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The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

This article is kept updated as needed.

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I’ve noticed that false doctrine is not just restricted to sermons, conferences, and Bible studies, but that I have to watch out for it in the contemporary Christian music (CCM) I listen to as well. Are there any CCM groups, artists, or songs I should avoid? Can you recommend any specific doctrinally sound artists or groups?

You’re absolutely right that we need to be careful about what we listen to that wears the label “Christian.” There is a lot of beautiful, doctrinally sound, theologically rich music of all genres out there, and there’s a lot of junk as well.

I’d like to offer a couple of caveats before diving into the answer for this question:

1. I plead extreme ignorance when it comes to CCM. With rare exception, it’s not a genre I enjoy, I don’t listen to it, and the worship service I attend uses “traditional” (mostly hymns) music, so I’m not often exposed to it. I’m all in favor of doctrinally sound CCM for those who like that genre, it’s just not my personal cup of tea or an area I research.

So, in this article I’m going to tell you what little I know, point you to people and resources better equipped to answer this question, and lean heavily on you discerning CCM listeners for help (more on that in a bit).

2. There is lousy theology in every genre of music. There are lousy hymns, lousy Christian rap, lousy CCM, lousy gospel, lousy Southern gospel, etc. This question was asked specifically about CCM, so that’s what the answer is going to focus on. It’s not a debate about hymns or exclusive psalmody versus CCM.

3. Depending on music from currently popular musicians is a lot like depending on Bible studies from currently popular evangelical authors. The majority of them aren’t doctrinally sound, and even the few that are seem to be apostatizing at an alarming rate. My recommendation to churches? Either go back to using tried and true doctrinally sound hymns, sing the Psalms, or find some talented musicians and lyricists in your own (doctrinally sound) church and put them to work writing songs for your worship service.

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Why is it important to be discerning about Christian music? Because the music we use in church and listen to at home teaches us theology, and it sticks in our memories (which is why a lot of Scripture memory programs set Bible verses to music to help with memorization). You probably couldn’t recite verbatim a quote from last Sunday’s sermon, but I’ll bet you know the lyrics of a lot of songs by heart. It’s important that those lyrics contain good theology.

It’s imperative for churches to be discerning about the CCM they use in worship. If Jane Churchmember hears a CCM song in church and likes it, she’s likely to Google the song (probably right there in church- I’ve done it!), find out who sings it, and begin following that artist. Worship pastors who use CCM have a responsibility to vet the artists who perform the songs they select for the worship service to make sure they’re not sending Jane into the arms of a heretic. Additionally, music costs money, and you don’t want your church’s offerings supporting false doctrine.

Artists to Avoid:
Hillsong
Jesus Culture
Bethel Music
Elevation Music
Kari Jobe
Nichole Nordeman 
(Nichole has extensive ties to a plethora of false teachers and was recently very vocal in her support of Jen Hatmaker’s embrace of homosexuality in the church.)

There are probably many others, but those are the only names I personally know to give you.

Doctrinally Sound Artists:
Keith and Kristyn Getty
Sovereign Grace Music
Indelible Grace Music

Again, I’m sure there are many others, I’m just not familiar with them. *(January 2021- Keep an eye on the Gettys. They’re still doctrinally sound as far as I know, but over the past couple of years, they have been platforming some biblically problematic personalities at their events. Jon Harris discusses this on the Russell Fuller reveals more, The Getty’s invited who?, & SEBTS prof. takes on The Gospel Coalition episode of Conversations that Matter, ~28:04)

Owen Strachan recently made some recommendations, though they’re not all contemporary, on Twitter: (others also responded with suggestions, click here to see):

(I’m not familiar with all of these, but in case you need their first names to look them up: Bob Kauflin, Stuart Townend, Matt Papa, John Newton, Martin Luther, Horatio Spafford.)

My worship pastor friend, Darren, has put together this Spotify list for his church. Most of these musicians are doctrinally sound, and I trust Darren’s discernment. I’m not familiar with all of the artists on the list, but a couple of notes on a few I am familiar with: CityAlight is the music ministry of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which allows women to preach. Selah is not a group I typically proactively recommend, as one of its members, Todd Smith, is the husband of Angie Smith. Shane and Shane uses Bethel, Hillsong, and Elevation music (see “Popular False Teachers” tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.). You will, of course, need to vet for yourself the theology and associations of any musician or group you decide to follow.

I would recommend three things when deciding whether or not to listen to someone:

1. Look up the lyrics of about half a dozen of her latest songs and examine the lyrics against Scripture. It’s helpful to look at the words in front of you without hearing the music so you can really think about them. Are they biblical?

2. Look to see who the artist associates with and admires. The easiest way to do this is to check their Facebook and Twitter feeds. Do you see scads of re-tweets and shares of posts from false teachers?

3. Go to the artist’s web site, and examine her statement of faith (if she has one) and the venues she’ll be playing. Does she frequently play at places like Bethel? Lakewood? The Potter’s House? Is she the worship leader at a lot of conferences featuring false teachers? You might also want to look at her bio to see if she mentions her home church. If she’s a member of a church headed up by a false teacher, that’s definitely a red flag.

Below you’ll find some helpful additional resources relating to specific songs, artists, and the CCM industry. I’d also like to solicit the help of you discerning listeners of CCM:

Are there CCM songs or artists you would recommend avoiding due to biblically demonstrable sin or false doctrine? Please comment below with the exact name of the artist/song, the reason to avoid said artist/song, and a link(s) providing lyrics and/or objective support for your reason.
Unsubstantiated accusations will not be published.
Are there doctrinally sound artists you would recommend? Please comment with the name of the artist (and preferably a link to his/her web site) below.

Additional Resources

Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

The Discernment in Music Archive at Faithful Stewardship

Sound in Worship by Justin Rea

Christian Music Review from Reformed Fellowship Church

Worship Song Ratings by Sandy Simpson

What’s So Bad About Christian Radio by Gabe Hughes

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: Putting Popular Church Music to the Test by Gabe Hughes

In Response to Putting Popular Church Music to the Test by Gabe Hughes

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (vol. 2) by Gabe Hughes


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

33 thoughts on “The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music”

  1. Suggestions of good artists from social media: Chelsea Moon, Indelible Grace, Matthew Smith, Andrew Peterson, Fernando Ortega, Red Mountain Music, Sandra McCracken, Kris Williams, Selah, Citizens and Saints, Christ Our Life, Enfields.

    I can’t personally vouch for any of these as I’m not familiar with them. Please listen discerningly.

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    1. Not sure how to make a general comment, so posting as a reply.
      Sounds like Reign is an amazing family group. What I have seen from their blog/vlog, they are biblical.

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      1. My husband is a Pastor and a couple of our favorites are Sons of Korah (they do all psalms AND the music is A.MA.ZING! very different, solid… they’re from Australia I think… look them up online) Also, loving Matt Boswell and Matt Papa…their latest album, Sure and Steady Anchor is wonderful… very solid

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    2. I feel like it’s a never-ending battle with finding those who are Biblically sound! I liked City Alight and just “discovered” them! I am thinking of not listening to any “Christian” music and just reading the Bible. BTW – the main reason I wanted to comment was that your comment from 1-30-2017 states “Selah”, which you say you can’t recommend above in your blog post because one member is married to Angie Smith… (I realize in your comment that you “replied” to the blog posts says that you can’t personally vouch for them – just thought it was weird as you write in your blog “not a group I typically proactively recommend”. Could cause some confusion, but I guess if one is looking/researching this topic, they could research more.

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      1. Sons of Korah (all Psalms but contemporary with a very interesting and skilled musicianship)
        Matt Boswell and Matt Papa, newest album Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor

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  2. Would you be concerned with using Sovereign Grace Music because of their congoing legal problems? Since music is money, are people showing support for all of SG by singing worship music and displaying the source on overhead projections etc?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great question. I was under the impression that a) the legal problems were resolved, and b) that SGM is a separate entity from the church. It would be a good idea for folks who are thinking about following SGM to research the situation and make biblical decisions accordingly. Thanks for the heads up!

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    1. CARMEN MILLER:
      I was truly wanting to read about biblical music artists.
      Seriously!? The link goes to a merchandise page -not too thrilled about that.

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      1. Hi Diana- If you’ll notice the date on Carmen’s comment, it was 2017, and when you click on the link, you get a 404 (content not found). My guess would be that at some point in the last 4 years, Carmen decided to delete the “blog” portion of her sales website (notice the /blog/ part of the URL), which many merchandising websites have. I’m sure the article was there when she originally commented with the link.

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  3. I would like to add to stay away from Matt Maher. He is a Roman Catholic who has played for the Pope and regularly appears at a Catholic youth conference. One of his songs teaches about transubstantiation, yet Evangelicals will play his song entitled Lord I Need You.

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    1. Note: I’m publishing Lee’s comment even though it doesn’t contain evidentiary links because I’ve read recent articles that corroborate what he’s saying.

      Lee- Would you happen to have links to any articles that would support the points you’re making? Also, I read over the lyrics to Lord, I Need You and I’m not seeing anything in there about transubstantiation. Was that the song you meant, or was it another one?

      Thanks for the heads up on Matt.

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      1. Matt Maher was also a part of the heretical Wildgoose Festival held in Hot Springs, NC in 2016. That is an emergent free for all that takes place every year.

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  4. So dissapointed to hear Nicole Nordeman is backing gay marriage love her poetic unique way of songwriting. I thought let me pray before I get rid, but I know really what I need to do haha, that’s four albums that will be thrown away.

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    1. Hi Becy-

      I would love to, but that’s just not my area of expertise since I don’t listen to it. I’ve listed several in my comment above, and my Facebook readers mentioned several as well. I would also recommend you check out my friend Jorge’s blog, Faithful Stewardship (1st under “Additional Resources”). He can probably point you in the right direction. Hope you find some great artists to listen to! :0)

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  5. I have been studying and researching a lot of CCM artists. I recommend to stay far away from them as they do not live in the spirit producing good fruits. Stay away from David Crowder. Here’s an article explaining why. http://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-reads/walk-with-him/

    Also search 107 Thesis by Steve Camp. It explains a lot. I also read a book called “Why I left CCM movement by Dan Lucarini.

    It reminds me of “‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ””
    ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭15:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the info. Katie. I don’t disagree that CCM is a vast theological wasteland, but I don’t think we can make a blanket statement to stay away from all of it. They may be few and far between, but there are genuine Believers in that genre writing doctrinally sound music. We should encourage them and feel free to use or listen to their music.

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  6. It isn’t just the theology of CCM that should be evaluated. The music itself if often rock. Can’t imagine rock music in Heaven… There is much to be learned from former CCM leaders, such as Dan Lucarini, who has several books on the subject. Many CCM performers cite rock musicians as their inspiration.

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    1. I think we need to be really careful in condemning particular genres of music just because we don’t personally like them. I don’t care for bagpipe or sitar music either, but that doesn’t make that genre of music intrinsically sinful. Whatever style of music we do or don’t encounter in Heaven, I’m sure it will be much higher and more perfect than anything we’ve encountered on earth – including whichever genres of music are our favorites.

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      1. For many of us music is not a matter of preference, but of biblical principle. Various genres of secular music can qualify as preference. However, regarding Christian music, some very educated musicians have studied the subject, and have written on this as a biblical principle. In addition to Dan Lucarini, Dr. Frank Garlock, who has degrees from prestigious Eastman School of Music has studied & written extensively on this. Because there are very spiritual, educated musicians who speak strongly on the subject, perhaps it is a good idea for Christians to inform themselves on this important topic as well.

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      2. I’m not sure how it can be a biblical principle if the Bible doesn’t address different genres of music, and I don’t recall any verses that say one genre is OK with God and another is not. Sounds like an interesting topic, though. Thanks for the information and have a blessed day. :0)

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  7. I raised my children on christian music, I sought bands based on certain music labels, forefront etc. It never occured to me that I may have been inadvertently subjecting them to heretical music. I have boxes of cds from the late 90’s, Crystal Lewis, dctalk, grammatrain, 7 day Jesus, PFR, Jars of lay, Iona, and the list goes on. My church plays lots of music from current artists. I thought I was helping my children by keeping them from from secular artists. You just dont know who or what to believe anymore, just because it has pleasurable tones and right sounding lyrics dosent mean the music is biblically sound, ugh!

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  8. Not sure if this has been addressed before or not.
    When visiting a church, if they play a song by a band/artist that knowingly comes from a church that teaches false doctrine, is it ok to still sing along, or to not sing it?
    I would guess that it’s probably up to our own convictions, but people think I’m unreasonable for not singing along when there’s a song that I know comes from a band/artist from a church that teaches false doctrine. And if I don’t know a song or where it comes from, I make sure to think about the lyrics and test whether they’re scripturally sound.
    Also, there seems to be songs that have theologically sound lyrics that come from some of these bands/artists that knowingly come from a church that teaches false doctrine.
    Personally, when I’m choosing music to listen to, or if I were in charge of the praise band at a church, I would go with a trusted band/artist, but when visiting a church, I don’t have that option.

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    1. I don’t think it really matters whether you’re visiting a church or a member of that church, you should not sing any song along with any song you know contains false doctrine or you know comes from a heretical source (whether or not the lyrics of that particular song are heretical). If you’re in the middle of the song service and a song comes up that seems doctrinally sound as you’re singing it, and you don’t know where it comes from, I would not call it a sin to sing along with it, but you might want to go ahead and look it up later when you get a chance. Who cares what other people think? This is the worship of God we’re talking about, here. What’s important is what He thinks. :0)

      Like

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