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Monday, November 28, 2016 | Comments (306)

by Cameron Buettel & Jeremiah Johnson

This is no performance
Lord, I pray it’s worship
Empty words I can’t afford
I’m not chasing feelings
That’s not why I’m singing
You’re the reason for my song

And I only wanna sing
If I sing with everything
If I sing for you, my King

I can’t imagine why
I would do this all for hype
Cause it’s all to lift You high

At this point in the song—titled “Only Wanna Sing”—the music soars, the strobe lights fire up, and everyone on stage and in the crowd begins to dance with reckless abandon.

The irony is hard to miss.

That song—by the band Hillsong Young and Free—epitomizes many of the issues with much of Hillsong’s worship music: vague lyrical content, confused doctrinal perspectives, and an emphasis on style over substance.

Appeal Through Ambiguity

Hillsong’s philosophy fits well with the zeitgeist of our day. The social scientists now tell us that morality is subjective, gender is fluid, and truth is an illusion. Clearly, the precise theology espoused in ancient hymns won’t get the job done anymore.

Hillsong has probably done a better job than anyone else in filling the musical void that many modern churches have experienced. Their songs are catchy, their musicians are excellent, and their songwriters know how to “sound Christian” enough to salve the consciences of all in attendance. Consequently, their music permeates the Christian world, and their album sales are huge—even by secular standards.

Lest you anticipate some fundamentalist rant at this point, we need to be clear: This is not a screed against modern music infiltrating the church.

But we should be wary when our ancient and exclusive faith is overrun with modern songs featuring a fluid and indistinct message. In many instances, Hillsong lyrics are so vague they could be embraced by most religions.

At break of day, in hope we rise
We speak Your Name, we lift our eyes
Tune our hearts into Your beat
Where we walk, there You'll be

With fire in our eyes, our lives a-light
Your love untamed, it's blazing out
The streets will glow forever bright
Your glory's breaking through the night

You will never fade away, Your love is here to stay
By my side, in my life, shining through me everyday

You wake within me, wake within me
You're in my heart forever

Those lyrics come from “Wake,” a song with no distinctive Christian element. In fact, there’s little to distinguish it from the forlorn ramblings of a junior high love letter.

Hillsong pastors readily point out that all their songs are reviewed for theological accuracy. But when it comes to songs like “Wake” and “Only Wanna Sing,” what is there to review?

Doctrinal Gaps and Malpractice    

Not all Hillsong worship songs suffer from ambiguity; some evidence attempts to be more theologically concrete. “What a Beautiful Name” is one example where the biblical themes are at least discernible.

The first verse references Christ’s eternality and deity: “You were the Word at the beginning / One with God the Lord Most High” (cf. John 1:1). Later, the song’s bridge refers to His resurrection: “Death could not hold You / The veil tore before You . . . For You are raised to life again.” And throughout the song, Christ is referred to as King.

However, the second verse is a great example of the doctrinal maladies that plague most of the Hillsong catalogue—malpractice, man-centeredness, and missing information.

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus You brought heaven down
My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now . . .

The writer of “What a Beautiful Name” would have us believe that the reason for Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was because He “didn’t want heaven without us.” That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s not remotely biblical. In fact, it’s doctrinal malpractice by people who should know better. 

Nowhere does the Bible state that an unsatisfying solitude in heaven was God’s reason for redeeming people. Rather, the theme that resounds throughout Scripture is God’s desire to glorify Himself by redeeming sinners. Romans 3:21–26 explicitly describes Christ’s atonement as the display of God’s righteousness. Undoubtedly, the cross was also the demonstration of God’s great love for sinners (John 3:16), but that doesn’t mean He was lonely without us.

Furthermore, that unbiblical statement flows out of the man-centered worldview that permeates almost everything Hillsong does. Rather than seeing ourselves as the undeserving beneficiaries of God’s redemptive plan, we become the central characters in a story that’s meant to glorify God.

The other major problem that plagues even the best songs in the Hillsong library is also evident in “What a Beautiful Name.” Even when they get it theologically right, the missing information robs the lyrical content of any useful meaning. “My sin was great, Your love was greater” begs more questions than they’re willing to answer. It’s exceedingly rare for Hillsong worship to even mention sin, but even if they do it’s left completely undefined.

Similar subjects like God’s wrath, repentance, judgment, depravity, and personal holiness are virtually absent from the entire Hillsong catalog. But those biblical realities form the necessary background to explain most things Hillsong does talk about: grace, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. If grace is unmerited favor, we need to know why we don’t merit it. Mercy is meaningless without understanding the wrath that we deserve. Forgiveness is incomprehensible without grasping our personal guilt before God. And salvation rings hollow when we’re never told what we’re saved from.

At the Strange Fire conference, John MacArthur had this to say about another popular Christian band, and what passes for worship music in many churches today:

Let me explain worship in a simple way. The deeper your understanding of the truth of God, the deeper your understanding of God Himself, the higher your worship goes. Worship is directly correlated to understanding. The richer your theology, the more full your grasp of biblical truth, the more elevated your worship becomes. You don’t have to turn the music on for me to worship.  Low understanding of God—superficial, shallow, understanding of God—leads to shallow, superficial, content-less hysteria. You can whip that up, you can create that kind of frenzy. It has nothing to do with worship; it isn’t worship; it’s not connected to worship; it is sheer hysteria in a mindless expression. You’ve been singing hymns this week. Why? Because there’s rich theology in hymns. We don’t have to go hysterical; we want your mind fully engaged. . . . I don’t need 7-11 choruses, seven words eleven times over. I need to advance the doctrine. I need to advance the richness. I need to deepen the truth and broaden the truth. And hymns have verses, not just five words repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated but never really with the nuances of theology. So, yeah . . . that’s not worship, that’s not even Christian. That’s no different than a rock concert. There’s a lot of ways to manipulate people’s minds, and they have figured out how do that.

Doctrine matters. At best, a steady diet of Hillsong music will leave you with an incomplete theology of salvation. At worst, it promotes unbiblical falsehoods about God, us, and how we can be reconciled to Him.  

Style over Substance

It’s worth pointing out that we did not cherry-pick the lyrics referenced above. In a musical catalogue as vast as Hillsong’s, it wouldn’t be hard to find a few weak songs to critique.

Instead, the songs mentioned above come directly from our visits to Hillsong church services. For a few months now, we’ve been visiting Hillsong Los Angeles—one of the ministry’s most recent church plants. While the American audience is primarily familiar with Hillsong’s worship bands, CDs, and concerts, throughout most of the rest of the world, they are one of evangelicalism’s fastest-growing church networks. With franchises established all around the world, they’ve recently begun to expand into the US.

In our estimation, Hillsong represents the next wave of the kind of seeker sensitivity John MacArthur has warned about throughout his ministry. They are cut from the same cloth as Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren—they’re just aiming for a younger, hipper audience.

Hillsong LA’s church services are virtually indistinguishable from rock concerts. From the moment you walk in, your eyes and ears are assaulted by incoherent multimedia displays, with vague artistry passing for profundity.

While the familiar elements of a church service are there—prayer, worship, teaching, etc.—they’re usually designed and deployed as an appeal to your senses, not your soul. It makes you wonder what people think they’re committing to during the pseudo-altar call that ends every service.

In the end, Hillsong’s carelessness and ambiguity extend beyond their lyrics, touching every element of their global ministry. In the days ahead, we’re going to look at the practical theology they proclaim, and compare it to their own doctrinal statements and ultimately to Scripture.

What you’re going to see—as we have seen firsthand—is that the significant influence Hillsong wields is sowing confusion and corruption into the next generation of the church.  


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#1  Posted by Anastasia Remmes  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 1:25 AM

Over the past 3 years, we began attending churches that sing hymns, modern and those from Church history. I found that I could no longer listen to Hillsong and saw they usually centered on self and Christ, rather than God and the fullness of His glory. The instruments have begun to sound very "new age" and intolerable to listen to. I am sorry to say that someone sent me a CD recently and I threw it away.

I do believe that Hillsong started out well in solid theology, that has changed since Darlene Zschech left. Perhaps it was sliding previous to that and I was unaware. I pray that God's people will develop more and more of a hunger for truth and righteousness.

I was redeemed out of the "New Age" movement and simply find the Lord removing more and more from me that resembles it at all. Reformed theology is taking the world out of me and filled me with the fullness of contentment in Christ Jesus. His word is satisfying and the truth is beautiful!

#18  Posted by Anthony T  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:30 AM

I also like Darlene Zschech first songs, from the 90's to 2000. They're more theologically sound. I haven't heard most of today's. Thanks for sharing. This is very informative!

#22  Posted by Berend  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:45 AM

I recently threw all my Hillsong CD and DVD collections away for the reasons you mention. And indeed Reformed theology is reforming my mind.

#213  Posted by Dave  |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 9:25 AM

Might I suggest that Jesus Christ and God are one.

#2  Posted by pam mata  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 4:13 AM

2Corinthians 11:14

I have just heard about this Hillsong controversy this week. And I am truly broken hearted about the supposedly true church of God sticking by them. I heard Greg Laurie and his wife talk about how good these songs made them feel (so typical of this world system today) and how we shouldn't be so judgemental. I have listened to KWVE for over 30 years, but have really noticed a shift in their teaching, I had to stop several years ago do to my anger with their 'falling away'. For awhile I floundered. Then only as God can do, I stumbled on to you. And from there Don Green, Steve Lawson, RC Sproul and Paul Washer. You do not know what a wonderful relief it is to find someone who truly reads and teaches from Gods word. You see over 30 years ago I read Dave Hunts 'the seduction of Christianity and beyond seduction. It helped me sooo much with discernment. To me its really clear. It really doesn't matter how spiritual and beautiful Hillsongs songs are. When a church sings their songs, they pay a fee which all goes to promote that satanic driven lie. Hillsong would not be the phenomena it is without Gods church supporting them. And I ask, do you think Jesus wants his tithe money spent to promote satans cause? What has happened to us!

#49  Posted by Les Ford  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:07 AM

Calvary chapel is going through some issues where part of them want to get away from teaching the old testament and eschatology and not focus so much on prophesy and doom and gloom as they call it. They are having a big meeting next year to decide the direction and indications show that some of the Calvary's will not stay Calvary's if they go seeker sensitive.

#3  Posted by TG  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 4:15 AM

I had never heard of Hillsong before until GTY sent this blog to my email address. I'm always saying to myself, "nothing surprises me anymore". But it's not true. I don't actually know if you can call it being "surprised" over daily news events or if it is just being so aware and sickened over our sinful world system. What sickens me is how satan has crept into our churches and blinded our youth. I read enough about Hillsong on line to know right away how depraved this church is. As believers in Christ, we need to KNOW the scriptures, we need to be bold for Christ, yet humble, and we always need to be in prayer. Satan has such a stranglehold on this planet, especially when you look at what is happening all over Europe, the Middle East, and other large countries like our own. The entire world has become so "godless" with a lack of conscience when practicing evil. But glory be to God! The King is coming and finally Satan will be no more! Until Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom, we must put on the entire armor of God. Ephesians 6:11,13 Without doing so, how will we be able to withstand satan's attacks? And how will we be able to discern the truth from lies and from the deceivers in this world?

#4  Posted by pam mata  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 4:23 AM

2 Corinthians 1:14

As I read more about Hillsong, I want to add this. Yes some of their songs are scripturally based. But again most are 1/2 truths. In the garden of eden, Eve believed the 1/2 truth. A 1/2 truth, becomes 1/2 of a 1/2 truth until pretty soon, there's no truth at all. I read today from their leader Brian Houston who said 'if you come here thinking your going to hear that song Oceans and ... your not. Those are old songs..we don't sing them anymore'. He is really in to the new experience. Its like fishing..they hook you in and you stay because of the rhythm and melody (which he also talks about) and you don't even realize, there not singing Christian songs anymore. Who says that?? were not going to sing songs of the past, because there no longer relevant???What does that tell you about him??Its a spiritual game, fishing. This has always been satans best weapon to masquerade as an angel if light

#214  Posted by Dave  |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 9:29 AM

I just saw Hillsong a couple months ago in Little Rock they sang the older material and some of the new. It was a great night of worship. It was very evident that the Holy Spirit was present.

#220  Posted by Bill  |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 12:49 PM

"It was very evident that the Holy Spirit was present."

If you don't mind my asking, Dave, how did you determine this? How do you know that the Holy Spirit was present?

#290  Posted by Jo  |  Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 6:28 AM

Is there a time when God *isnt* present?

#318  Posted by John  |  Monday, December 12, 2016 at 4:31 PM

#290 Jo

"Is there a time when God *isnt* present?"

Yes there is, when the Word of the Lord is withdrawn.

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God,

“That I will send a famine on the land,

Not a famine of bread,

Nor a thirst for water,

But of hearing the words of the Lord.

12 They shall wander from sea to sea,

And from north to east;

They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,

But shall not find it.

#5  Posted by Stephanie Santos  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 6:07 AM

Thank you so much for addressing issues that most don't even give a second glance. These issues matter to the church, or at least they should. I applaud you for your clear and consise explanation of the doctrinal issues present with one of America's most influential bands and the problems associated with it for those who want to please God in all things. Continue to preach the Truth and lift high the name of Jesus!

#6  Posted by Weston Eldridge  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 6:18 AM

Thank you for writing such a faithful post. This needs to be heard by almost all millennial Christians (I'm one). Often, assaults to Biblical truth is hard to pinpoint, specifically in such a Biblically illiterate saturated church. I am deeply thankful for this post, for it helps point out these horrible quibbles in such prolific, influential contemporary "Christian" band.

#7  Posted by J.A. Torres Q.  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 6:36 AM

Excelente!

#8  Posted by Alan Balch  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 6:42 AM

I have seen this trend not just in music circles, but in certain events my church has participated in. Style over substance is an excellent way to put this. What is written here is not just isolated to music culture either. We need to be on the look out for biblical ambiguity everywhere.

#95  Posted by Brian  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 2:44 PM

My wife and I attended a church in our small town that would sing some of these songs and then go into a repetitious sermon series. As we were a part of this church we saw the shift from being a community outreach to more of like a clubhouse for Christians.

#9  Posted by Marcus  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 6:44 AM

I'll never forget (unfortunately) the display i saw online with Hillsong (possibly out of New York City) doing a Christmas concert mimicking the 'roaring 20's' with dancing girls and all. Though they have some catchy tunes, they are a 'cheap grace' band and Joel Osteen probably has their entire discography.

#317  Posted by John  |  Monday, December 12, 2016 at 2:49 PM

That Christmas production was done in London. It is taken out context and was purposefully done

distastefully because in the context of the entire Christmas play the people singing were part of Herods

Crew. They were supposed to make your skin crawl to show what singing about Jesus with the wrong spirit is like. The rest of the play was God honoring and glorifying. When only that part is shown it is really slander taking the intent out of context.

#10  Posted by Alex  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Thank you! Thank you for speaking up for this issue!

'Buy their music, buy their theology'.

It is not surprising to find that most seeker sensitive church receives more 'doctrine' from song lyrics rather than from faithful preaching from the pulpit. Having a steady diet of hillsong (please call out bands such as planetshakers, bethel music as well), the congregation is led by problematic lyrics meant to elevate self.

Result? False conversion. False profession. Church attendance by musical preference, times when tears were shed during worship. And don't forget mentioning lighting, great sound system, and yes....rock concert.

I appreciate modern singers like Getty, Sovereign Grace, SBTS Norton Band. At least their songs are based on solid lyrics grounded in the Word. Earlier songs for corporate worship were most, if not all, written by theologians and pastors.

Today virtually anyone with 'feeling' can write a song. Because all song lyrics are crucial, hence all song writers are teachers. When they are not the teacher of the Word, the result is devastating.

#170  Posted by Ryan  |  Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 7:11 AM

And I'd love to know how many people un-churched people join your church, and then get saved? So do you sit with a congregation filled with spiritually fat Christians who don't really care about those who are far from God, who actually encounter Jesus by singing "half truth songs" because it's easy to sing and easy to relate.

#297  Posted by Tracy  |  Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 1:19 AM

Ryan the church is in the business of feeding the sheep by presenting biblically grounded music and teaching. If you lower your standards the congregation will fill with wolves: wolves will surely scatter the sheep. Of course, wolves hate sound doctrine and holy sanctified music. They want their ears tickled and will demand such. So if the wolves don't love holy and righteous hymns and Psalms based on biblical teaching and they don't care for the preaching of the gospel they can find plenty of churches that provide what they seek. The truly broken and repentant will seek the pure milk of gospel truth in God's faithful churches.

#310  Posted by Barb  |  Friday, December 9, 2016 at 5:55 AM

Excellent response! Many left our church because we were sticking to the truth of the Word. I am so grateful to God our leaders will not lower our standards and still focus on the truth of the word

#315  Posted by Jennie  |  Friday, December 9, 2016 at 7:13 PM

The New Testament tells us:

1) The first local assembly of believers is what was then called "the church", not unbelievers. 2) The church is the body of Christ. An unbeliever cannot be the body of Christ since they don't believe in Him yet. 3) The church is for equipping the saints (believers) for the work of ministry, for the edifying the body of Christ. 4) The Lord added to the church those who were being saved. So they were saved first and then added to the body of Christ (believers). Jesus said He would build His Church. It's not man's church and man is not to build it. It's The body of Jesus Christ made up of those that believe in Him and call Him Lord. The church is to get equipped to do God's Kingdom work, spreading the Gospel...by "going out", not by "inviting them in". I could go on and on, but I would rather just encourage reading the the New Testament and studying it for yourself, asking God to reveal His truth to you, so you will be abundantly blessed with strength, wisdom, and knowledge of our Heavenly Father and our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

#11  Posted by Matthew  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:11 AM

Interesting article.

Things I liked:

You're right, a lot of the lyrics are ambiguous.

Indeed the deeper your theological understanding the deeper your worship

The church is indeed an exclusive group called out.

Things I'd like you to respond to:

How would you compare Hillsongs 'doctrinal malpractice' vs. imprecatory Psalms that cry for the destruction and decry certain men, groups, nations? Or in the case where David's uses the language of a lover to express his devotion and love as a means of worship.

In the case of "What A Beautiful Name" have you considered deploying a bit of charity? Specifically do you believe that God wants us NOT to be in heaven? Would you give charity to the author's sense of lyrical artistry and metaphor in attempting to express the heart of God to see a redeemed people (yes, I understand that not all enter in but to lend creedance to 1Peter 3:9)?

Why is seeker sensitivity something we need to run from? While I'll agree that many will respond and possible more than who are truly committed to Christ from the heart, shouldn't the church be seen in as much light what IT IS FOR as it is for what IT IS AGAINST?

Grace and Peace,

Matt

#46  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:57 AM

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your feedback. I'll try to tackle your questions in order.

First, regarding the comparison of Hillsong's music to the Psalms--I'm not entirely sure I see the connection. The language of the Psalms was not arbitrary, nor was it based solely on David's emotions or imagination. Those words were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Through David's pen, God Himself chose those words to describe Himself and His relationship to His people. He even chose the words David used to vent his righteous indignation and plead for God's justice against His enemies.

Despite some of the slippery and confusing language Hillsong employs to describe their own songwriting process, their lyrics are not likewise inspired. The best they can hope to do (and this goes for all Christian songwriters) is hold fast to the truth of Scripture and not sacrifice doctrine for the sake of artistic expression, emotionalism, or even the rhyme scheme. Shoehorning in unbiblical imagery and doctrinal inaccuracies is right out.

And I think that's sort of the point with regard to you question about deploying charity with regard to the song "What a Beautiful Name." Actually, I'd argue we were charitable in our critique of the song's lyrics. If you read it again, we point out that there is some distinct doctrinal truth throughout that song. And perhaps if the song wasn't so man-centered, it would be easier to overlook what you described as the author's "lyrical artistry." Frankly, what is dangerous about Hillsong's music is not merely all the things they get wrong, but the things they get right. What I mean is, the biblical doctrine they occasionally espouse can draw listeners into a vast musical catalog rife with the kinds of doctrinal malpractice, man-centeredness, and missing information we described above.

Finally, to your last point--I don't believe the world can fully know what the church is for if it doesn't also know what the church stands against. For too long, believers have been content to focus on the positive and avoid conflict at all costs. That theological pacifism has led to the rise of the charismatic movement, the prosperity gospel, and a host of other influential false teaching.God Himself charged His people to be on the lookout for false teachers (Matthew 7:15-20; Acts 20:29-31; Romans 16:17-18) and refute those who contradict His Word (Titus 1:9). We need prize the purity of the church more than our public relations.

And for more on the subject of seeker sensitivity, let me encourage you to read this article on the false mentality that undergirds most seeker-sensitive ministries. You can also consult this series from the early days of our blog.

#52  Posted by Bill  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:20 AM

"Frankly, what is dangerous about Hillsong's music is not merely all the things they get wrong, but the things they get right."

Indeed. Spurgeon said, "Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right."

"That theological pacifism has led to the rise of the charismatic movement, the prosperity gospel, and a host of other influential false teaching. ... We need prize the purity of the church more than our public relations."

Amen. The misunderstanding of the meaning of "judge not" has been devastating.

#124  Posted by Mike Nimer  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 5:04 PM

MATT, I agree with you completely. Sometimes for the sake of theological clarity we engage in overkill and dont give people the benefit of the doubt

#131  Posted by Mike Nimer  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 5:31 PM

Jeremiah, I dont disagree with you completely but aren't the psalms "man centered" in that David and the other Psalmists focus on their grief, discouragement and sorrow? They express their feelings out of their own struggle with God. Why is it man centered when we sing songs about our own struggles and how God meets us in our time of need? Obviously, that's not to be the bulk of what we should sing. I agree we need to confront error, but I think what Matt is saying is a pastor or ministry is constantly exposing something they disagree with, they will be perceived regularly as negative and divisive, which I think can undermine a ministries testimony. When Paul dealt with error vigorously, he was dealing with core doctrines that were being attacked not non essentials issues that Christians disagree over (Romans 14). Much of what is debated are issues related to preference and style. Also, there needs to be balance between the head and the heart. Ministries tend to overemphasize one or the other. I find some churches are overly emotional, while some are completely cerebral. There needs to be balance.

#153  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:57 PM

Mike #131, if the issues were merely preference and style then we never would have undertaken this series. Please read the article again, and pay close attention to the subsequent posts in this series.

#12  Posted by Guymon Hall  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:17 AM

As a Christian and a computer scientist at a secular university, I have an interesting research idea on worship if anyone is game to take it on.

Take two representative samples of songs from different eras. Sample 1 is a representative sample of modern worship songs, praise choruses, CCM songs, etc. from, say, 1980 and onward. Whatever sample best represents most of the songs sung in today's "worship services". Sample 2 is representative of the great classic hymns. Hymns such as "And Can It Be", etc. Then, do the following:

1-Diagram the lyrics for each song such as you would diagram a sentence (parts of speech, subject, verb, etc.)

2-Correlate the musical notes for each song to the proper syllable that each note belongs to

3-Determine a rating scheme that objectively weights the above data for each song

I suspect that in Sample 1, on average you will that the grammatical subject of each song is "I", "me", or something referencing self, and that the actual notes of emphasis (i.e., the times in the song where the rising crescendo of music is supposed to hype people up to make them their really worshiping) will occur on syllables/words that reflect "I", "me", and self. I also suspect that in Sample 2, you will see the opposite.

I've had this idea for a while, but I don't have enough musical knowledge to do the note correlation part. I came up with this idea because of this quote from an unknown person, which I'll paraphrase:

"Most worship in the church today is nothing more than an emotional orgy of self-gratification."

That quote reflects the post-modern emphasis on self, which stems directly from the idea that truth is somehow relative to each person, and I bet that fact is reflected starkly in such data as I've described above.

The sobering thing is to see what God thinks of false worship (Lev 10, Mal 1, etc.)...

#13  Posted by Edie Gum  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:19 AM

My husband and I have listened to your downloads for many years now. We love your biblical teaching. So, although I have to admit that I am not that familiar with Hillsong (unless they are played on KLOVE), I do usually love listening to contemporary Christian music. Is there any group that you find are biblically correct or that you recommend?

#83  Posted by Romyr  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:58 PM

Sovereign Grace Music

Keith and Kristyn Getty

Red Mountain Music

Indelible Grace Music

#14  Posted by Douglas  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:19 AM

ok, this is new to me, but then, i don't get out much.

many years ago, at a church i attended, they one day brought in new hymnals. well, the old ones weren't worn beyond use, and i was getting to know some of the hymns over time. they allowed members to either take an old one, or purchase an old one for a small fee. so my mom did so, as she played the piano and liked to have some hymnals available. in going thru the new one over time, we found that they had changed the lyrics to either be gender neutral, or more 'inclusive', but they had clearly re-written songs. why? don't know.

so messing with songs by changing the words to something that does not reflect scripture, or messing with doctrine to something that doesn't reflect scripture is not new.

#15  Posted by Jeffery Burkhammer  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:20 AM

Interesting conversation with my step son the other day. He is agnostic. I had told him,"this is not all about us, Its all about God". His response was " I dont like that at all". Its interesting, how if we see God as selfish, we dont like it, why? Because we want to be the selfish ones?

#16  Posted by JIM Nelson  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:21 AM

Thank you for these truths. Can't add one thing--

Except unfortunately these songs are only the tip

of the musical iceberg in our churches. We should

know better.

#17  Posted by Charlotte Gulley  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:24 AM

Praise the Lord that you are writing about this. I searched and searched for a local church that did not sing Hillsong, Bethel or Passion. I found one; but, the pastor couldn't exegete the scriptures. It was an extremely small building and he used a microphone to preach. He had a very high, shrill voice which drove me crazy. I had to put cotton in my ears and he spoke in tongues.

I kept attending a Lutheran online service and FINALLY, after two years of praying, I found a Lutheran church. Chris Rosebrough scouted it out for me by calling the Pastor and asking him a zillion questions. Then Chris emailed me and said, "Go. Pastor is very sound." My husband and I LOVE the worship.

#19  Posted by Jason Larose  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:32 AM

I've been told by friends before that theological study is effectively a personal preference. That it's "too academic" for some.

My generation(Millennial here) seems largely ignorant of scripture, but still going through the motions of "going to church". I've seen the exact same "Bible study" that seems reflected in the lyrics of modern worship songs. Even those who make sure to read their Bibles every day tend to glaze over anything other than a few Psalms that help them cope with some discomfort they are currently experiencing.

Those of my generation who were exceptionally good at marketing this kind of religion are now leading evangelism ministries, bands, and pastoral positions. The lyrics in modern music seem just to be evidence of a larger "being tossed by every wind of doctrine" in church leadership based largely on numerical success or a diploma rather than spiritual maturity.

We, as the church, need to be much more discerning. Leadership must represent the most mature members of the church, not simply those who have gotten really fluent at Christianese. Sadly, when we're not, we set those young men up to become too conceited to accept correction (1 Timothy 3:6).

#20  Posted by Beth MacGeorge  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:44 AM

Churches today do sound more like a rock concert than a church. People looking for answers in the church have only found more of the world. Now, I am an old woman and left the church for a Bible Study in the senior community I live in. I do so miss the church and have wondered did I do the right thing.

#21  Posted by Anthony Allgood  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:45 AM

This is a timely blog post for me. MacArthur's quote taken from the Strange Fire conference is almost exactly what I was trying to explain to my wife yesterday on the way home from church. We don't need fog machines and light shows at our church and the theologically shallow words we sometimes sing I find very frustrating. Sometimes it borders on all the Jesus is my boyfriend and God is my lover kind of emotionalism. I tried to explain to her that the more you know God and his word the more meaningful worship will be and the more it will flow from your heart.

I used to own a couple Hillsong CD's. It really did get me emotionally hyped up, but just as this article states, there was no substance to it. Thankfully, after being turned on to reformed doctrine a couple years ago, I now worship God for his character and works. Am I still emotional at times? Of course, and rightly so. The wonder of it all is that it's based on the Bible and not manufactured by trance inducing lyrics and melodies. I think of Bible verses and God's character and I just want to worship Him for who He is, sometimes while singing theologically rich hymns, other times just being alone in prayer.

I have since tossed out the Hillsong music I once owned. As the spiritual shepherd of my household I didn't want to risk having my wife and two young kids getting swept up and confused by it.

Anthony

#74  Posted by K H  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:58 AM

Anthony, God bless you. Where are the Anthony's today? Your family is blessed to have their spiritual head of household be one who remains focused on solid scripture rather than current trends. You sound like the wise man the Bible speaks about. I pray we will see many more men stand up and lead their families as God instructed, rejecting all the fluff of modern spirituality.

#141  Posted by Anthony Allgood  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 8:56 PM

Thanks K H. Your encouragement is well received and much needed.

#23  Posted by Diego Flores  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:51 AM

Auch!

#24  Posted by Martha Hidalgo  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 7:53 AM

Thank you for this post - I have felt this way about so much of this praise chorus music and when mentioningn it just I am looked at or deemed "another complaining older person" - we have a relative in Florida who has not been attending church simple because she said it is more like a carnival than church service.

This is so hurts my heart but this is the way of the culture and what makes it painful is we have 22 grandkids growing up in this culture and I am hard pressed to find a church that has not been tainted by this.

I keep praying to stand firm in love and the power of the Holy Spirit.

God bless you and Grace to You for the courage displayed in these blogs/teachings which reflect the truth from Scripture always and how blessed you are to have the pastor you enjoy each week.

#25  Posted by Erin  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 8:17 AM

Why can't we encourage the body of Christ instead of tearing it down? I totally disagree with this article and shame on you for sharing it with your platform without doing due diligence. Have you ever been to Hillsong or spoken face to face with their leaders? Your theological problem with "What a Beautiful Name It Is" is totally wrong...it's not that God was lonely, it's that He wants His people redeemed and reconciled with Him forever. Hillsong Young and Free music targets youth. It doesn't lead them astray from doctrine, but instead draws them into a greater desire to learn more about Jesus and the Church. The lyrics are simple enough for children to understand (much like simpler children's versions of the Bible or student devotionals). So frustrating to witness dysfunction in the body of Christ by people called to lead His people. Stop the division and false accusations please lest someone tear down and pick apart your ministry, too. Perhaps you should have considered Proverbs 26:4 before clicking submit on this article.

#31  Posted by Anthony Allgood  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 8:33 AM

Erin,

You seem outraged that someone would publicly criticize Hillsong for theologically shallow music, but you don't mind criticizing GTY for trying to help the church live and operate by a higher standard according to God's Word. Have you met with the leaders of GTY before publicly criticizing this article? How do you reconcile your statements here with your own actions?

Can you point to the Psalms or any of the other OT and NT doxologies and hymns and say they are theologically shallow and full of vague emotionalism, or can you read them and say that they are inspired by meditation on God's law and his character and full of deep Biblical truths? Do you think God put them there by accident or that we should follow a similar approach in our worship today?

Anthony

#33  Posted by Jeffery Burkhammer  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 8:56 AM

Erin, come talk to our kids in our Church. Ask them who Christ is, Ask them What he did. Ask them who the Father is. Ask them who the Holy Spirit is. Ask the anything biblical. We should never dumb it down for kids, they know when you do. Kids are very sharp and eager to learn.

#34  Posted by Ben  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:03 AM

We can certainly encourage the body when it's warranted. But we also need to be good watchmen on the wall, ready to sound the alarms and warn our people when someone or something is attacking

As mentioned in the article... they have visited Hillsong Los Angeles services so they have clearly done their homework.

"Instead, the songs mentioned above come directly from our visits to Hillsong church services. For a few months now, we’ve been visiting Hillsong Los Angeles"

#39  Posted by Bill  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:27 AM

Erin, your defensiveness and the condemnation you pronounce are symptoms of your emotional bondage to Hillsong. The mature, rational mind considers new information, researches it, prays about it. The enslaved emotional mind reacts, blames, and tries to marginalize those sharing discernment. For your own benefit, please ask yourself whether your eternity is better served by defending Hillsong or by seeking biblical truth. If you're truly frustrated by dysfunctional "Christian" leadership then you need to get out from under the yoke of mesmerizing, unbiblical influences while you can still think clearly. The longer you stay in, the harder it is to come out into the light of understanding.

#54  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:34 AM

Erin #25, thanks for taking the time to engage with our article. I thought we pointed out quite clearly in the article that many of our observations were based upon our visits to Hillsong. I can also tell you that I have engaged in lengthy correspondence with two Hillsong leaders: their chief theologian and one of their executive pastors. I have also spoken face to face with several of their pastors. We have tried to fairly research Hillsong's theology, teaching, and written material. There is always more we can do, but I can assure you we have made every effort to ensure due diligence.

With regard to causing division, Romans 16:17 tells us it is caused by those who teach false doctrine and that Christians have a responsibility to point out false teachers so that others may avoid them. I can assure you that true Christian unity is something that strongly motivated us to write this series and warn against division that results from Hillsong's false teaching.

This article represents many hours of careful research and visits to Hillsong LA. We have tried to critically engage and respond to Hillsong's material. Could you please extend the same courtesy to us next time you comment. Thanks.

#59  Posted by Darryl Daniell  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:47 AM

The ones who are being devicive is Hillsong Erin, with their heretical teachings which then comes out in their music. Sound biblical exegetical teaching is not found with Hillsong's pastors so, I would complain to them, not one's who call them out as GTY and we who know the truth should.

#60  Posted by grh  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:57 AM

"Why can't we encourage the body of Christ instead of tearing it down? I totally disagree with this article and shame on you for sharing it with your platform without doing due diligence."

Jude 3 much?

#66  Posted by John  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:18 AM

Well said Jeff. Teaching the shorter catechism wouldn't go astray for both children and adults alike. The reformation did not have the effect that it did on Europe after 1000 years of darkness because they discovered new songs. It was truth that set them free. Particularly the truth of justification by faith. Interesting isn't it, God has made it so simple, even little children get it, He only gave us one book, not even two, so that we could not confuse things. But still we want what men write rather than have faithful men expound and teach clearly what God has written.

#79  Posted by Andrea  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:29 PM

Erin, I agree with you. I see that not every Hillsong or other modern music author is dead on right, but I also see and acknowledge when God has used them to bring people to Christ. We should walk with discernment, but to call out whole groups like this article does hurts the cause of Christ. The constant picking apart of other ministries who differ from GTY turned me off quite a while back. I wish that they'd spend an equal amount of time/effort sharing what other ministries do that they consider positive or better yet keep quiet and not regularly critique others. Speaking with many non-believers, it is just this type of article of "in-fighting" or division that turns them off from further exploration of the truth of the Gospel. We are to be known by our love for one another in the house of faith, not for our disagreements.

#90  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 1:49 PM

Andrea #79, if our article contains falsehoods then we are, as you say, hurting "the cause of Christ." But if our claims are true then we are serving the Body of Christ in a way that Scripture condones (Romans 16:17; Galatians 1:8-9; Ephesians 5:11; Titus 1:9). With that in mind, I invite you to point out anything we have said in this article that is untrue or contrary to Scripture.

#123  Posted by Andrea  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 4:54 PM

The point of my reply was not to break apart piece by piece your article. I believe I stated that I knew everything about Hillsong isn't perfect, but that there was also good to be had and that I personally had witnessed God using their music and ministry to draw people to Christ for true salvation. My greater point was that only the negative was picked out and that GTY seems to be increasingly in the way of negatively critiquing other ministries, not including any good and therefore not giving their readers a full picture of the ministry or for those who are unsaved a picture of His church that scripture says will draw them. There is to be balance. Good shouldn't be thrown out with bad. We are to discern both. While there may or may not be outright falsehoods in an article, leaving out a complete picture to benefit one view can be just as damaging.

#133  Posted by Mike Nimer  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 5:45 PM

Cameron, I think people are thankful that GTY teaches truth and expounds good theology, although not everyone agrees with everything you guys propound. In fact, John is my favorite Bible teacher! We do need clarity in our day! However, I think what at times frustrates some Christians and turns them off is the constant emphasis on whats wrong with other ministries or leaders in the church. As I have spoken to many people over a 20 year period, when John is brought up many associate him or the church with divisiveness, spiritual pride and dogmatism. I dont think people mind the dogmatism over core issues but on the non core issues the attitude, whether intended or not, is we are right and everyone is wrong. They see a nit pick spirit. Whatever ministries do, if it doesn't square with the philosophy of John, it will be exposed. I dont say this to be harsh, but its just an observation I have made through the years.

#149  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:43 PM

Andrea #123, if you must know, this article could have been far more critical than it was. You also need to be mindful that theology isn't like ying yang or balancing good with evil. When movements preach a false gospel, the good things that they do actually become more dangerous and deceptive. That's a major reason why people never talk about all the great roads Hitler built. I would encourage you to hang in there for the rest of the series as we will examine some major theological problems.

As to your concern that GTY is overly negative, we are aware of that criticism. I can't really force you to change your perception but I would ask you to consider 3 things.

First, if you take in the totality of Pastor John's sermons, his books, and all the articles on this website I don't believe you would find an unhealthy balance in our subject matter.

Second, I once heard a great testimony by someone who speaks english as a second language. Unfortunately the testimony contained an expletive that the speaker didn't realize was inappropriate. What do you think was the only thing everybody remembered from the testimony? In the same way, biblical critique is so unusual in this day and age that when it does happen it tends to stick in people's memory.

Third, if people had been more willing to call Hillsong out many years ago, as Scripture encourages us to do with false teaching (Rom 16:17; Gal 1:8-9), then Hillsong would not exert the influence it does today. They managed to grow into a behemoth in Australia because of the widespread refusal to criticize their teaching. I witnessed that first-hand.

#150  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:45 PM

Mike #133, refer to comment #149 below.

#161  Posted by Thando  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:23 PM

Yes! Thank you so much! My sentiments exactly. We as Christians need to get off our critical seats. Honestly I'm being reminded of why I used to hate the church, because of judgemental believers like this. It makes me do sad to see this, they make it wrong to experience God yet throughout the bible people did. King david danced until his clothes fell off when the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him. And if some of the people here were there they would be in the forefront judging and criticisng without asking to find the truth behind it

#168  Posted by Jeffery Burkhammer  |  Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 6:38 AM

Thando #161 You hated the bride of Christ? I mean, what was your position then? Like you loved Christ and hated his bride? Or did you hate them both? Serious question.

#189  Posted by Eng  |  Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 2:11 PM

Hi there

I read a few comments and I seriously think you have an issue you need to come clean with Christ.

I feel that you disagree with everyone who don't think like you, and worst you call them false teachers.

Are false teachers ones who write simplified songs and play loud music, and talk about God's love more than judgement? 2 Cor 11:13

Have you been a false teacher in your life ?

By your definition, I have. I remembered i was going on about judgement and sins to one of my school mates in the early days of my Christian life...

Also i have been making up songs praising God and thinking about it, many have been theologically incorrect, and I encourage my children too in their understanding... so again I am false teacher!

What you are doing do not appear to reflect Eph 4 1:6.

While reading, I am also reminded of Mat 26:8. The disciples were angry at the women as the money could have been given to the poor, they wanted to do the good deed Jesus asked them to.

Are you too quick to jump on your fellow Christians.

I don't intend to get into a debate, just want to point it out.

#191  Posted by Andrea  |  Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 3:10 PM

I did read article #2 and while once again I say I don't find Hillsong perfect, a very clear negative bias is brought to the article from the start. It seems clear that the authors attended Hillsong services with negative predisposition and found what they wanted to find. Therefore, it's hard to take anything else in the article as fully trustworthy. The tone of the article is not only negative, but condescending as well. The authors may want to revisit their wording if they want the article series to be most effective. Just as you mentioned the one expletive in the sermon you heard, the condescending/hateful tone of the overall article can have the same effect. They also may want to reassess the very public forum of internet if they want to achieve correction within the church without isolating a lost world at the same time.

#196  Posted by Jake  |  Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 8:05 PM

In response to anyone else who think Hillsong and their music is worth defending, you should find it interesting that Brian Houston took it as a compliment that a reporter described her experience at Hillsong like a "Beyonce Concert".

What pastor would receive that as a compliment? I think even most charismatic or NAR churches I know would take an issue with their church or worship experience by likened to a "Beyonce Concert". Then again, looking at some of the productions Hillsong has put on, it's easy to see why non-Christians would say that.

So to people like Erin who accuse people of GTY for tearing down the body of Christ (if you can even call Hillsong a part of God's church), has not Hillsong's own leaders done a better job tearing down themselves, Christ and His church?

#205  Posted by Bill  |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 4:53 AM

I hope with some reflection and prayer that you will be able to see that your post addresses no specifics and is basically a template for defensive condemnation. This is very easily demonstrated by simply changing a few words to reverse where your finger is pointing...

"Andrea, I did read your post and while I say I don't find GTY perfect, a very clear negative bias is brought to your post from the start. It seems clear that you read the article with negative predisposition and found what you wanted to find. Therefore, it's hard to take anything else in your post as fully trustworthy. The tone of your post is not only negative, but condescending as well. You may want to revisit your wording if you want your comments to be most effective. Just as you mentioned the one expletive in the sermon they heard, the condescending/hateful tone of your overall post can have the same effect. You also may want to reassess the very public forum of internet if you want to achieve correction within the church without supporting the delivery of a false gospel to a lost world at the same time."

See? No substance, just judgment. You wrote it; all I had to do was fill in the blanks.

Labeling others as "hateful" is a form of self-disqualification. It's a strong indicator of a lack of useful dialog, and the point where many just stop caring what you have to say. Address the actual ideas being discussed on their merits; don't strike at individuals personally and try to marginalize or vilify them through magic power-words like "hater."

We're all sinners here, but that doesn't mean we should bring our worst inclinations to bear on each other as weapons. At the same time, I feel it appropriate to publicly rebuke you for your public condemnation of the authors.

I leave you with the suggestion that you think about the important difference between tearing down ideas and tearing down people. The authors' article is a judgment against ideas, practices, doctrines, and lyrics. Your post is a judgement against *people*. There's a world of difference there. Labeling people as "hateful" never makes your point; it just undermines it. It's not a magic win-word, it's a magic lose-word (and sadly a new favorite weapon of the enemies of the Bride).

#207  Posted by Aaron  |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 6:41 AM

I get sick of it too. Isn't it better to find a sinner and preach the Gospel to them then to feel the need to call out certain groups - constantly? That's dangerous. This is what religious minded people do - critique. The observation of the songs written today is true, but it's true across the board. Hillsong is being used as the scapegoat and that's not right. Hillsong has been very encouraging and effective in helping draw sinners to Christ and I pray for them because they are brothers and sisters, not the enemy. If you don't like one of the songs, don't have to sing it. But I'd be careful and not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Philippians 1:12-19 We can observe motives but ultimately should look to see if the Gospel is being preached. Paul doesn't call people out, rather he leaves the ones who are hurting him nameless, so that the Gospel can be heard.

#208  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 8:45 AM

Aaron #207, Philippians 1:12-19 concerns people who are actually preaching the gospel with wrong motives. These articles aren't concerned with motives but rather the fact that Hillsong do not preach the gospel. If you have grievance with that then you'll need to point out where Hillsong has ever proclaimed the gospel rightly or where our understanding of the gospel is wrong. We are saying that if you have an unbiblical view of God and an unbiblical view of man (which we'll talk about in tomorrow's post) you are going to preach an unbiblical gospel. Something for which the apostle Paul reserved his harshest condemnation (Galatians 1:8-9).

#225  Posted by Andrea  |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Bill 205, I'm not sure if you were able to tell that the comment you were referencing was not a stand alone comment, but a part of a larger thread/dialog. The set-up of the comment section makes it hard to follow those sometimes. If you read the full dialog I believe my comment will be clearer. I was not attempting to attack people, but was instead making a suggestion to the authors of how they might want to change up their wording some to ensure the articles are better received. I was commenting on the overall tone of the articles as I (and obviously others according to the comments left here) read them. Not because I disrespect the authors or completely disagree with their views on the subject matter, but because the articles as written tend to read offensively to some believers and most importantly can leave a bad taste in the mouth of any nonbeliever who were to come across them. It is possible to disagree without disrespect and that is where I stand. Nor did I call/label the authors hateful people, hating or haters. I do NOT believe them to be hateful.

#230  Posted by Jake  |  Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 5:57 PM

"As I have spoken to many people over a 20 year period, when John is brought up many associate him or the church with divisiveness, spiritual pride and dogmatism."

I'm not a fan of John personally. However, he has done a great and tireless job being OBEDIENT to scripture in calling out the frauds, flakes and fakes in the church today. He has showed more love to the body of Christ in one sermon than most Christian pastors have in their entire earthly ministry. Sounds harsh until you consider that he is a man that is prepared to stand for truth which demonstrates TRUE love.

But in regards to Hillsong - please research it's beginnings. The founder was a serial pedophile. (That's a fact - not an attack.) And when he fled New Zealand he advertised himself to Australian churches that he was a 'John the Baptist', an Apostle (A man sent from God). And this is the man that inspired Brian Houston to become a pastor. You can imagine my shock to hear Brian say he would never have been a pastor or even had the faith at all if he found out his dad earlier was a pedophile. That's as deep as his faith gets?

What this article is doing is doing some fruit checking. However, if you look at the roots of Hillsong - the entire tree is bad. Hillsong has utterly destroyed the AOG of Australia and has hurt so many people in society, including indigenous Australians. Yet Christians put up with it and allow cults like Hillsong to flourish in Jesus' name. Those types of Christians are REJECTING Jesus' warnings and as a result showing no love or regard to Christ Himself.

You can't even evangelise in public thanks to Hillsong. "The church just wants you money." "I want to keep my brains. Thanks." "The church is a cult." Secular Australian papers have been absolutely diligent calling out and exposing the dangers, the scandals and even the heretical teachings of Hillsong. The church down here has been silent. This is because Hillsong was seen as a blessing because of their 'music'. But this is how Hillsong is converting Christians to their faith: through their music. And they BOAST about this! It's been through this way that the Word of Faith "Judge not" heresy demonised Christians in Australia for speaking out against Hillsong. The tyranny of Hillsong can be felt all around Australia - many faithful Christians sitting at home because they don't want to be attacked by "Christians" for having issues with Hillsong. It's demonic what we're seeing.

So why is it impossible for Christians to obey Jesus and His Word? MacArthur is obeying Jesus - and he's in trouble for it? Can Christians please stop attacking Christians for OBEYING Jesus to call out cults like Hillsong? That is anti-Christian at its core.

Give me a MacArthur over a Houston any day. Houston is the one dividing with his false gospel and spiritual elitism within Christendom. Not Mac. Give the guy a break.

#26  Posted by Ify  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 8:22 AM

Thank you very much, brothers. It is very important to address the issues of religious music (esp. those which are wanting in theology) because of the nature of music in this age. Music is ubiquitous and pervasive. It is in the hearts of our young ones, haven seeped through their ears via corded and cordless headphones. Everyone has got one of those on; in fact, I've got headphones on as I type this. Let us help the younger generation actively engage spiritual discretion as they bare their minds to the influence of varying musicians and their accompanying philosophies of life.

Also, music is emotional. It is designed by God to be so, and thus must be wielded with care since it can control men easily. So, when we see goats masquerading as sheep who want to control the beliefs and emotions of our younger brothers and sisters and our children, we must be ready to cry out to God, for help, and to our own, for caution.

I beg that you consider doing the same for other "brands" of "modern Christian music", especially rap. It's affiliation with the godless culture of hip-hop both in style, trend and content can not be overemphasized. Many popular performers of "Christian rap" can't seem to keep back from expressing admiration publicly for secular rappers or seeking validation from them shamelessly. Our young people see all of these. They absorb much of it. As someone who has dallied in both "Christian Rock" (arguably the best term for Hillsong's musical output) and "Christian rap", I am thankful forwhat the Lord has saved me from. Please, consider using your wisdom to evaluate this for us, your younger folk.

A last word, please. Can you speak to this point: Is the administration of music meant to be for the godly or the talented? I have been in churches where the "Worship Pastor" or "Worship Leader" seemed to have been picked based mostly on skill evaluation only. I understand that all Christians are called to serve, but shouldn't such positions of prominence (and consequently, leadership) be restricted to Christians of significant spiritual maturity? 1 Timothy 3: 4-7, 10-12 may suggest that. Or, perhaps, I'm taking it out of context. Please, exhort.

#84  Posted by Romyr  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 1:11 PM

I recommend you read Doxology And Theology by Matt Boswell to address your last concern. It will help you immensely in answering that question.

#27  Posted by Jon Bush  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 8:23 AM

While I would agree for the most part - I do think that if you dig around one will find a few songs with substance. A couple of examples are 'Cornerstone' which has parts of an old hymn and this one:

I think this song is right up there with the Getty's 'In Christ Alone'

Man of sorrows Lamb of God

By His own betrayed

The sin of man and wrath of God

Has been on Jesus laid

Silent as He stood accused

Beaten mocked and scorned

Bowing to the Father's will

He took a crown of thorns

Oh that rugged cross

My salvation

Where Your love poured out over me

Now my soul cries out

Hallelujah

Praise and honour unto Thee

Sent of heaven God's own Son

To purchase and redeem

And reconcile the very ones

Who nailed Him to that tree

Now my debt is paid

It is paid in full

By the precious blood

That my Jesus spilled

Now the curse of sin

Has no hold on me

Whom the Son sets free

Oh is free indeed

See the stone is rolled away

Behold the empty tomb

Hallelujah God be praised

He's risen from the grave

#40  Posted by Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Jon,

Yes, one of our observations is that the best of their songs are, in virtually every case, adaptations of old hymns.

#56  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:40 AM

Jon #27, can you please tell me the name of that song. I can't find it. Also, even if they have written some good songs, I would strongly advocate against financially supporting all that Hillsong does by buying any of their music or paying for the rights to use any of their songs.

#73  Posted by Jon Bush  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:39 AM

It is called 'Man of Sorrows' - I tried to retrace it to an old hymn but could not find one.

#85  Posted by Romyr  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 1:23 PM

Also check out these songs from Hillsong

Lord of lords

Soon

#107  Posted by David Smith  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 3:30 PM

"Man of Sorrows" by Reuben Morgan (one of Hillsong's better songwriters) has similarities to the hymn "Man of sorrows, what a name" by Philip Bliss, but I'm not sure it's close enough to call it an adaptation. I too find it hard to fault this song, but would share most (if not all) the concerns expressed about Hillsong here.

I have a huge concern that Hillsong's "style" looks identical to that of a rock concert. It strikes me that this is the way of the world. And that's in addition to all the other well-documented theological problems associated with Hillsong.

#110  Posted by Jeffery Burkhammer  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 3:43 PM

How right you are David! I believe we as the church should be the place for those sick of the world, drawn in by the spirit. Why on earth would we want to look like the world? To attract people who really dont want change?

#29  Posted by Patrick  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 8:32 AM

the sad thing is that a lot of Christian music today, not just Hillsong, leaves a lot to be desired. spend a day with KLOVE and quite a few of the songs have little or no mention of God or Jesus. it appears that as sound doctrine/theology has taken a very drastic turn away from what is actually in Scripture over the last decade or so, music has unfortunately followed the same course.

#35  Posted by Sharon  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:12 AM

If you would like to see an example of "the rich theology in hymns" that Pastor John referenced above, you may view a live-stream of the Grace Community Church Sunday morning services at 10:30 a.m. PST from www.gracechurch.org/live

Then these services (and other events) are uploaded to our Vimeo channel, here: https://vimeo.com/gracecomchurch

#37  Posted by Linda  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:23 AM

Thank you! The more I read the Word of God and meditate upon Scripture, the more understanding I have of God's great mercy and grace; and the more I am aware that aHe alone is worthy of praise. The Holy Spirit moves within us to worship Him with Psalms and words of praise in Scripture?

#38  Posted by Jim B  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:25 AM

I noticed that my cable provider recently began to carry the Hillsong channel. I don't watch "Christian" TV all that often and wondered what this particular station was all about. My limited knowledge of Hillsong was primarily as a musical group and I did not realize the extent of their global reach as far as concerts, events, church plants, etc. Thank you for this article and for the reminder to always practice discernment.

#41  Posted by Steve Ripka  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:33 AM

I have witnessed this first hand, as our church sings many of Hillsong's music. The music is so vague, and nondescript of Who Christ is, Who God the Father is, and when it comes to the Holy Spirit, the songs are a theological wasteland.

#42  Posted by Justin Peters  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:36 AM

I want to thank Cameron and Jeremiah for this excellent post. Hillsong music along with that of Bethel (Jesus Culture) has infiltrated and overtaken the music services of even non-charismatic churches. Doctrinal depth has been jettisoned for songs that emphasize feelings, emotions and ambiguity. There is nothing wrong with feelings and emotions in and of themselves provided that they rest upon a solid doctrinal foundation. Anyone who is not moved at the core of his being when reflecting upon Who God is and the magnitude of what He accomplished on the cross should probably take some spiritual inventory. However, "spiritual" feelings and emotions unmoored from doctrinal truth are exceedingly dangerous. These songs do not constitute true worship. Hillsong and Bethel embody and promote theology ranging from that of Joel Osteen to hard-core Word-Faith/N.A.R. like Kenneth Copeland, Bill Johnson, and Todd Bentley. When unsuspecting congregants sing these songs displayed on the screens in their churches and see "Hillsong" or "Jesus Culture" as the sources (listed underneath the lyrics) they make the natural (and understandable) assumption that if these songs are ok and are being sung in the church then the churches which produced them must also be ok. Hillsong and Bethel use their music as a hook to suck people into their heretical theology. Make no mistake, these churches are not really that - churches. They are false churches led by false teachers who preach a false Jesus and a false gospel. This may sound like a serious charge but as one who has studied this aberrant theology in-depth, I stand behind it. Thank you, Cameron and Jeremiah, and thank you, GTY, for this needed and timely article.

#48  Posted by Bill  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:02 AM

Mr. Peters, I appreciate your ministry and your biblical fidelity. You are a dependable counselor in a treacherous world.

#69  Posted by Justin Peters  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:23 AM

Hi Bill,

Thank you for your encouragement, brother.

#145  Posted by kat  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:25 PM

Amen Justin ! I totally agree with everything you said. I have been reading about Hillsong and their church for quite some time now. Cameron and Jeremiah wrote an excellent article that was much neeeded. And thank you Justin as well for what you wrote and for all that you do for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

#44  Posted by Nolan  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:41 AM

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors of this article. As I was reading this, I was brought to tears because I have been struggling for years at my "Baptist" college as I have seen this attitude and "worship" become prevalent. It has broken my heart and I am beyond happy to realize that I am not alone in this. Thank you so much Cameron Buettel & Jeremiah Johnson!!!

#45  Posted by David Warrick  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 9:57 AM

Not all of Hillsong, or even Jesus Culture's lyrics are weak. In fact some of the Old Hymns that i was raised on are lyrically anemic. One must be decerning for sure. To put it in perspective-some were saying the same thing about Dallas Holm's "Rise Again" and Don Fransisco"s He's Alive back in the late 70's. And let's not forget what happened to a great song writer who wrote many (not all) theologically sound "story" songs in the 90's "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb" and"Shepherd Boy". Ray Boltz

#50  Posted by Bill  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:13 AM

"Not all of Hillsong, or even Jesus Culture's lyrics are weak."

Isn't that a bit like saying "not all of the evil queen's apples are poisoned"? What are we supposed to do, curtsy and tip our hats to the perpetrators while we hunt around for the very few unobjectionable examples that might be found?

Even the good lyrics bring revenue to organizations that spread bad doctrine (and Bethel is notoriously corrupt in this regard). Are we so needful of a few particular songs that we want to financially support the false church?

#51  Posted by Darryl Daniell  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:15 AM

Excellent explanation of what my wife and I plus many others have been sensing at our church where we play their songs plus, unfortunately Bethel's stuff too. I have been grappling over this as I am one of the drummers at our church and very long time member. I am in the middle of discussions with my worship leader regarding these same issues and as I love him and our pastor, and I am praying for a good resolution about this, I hope they see the problems with Hillsong and Bethel's music. This has been a great help!!! Keep up the LORD's work!!!

#53  Posted by Gabe  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:33 AM

Every church I have been to has used hillsong worship songs. All it does is produce confusion and emotional highs. In fact, usually the music portion of the church service is longer than the preaching portion. John, do you see why so many people are turning to your ministry for guidance rather than mere supplementation? I think that the GTY ministry is one of the very few ministries left that employs sound expositional teaching from God's Word. I listen and read GTY sermons almost daily and This ministry has blessed my heart for many years. I do think that there is an underestimation of the vast amount of churches that Hillsong has infiltrated. Though I am glad this issue of Hillsong is being addressed over the last few years, hopefully this is only the beginning. It has become the norm for me to face opposition to the mere suggestion that Hillsong's teachings are pseudo-biblical and confusing. Thank you for fighting for the truth and thank you to Jerimiah and Cameron for being so brave in addressing this issue.

#55  Posted by Arthur McLin  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:35 AM

These lovey-dovey, emotion jerking songs are consistent with a trend that I find in these modern churches or churches that are embracing modern media. The modern worship music/service as described is emasculating and feminized. These churches are following the trend of the surrounding culture to appeal to the feminine and suppress the masculine. As a result these services attract a large amount of females and effeminate men.

In your visit to the LA Hillsong church what was the demographic of the attendees?

#58  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:44 AM

Arthur #55, I wasn't really paying close attention to that issue. Seemed like a pretty even mix of male and female. What I can say is that Hillsong LA draws a very young and trendy crowd.

#61  Posted by Moisés Ortiz  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 10:57 AM

Is it possible to find this article in spanish?

Because Hillsong has a big influence in latin America, so I think it would be really helpful to had it in spanish.

#67  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:19 AM

I'll talk to the GAV staff and see how quickly we can get them translated.

#75  Posted by Douglas  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:05 PM

you can also try Google Translate. just copy the above text, paste it, select Spanish as the "to" language, and there you go. you may have to read it to make sure the translation is good. i tried the last paragraph, and it seemed to translate it fine.

#62  Posted by Doug  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Arius was known for his heretical views through his music. the Arian controversy in 319 AD The Arian Controversy was sparked in 319 when a deacon in Alexandria named Arius, who had been born in 256 in Libya, presented a letter to Bishop Alexander arguing that if the Son of God were truly a Son, he must have had a beginning.3 Athanasius was a little over twenty when the controversy broke out—over forty years younger than Arius.

• Arius argued for a simple straightforward theology, where Christ was a god, a created super being.

• Arius was attempting to answer the central question in Scripture with an easy to understand seeker friendly theology.

• He communicated his new teaching through worship music that he wrote, in particular his song Thalia (i.e. abundance).

“He who is without beginning made the Son a beginning of created things.

He produced him as a son for himself by begetting him.

He [the son] has none of the distinct characteristics of God’s own being

For he is not equal to, nor is he of the same being as him.”4

Note: The songs we sing as Christians in worship to God are important theological vehicles of truth, and we should exercise great care and wisdom in choosing songs that communicate orthodoxy and not simply a good melody or catchy lyrics.

#63  Posted by Phil Hower  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:07 AM

What I didn't like about the man running Hillside , was when he proclaimed , that we all worship the same god . And that is the same thing the Pope said , and is all a lie!! We do not all worship the same god. We only worship the one true God , Jesus Christ , and Him alone !! Amen

#64  Posted by Barry Halloran  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:11 AM

Comment deleted by user.
#65  Posted by melissa moses-habrle  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:12 AM

So I really am just reading about this issue. It's concerning. Grace To You has been very important to me over the years re: rightly understanding Scripture. I am going to try to learn more. But, I suspect Grace To You ministries are "spot on" and that those of us who want to continue to worship The Lord in spirit and truth should take these warnings to heart. God is who we worship. Our words and lives in songs and deeds should reflect that. Thank You, "Grace To You" and Pastor John MacArthur for your faithfulness in preaching the Gospel these many years. May The Lord continue to guide you. May The Lord give the true church discerning wisdom in these days that we are living. May we be a light to glorify God!

In Jesus Christ Name I ask these things, amen.

#70  Posted by Korey  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:27 AM

All I have to say is wow!! I grew up listening to hymns and up until this day those hymns I still remember. I listen to the New Age music such as Hillsong and I have noticed that the music never sticks. Now I am glad to say Thank God it does not stick.

#72  Posted by Tara Talvin  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 11:31 AM

Thank you John, for the alert. You are bold in steadfast love for the body of believers and I am sure you will be criticized as "legalistic" when revealing the truth to protect believers from overt and subtle lies in our culture.

I hate we are being "dumbed down" in worship music and "follow up" doctrine to fit our culture. I also see it in pursuit of the youth for relevancy sake alone, seeking to exalt self at every corner of life to include the church. I LOVE that you are calling it out.

When there is a pint of poison in a lake of truth, that lake is poisoned and deadly.

Keep up your bold ministry. I pray for you and your family weekly.

#76  Posted by Dave Reynolds  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:08 PM

My perspective for much of this is that it is a fine alternative on the radio for the garbage the world has to offer up, but that does not mean in belongs in a church worship service. In particular, I have a problem with the self-serving lyrics in many of the songs that praise God it seems only for what He does and will do for us and how much He wants to do awesome stuff for us. Quite simply, it ain't about us! Again, fine as an alternative in the car. Not in church.

#77  Posted by Brian  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:24 PM

I've enjoyed all of the material about this subject. I remember when this kind of music started to hit in my area. Older churches scrambled to appeal to young people which rubbed many in the older generation the wrong way. I was in my mid twenties when this happened, around 1995 or so. I remember thinking at the time how great it was that they were trying to appeal to people entering college. I remember working on the staff of the church I grew up in.

The heated debates about music, style and service format raged for almost 15 years. Around 2004, A new church was started in our area. It was all people were talking about. College Kids by the hundreds were going to this church on Sundays and on Fridays as well. There were no other college groups of any substance. Kids were inviting their parents to join them in church and "experience" what they were experiencing. Tons of parents left churches and went there.

I went to see what all the fuss was about. I then knew exactly what it was about. These musicians were young, extremely talented and most importantly (and often overlooked) The sound mix was , from a mixing perspective, amazing. Make no mistake these guys knew how to tune a room. I remember thinking how great I thought it was that so many college kids were staying in church. Parents were sooooo happy that their child found a place that interested them enough to go.

Wow , my thinking was flawed then. Lets fast forward 12 years to today. Young people who have attended these types of churches are just as messed up as my generation was and maybe worse. So much infighting about change and music and the " old dudes" and for what? a generation of young people who make better decisions about choices in life? a generation of people who were drove back to sound doctrine? I don't see it, in fact I think they are pickier than ever.

What did hundreds of older churches gain by trying to copycat the newest biggest thing. NOTHING. Many never recovered. A few have turned the corner and become much like they were. I don't want to broadbrush a whole generation of people but in a general sense the insistence that doing away with hymnals in favor of a concert style somehow saved the new generation of kids doesn't seem to fit based on 12 to 15 years of this style. Maybe someone has some statistics to show if kids are more or less committed to Christ. I'm not sure. My gut tells me that they are no more spiritual than my generation.

Thanks again for the article.

#78  Posted by Michelle  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:29 PM

I've known about the vagueness of many contemporary "Christian" songs and also the various singers' theology behind them. My question is this: Does it do harm to go to some of these concerts purely for entertainment? At a state fair for example? I have felt conflicted about this, having attended a few with my teenage daughter. We do attend a sound biblical church with good hymns and a few contemporary songs (with good lyrics). I don't want to steer my daughter in the wrong direction. I've talked to her about the fact that some of these groups may not be born-again Christians, but I am better just staying far away from these concerts? Thank you for your article!

#89  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 1:44 PM

Michelle #78, perhaps this angle might help you. A song that falsely claims to be Christian is far more dangerous than a worldly song that does not pretend to be something it is not.

#80  Posted by Peter Simpson  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:43 PM

Cameron & Jeremiah I am so grateful for your spiritual guidance and your desire to share Biblical and spiritual truth. Many of my friends and I look to Grace to You for guidance.

I appreciate your desire to speak the truth in love. I am sorry to say that I have become very concerned by change that I have seen in the evangelical church. As I have followed the ministry of Grace to You, I have found the answers to many of the concerns I have about the liberalism I have seen in regard to the word of God. I am so grateful to God for rising up men of God like Pastor John MacArthur and others to speak the truth in love about issues affecting the church like this issue of Hillsongs.

For some time some like me have felt so alone, knowing something was wrong, now I praise God that we have you to turn to for such a time as this.

God bless you John 8:32 (NKJV) And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Peter Simpson

#81  Posted by Dan Ritter  |  Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:47 PM

Get on the Shane and Shane train....great songs, solid theology

#241  Posted by Paul  |  Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 6:37 AM

Actually Shane & Shane would be disqualified by GTY standards because they "perform" a few Hillsong tunes. Once you begin to draw lines in the sand that every songwriter / singer / leader must have GTY approved theology, the field gets narrow ... including many ancient hymn writers.

#243  Posted by Cameron Buettel (GTY Admin)  |  Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 9:15 AM

Paul #241, please stop imagining motives for why we have written these articles. "GTY approved theology" is a red herring. As we have clearly outlined, our expectation for a Christian ministry is that they would get the gospel right. And we have shown in this series that Hillsong is an epic failure in that department. Please deal with what we have actually written.