What are your thoughts on Hillsong & Bethel music?

Yes, I am interested in understanding whether Bethel music, and Hillsong should be sung in church? I don’t think it should, but would like to know the opinion of others.

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Hi Delora,

I guess I would start by asking the reasons for your disapproval of music from specifically these 2 groups just so there is enough context for me to share an opinion.
Thanks.

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@Delora Great question :slight_smile: Below are some thoughts and some resources.

  • even hymns can have bad theology, so we must evaluate each song on its own merit
  • if a song has good theology and builds up the Church, it is not wrong to sing it
  • I think we have to know our Church context - do the people in our Church struggle with being led astray by the false teaching of places like Bethel? If so, maybe it would be better to avoid their music in order to help them walk in the truth. But if its not really an issue in our Church, then maybe its not as big of a deal.
  • if it violates your conscience to sing these songs, then don’t - we should not violate our own conscience

Our team examines the content and implications of every song we sing—whether they come from our own artists at Watermark, Bethel Music, Hillsong, Passion, or any other collective community or individual artist. We’ve often chosen not to sing certain songs because we didn’t believe the content to be theologically accurate or glorifying to God. At the same time, we sometimes sing lyrics and music written or produced by churches we wouldn’t want to disciple the saints.

Resources on Bethel’s Teaching

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Hi @Delora I very much enjoy listening to music from these two churches. One of the most popular musical groups to come out of Bethel church is Jesus Culture. This group was actually started out of their youth group. The members have gone on to plant another church to see more people come to the Lord. I have been to two of their conferences and learned a lot from both events. The music style seems to focus more on repeating scripture in order to focus on connection with Jesus, rather than traditional songs with multiple verses. I enjoy both kinds of music, but find the this kind easier for me to meditate on who God is and his goodness. I hope this helps. If you have any further questions, let me know.

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Hi Delora! Looks like you got some great info here already. My thoughts are that if it is biblically sound, go for it. Not everyone makes connections of music with specific churches. Besides, we all dont have it all right all of the time. Your worship is precious to God. :slight_smile:

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Wow, very interesting thread. Because someone like me doesn’t even know that they r churches. Also, I have heard but a few of their (Hillsong) songs and I find those very enjoyable, touching and lifts my spirit in worship. I just wish, a couple of the songs u have questions about should be listed so that, I can make some contributions from a knowledge based point of view. Thanks and remain blessed.

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From a 5 point Calvinist.

@Delora. I just recently stumbled upon Bill Johnson in the Youtube world. So, my association with the music from his church and Hillsong is limited. What I did pick up was a deviation from the exclamation and understanding of the Bible.

I like his presentation but he would randomly say things about the scriptures that I knew were not accurate. I begin researching the church to understand why. I have stopped listening to Mr. Johnson for one reason alone. I know the danger of standing too close to the fire. I might know enough, not, to stick my hand into the flame. But it is just safer and wiser to not be near it. That covers all possibilities of hurting myself per any accidental contact. Some things I am not willing to chance.

It is why I won’t frequent any bars, although I don’t drink. Television is not sinning, but overly consuming tv becomes an obstacle to my prayer life. It is why I don’t do many things that may not, on appearance, seem harmful. Walking with the Lord is easier when I practice control over my environment.

For that reason, I will no longer listen to anything from Bethel or those associated with it. We are rarely trapped by the big and obvious wrongs in life. It is the small things that spoil the vine. I am sure there are some things wonderful about Bethel. Quite frankly there is no doctrine or belief system that does not have elements of the truth. But that does not earn them access to my mind, life, or psyche.

My walk with the Lord is the one true treasure that is mine’s alone. I will not take a chance on losing it, diluting it, or warping it. At the conclusion of all-knowing, I need to find myself at the foot of the Cross. The relationship with GOD is primary! I jealously protect this treasure. No music nor philosophy is worth losing it. From it comes wholeness and the beauty of living.

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Hi @Delora. First of all, welcome to this community of believers where you can feel free to ask your questions. I hope you will continue asking penetrating questions such as this.
I am not into all the more contemporary music of many of today’s congregations. However, I do go to a church that uses Bethel and Hillsong music. As one who was raised on the sacred hymns, it has been an adjustment for me in that I had to adapt to a new music style as well as format. At first, my spirit rebelled within me because I longed (and often still do) for the beauty and depth of the traditional hymns. But, then I started looking at the words of the songs and realized I could be equally blessed. I trust the worship leadership of my church to filter the lyrics and, so far, have been blessed by what they have chosen. (I wonder what the music in heaven will be like :upside_down_face:? There was a time when even the beloved hymns of today were considered radical in the church.)

There is another aspect about Bethel that I wasn’t aware of (and thank Sean @SeanO to always be a fountain of resources at Connect). In the article about 9 things to know about Bethel, it stated that Bethel broke away from the Assemblies of God denomination. I was raised in that denomination from infancy until after I was married. I attended a liturgical church for over 30 years. Now I am in a Baptist church. However, I still enjoy frequenting a small AG church near our cabin that is also on an AG campground that was started by my grandfather and other AG pastors in that area in the 1930’s. So, I’ve experienced different forms of worship, but I’ve also been careful to make sure of their theology. The Assemblies of God Church is solid. Some may disagree with their Pentecostal beliefs, but, overall, I believe them to be solid theologically and they are the roots of the beliefs I hold now. I have rejected some of their prohibitions as legalistic, and I have altered my thinking on some of their Pentecostal practices. However, having said all this, I have to wonder why Bethel left the Assemblies to become non-denominational. Was it that they were becoming extreme in their theology so that even the Assemblies felt they were not in alignment with their doctrines of faith? Or, did Bethel not want to be accountable to the Assemblies or any other denominational oversight? Perhaps, they felt they could reach more people by not associating with any denomination. If they are independent and not accountable, it gives them free reign to put forth ideas that appear extreme. And that is where I would advise caution.

As the others who have responded to your question have advocated, look at the words of Bethel or Hillsong or others’ songs carefully. If you find you are not comfortable with their songs, don’t listen to them. Don’t dwell on whether they are appropriate for you or not. Listen to the music that informs and uplifts you. I have found wonderful YouTube videos with the more traditional hymns and praise songs. Perhaps, they would be a good alternative for you. Ultimately, God will be the judge of their music, but we can be discerning. Thank you for your question.

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Hi @SeanO, Mike Winger’s video overview on Bill Johnson is really helpful. He has clearly done a great deal of research.

It is of particular concern that Bill Johnson states that the gospel always includes healing and that those who disagree are anathematized - preaching a false gospel - quoting from Galatians. When someone claims they have the true gospel, but they are actually misrepresenting the gospel, this is a top level error.

In addition, that Bill Johnson uses “Jesus” to challenge other parts of the Scripture. He even says it is “theologically immoral” to use the Old Testament to challenge what we learn about God through Jesus. As Mike puts it, this means that even Scripture can’t correct Bill’s view of who Jesus is.

I think Mike documents and clarifies how the claim that “Jesus is perfect theology”, which sounds good at face value, becomes a way to distort reading the entire Bible as God’s word (some of which Bill refers to as “inferior truths”).

I also think Mike makes a good argument that we can’t live exactly as Jesus did. We aren’t all supposed to visit Jerusalem at Passover every year, remain single, be itinerant preachers, and have twelve disciples.

Mike also argues well from Revelation that if Bethel is really seeing heaven on earth, then there shouldn’t be any death in their movement.

His presentation about the details on how they create the impression of more healings than actually happen is also concerning.

Finally, his explanation that much of the prophecy given at Bethel may be largely explained by Jeremiah 23:16 was quite insightful. I think he did this well because he matched a video of how Bill Johnson explained how prophecy started at Bethel with the Scriptures itself:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.

Or Ezekiel 13:2-3:

Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’
Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!

In my view, these are substantive, serious problems that should continue to be challenged.

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@CarsonWeitnauer Very thorough summary :slight_smile: I like that Mike Winger stuck to exact quotes from people at Bethel rather than simply making accusations. That is very commendable.

From my perspective, it is downright irresponsible to teach people to “prophesy” when the accuracy of those prophecies is about as good as a coin toss (if not worse). The Bible condemns false prophesy very strongly and I think this is more of a pagan approach than a Judeo-Christian approach to prophesy that is used at Bethel. They even advise people to always be “positive” in their “prophecy”, but, come on, the Biblical prophets spoke words of judgment often. It was the false prophets who always spoke something positive to curry the favor the king at the time.

My struggle is that I’ve known some really wonderful brothers and sisters who got sucked into this movement or movements like it. And they have such good hearts as far as I can tell and it really makes me sad. I understand that people want to be passionate about God and to experience more of Him - I’m all on board with that!!!

But the things at Bethel — healings that don’t “stick” and prophecy that doesn’t come true and teaching that rejects the whole council of Scripture and stories of giant blue angels hovering behind the movement’s leaders — that is not of God. That is not what we need more of…

I remember when Nabeel was sick and he went to Bethel and then he started believing that Jesus guaranteed healing. I was super distressed and I was so glad when Willaim Lane Craig sat Nabeel down and had a discussion with him about this issue. Thousands of people prophesied healing over Nabeel and they were wrong. And I think that is a perfect example of how this movement lacks the power of God. When God speaks—it happens. End of story.

I’m passionate about revival. I believe in a God who heals. I enjoy emotive worship immensely and believe prayer should be an integral part of our lives. And I pray many movements of the Spirit blow through the Church renewing passion and devotion to Scripture and self-sacrificial love. But I don’t think Bethel is one of those movements.

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My parents & siblings church over here in the UK have ties with the Bethel movement, ended up going to a number of dedications for my niece and nephews and only twice have they preached the gospel let alone spoke from the Bible. At the time it really frustrated me, as the majority of my extended family aren’t followers of Christ and this was prime opportunity to speak the Gospel to them. And the amount of books my mum has bought is worrying.

One of the books was about how if we’re not seeing miracles everyday we’re not receiving our birth right, and reading the back of the book made my blood boil. As what they were proclaiming on the back of the book was theologically incorrect and lies.

That’s my rant over.

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I really like your response. Good job. To sing or not to sing is often such a difficult line to tread. Especially when a church’s theology is way off but their music takes a foundational concept and really expounds upon it well.

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Practical Question: Can anyone suggest a good, biblically grounded and yet music producing church that has great worship music?
Wild Thought Question: Why is it that the more famous worship bands out there are often from biblically liberal backgrounds? [I stand to be corrected on this, and honestly hope that I can be]
Is this because perhaps music creation comes from a more emotive part of our brains and so more evocative music comes from more emotion-tending theological backgrounds. Maybe our more emotion-tending denominations are not as focused on truth seeking (* I hold this idea very loosely) as their more textual-tending counterparts and thus can be often led astray by strange doctrines?
Thoughts?

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