I think we can all agree that music is powerful. In fact, music is so powerful, we often confuse it with “worship” itself, since the two are closely related. Because of this, I think we can agree that when it comes to music, a song is not just a song. Christian music is not simply music. Music has always been used to teach, from its earliest days, and music continues to teach and to preach today.
Before you write me off as a curmudgeon and a killjoy, (haha) let me share with you that I’m an artist, and I appreciate art for art’s sake. I just do. This is why, when my kids aren’t around, I may listen to a Ben Folds song, The Shins, or Neil Young (although nowadays more and more I feel like I need to pray a little afterwards!). One of my favorite movies is a neo-western-like movie called There Will Be Blood, and it has nothing to do with Jesus, but I appreciate it from an artistic perspective.
When it comes to ministry, however, coupled with some of my theological training, it is my conviction that ministries have a unique responsibility when it comes to the music we are approving of for the thousands of people in our audiences. For this reason, I think it’s only wise for someone with ministry training to review the lyrics of every song we put on a playlist. I don’t think any band or any artist is above having their songs reviewed by us, even my own favorite artists. We are to test everything. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out.” (1 John 4)
Guarding us from false teaching is something we should all be doing diligently: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16
If all Scripture is god breathed and useful, that means Jesus words here are still relevant to us today: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15
And again: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, …. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Acts 20:28-34
In light of these scriptures, it is my recommendation that we do not put songs by either Bethel or Jesus Culture on our music playlists. I believe that this is in our best interest because I believe that, at the very least, those ministries I have named are antithetical to the our mission to be true to God’s Word.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There are other churches, that while I would never personally recommend to anyone because I don’t think they get things right biblically, I still think we can promote their music. I hope that shows you that what I’m writing is fair. In fact, I would probably not attend most of the churches who are producing the music on our playlists, because I personally disagree theologically but I think we’re fine to have them on a music playlist. This demonstrates a difference of theological preference and there is a difference between a preference and false teaching. We choose the churches we go to because we have differences in understanding, like baptizing babies or only baptizing adults. These are accepted theological differences within the Church. Is communion merely memorial, or are we truly sharing in Jesus actual presence somehow? Is there a rapture before a great tribulation or not? Again these are differences that are acceptable and have never been condemned as heretical.
At this time, Bethel and Jesus Culture are the only two bands I would keep off our playlists without needing to review lyrics. And Lakewood too, (although I don’t think I’ve seen them on our playlists). Others are on my radar but I’m not comfortable yet with naming them, however, you can do your own research! I am not saying that no one can listen to these bands, I’m saying that it is in our best interest not to recommend them by putting them on our playlists. Jesus Culture is a ministry from Bethel, and Bethel teaches heresy. Here are some of them, which you can research on your own if you don’t know what they are. These are not just differing opinions, these are known heresies:
- Health and wealth, prosperity – antithetical to God being sovereign in suffering. In fact, Bill Johnson states he does not have a theology that includes suffering. It’s a tragedy that any new believer would be told that, if they just have enough faith, they are promised perfect health and wealth by following Christ! God may supply health and wealth but these are not promised, even with all faith, in fact we are promised trouble.
- little gods doctrine – like Mormonism, they teach we are all gods, literally gods
- word of faith, positive confession – we don’t ask for things in prayer, we don’t ask God, we command the elements, like sorcery. We don’t admit sickness, etc.
- grave soaking – if you lay over the grave of a powerful dead person you can receive some of their power
- man is inherently good – this denies our sin nature and need for a savior even in, as David says, the womb!
- Jesus ceased to be God – they teach Jesus died and went to hell, experiencing eternal death. Jesus also had to repent and be saved from hell.
Many Christians know these are what Bethel teaches, so when we put their songs on our playlist, they will be surprised we would support this ministry.
Those who do not know about these things, will be encouraged to not only listen to Bethels music, but also support or attend their church, if trusted ministries play their music.
On top of this, listens on Spotify equal royalties. So, if for example Planned Parenthood (or name an organization that you believe does harm) sold some good coffee, for example, I would recommend that we not buy that coffee, not because some of the coffee isn’t okay, but because it’s not in our best interest to support that organization.
I realize a lot of this information may be new. I want to stress again that I am not coming at this from a judgmental, finger waving attitude. I’m not saying no one can listen to these songs, I’m saying as an organization we are wise not to recommend these ministries. I want to do as Jesus said and “judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24) while being loving and showing grace.