Discernment, Sermons

Why Your Church Should Stop Playing Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, and Jesus Culture

Justin Peters and Todd Friel discuss the theological problems with Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and Elevation music and why your church shouldn’t use their music in this video interview: Why Your Church Shouldn’t Play Bethel and Hillsong Music.

Is it wrong to sing songs from Bethel if they are theologically correct? In this episode of Redeeming Truth, Pastors Costi Hinn, Dale Thackrah, and Kyle Swanson provide insight into the dangers of supporting ministries like Bethel [and Hillsong, Jesus Culture and Elevation Music], that have a false understanding of who Christ is.

If you are looking for theologically accurate worship music to listen to or sing in your church, they have put together a Spotify worship playlist that you can listen to. Costi has also written an excellent companion article on his blog: Should Your Church Sing Jesus Culture & Bethel Music?


Excerpted from my article The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

“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.

Now, every time I address the subject of being discerning about worship music and that churches should not use worship music from heretical sources (such as Bethel, Hillsong, and Elevation) someone who’s defending using music from these heretical sources [will say]:

Well, [insert name of hymn writer here] wrote lots of perfectly biblical hymns, but he had some theological problems too, and you’re not recommending we get rid of all of his hymns.

Well, first of all, maybe we should more closely examine the theology of some of our most prolific hymnists and stop using their music because of what they believed. Quick – off the top of your head, name the three we should start with…

…And that’s what separates the errant hymnist from Bethel, et al. Most Christians, even those who prefer hymns over CCM, could probably not name three people who wrote hymns, let alone tell you anything about their theology. But if you ask the average Christian to name three top Christian artists, she could rattle them off in a second.

Most hymn writers have been dead for up to hundreds of years. They don’t have Facebook pages you can follow, nobody’s playing their stuff on KLOVE, they’re not on tour to promote their latest album, they don’t have thousands of followers worldwide, and their music is in the public domain, so your church isn’t financially supporting them or their work. If you wanted to follow their errant theology, you’d have to hit the books to research and study it. Contemporary musicians’ theology is only a click away on YouTube, social media, live streamed concerts and conferences, and on their web sites. Nobody is following dead hymnists’ false doctrine, but hordes are following contemporary musicians’ heresy.”


Excerpted from my article The Mailbag: Potpourri (…Solid churches with heretical music…)

“We have been searching for a doctrinally sound church in the area we moved to, and unfortunately it has not been easy! The few that we have found still use Hillsong, Bethel or Elevation music. I usually cross a church off the list quickly if they sing from those artists. But like I said, now I am finding even doctrinally sound churches are throwing some of those songs in. Do you have any insight to this dilemma?”

for pastors and ministers of music: This is yet one more reason it is detrimental to your church to use music from Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, Elevation, any musician connected these groups, or any other musician who isn’t doctrinally sound (after you have thoroughly vetted him/her/them.) regardless of how biblical the lyrics of any particular song of theirs that you’re using might be. You could potentially be turning away solid, mature, discerning Believers who might otherwise be interested in joining your church. The woman who sent in this question is not the first to ask me something like this – not by a long shot. This issue is increasingly of concern to Christians looking for a solid church. (For that reason, I do not list churches – even Reformed or seemingly otherwise doctrinally sound churches – on my Reader Recommended Churches list who use music from heretical sources like these.)

When a visitor walks into your sanctuary for the first time, your worship service is the “face” of your church to her. What kind of a first impression are you making? When you use music by doctrinally unsound musicians, it does not say, “We’re really a doctrinally sound church – honest! We only use songs from these groups whose lyrics are biblical.”. It says, “This church has leaders who aren’t discerning,” or “If this church uses music by these heretical groups, what other doctrinal problems does it have?”. Why put that stumbling block out there when there is plenty of music available with biblical lyrics written/performed by doctrinally sound musicians?

And there’s another stumbling block that using this type of music puts in front of weaker brothers and sisters that you may not have realized. I have heard from a number of Christians whom God graciously saved and rescued out of the pit of “churches” similar to Bethel, Hillsong, and Elevation. They tell me that when they walk into what they think is a doctrinally sound church and hear music from these and other heretical sources, it triggers a form of spiritual PTSD. It’s traumatizing to them. They immediately become fearful that your church is mere steps from turning into one of these types of “churches.” Will they grow out of that reflexive reaction? Yes, some day, as God continues to sanctify them. In the meantime, do you want the music at your church to cause them unnecessary anxiety? I hope not.

Even for Christians who have not come out of “churches” like these but are knowledgeable about their heretical theology, using these songs in your worship service is putting a stumbling block in front of them, too. Take me, for example. I’ve studied these groups. I’ve seen their heresy and the damage they do to both the Kingdom and to the individuals who follow them. And because of that, I’ve zealously spoken out against them. If I visit your church and an Elevation song suddenly flashes up on the screen, my ability to worship is completely derailed in grief that your church would use a song from that source – especially if you know about their theology and are well acquainted with music from doctrinally sound sources that you could have used instead. I cannot sin against my conscience by singing those songs. Consider me a “weaker brother” if you like, but do you care more about me as your sister in Christ, or your “right” to use music from these sources? What about Paul’s posture in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13?

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

If this was true in Paul’s personal life, shouldn’t it surely be true of our worship services? If you wouldn’t put a Christmas tree or portrayals of Jesus in your sanctuary because it might offend a brother in Christ, why would you use worship music that causes offense to your brothers and sisters?

Finally, what is the proactively good reason for intentionally choosing music from a heretical source? In other words, when you’re selecting music for the worship service, why would you choose, say, a Hillsong song about God’s glory, or Psalm 23, or the crucifixion, when you could just as easily choose a song from a doctrinally sound source about any of those things – a source that isn’t a stumbling block to anyone, won’t give anyone the wrong impression about your church, won’t lead anyone to follow a heretical “church,” and won’t use your church’s offerings to support a heretical “church”? What makes the Hillsong song you’re choosing better than the song from the doctrinally sound source? It doesn’t seem to me that there’s a good enough reason to use songs from these sources that outweighs all the good, biblical reasons not to use them.

There is simply no good reason for a doctrinally sound church to use music from heretical sources like these.

There is simply no good reason for a doctrinally sound church to use music from heretical sources like Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and Elevation.


Additional Resources

Stop Singing Hillsong, Bethel, Jesus Culture, and Elevation by Scott Aniol

Why I Don’t Sing the Songs of Hillsong and Jesus Culture by Dan Cogan

Bethel Church (Redding, CA)/Bethel Music/Jesus Culture

Hillsong/Brian & Bobbie Houston

Elevation/Elevation Music

The Mailbag: What Is the New Apostolic Reformation?

The Mailbag: Should Christians Listen to Reckless Love?

God’s Not Like, “Whatever, Dude,” About How He’s Approached in Worship

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship

20 thoughts on “Why Your Church Should Stop Playing Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, and Jesus Culture”

  1. Thank you for speaking out about this ! Why would we want to align ourselves in any way with these false and heretical teachers ?!

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  2. Praise God. So glad eyes are being opened! Praying more pastors would follow suit. They are to protect the sheep!

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  3. I cannot find Pastor Pastor David Henneke’s church of First Baptist Church, Kingsland, Texas. It always says “This site cannot be reached.” Can you tell me about this?

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  4. Very telling of what kind of church this is that a pastor would spend his time with this “sermon” instead of just preaching the gospel.

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    1. Yes, he’s very much like Jude, isn’t he?

      “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3

      Scripture says pastors are to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). And one of the qualifications for a man to even be a pastor is:

      “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:9

      I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job of obeying Scripture’s instructions to pastors.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am totally in agreement that biblical churches should not be aligning with convoluted worship. This is not exclusive to these massive, global Movements that are leaking lies and deception into modern day Christianity aforementioned in this article, but also solo musicians and/or duos that are under the authority of heretical teachers and false gospel organizations like NAR, IHOP, etc who promote New Age mysticism and have found a way to mask themselves under their first and last name -so you won’t discover the connection until you seek out their background, and they are likely to be affiliated with these dangerous groups. We need to be aware of the wolves that come in sheep clothing, that is, artists with their misconstrued theology that are hidden in the Lyrics- some even a part of the writing process for other artists who happen to be biblically sound. Associations matter because if they did assist in the composition of a song we are presenting at church, we are now in a position of leading the congregation to unintentionally participate in a song meant to worship a different god, NOT the God of the Bible. The reason I’m bringing this to your attention is because some songs on the playlist that were provided here have been written by those watered-down artists that are part of these powerhouses: Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation and Jesus Culture. It’s hard work when you are called to lead worship, but the time and research you put in to what’s being projected on a screen is absolutely vital and should correlate with the efforts that the message your pastor is preaching from the pulpit. I would like to thank you for being bold and speaking the truth on this matter which seems to be so controversial these days -many pastors should learn the importance and value to follow Christ in pure, holy worship and not focus on their feel-good experiences and what’s pleasing to the ear (for satan disguises himself as an angel of light and deceives many). Worship goes beyond music, it’s a Christian’s way of life – but beware of those that use it as a “channel” ,who turn it into nothing but repetitive white noise and static. Be Bereans my brothers and sisters in Christ, & God bless!

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  6. He cherry picks the Bible and then ignores a key part of one of his picks, that the test for “false doctrine” is whether it matches what *Jesus* says, nothing else.

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    1. I’m afraid you’re incorrect, Matthew. I’m not sure which “he” you’re talking about since there are a lot of them in the post, but they’re all handling Scripture correctly (2 Timothy 2:15), and every word of Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), so they are comparing everything to “what Jesus says”. If you’re insinuating that they should only be using the “red letter” texts (the words Jesus verbalized during His earthly ministry) then you are actually promoting false doctrine.

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