Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship

Originally published April 27, 2018

Social media is a strange universe to live in. There’s a lot of stupidity, but there’s also a lot that can be learned from various trending issues.

Such was the case recently when Christian social media was up in arms (and rightly so) about Cory Asbury’s worship song Reckless Love, and whether or not churches should use it in their worship services. Discussion centered around the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love for us and whether or not that was a semantically and theologically appropriate adjective. “Relentless” was suggested as an alternative lyric. “Reckless” was defended as an appropriate lyric. And then Cory Asbury’s explanation of the song came to light and did further injury to his doctrinal cause.

It was all a very interesting and helpful discussion, but, to some degree, it was a rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

‘Cause we’ve hit the ice berg, folks. And the ship is taking on water.

Focusing on the word “reckless” missed the point – at least the big picture point. You see, Reckless Love was produced by Bethel Music. And Cory Asbury is a “worship leader, songwriter and pastor” with the Bethel Music Collective. Prior to joining Bethel, he spent eight years as a worship leader with the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Why is this important? Because Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, and IHOP are, functionally, ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy. Heresy. Not, “They just have a more expressive, contemporary style of worship,”. Not, “It’s a secondary theological issue we can agree to disagree on.” Heresy. Denial of the deity of Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrably false prophecy that the head of IHOP, Mike Bickle, has publicly rejoiced in (He estimates that 80% of IHOP’s “prophecies” are false.) And that’s just the tip of our metaphorical ice berg when it comes to the NAR.

IHOP and Bethel are, by biblical definition, not Christian organizations and certainly not Christian churches. They are pagan centers of idol worship just as much as the Old Testament temples of Baal were. The only difference is that, instead of being creative and coming up with their own name for their god, they’ve stolen the name Jesus and blasphemously baptized their idol with that moniker.

The point in this whole debate is not the word “reckless”. The point is that Christian churches should not have anything whatsoever to do with idol worshiping pagans as they approach God in worship. Yet Sunday after Sunday churches use Bethel music, Jesus Culture music, Hillsong music, and the like, in their worship of God.

And it’s not just that churches are using music from the temples of Baal in their worship services. We have women who usurp the teaching and leadership roles in the church that God has reserved for men – many even going so far as to preach to men and/or hold the position of “pastor”. We have men setting themselves up as pastors who do not meet the Bible’s qualifications. We have churches that let anyone – Believer or not – participate in the Lord’s Supper. We have pastors who welcome false teachers and their materials into their churches with open arms and castigate anyone who dares point out the false doctrine being taught. We have preachers who have forsaken God’s mandate to preach the Word and use the sermon time to talk about themselves, deliver self-help tips, or perform a stand up comedy routine.

And everybody seems to think God’s up there in Heaven going, “Cool! Whatever y’all want to do in the name of worship is just fine and dandy with Me. You do you.”

Well, He’s not.

God demands – and has every right to do so – that He be approached properly. In reverence. In awe. In holy fear. With clean hands and a pure heart.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6

Let’s take a stroll through Scripture and be taught by those who learned that lesson the hard way…

Cain

Most of the time, when we read the story of Cain and Abel, we focus on the fact that Cain killed his righteous brother. But we tend to gloss over the event that precipitated the murder. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.

Scripture doesn’t tell us why God found Cain’s offering unacceptable. The Levitical laws delineating offerings and sacrifices hadn’t yet been given, and even if they had, grain offerings and other offerings of vegetation were perfectly appropriate if offered at the right time and for the right reason. Was it because Cain had a wrong attitude or motive when he gave his offering? Or maybe because he offered God leftover produce instead of his firstfruits? We don’t know. What we do know is that God had a standard of how He was to be worshiped, Cain violated it, and God expressed His displeasure.

Aaron and Israel

It’s shortly after the Exodus. The Israelites have seen God perform ten – count them – ten plagues on Pharaoh for his idolatry and failure to bow the knee to God’s command to let Israel go. They saw God destroy the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea. And now, their fearless leader, Moses, has trekked up Mount Sinai and is late getting back. The people are worried and restless.

Does Aaron lead them to pray? Trust God? Be patient? Nope. He fashions an idol for them – a golden calf. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he wasn’t even creative enough to come up with his own name for this idol. He stole God’s character and work and blasphemously baptized the idol with that moniker. He led the people to worship the false god as though it were the true God. (Does that ring any bells?)

“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.

Surely God gave them a pass, right? I mean, Moses broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments when he came down from the mountain before they even had a chance to read the first and second Commandments that prohibited what they were doing.

Uh uh. God told Moses to get out of the way so He could fire bomb Israel off the face of the Earth and start over with him. It was only after Moses pleaded with God to stay His hand that God relented and allowed for the lesser punishment of having the Levites kill 3,000 of them with the sword and sent a plague on the rest of them.

Doesn’t exactly sound like an “anything goes in worship” kind of God, does He?

Nadab and Abihu

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

Are you seeing a pattern here? God is so not OK with people approaching Him irreverently, via idol worship, or in any other way He deems inappropriate that He’s willing to kill them.

Saul

God sends Saul and his army on a mission to defeat the Amalekites. His instructions are simple: completely destroy everything. “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

But Saul’s a smart guy, see? He knows better. He goes in and destroys all the worthless stuff, but saves the good stuff for himself. It’ll be OK with God, he reasons, because he’s going to take some of the really nice sheep and make a big, showy sacrifice. Like a rich man pitching pennies to an urchin shoeshine boy.

And when Samuel confronts Saul about his rebellion, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”, Saul has the temerity to say, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.” Because he was going to perform an act of worship. And the fact that he was doing it his way instead of God’s way didn’t matter. In Saul’s mind, it was the outward act that counted and God should have accepted it.

God didn’t see it that way:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

God is not pleased with worship offered by hands dirtied with sin and rebellion. Saul paid the price: his throne and God’s favor.

Uzziah

Uzziah started off well as king of Judah. He listened to the counsel of Zechariah, obeyed God, and prospered. But after a while, prosperity can make you proud, and that’s just what happened to Uzziah.

He became so proud, in fact, that he took it upon himself to enter the sanctuary of the temple and offer incense to God on the altar. That was a position of leadership restricted to the priests. Uzziah had never been installed as a priest because he wasn’t biblically qualified to hold the office of priest, much like many who take on the role of pastor today.

Bravely, Azariah and eighty of his fellow priests stood up to the presumptuous king – at the risk of their lives, but in defense of proper worship as commanded in God’s Word – rebuked Uzziah, and kicked him out of the temple. “You have done wrong,” they said, “and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”

Well! Uzziah was hot with anger. How dare these mere priests stop him – the king whom God had blessed and prospered – from worshiping God any way he wanted to!

Guess who God sided with? The priests who were upholding His Word and His standard of worship. God struck Uzziah with leprosy for the remainder of his life, which exiled him from the palace and a royal burial, and effectively ended his reign.

The Pharisees

Hypocrites! Blind guides! Fools! Blind men! Greedy! Self-indulgent! Whitewashed tombs! Lawless! Serpents! Brood of vipers! Murderers!

How would you like to be dressed down like that by Jesus? You’re teaching the Scriptures. You’re tithing to the nth degree. You’re traveling over land and sea to proselytize. You’re behaving with outward righteousness. You’re memorializing the prophets. As far as you can tell, you’re doing pretty well with this holiness thing.

And here comes the Messiah – the One you’re (supposedly) doing all of this for – and He shames you. Publicly. He exposes your blackness of heart to the commoners you want looking up to you. All because God’s way is for you to worship Him in spirit and in truth, but you insist on doing it your way- for all your deeds to be seen by others, and because you love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

You’re approaching God in arrogance and selfishness, and He will have none of it. You won’t die to self, so He – if only temporarily – kills your pride.

The Corinthian Church

You’ve probably never seen a Lord’s Supper as messed up as the way the Corinthian church was doing it. Some people were going without while others were getting drunk. The “important” people got to go first while the poor and lower class went to the back of the line. People were using the Lord’s Table as an opportunity for selfishness rather than putting self aside and focusing on the fact that the purpose of this meal was to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

That wasn’t acceptable to God. He didn’t want the church observing the Lord’s Supper just any old way. It was dishonoring to Christ and shameful to His church.

So God declared that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

 

“But all of that was back in Bible times!” you might protest. “God isn’t killing anybody these days for worshiping Him improperly. In fact, some of the worst violators of God’s Word are rich ‘Christian’ celebrities!”

That’s right, they are. Exactly like God said they would be: “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” And woe betide them when they stand before Christ in judgment. Because judgment is coming for them:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23

God is high and He is holy, and so are His standards for those who approach Him. He expects His people to obey His Word about how He is to be worshiped.

“I, the Lord, do not change,” God says in the Old Testament. The New Testament tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God hasn’t mellowed out or calmed down or gotten more tolerant. The God who poured out His wrath on those who blasphemed Him with unbiblical worship in the Old Testament is the same God we worship this side of the cross. Nothing escapes His notice. He doesn’t let sin slide. Whether in this life, or the next, or both, there will be a reckoning for unbiblical worship.

When it comes to worship, God is not a “whatever” kind of God.

Discernment, Sermons

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

 

Want to see what it looks like to have a pastor who loves God, God’s Word, and his sheep more than the applause of men? Give this sermon a listen. Pastor David Henneke, of First Baptist Church, Kingsland, Texas, walks his congregation through the Scriptures dealing with false teachers and false doctrine to explain why FBC will no longer use music associated with Bethel and Hillsong. He also warns them away from several other false teachers.

(This is also a good sermon to listen to if you’re confused about expository vs. topical preaching. This is a good example of a biblical topical sermon.)

(Technical difficulties? When you click the Play button on this video, you may get an error message. However, simply click on the line that says “Watch this video on YouTube,” and you’ll be able to watch. If that doesn’t work, copy and paste this link into your browser bar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7R6AKFlWhI& or go to YouTube and search for “‘Why our church no longer plays Bethel or Hillsong Music’ Pastor explains false teachings”.)

 

 

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, we have put together a Spotify worship playlist that you can listen to.


Additional Resources

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

Mailbag, New Apostolic Reformation

The Mailbag: My friend just graduated from “prophecy school”

 

What would you say to a woman who just graduated from a “school of prophecy“? How do you handle this subject in a graceful way to help her see the truth?

Wow, that’s a tough one! These prophecy, healing, and other apostolic gifts “schools” similar to Bethel’s notorious School of Supernatural Ministry, are popping up everywhere and leading people astray into damnable New Apostolic Reformation heresy.

We love our friends and don’t want to see them deceived by false doctrine, but it can be a difficult topic to address. Why? Because when you get down to the nitty gritty of loving false doctrine and false teachers, the foundational issue is idolatry. And when people love their idols enough to follow them for years, and invest a lot of time, energy, and money in their idols’ schools, conferences, or materials, it’s very likely their reaction to being told they’re following an idol is not going to be…shall we say…pleasant and polite.

Fear of a negative reaction, however, is not something that should keep us from loving our friends enough to speak biblical truth to them. Remember what the Bible says:

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

In other words, if you’re a faithful, godly friend, you’ll risk hurting your friend’s feelings with kindly spoken Scriptural truth. If you lie to her or affirm her in falsehood in order to preserve her feelings, you’re her enemy, not her friend.

Ironically, in this situation, if you’re a true friend to this woman, you will likely lose your friendship with her. If she’s excitedly telling you about the prophecy school she just graduated from, she doesn’t want a true, godly friend who’s looking out for her best spiritual interests and will tell her that she just wasted precious time and money on something that’s dangerously unbiblical. She wants the kisses of the enemy to affirm her in her beliefs.

But, again, that’s OK. It really is OK if your “friend” chooses false doctrine over you (In which case, she isn’t being a good friend to you, is she?). It might be painful, but with the help and comfort of the Holy Spirit, you will not only survive, God will bless you.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. Mark 10:29-30

So, here are my suggestions for responding to your friend in a godly way.

Pray for yourself. Pray that God will help you speak boldly, yet kindly, to your friend. That He will give you the right words to say. That He will prepare your heart for the possibility of losing this friend by trying to help her.

 Pray for your friend. Pray for her salvation. People who are this far gone into heresy are not saved. (See John 10.) Pray that the Holy Spirit will open her eyes to the deception she’s under and the biblical truth you’re speaking to her.

Remember that you don’t have to say everything in one conversation. In fact, depending on the situation, it’s probably better that you don’t. Most women don’t respond well emotionally to drinking from a fire hose of informational rebuke, and she will probably not hear about 90% of what you say. Shorter conversations over a protracted period of time (as you’re continually praying for her) are much more likely to be effective.

✢ Asking questions is helpful. Instead of sitting down with an, “OK, girlfriend, here’s how it is,” approach, try asking your friend questions about the prophecy school and her beliefs. This will help in two ways. First, it helps you get up to speed on exactly what she was taught at this prophecy school and where she is, spiritually, so you’ll be able to give an informed response. Second, asking questions gives the conversation an “I care about you,” tone, which most women will respond to better than an “I’m here to set you straight because you’re wrong,” tone. If you demonstrate by your questions that you care about her and want to learn what she believes, she will be much more likely to reciprocate and listen when you share what you believe.

✢ Share the gospel. A really good verse to keep in mind during this whole process is 1 Corinthians 2:14:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Here’s what this means in your situation: You can perfectly present – the right tone, an uber-caring demeanor, all the right verses, the exact right words – every biblical argument against the things your friend was taught at prophecy school and she’s still not going to “get it” if she’s not saved. It will be “folly” to her and she will not be “able to understand them,” because she does not have the Holy Spirit indwelling her. Saved people embrace and submit to Scripture even when it’s hard because the Holy Spirit enables them to. Lost people kick against Scripture’s requirements because they’re devoid of the Holy Spirit.

Your friend needs the gospel first. You may want to show her my article Basic Training: The Gospel or some of the Scriptures in it, and ask some questions like,  “What do you think this article is trying to say?” or “What did the prophecy school teach you about this passage?” or “You said the prophecy school taught you _____. How does that match up with this verse?”. Another great question for assessing someone’s understanding of the gospel is, “If I had five minutes to live and I asked you how I could go to Heaven when I died, how would you answer me?”.

Once she’s saved, the Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting of correcting her theology. He is the one who will have to open her heart and mind to the truth of Scripture.

✢ Give her a graduation gift: A MacArthur Study Bible (I’d recommend the ESV translation.). Tuck in a bookmark with the gospel printed on it.

Share biblical resources. If your friend is open to it, give her gospel-centered, Scripture-rich books to read, sermons to listen to, podcast recommendations, etc. Invite her to services and events at your doctrinally sound church. (Do this occasionally. Don’t bombard her constantly.)

✢ Share Lindsay’s testimony. Last year, Lindsay Davis, while a student at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry, got saved after viewing the film American Gospel (a wonderful biblical resource to share with your friend), and was subsequently expelled for sharing the gospel with her fellow students and questioning the unbiblical teaching at the school. Lindsay has given her testimony in dozens of video, audio, and print interviews. Just Google “Lindsay Davis testimony” or “Lindsay Davis Bethel” and choose the one you think your friend would respond to best.

 

I hope things go well when you talk with your friend. I’m taking a moment to pray for both of you now, and I ask that everyone reading this would do the same.

Additional Resources:

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

Weak Women and the Idolatry of Personal Experience

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

Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher

Words with Friends: How to contend with loved ones at A Word Fitly Spoken

Words With Friends at Berean Examiner


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.

Mailbag, New Apostolic Reformation

The Mailbag: Should Christians listen to “Reckless Love”?

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be preparing to speak at the Cruciform
conference, so I’ll be re-running some popular articles from the archives.
I hope you’ll enjoy this one.

Originally published May 28, 2018

 

Should Christians listen to the song Reckless Love? Should churches use this song in their worship services or other activities? Aren’t songs like this OK if they point people to Jesus and the lyrics don’t blatantly contradict Scripture?

Goodness, I have never seen so much buzz over whether or not a particular song is OK to listen to or use at church. Regardless of your opinion of the song itself, I think we could all agree that one awesome thing that has come out of the Reckless Love debate is that it has encouraged Christians to actually look at the lyrics of, and think theologically about, the songs they listen to on the radio or sing in their worship services.

That’s phenomenal. We should be analyzing every song we sing that way whether it comes to us via a dusty antique hymnal or Pandora. There are hymns, and gospel songs, and CCM songs, and CHH songs that need to be thrown out because they contain poor, or outright heretical, theology. Here’s hoping we will continue to be as meticulous in examining every song we hear as we have been about examining Reckless Love.

So what about the song itself? Is it OK?

I’m going to start off my answer by drawing from a previous article, God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship:

Such was the case recently when Christian social media was up in arms (and rightly so) about Cory Asbury’s worship song Reckless Love, and whether or not churches should use it in their worship services. Discussion centered around the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love for us and whether or not that was a semantically and theologically appropriate adjective. “Relentless” was suggested as an alternative lyric. “Reckless” was defended as an appropriate lyric. And then Cory Asbury’s explanation of the song came to light and did further injury to his doctrinal cause…

…Focusing on the word “reckless” missed the point – at least the big picture point. You see, Reckless Love was produced by Bethel Music. And Cory Asbury is a “worship leader, songwriter and pastor” with the Bethel Music Collective. Prior to joining Bethel, he spent eight years as a worship leader with the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Why is this important? Because Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, and IHOP are, functionally, ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation  heresy. Heresy. Not, “They just have a more expressive, contemporary style of worship,”. Not, “It’s a secondary theological issue we can agree to disagree on.” Heresy. Denial of the deity of Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrably false prophecy that the head of IHOP, Mike Bickle, has publicly rejoiced in (He estimates that 80% of IHOP’s “prophecies” are false.) And that’s just the tip of our metaphorical ice berg when it comes to the NAR.

If you claim to be a Christian, and denying the deity of Christ (saying that Christ was only human, not God) and blaspheming the Holy Spirit aren’t enough for you, please take a moment right now to do some soul searching and ask yourself why that is. These people are blaspheming your Savior and you’re going to defend them? Denying the deity of Christ alone is enough to put a “church” outside the camp of Christianity. It is one of the damnable “another gospels” Paul refers to in Galatians 1:6-9.

But maybe seeing more of the fruit of the poisonous NAR tree will help:

“Holy” Laughter. The NAR blasphemously attributes this to the Holy Spirit, disregarding the fact that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control and that God demonstrates throughout Scripture that He is not a God of chaos, craziness, and confusion, but of orderliness and peace.

 

Fake and delusional prophecies. Pick any biblical prophet and read his prophecies in comparison with this. And don’t forget what the Bible says about false prophets.

 

Fake “glory clouds” of “gold dust” and “angel feathers” (glitter and feathers placed into the ventilation system) released during the worship service as a supposed sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I guess Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and the many promises of His presence in the New Testament aren’t good enough.

 

Raising the dead. Oddly enough in this age of everyone making videos of everything and cutting edge medical technology, there’s never been a single medically verified, video evidenced resurrection.

 

Being “drunk in the Spirit”. This is not how you do Acts 2:13-21 or Ephesians 5:18-19, two of the passages the NAR mangles to support this demonic activity, which they blasphemously attribute to the Holy Spirit. (By the way, the guy in this video, Todd Bentley, was commissioned as an “apostle” by Bill Johnson, lead “pastor” of Bethel. And shortly after Todd cheated on his first wife, divorced her, and married the woman he was cheating with, Bill Johnson “restored” him to ministry. You can see video evidence of both of these things here and here.)

 

And if that’s still not enough for you, there’s fake faith healing (language warning- this was written by a non-Christian who, by the way, did not hear the gospel when she went to Bethel) including kicking people in the face and other forms of assault to “heal” people, grave sucking, and demonic tremoring. Then there are the incidents from overseas that you hear of from time to time such as the South African “pastor” who made his congregation crawl around on the lawn eating grass and drink gasoline to be closer to God, or the Kenyan “pastor” who ordered women to remove their bras and panties before coming to church so God could enter their bodies more easily, or the Zambian prophet who took it a step further and removed a woman’s panties in front of the entire congregation so he could pray over them for her infertility, or the South African woman who died because her “pastor” placed a heavy speaker on top of her and then sat on it to demonstrate God’s power.

You may not see this kind of craziness in every service at every NAR “church” but every single one of these incidents and practices (and so many more) springs from the same unbiblical theology of the New Apostolic Reformation.

Including Cory Asbury’s choice of the word “reckless” when he wrote the song Reckless Love. Cory is a product of the theology he’s been immersed in for so many years.

And that’s the main problem with churches using songs in their worship services from groups like Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, and Hillsong, which teach “another gospel”. In the same way that marijuana use can serve as a “gateway drug” to more dangerous and addictive narcotics, Reckless Love itself might not do too much damage, but…well, as I explained to another reader in a previous Mailbag article 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.

A common objection I see Christians make to this concept is:

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, and they don’t have thousands of followers worldwide. If you wanted to follow their errant theology, you’d have to hit the books to research and study it. The NAR 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 NAR musicians’ heresy.

And as for music that springs from heretical theology pointing people to Jesus? Ask this wiccan young lady who went to Bethel and was told by someone “prophesying” (supposedly speaking what she heard God say) over her:

“I feel the Lord saying to you that He is very pleased with you. You have been so faithful to Him. You have been faithful to His Word, even when though there are many people telling you that you are now going the wrong way. But God knows it isn’t true. He wants you to know that He is proud of you. God knows that you are walking with Him and He is so proud of your faithfulness.”

She wasn’t pointed to Jesus. Nobody explained the gospel to her or told her she needed to repent of her sin. Instead, she was affirmed in her sin and told that she was, in fact, “walking with God” and “faithful” to Him when she was living in witchcraft (which earned the death penalty in the Old Testament) and had never put her faith and trust in Christ for salvation. And all of this by someone who was claiming to speak for God Himself. The Bible says it’s impossible to please God without faith in Christ.

This kind of music doesn’t point people to Jesus. It points them to the NAR version of Jesus, which, as evidenced above, is not the Jesus of the Bible. If someone puts her faith in the NAR version of Jesus, she’s not going to be saved, and she’s going to spend an eternity in hell. The Jesus of the Bible said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Nobody is getting to Heaven through any other version of Jesus except the Jesus of the Bible.

OK, now I’m aware of what the NAR teaches and I’m definitely not getting sucked into any of that! What about just listening to Reckless Love when I’m alone in the car? I believe what Cory said about why he used the word “reckless” and I’m OK with that.

That’s between you and God, but let me ask you a question as you prayerfully consider what would be pleasing to Him. What if, instead of the word “reckless”, Cory had chosen the words, “f—ing awesome”? And what if he had explained that, to him, that phrase just meant “really awesome” or “super duper awesome”? That, in his song, it didn’t have the vulgar meaning most people think of when they hear the f-word? Would you, based on his explanation, still sing that song?

Of course not. Because words mean what they mean, not what we want them to mean.

Cory can offer explanations about what he intended by the word “reckless” until he’s blue in the face. That doesn’t change the actual meaning of the word, which is what most people understand it to mean when they hear it. And, furthermore, Cory isn’t following the song around to every single person who hears it and explaining what he meant by it, so most people will hear “reckless” and assume it means what it actually means, not that Cory used the word “reckless” and meant something else by it. That’s not how human language works.

In considering whether or not to listen to this song, spend some time in God’s Word studying the way God wants to be approached by people (rather than how you want to approach Him) and how He reacted when they approached Him improperly. Remember, everything we do should be governed by Scripture, not our opinions and preferences, or whether we happen to like a particular song or not.

The NAR is a dangerous heresy that is sending people to an eternity in hell. People are getting saved out of “churches” like Bethel, not getting saved by them. Consider carefully, prayerfully, and according to Scripture whether God would be pleased by you having anything to do with NAR organizations. “What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”


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.

Discernment, Guest Posts

Guest Post: Why I Left Elevation Church

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

Why I Left Elevation Church
by Name Withheld


Disclaimer:
The author’s statements about her tenure at Elevation and
what particular Elevation pastors or staff said and did should be
taken as her own personal experience and not as irrefutable fact.


As you pull up to the parking lot, you are first greeted by someone directing parking traffic decked out in all orange. In the parking lot, there is a sea of Elevation Church bumper stickers plastered on everyone’s cars. You walk up to church, and you’re then greeted by volunteer after volunteer persuading you to join their eGroup or to join a volunteer team. It almost feels like you’re walking in the shopping mall and on every side of you there are sales people bombarding you trying to get you to buy their perfumes and colognes. After you dodge them all, you’re then surrounded by all sorts of people — local people, people who traveled from a few hours away, or people who flew in from out of country to attend this particular church. As you wait in line, you see to your left a merchandise table

You finally enter the auditorium of the church, and you’re ushered into your seat, or to what it may feel like, forced into your seat. “All the way down! Move all the way down, do not leave any empty chairs!” the usher tells you, because there can’t be any gaps where you sit for camera purposes. Suddenly, the lights dim and there’s a countdown on a giant screen letting you know when church will start. If you were new to the church, it would feel like you’re at a New Years Eve party. People all around you are excited and they start to stand up and clap and dance before the countdown even finishes. The person to your right is inserting the ear plugs that the church offers as you walk into the auditorium to help with the unbearably loud noise during worship. The lights come back on and the worship team comes on stage; there’s laser lights and fog machines and for a second, you think you’re at a concert. 

After some sort of high-quality, overly produced videos, the pastor then comes on stage. He first takes about five to ten minutes trying to gauge the crowd and then work the crowd to get them pumped up for whatever he is about to butcher, oh sorry, I mean preach. He puts up 1-3 Bible verses on the screen for everyone to follow along and then amazingly enough, spends about an hour and a half convincing the crowd that his Bible twisting is true. “The reason why you’re not being blessed by God, is because you don’t have enough faith!” he tells the crowd, some of whom are wealthy, and some of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, while he is on the stage dressed from head to toe in all Gucci.

After church ends, it’s an unbelievable ordeal to exit. You’re pushed and shoved, and people are stepping on your feet as you try to find your way out of the auditorium. Oh, and you’ll most definitely spend about ten to fifteen minutes sitting in your car in the parking lot trying to leave. You pull out of the church parking lot, and congratulations, you survived a visit to Elevation.

^^^^^

I was part of Elevation Church for about six years. At the time, I thought it was the greatest church on Earth and if anyone spoke negative about it, I thought they were just bitter. It felt like I was in a relationship with Elevation Church. With any relationship, in the beginning, it was puppy love and you just always want to be around them 24/7 so you volunteer extra hours and join everything that they have and buy all of their t-shirts and CDs. Then the relationship slowly became the overly attached partner that you so desperately needed to break up with, but didn’t know how to.

I eventually became the lead photographer at one of Elevation’s campuses and even was on the photography team for their live album recording, Here As In Heaven, at the Spectrum Center Arena (formerly known as the Time Warner Cable Arena). I led a team of about forty people. The majority of them were older than me so it was challenging at times to be a leader figure when my team were twice my age. I pretty much lived at church, between meetings and special events they had going on, I was always working. And when you’re around a church for that long, you see and hear a lot of things. 

I overheard the campus pastor telling potential new staff that they had to take a bullet for the church if it ever came to that point. I heard some staff getting fired when they were asked if they were “team Elevation” to which the staff member said, “I’m team Jesus.” So they were fired for not “bleeding orange.” 

Before Steven Furtick gets on stage, the photography team at the campus that he is at immediately has to upload photos of what the crowd looks like that day so he can see how big or how small his crowd is.

Eventually, I decided to quit after what I was witnessing didn’t feel like a church to me. On top of that, I was absolutely exhausted every time I got home and was starting to lose passion for photography. 

And boy oh boy, the day I told my supervisor that I was quitting was not fun. I lost all of my friends. And I’m not being dramatic when I say that I lost all my friends. Everyone I worked with and thought were my friends shunned me and ignored all my text messages and blocked me on social media. I was a total outcast. It was a pretty lonely year. I’m not going to lie. It was rough. 

I kept praying to God to give me discernment and to open up my eyes if I’m doing something wrong, to bring clarity. And God sure did answer my prayer, in a major way. 

About four months ago, my mom came into my room to where I was and all excited she tells me, “Guess who I heard on the radio?!”. I shrug my shoulders and say, “Who?” She says, “Costi Hinn, Benny Hinn’s nephew! He was saying how everything that Benny Hinn says and does, as well as other false teachers is fake, he was essentially exposing him.” My mom and I were pretty big Benny Hinn fans. When I was younger and lived in Florida, we went to his crusade and we managed to get floor seats because we thought the closer we got to Benny Hinn, the closer we got to a healing or a miracle. I was absolutely shocked when she told me. So the millennial in me started to look him up on Twitter and I found a tweet he posted about Bethel Church in Redding, California. I was intrigued, because I was accepted to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) but I ended up getting scammed seven thousand dollars that someone was supposed to give me and then I couldn’t go. Naturally, I was frustrated but I prayed to God to show me why I couldn’t go. This felt like an answered prayer. I replied to Costi’s tweet about Bethel and about two minutes later he replied to me, he gave me his email and out of the kindness of his heart, sent me his two books for free as well as an email full of information. I’m still trying to process all of it.

When I read Costi’s book, God, Greed, And The (Prosperity) Gospel, I read it so quick because I couldn’t put it down. It was three in the morning when I did finally finish it. I put the book down and just kept saying, “Wow.” I’ve been a Christian since I was three years old, and it felt like everything that I knew was one giant lie.

After that, I began to research more people and found so many good pastors and teachers that have shed a ton of light and information for me. Between what type of worship music you should and shouldn’t listen to, the type of church that you should attend, pastors you should stay away from, even down to the translation of the Bible that is good and which ones are bad. 

So what does my life look like now after I left Elevation? Well, I’m still in process mode. I keep doing my research and make sure that what I’m doing is biblically correct. I got rid of any books from false teachers that I had, got a different translation of the Bible, and deleted my old worship music playlist that was full of Elevation Worship, Hillsong Worship, and Bethel Music. I continue to pray for God to reveal to me what is the truth and little by little, I get new information.

This has most definitely been a journey of rediscovering Jesus, the true Jesus. It’s deconstructing everything that I was taught from false teachers and filling myself up with the true Gospel. And I am so grateful for God revealing to me the truth about Bethel Church before I got filled with even more deception by attending their school.

I share my story of leaving Elevation, because I want to help others who are being deceived by false teachers, like I once was, to be brought out so they can understand the true Gospel. I’ve seen – firsthand – false doctrine damage people so deep that they leave Christianity completely. When church becomes more about entertainment and theatrics, you have to ask yourself if it’s even a church. If you talk to anyone who goes to Elevation Church, you can tell that the focus is not centered on God, because the conversation always points to Steven Furtick and on his performance, not the actual word of God. 

I fully realize that not everyone is going to agree with me on this, especially those who I went with to Elevation Church. I love the people I worked with at Elevation Church, and it is because I love them that I am writing this because I want them to be brought out of deception. This has been no easy task, but it makes it all worth it to obey Christ.

Because good theology and sound doctrine matters.

Linked below¹ are resources that have helped me on this journey of finding the truth. I am forever grateful for their knowledge and for pouring into me and sharing with me the true Gospel.

An incredible documentary that shows how important it is to spread the true Gospel and how dangerous the word of faith movement is: American Gospel

Books by John MacArthur that have helped me: Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos

Books by Costi Hinn that have helped me: God, Greed, And The (Prosperity) Gospel and Defining Deception

A Bible chart that breaks down different translations of the Bible.

How to find a good church near you: 9Marks

Video from Fighting For The Faith (Chris Rosebrough) on Steven Furtick from Elevation Church: Steven Furtick and The Danger of a Dream

Other helpful people to watch on YouTube:

Melissa Dougherty

Doreen Virtue

Mike Winger

Justin Peters and his Website.

Lindsay Davis who was an ex-Bethel student (BSSM) sharing her testimony: Ex Bethel Student Tells All: Lindsay Davis Testimony from Melissa Dougherty and Doreen Virtue

And Michelle Lesley who was kind enough to give me an opportunity to share my story.


The author of this guest post wished to remain anonymous. She is a resident of North Carolina and a former member of Elevation Church.


NOTEs FROM MICHELLE:
¹I AM NOT thoroughly FAMILIAR WITH All OF THESE RESOURCES AND DO NOT ENDORSE ANY OF THEM WHICH DEVIATE FROM SCRIPTURE OR MY THEOLOGY AS OUTLINED IN THE “WELCOME” AND “STATEMENT OF FAITH” TABS AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE. AS WITH ANY RESOURCE, PLEASE THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THESE BEFORE USING THEM.
²See also the Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page, which includes not only the 9Marks church search engine but many others, and additional resources, as well.