Discernment, Sermons

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

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Click the image above (or click here) to watch on YouTube.

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.)

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?


The following is excerpted from my article The Mailbag: Potpourri (“Potty Prayers,” Women as Children’s/Worship Pastors, Solid churches with heretical music, Eternal Security)

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.

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

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


Additional Resources

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

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

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

Hillsong/Brian & Bobbie Houston

Elevation/Elevation Music

The Mailbag: What Is the New Apostolic Reformation?

The Mailbag: Should Christians Listen to Reckless Love?

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

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship

Sermons

Romans 13:1-7

Title image courtesy of Woodlawn Baptist Church

It used to be that John 3:16 was the most well-known Bible verse around. Then it was dethroned by Matthew 7:1. Nowadays, Romans 13:1-7 is giving them both a run for their money.

Christians are to obey the governing authorities, but what exactly does that mean? Just how far does the government’s authority extend? And when, if ever, is it biblically good and right to disobey the government?

I’d like to share with you today one of the best expositions and explanations of Romans 13:1-7 I’ve heard since this whole COVID thing began. It was preached by my own pastor, Lewis Richerson. He has been preaching through Romans for a while, and on October 3, we arrived at chapter 13. I found his sermon helpful and clarifying, and I hope you will too.

A few words about the sermon itself before you dive in: In my experience, this is a very atypical sermon format for Lewis, so, like it or hate it, you need to know it’s not the norm for him. This one is almost twice as long as his usual sermons, although, honestly, it flew by for me. Also, he includes a significant amount of historical information and a number of quotes in this sermon whereas he usually just preaches straight exposition of the text. It is probably more akin in style to what you’re used to hearing at a Christian conference rather than on a Sunday morning at church.

Toward the end(ish), Lewis references a number of slides that were projected on the screens. I’ve added those below the audio (in order, I hope!) so you can refer to them.

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ ALL THE FREEBIES! ~ April 14, 2020

 

Here are a few of my favorite online finds…and this time, they’re all FREE!

Scripture TypeHave you worked all the jigsaw puzzles in the house and watched all the movies and listened to all the podcasts? How do you feel about coloring or painting? Scripture Type is offering lots of their beautiful Bible verses and Christian quotes in coloring page format (you can also download the full color originals as wallpaper/lock screen for your computer, tablet, or phone). Great for keeping the kids busy too!

Tell you what – let’s make this even more fun. You download one of the coloring pages and get crafty with it – color it, paint it, embroider it on a pillow, paint it on your car…whatever…and send me a decent quality picture of it, and I’ll feature it on my social media pages (let me know if it’s OK to include your name in the post). I can’t wait to see your creativity!

 

  But if you still have a hankering to watch a movie, you might consider giving RedeemTV a try. It is basically a “Christian” and family friendly Netflix (and yes, it’s really free!). I say “Christian” because, just having done a brief scroll through, I can already see that some of their offerings aren’t going to meet the biblical definition of Christianity. But I did notice several movies that look promising (I’ve watched some of the biographies of the Reformers, which were good, and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews of the animated Pilgrim’s Progress movie.). You’ll need to have your discernment radar on high alert and ditch anything that doesn’t match up with rightly handled Scripture.

 

Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches): Onwuchekwa, John

Or how about a good book to read? Check out John Onwuchekwa’s contribution to 9Marks’ Building Healthy Churches series: Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church.

And if you’d like to write a review of this book (or another one) as a guest post for the blog, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat about it.

 

Trustworthy Bible Teaching and Discipleship Resources

Ligonier is going all out with the freebies! They are offering their entire library of teaching series available to stream and the study guides that accompany many of these series free “until at least June 30”. Dig in and get what’s probably the content equivalent of a seminary degree during quarantine!

 

How were people saved in the Old Testament? Ever wondered about that?


The resources listed above are not to be understood as a blanket endorsement for the websites on which they appear, or of everything the author or subject of the resource says or does. I do not endorse any person, website, or resource that conflicts with Scripture or the theology outlined in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.
Discernment, Sermons

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.

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.)

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?


The following is excerpted from my article The Mailbag: Potpourri (“Potty Prayers,” Women as Children’s/Worship Pastors, Solid churches with heretical music, Eternal Security)

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.

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


Additional Resources

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

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

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

Hillsong/Brian & Bobbie Houston

Elevation/Elevation Music

The Mailbag: What Is the New Apostolic Reformation?

The Mailbag: Should Christians Listen to Reckless Love?

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

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship

Basic Training, Bible Study, Sermons

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: Bible Studies and Sermons

Originally published January 25, 2019

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

 

When I started the Basic Training series, I thought I’d be writing about foundational theological concepts and practices in Christianity. You know, like baptism or the sufficiency of Scripture. It never occurred to me that I might someday need to explain something so basic that most lost people could define it as well as (sometimes better than) many professed Christian leaders.

But the more “Bible” studies and sermons I take in, the more I think a remedial course in exactly what those things are supposed to consist of might be very beneficial to the church at large, and an unfortunate necessity for many pastors, teachers, and Christian celebrities.

I could be way off base here, but I’d almost bet that if you went up to ten random people on the street and asked them what a Bible study class is supposed to do, at least nine out of ten of them would answer, “Study the Bible.” If you asked those same people what a sermon is, you might get more varied answers, “It’s when the preacher explains what the Bible says,” or “It’s a pastor telling you how to be a good person,” (remember these are random, probably unsaved, people) or “A sermon tells you about God.” But I’m guessing none of them would answer, “It’s when a preacher gives a stand up comedy routine,” or “A sermon is mostly stories about the preacher, his family, and other people,” or “A sermon is when you watch a movie and then the preacher adds a few remarks at the end about what you can learn about God or life from the movie.”

Yet, that’s pretty much where way too many churches are these days.

So let’s take a look at what Bible studies and sermons are and aren’t supposed to be.

It’s All About The Bible

This is supposed to be a “duh” moment for Christians, pastors, teachers, and churches. If someone is teaching a Bible study or a pastor is preaching a sermon, the first thing he should reach for is his Bible. He is to be preaching or teaching God’s written Word. It’s right there in black and white in 2 Timothy 4:1-2:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

That’s a very solemn and weighty charge to pastors. In today’s vernacular, it’s almost like placing your right hand on the Bible, raising your right hand, and saying, “As God is my witness, I swear to God I will ______.” (and actually understanding the gravity of that and meaning it). God is witnessing this charge to you pastor – you’d better take seriously your duty to preach His Word.

And notice, there are only two times when a pastor is supposed to preach the Word: in season and out of season. When his people want to hear it and when they don’t. When he feels like it and when he doesn’t. When he’ll be persecuted and when he won’t. When it’s easy and when it’s hard. When it’s a pleasant, encouraging passage, and when it’s a passage that offends people. Pastors, and, by extension teachers, are to preach and teach the written Word of God in every sermon and teaching opportunity. Always.

It’s Not About the Preacher/Teacher/Author

There are a lot of awesome pastors, teachers, and authors out there who labor faithfully to rightly teach God’s Word to His people. I am unspeakably grateful to them and for them.

But let’s face it, there are also a lot of narcissistic gas bags out there who use the pulpit and the pages to pump up their already over-inflated egos by endlessly blathering on and on about themselves, their families, their friends, and their experiences. You can tell by the ratio of personal stories to Scripture who they love best and are most interested in.

I’ve read books and heard sermons that I walked away from thinking, “I know more about that pastor or author, his family, his trips, the charity work he does, and who his important friends are than I do about God and His Word.” (I’ll tell you this, he’s received his reward.)

Pastors, teachers, authors aren’t to preach themselves, they’re to preach the Word.

It’s Not About Gimmicks and Entertainment

A sermon series based on movies. A pastor riding a motorcycle into church. Ziplining during the sermon. Rock concerts and light shows. Raffles and giveaways of cars and other big ticket items. The pastor and his wife promoting a sermon series on sex. On the news. From a bed. On the roof of the church.

Pastors and teachers aren’t charged to entertain people or get them in the doors of the church and keep them there by any means necessary. Pastors and teachers are charged – with God as their witness – to faithfully preach and teach His written Word. Jesus said shepherds who love Him will feed His sheep, not entertain them.

Newsflash – the world isn’t going to find that interesting enough to get out of bed for on Sunday morning. Newsflash – That’s fine. The gathering of the church isn’t for the world. The gathering of the church is for the church – the people who have been saved out of the world and into the body of Christ – to give them an opportunity to worship the Savior they love with their brothers and sisters, to disciple them in God’s Word, and to equip them with God’s Word to go out and share the gospel with the world.

It’s Not About You, Either

The flip side of “it’s all about the Bible” is, it’s not about you. What does that mean? The sermon or the Bible study lesson should not teach us to look down in narcissistic navel-gazing, it should teach us to look up at God, who He is, what He has done, and what He says in His written Word.

Over the years, I’ve had the discouraging duty of reviewing various women’s “Bible” studies. Though some have been better than others, the theme running through the majority of them is “it’s all about you” – your feelings, your hurts, your ego, your opinions, your personal experiences. It’s evident in the way authors insert long stories about their own lives and base their ideas, agendas, and assertions on those personal experiences rather than on Scripture. It’s evident in the questions the reader is supposed to answer at the end of each lesson: “Have you ever experienced _____?” “How does ____ make you feel?” “If you could ____, how would you do it?” “What do you think others’ opinion of you is?”

Good Bible studies give you rightly handled, in context Scripture until it’s coming out of your ears, and then they ask questions like, “What are the attributes of God listed in this passage?” “Verse 3 talks about lying. What are some other verses that talk about lying, and how can we tell from these verses how God views lying and why?” “How does this passage point us to Christ?”

Is there a need for introspection during Bible studies and sermons? Sometimes. But the focus is not you and your feelings and experiences. The focus is on reflecting on the glory of God in the passage you’ve just heard, repenting of the sin the passage you’ve just read has convicted you about, obeying the command in the passage you’ve just heard, and things like that. It’s Bible-focused, driven, and governed, not me-focused, driven, and governed.

Context, Context, Context

It’s not just important to preach and teach the Bible, it’s important to handle the text of the Bible correctly and in context.

You’ve probably heard the old joke about the guy who wants God to tell him what he should do with his life. So he opens up the Bible to a random spot, closes his eyes, puts his finger down on the page, and looks at the verse he’s pointing at. It’s a New Testament verse: “Judas went and hanged himself.” “Hmm,” he thinks, “that doesn’t make much sense.” He shuts his Bible and tries the process again. This time, it’s an Old Testament verse, “Go and do thou likewise.”

We laugh at the silliness of this little story, but it hits frighteningly close to home for far too many pastors and teachers.

Perhaps you’ve read a devotional that quotes a Bible verse (or maybe even just part of a verse) at the top of the page. The author then goes on to teach on that verse or tell a personal story. When you look up the verse and read a little more of the chapter it’s in, you discover it has nothing to do with the author’s story or doesn’t mean what the author was teaching.

Or maybe you’ve sat in a church service where the pastor reads a verse or two at the beginning of the sermon and then basically closes his Bible and shares personal thoughts and stories for the rest of the sermon time that have nothing to do with the verses he read at the beginning. Or a sermon in which the pastor hopscotches all over the Bible (often using a myriad of translations) reading a verse here, half a verse there, in an effort to prove his homespun thesis or support the agenda he’s crafted.

Yes, technically, there’s Bible in all of those teachings, but none of those methods handle Scripture properly or in context. That’s called eisegesis, and it basically means reading your own ideas into the text of Scripture, or twisting Scripture to get it to say what you want it to mean.

The proper method of teaching Scripture is exegesis. Exegesis is taking a passage of Scripture in context, and “leading out” of it- teaching what the passage means. That’s nearly always going to require reading several verses from the passage to catch the reader or listener up on what’s going on in the story she’s just parachuted into.

Good pastors and teachers read and teach the biblical text in an organized way. When you sit down to study, say, a history book, you start at the beginning of the book and you work your way through to the end. You don’t start by reading two paragraphs out of the middle of chapter 7, then move on to the last three sentences of chapter 49, then the first half of chapter 1. That’s how people preach, teach, and “study” the Bible sometimes, and it’s just as crazy to read the Bible that way as it would be to study a history book, or math book, or science book that way, or even to read a novel or a magazine using that helter-skelter method.

Expository vs. Topical

This section is a brief, modified excerpt from my article The Mailbag: Expository or Topical Preaching: Which is better?.

For readers who might not be familiar with the terms, expository preaching and teaching is basically when a pastor preaches (or a teacher teaches) through books of the Bible from beginning to end carefully explaining what each passage means. (Ezra is an example of an expository Bible study.)

Topical preaching can have a couple of different meanings depending on who you’re talking to and what she understands the term to mean. Some people understand “topical preaching” to mean a sermon series, usually in a seeker driven church, that centers around something in pop culture. (For example, popular movies or the Olympics.) Normally, these sermons are very shallow, biblically – sometimes nothing more than a pep talk or self-help tips. This type of preaching and teaching is unbiblical, and if it makes up the bulk of the teaching at your church, I’d recommend finding a new church.

There is, however, a biblical form of topical preaching and teaching that can be very helpful, occasionally. If a doctrinally sound pastor sees an issue in the church that needs to be addressed, or a biblical topic to explore, there is nothing wrong with his taking a break from preaching through a certain book (or when he’s between books) to teach on this issue from the pulpit. (Imperishable Beauty: A Study of Biblical Womanhood is an example of a biblical, topical Bible study.)

In my opinion, the majority of a pastor’s preaching and a Bible study’s teaching should be expository with occasional breaks for (biblical) topical preaching and teaching as needed. There are a variety of reasons for this (more in the linked article):

• Expository preaching models for the congregation the proper, systematic way they should study the Bible at home.

• Expository preaching helps a pastor better preach the whole counsel of God.

• Expository preaching pushes pastors to tackle hard and unfamiliar passages as they come up in the text.

• Expository preaching should keep the Old Testament and certain books of the Bible from being neglected as much as they usually are.

• Expository preaching gives the congregation a better grip on the overall story arc of the Bible and the culture of the period being studied.

Expository and topical preaching are both helpful in their own ways, but the most important thing is that the pastor is “rightly handling the word of truth.”

 

There’s a lot of lousy preaching and teaching out there these days, but if you’ll look for good, solid biblical preaching and teaching (check the Recommended Bible Teachers and Bible Studies tabs above for ideas) God can use it mightily in your spiritual life to grow you to greater Christlikeness.