song. but we will sing it eventually.

Comment by Anonymous

I found the DVD clip a little similar to the segments on X-Factor where they ham up someone’s hard luck story – it was a bit too over emotional for me…. Paul’s words about boasting in our sufferings rang around my brain whenever I saw the footage…..

our small disappointment in finding out that a song was not what we thought it was, must be put into comparison with the guy’s family, who were duped into believing that someone they loved and cherished was going to die…. that is truly the saddest part, not the loss of a song or even the financial suspicions that accompany this lie…..

honesty in life
honesty in ministry
honesty in worship…. so important

Comment by David Gate

I’m lucky enough not to have heard the song until the ‘truth’ was out – I expect I’d have been in the same boat as you, Neil, had I heard it earlier.

Two things got me thinking from your post.

The first is – just exactly HOW did this happen in the guy? I mean, I’m guessing it didn’t start as an over-arching plan to deceive millions – probably just a suggestion in a conversation that he had an opportunity to tell the truth or lie about some year ealier that just needed another slightly bigger lie to cover that one up – a bit like David and Bathsheba; one minute you’re just oggling a nude bather, next thing you know you’ve arranged the murder of one of your most trusted military commanders. I have these words in my head – “sin always takes you farther than you wanted to go, makes you stay longer than you wanted t5o stay, and costs you more than you ever imagined possible”. Error reacts to error and we spiral out of control.

Second, I’m wary of placing Christians on pedastols. A key moment in my life was a youth thing when Jonathan Edwards (the triple jumper not the theologian) spoke – he’s now lost his faith. Then we have Todd’s woes and Mike’s lies. There but for the grace of God go I – but the more we build up the great men of God rather than the great God himself, we do run the risk of messy situations like this. Because we are all broken, we all make errors. It’s just the errors I make aren’t public. Hmm. But then the power of God is revealed not just in abstract truth but in relationship and testimony; the bible is a record of a covenant story, rather than a textbook. How do we keep the two in balance?

Comment by MattCrossman

Dave

Wise words as ever. The impact on the family must be devastating…i can’t imagine how trust will be restored.

And for us, we’ll probably never know the full story, the real motivation for the song or the extent to which the song is/was anointed by God. My hunch is that God was very much in it somewhere along the line.

I sort of know what you mean about the video/testimony…but despite my own cynical tendencies i still want to keep an open mind and an open heart to such things…and maybe err on the side of believing people.

Comment by Neil Bennetts

Matt

very helpful comments. as so often, a small lie leads on to a bigger one…onto a bigger one….

When trying to process both these tragic situations recently, i heard a great comment…that we too often look at the signs/wonders/great songs to validate the ministry/person, when actually they are there to validate God.

Sure people let us down, but really if their demise crushes us, then we were putting too much faith in them.

Comment by Neil Bennetts

Neil, thanks so much for your comments on this. I was finding it very difficult to know what to do as I had really felt the song was anointed before I knew the writers background (and still feel that it has some place in corporate worship) but as you say, perhaps it is time to lay it aside for the moment. I still continue to listen to it at home as the song hasn’t been tainted enough for me personally to abandon it in worship. As a friend commented: ‘How do we discern who has integrity or judge a worship leader? The man who wrote the Psalms was a desperately flawed human being but does that mean that the writings are not useful for worship?’
Just a thought that I am still pondering on..
Suzie

Comment by Suzie Yates

Susie

You are right – it is very hard to determine integrity of the worship leader. And let’s face it, if worship leaders are looking for 100% integrity from the songwriters of every worship song they use, then their song lists will be very short! You could probably take mine off for a start.

And that’s why ultimately our question must be whether a song will facilitate worship or hinder it. That’s why for a season I am laying the song aside.

And also like you, I think there is probably a lot of God in this song despite the circumstances that surround it. Which is why I recon at some point people will start to use it again.

Comment by Neil Bennetts

Does no-one have a problem that the song is a lie

it isn’t just abstract words on a page the song was sold as a powerful testimony of someone dieing from cancer’s belief in a healing God who can heal him

I don’t think that is comparable to singing Prosch or Tuttle songs unless they were knowingly writing songs that they didn’t believe or that played a part in propagating a lie. Its not like he had a slip up or melt-down after writing a few great worship songs but wrote it knowing he was deceiving people with it.

I know I’m not normal in having big hang-ups about associating songs with their writer and the importance of context to songs.

But might it also be sending the wrong message to songwriters to continue using this song, rather than promoting authenticity, character and being honest as essential to the creation of new songs of worship for the church. Isn’t it encouraging worship leaders to write songs they don’t believe or mean as long as it’s catchy or has the desired effect.
Surely authenticity is the only thing stopping all of us from just being musical emotional manipulators.

If we wouldn’t tolerate a worship leader in our church without honesty or authenticity then should we be using this song again.

Comment by Matt Wilson

Matt,

I am sure that so many of us share your frustration and concern over this song. And maybe the song and it’s discredited testimony will forever be so closely linked that we won’t sing the song ever again. Only time will tell.

Until then, we need to make our ‘best calls’ and for me at the moment that is to not sing it, but be open to it coming back at some point.

Comment by Neil Bennetts

but in saying that it could make a come back isn’t that potentially negative message to send out about song writing

Comment by Matt Wilson




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