Discernment

Fighting Off the Wolves

Originally published March 20, 2018

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Photo and quote courtesy of The Patriot. ©2000, Columbia Pictures, Inc.

I love pastors. I really do. As a minister of music’s wife, church member, and through involvement in other ministries, I’ve known a lot of them. They have a tough job that most of us wouldn’t take on in a million years. I pray for and encourage my own pastor and my pastor buddies regularly, and try to remind y’all to do the same from time to time. All this to say, I’m not a preacher-basher. Far from it.

But sometimes there’s a bit of a veering in a dangerous direction, like a vehicle heading towards the center line, among (some, not all) pastors who are momentarily distracted and might need a friendly “Hey, did you see that truck we’re about to crash into?” from their terrified, front seat passenger.

Color me terrified.

There are pastors out there who treat false teachers with kid gloves. They refuse to label anyone as a false teacher, or only vaguely allude to certain false teachers without naming names. I’d like to encourage those pastors to pull the steering wheel to the right and call a spade a spade. Yes, they need to use the label of false teacher soberly, sadly, and only after making sure, with hard evidence, that it is warranted, but enough with grown men of God tiptoeing around under the guise of “we don’t know what’s in that person’s heart” or “I’m afraid to be painted with the ‘mean old discernment blogger’ brush.”

Enough with grown men of God tiptoeing around under the guise of “we don’t know what’s in that person’s heart” or “I’m afraid to be painted with the ‘mean old discernment blogger’ brush.”

The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that a pastor shouldn’t call someone a false teacher and warn the flock about him just because the pastor doesn’t know for sure what’s in the person’s heart or because he’s afraid of what others might think. We are all to look at their words and their behavior and judge (that’s right, I said “judge“) whether or not they are teaching what accords with sound doctrine. And if they’re not, they need to be denounced. Not in a wild-eyed, foaming at the mouth, wingnut way, but certainly loudly and decisively as a mature man of God.

We never see Paul or Jesus or Peter or Jude or any other godly man in the Bible being over-cautious about firmly calling out those who had proved themselves to be false teachers.

We never see Paul or Jesus or Peter or Jude or any other godly man in the Bible being over-cautious about firmly calling out those who had proved themselves to be false teachers.

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” – Jesus, Matthew 16:11

“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites…blind guides…fools…serpents…brood of vipers.” – Jesus, Matthew 23

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” – Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” – Jude, Jude 4

“They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.” – Peter, 2 Peter 2:13b-15a

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
Paul, Galatians 1:8-9

Would pastors today be wise to use this same kind of verbiage? Maybe. Maybe not. These godly men spoke and wrote in a way that was appropriate for their time, culture, and context. Our time, culture, and context are different and may call for a different approach. But the point is, none of them were afraid to speak the truth boldly about false teachers in order to protect the sheep God had entrusted to them. And we sheep today desperately need courageous shepherds who will do the same.

Pastors, if you speak out against false teachers, there are people who will get mad at you. It’s unavoidable. But there are others who know the truth and will be cheering you on and supporting you. And there are still others you will turn back from false doctrine who will learn the truth of God’s word and love you for warning them. And their souls are worth any risk or trial.

Be encouraged, dear pastors. Be strong in the Lord. Be faithful to Him. You can do this!

Be encouraged, dear pastors. Be strong in the Lord. Be faithful to Him. You can do this!

Remember the words of your brother and fellow laborer Paul, who, after condemning false teachers in Galatians 1:6-9, may have anticipated the same backlash you might receive:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10


Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Prophetic “word” at church… Study apps… Pastoral counsel… Can treason be forgiven?… Fiction vs. lies)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


I am writing to you today because the church we attend has started to allow a woman to speak a “word” over the congregation*.

After the third time, I approached the woman and asked if she thought she was a prophet. She did not deny it, but said that the Lord speaks to her directly through different ways. We went to our pastor who did not see a problem with what she was saying, but only that it was causing chaos during the service.

Last Sunday, our pastor allowed her to speak through the microphone stating that we need to let the Holy Spirit move in our midst.

My husband and I are very concerned and alarmed about this practice and we are unsure if we should leave the church over this and if we should approach our pastor with our concerns again. We have been attending this church for years and have never seen this happen until recently.

Honey, I know this is difficult and there are probably a lot of people you’re close to there, but this church has wandered off the reservation into New Apostolic Reformation land, and, yes, it’s time for you – and every other doctrinally sound Christian in it – to leave and find a real church. (Just to be clear, I would say the same thing if it were a man speaking these “words” over the congregation.)

Go to the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, and begin studying the materials under “What to look for in a church” as you’re utilizing the church search engines.

You’ll also want to examine the materials under “Leaving Your Current Church,” including The Mailbag: How to Leave a Church. Be sure you don’t leave without going to your pastor and explaining to him that you’re leaving because he’s allowing false doctrine into the church. (You can consider this “approaching our pastor with our concerns again”. If you want to approach him one additional time – like you did before – prior to this explanation of why you’re leaving, you can, but it’s unlikely to do any good.)

*If you’re unfamiliar with what this reader means by “speaking a ‘word'” over the congregation, it looks something like this (start around the 14:27 mark), only, typically, it’s not quite this nutty and with a little thicker biblical veneer. The “church” in the link is not the reader’s church, it’s just the first example that popped into my head today.


As I read my Bible sometimes I would like to know what a certain word means in the original text. Can you recommend a resource that would be helpful for that? Thank you so much for all you do to keep us grounded in His Truth!

You’re welcome! It is my pleasure to serve you in Christ, and it is always encouraging to hear from women who are good students of Scripture.

I use both Blue Letter Bible’s and Bible Hub’s interlinear features, and find both to be helpful. You can read more about them in my article My Favorite Bible & Study Apps (they both have a web version as well as an app).


What does one do if they have a serious spiritual question and well known and trusted Biblical pastors give the exact opposite answers from one another? I cannot find the specific answer in Scripture and I desperately need to know what to do. I have read where one advises one course of action and the other advises the opposite. I am praying and continuing to search. But I need help. Any advice you have would be very welcome.

It’s hard to know exactly how to answer this question since I don’t know the details (and I’m not asking for them – this seems private), but, generally speaking, my advice is always to go to your own pastor first for counsel, assuming you’re in a doctrinally sound church. If it’s the type of issue best addressed by another woman rather than your pastor, reach out to a godly, doctrinally sound, “Titus 2” sort of woman in your church so that she can disciple you through this.

If, for some reason, you absolutely can’t go to your pastor or a godly older woman in your church, as a last resort, you can locate a biblical counselor (not the same thing as a “Christian counselor/therapist/etc.” – see the Biblical Counseling Resources tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) and set up an appointment.

If the reason you can’t go to your pastor or a godly older woman in your church is that you’re not currently in church, you need to remedy that immediately, and this situation is one of the main reasons why. (Go to the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page and start using the church search engines.)

When we go through crises and trials in life, God’s plan for us is to turn to our pastors and our church family, not to seek the generalized, one size fits all advice of celebrity pastors – even if they’re doctrinally sound.

Your own pastor and your brothers and sisters at your local church know you. They’re there for you, boots on the ground, to disciple you and help you walk through this situation over the long haul. A stranger on the internet or between the covers of a book can’t do that for you.

I urge you, turn to your church family.


Can God save someone convicted of treason by the government? Can they be forgiven and go to heaven?

Of course. God can and will save anyone who turns to Him in repentance over her sin and places her faith in the death burial and resurrection of Christ as payment and forgiveness for her sin. God doesn’t have a list of certain sins that He refuses to forgive*. I would encourage you to prayerfully study and consider the Scriptures and materials at the What must I do to be saved? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

*Readers, I know many of your minds immediately went here. Hope this resource is helpful.


Why should a woman or male read Fiction? Shouldn’t we read only and study only truth not fantasy? Jesus said “I am the truth”, Satan in the garden used fiction to challenge God’s authority and present a false truth to Eve, who was then deceived by her own desires gave Adam the forbidden fruit.

I think the struggle you’re having here is that you’re conflating fiction books, novels, and stories with lies and deception. They’re two different things, and they need to be kept in separate categories.

There’s nothing wrong with Goldilocks and the Three Bears or the John Grisham novel that’s sitting on my night stand. These are fiction – a creation of the author’s imagination. The authors aren’t trying to convince anyone that these stories are true. In fact, many novels carry a disclaimer stating that it is a work of fiction and that any resemblance the story or characters bear to real people or situations is purely coincidental. And no person of normal intelligence and wherewithal picks up a story or novel thinking it’s truth.

What Satan used in the Garden with Eve was not fiction. It was lies and deception. She thought he was telling her the truth. He was trying to make her believe he was telling the truth. See the difference? (Also, there’s no such thing as a “false truth”. A statement is either true or false. The words you’re looking for are “lies” and “deception”.)

And the Jesus who said, “I am the truth” in John 14:6? He told fictional stories throughout His ministry in order to teach and illustrate truth. We call them parables. And we know Jesus never lied or deceived anyone. That’s the best way we can tell the difference between lies and fiction. Lying is a sin. Fiction is not.

Now go and feel free to read that novel on your night stand.


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, False Doctrine, False Teachers

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

Originally published January 16, 2015

Ever heard of Jeroboam? If you’ve read your Old Testament, the name probably rings a bell, but, let’s face it, it’s hard to keep all those Jeroboams, Rehoboams, Ahinoams, and Abinoams straight, right? Well, let’s read a little bit about Jeroboam:

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar.

1 Kings 12:26-32a

The Kingdom of Israel had just split into the southern kingdom of Judah and the Northern kingdom of Israel. Jerusalem, where the temple is located, is in Judah. Jeroboam (king of Israel) figures that if his people continue traveling to Jerusalem for feasts and sacrifices, they will eventually turn their loyalty back to the the kingly lineage of David (aka: Judah, 26-27) and he’ll lose both his kingdom and his head. So, in order to keep the people inside the borders of Israel and control them, he makes a couple of golden calves (which somebody should have remembered turned out badly the last time that was tried {Exodus 32}) for them to worship at either of two convenient locations, Bethel, in the southern part of Israel, and Dan in the northern part. Jeroboam, leading the way, had the Israelites simply transfer their feasts and sacrifices that they would have offered to God to these golden calves. It’s a fascinating story that you can read more about here if you’re interested.

So why am I going on and on about Jeroboam?

Because Jeroboam’s story is so similar to something that is happening in the visible church today. He was a well known personality who led God’s people to worship an idol which he told them was God. And God’s people went along with it, transferring their worship from the one true God to the golden calf called “God.”

There are a ton of Jeroboams out there today. Some of you reading this might be following one of them and worshiping the idol their false theology tells you is the God of the Bible. And in the same way that a man of God came along and rebuked Jeroboam for his blasphemy, a man or woman of God might come along and call out the Christian celebrity you’re following, or take you aside -out of love and concern- and let you know that person is a false teacher.

I hope you won’t respond like Jeroboam did. He was so angry, he tried to kill the prophet. But sadly, I have seen this type of response (at least verbally) many times, especially from women, when faced with the fact that their favorite Bible teacher or author is preaching a false gospel.

So, what’s a godly way to respond when someone tells you you’re following a false teacher?

1. Consider the source and listen.

If you know the person who’s telling you this, think about her godliness and character. Is she generally a godly person? Does she know her Bible well? Does she show love and concern for others? Is she trustworthy? A godly person of good character has no reason to toss out wild and unfounded accusations, especially if you’re her friend and it might offend you. In fact, she’s probably scared to tell you.

But even if it’s a stranger on a blog saying Celebrity Bible Woman is a false teacher, hear her out and make sure you understand what the issues are. Remember, what she’s saying might be true, but you’ll never know if you immediately write her off.

2. Listen for content, not tone.

There are some discerning people out there who will bring you flowers and candy and hold your hand as they gently tell you the person you’re following is a false teacher, and then there are discerning people whose tone or manner might rub you the wrong way as they’re delivering the news. Don’t let the way something is said turn you off to the content of what is being said. Don’t sacrifice truth on the altar of tone.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

It’s tempting to let our feelings take charge when we’re receiving bad news, but you aren’t going to be able to evaluate the content of what the person is saying if you’re consumed by rage or hurt. It might help to remind yourself of your relationship to the teacher/author in question. Do you even know her personally? It’s not like someone is leveling accusations against your child, spouse, or best friend. Put your emotions aside and let reason and clear thinking rule the day.

4. Don’t blindly believe the messenger.

You don’t have to -nor should you- believe everything you hear just because it quotes a Bible verse or wraps itself in the label “Christian”. That applies to both the person who tells you you’re following a false teacher and the alleged false teacher herself. Listen carefully to what the person has to say, make sure you understand it, then get out your Bible and get to work. Are the issues the person has raised biblical? What does God’s word have to say about these issues? Is the person you’re following violating Scripture? If so, choose to stop following the false teacher because the Bible -not a person- tells you to do so. People are fallible. God’s word is not.

5. Don’t shoot the messenger.

It’s been my experience that women who are loyal devotees of false teachers can be some of the most vicious people in the world if you dare to question their idol. I have had women verbally rip me to shreds, threaten me, call me names, accuse me of “judging,” and tell me I’m what’s wrong with Christianity for politely pointing out from Scripture that someone is teaching false doctrine. Ladies, we give Christian women as a whole a bad name when we act like that. More importantly, that kind of behavior is a reproach to Christ, and never appropriate for someone who calls herself a Christian.

6. Defend from Scripture, not opinion,
emotion, or personal preferences.

It is downright embarrassing when a person is shown that Celebrity Bible Woman is violating a certain Scripture, and her only argument is, “But I just LOVE her! She’s such a great teacher and helps me understand the Bible so well!” If it were really true that Celebrity Bible Woman is such a great Bible teacher, her followers ought to be able to  prove -from Scripture- that what Celebrity Bible Woman is doing or teaching isn’t unbiblical. The bottom line is that Scripture is our ultimate authority, not our opinions, not our personal preferences, not how much we love a certain teacher. For a Christian, if something comes up against the Bible, the Bible wins. Period. So, if you’re going to defend Celebrity Bible Woman, defend her from Scripture. And if you can’t, why are you still following her?

7. Love Christ more than you
love your favorite teacher.

If someone shows you from Scripture that your favorite teacher, author, or pastor is teaching false doctrine and you ignore that warning because you are so enamored with that teacher, then what you’re saying is that you love that teacher more than you love Christ and His word. Jesus said:

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.

Matthew 10:37

Your parents. Your children. They’re the people you love most in the world. If Jesus says you can’t love them more than you love Him, do you think it’s going to be OK with Him if you love your favorite Bible teacher more than you love Him? It’s not. Love Christ above all else, and cut that false teacher out of your life.

It can be difficult to hear that you’re following a false teacher. You like her. She makes you feel good. You think you’re doing great in your walk with the Lord. It’s hard to give all that up. But we must be careful that we never put our feelings for a person above Christ and His word. If someone tells you you’re following a false teacher, don’t brush her off or attack her. She’s most likely coming to you out of love and concern for you and for the body of Christ. Check out what she’s saying against the Bible. And if she turns out to be right, stop following that false teacher and thank her. Because a person who rescues you from an enemy of Christ is truly your friend.

Holidays (Other)

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Originally published March 3, 2017

Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.

The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.

The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.

For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.

If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:

I’d like to challenge us all to give up these 40 things for Lent…

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.

3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.

4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.

5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.

6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.

7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.

8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.

9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.

10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.

11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.

12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.

13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.

14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.

15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.

16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.

17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.

18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.

19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.

20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.

21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!

24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.

25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.

26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.

27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.

28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.

29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.

30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.

31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.

35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.

36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.

37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.

38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.

39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.

40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.

Discernment, Sermons

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

This video cannot be embedded on other sites.
Click the image above (or click here) to watch on YouTube.

Give this excellent 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.)

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, someday, 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

Protecting the Sheep: Why churches should not sing Hillsong, Bethel, or Elevation music in worship services at Thinking and Living Biblically

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