My name is Carol and this is a story of how God can and does work for those who love him and seek after him. Our journey in various churches is a reflection on how immature and ignorant of God’s word my husband, Bill and I have been. We would join a church on nothing more than a feeling, then eventually would see false teachings or unfruitful behaviors, then confront the leaders, then get abused by them, then leave. This became a pattern for us. Each time thinking, “This is the right one,” then each time the same pattern as mentioned above emerged.
Each time thinking, “This is the right one,”…
As a talented guitar player, Bill would always join the worship teams. At one point we actually did find a decent church based on our feelings. However now looking back I can see a whole bunch of lukewarm error, not exactly deceptive, yet they allowed some questionable popular Bible studies in, and the teaching was more experiential than exegesis. It was a nondenominational church as were all the previous churches we had belonged to. The worship leader became a good friend and we were pretty happily going along until he and his wife decided to become missionaries in Romania.
Before they departed, Bill made them a promise that if or when they came back, he would help with the music wherever they landed. Once again, making decisions based on our feelings of devotion to a person and not on biblical foundations. So as promised when they arrived back we left our lukewarm church to help him start a worship team. It was a Baptist church much further away for us to travel to. But we made a promise and we were excited to embark on this new journey with our good friends.
After five years, we began questioning whether we should be playing Bethel music as worship. Our friend’s reply was that as long as the lyrics were okay, it was okay to play it. Then one day I heard a podcast in which a young lady had gone to Bethel and through SOZO counseling became convinced that she suffered abuse from her parents. Bethel leaders denied her parents visitations or any kind of communication with her. I was so moved by this that I asked my husband to help me do some research into Bethel and their musicians. I also wrote to Jan Markel asking her views on playing their music in church. Her response was “No church should ever allow their music”. Thus began many email exchanges between us.
The more research we did, the more convicted and convinced we became and while we kept mentioning our research to others in the church, it was always shrugged off as nothing important at all. Eventually we put all of our research into a paper entitled “Why Our Church Should Not Play Bethel Music as Worship” and we presented it to our dear friend, the worship leader. We presented facts, Scripture, resources from various pastors including John MacArthur, Justin Peters, Todd Friel, Jan Markel, and I had just discovered Michelle Lesley as well. We provided links to sermons and videos, etc…. It was all impersonal facts, and we prayed fervently over it as we wrote it, then again as we delivered it.
We prayed fervently…
Several weeks later we received an email from the pastor. He implied that we may have committed blasphemy, then told us we were very weak in our commitment to the church and that we were church hoppers looking for the perfect church, which doesn’t exist. This from a pastor who was there as long as we had been and whose church history is fairly similar to ours. I won’t even go into the ridiculous threat of committing blasphemy as there are plenty of good solid studies on it which refute his use of it. As far as our commitment, I will say that at one time during those five years, our twelve year old grand daughter’s bone cancer returned and we focused our attention on her and getting her through the painful surgeries. We still served the church to the best of our abilities during that time and after her recovery. So his response was a severe gut punch for those reasons as well as the fact that he revealed so much about himself that we had not seen before. Oh, our dear worship leader friend? We asked if he agreed with the pastor and it has been crickets from him ever since.
Heartbroken is a complete understatement, yet I think the Holy Spirit finally got through to our thick skulls. We finally came to the conclusion that we would never attend another church without a thorough vetting. So we sent an email out to multiple area churches with one question as the entry question. It was “How do you handle Bethel music as worship in your church?”
I think the Holy Spirit finally got through…
None replied. However in God’s sovereign grace he arranged for us to serve in a disaster relief program for some flood victims in a different church. During our service we met the Pastor who was new to this church. At one point during our conversations he asked if we had sent him an email about Bethel music. He had not replied to our email as it hit his inbox at a time when the flood had hit and he himself was busy with disaster relief. But he had intended on getting back to us eventually. He said he had not considered anything at all about Bethel, until that email which got him into doing some research and he became convicted by the extent of their heresies. He then asked us to help him put together a sermon about Bethel in which he would be denouncing their teachings and their music and making it very clear why it would not be played in his church anymore.
I will never forget the day he preached that sermon. In all the years and all the churches we had been in, we had never heard one like it. He mentioned the random email he had received and how it got him to question why someone would ask it? I still fight back tears when I recall how blessed we have been to finally be in a place where God’s word is revered above all else. No, there are no perfect churches, but some are grounded in the word of God and some are not. Some are willing to protect the flock from wolves in sheep’s clothing and some are the wolves. We finally found a true shepherd! We are now members of this church serving on the worship team, the media team, the youth group and eventually will be hosting a home group focused on discernment.
I still fight back tears when I recall how blessed we have been…
I wanted to share this testimony because we have gone through some very dark and depressing times, but God has been there in those times and has guided us toward him and his glory. If you are going through something similar, as long as you are on the solid rock of his word, nothing and no one can prevail against you. Keep standing on the rock of his word. He will be honored and glorified no matter how much it hurts in those dark times.
(P.S. – Since then, we have been on Jan Markell’s podcast Understanding the Times, in a two part show entitled “Worship Wars”, she also played a clip of our new pastor’s sermon. I have started my own blog as an outreach to the lost and to those lost in deception. It’s called Berean Real.)
Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His Word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Contact me, or comment below. Your testimony can be as brief as a few sentences or as long as 1500 words. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!