"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. - Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV)
The pulpit is no place for wishy-washiness. A pastor is a gatekeeper for his sheep. What he allows, he endorses. What his church points to, people will assume is ok for personal consumption. It is so sad to see pastor after pastor seemingly more concerned with the delicate sensibilities of Christian celebrities and national pastors than the spiritual safety of their own sheep. One can only assume it is out of an abundance of envy. The purpose driven church has developed generations of cult of personality pastors who confuse their role within the body of Christ away from shepherd and towards super-stardom. While our discernment is usually focused around the theology of preaching, worship is equally important.
Worship is what ushers us into our Sunday morning services. Many feel it ushers in the very presence of God. There is very little that compares to the experience of corporate worship. We must realize however how easily the devil can attack us from this direction. What we sing, over and over again, becomes integrated into our theology. Many Christians assume they are a friend of God because of Israel Houghton, not because of the scriptures. The song however, written while Houghton was having an affair on his wife, does not address the context of those scriptures. We are friends of Jesus if we do as He says. Obedience is missing from the song. Instead, it becomes a braggadocious ditty dedicated to worship of self. Look at me and how great I must be for I am a friend of God. In the past few decades worship has gone from How Great Thou Art to Oh How He Loves Me and there is a marked difference between those two messages. One exalts God and the other exalts man. I say this as a backdrop to the above linked article from Charismatic pastor Shane Idleman. Shane has a bad habit of trying to split the bill. Perhaps it is born out of good intentions of being a peacemaker but at the end of the day God needs His pastors to take a stand. In this article Idleman tries to sound genuinely concerned about false worship but still tries so desperately to excuse Bethel, Hillsong and Elevation music. So let us reason once more together:
'I appreciate Mackenzie Morgan's boldness to stand against wishy-washy churches in the article titled, "Worship leader no longer supports Hillsong, Elevation, Bethel Music over 'false gospel message.'" More and more churches may be following suit in regard to her stance. But I also think it's important to ask some additional questions. For example, "Is it possible to not endorse or agree with [such-and-such church] but still listen to their worship in a corporate setting? - Shane Idleman
The answer Shane is no. The fact that some of their songs may produce perfectly acceptable lyrics is not the issue. Would you recommend your sheep listen to preachers who sometimes preach well? Who are only partially heretical? I hope your answer would be of course not. The devil is far more subtle than to be wrong all of the time. There is a famous saying that discernment is not the business of sorting out right from wrong but rather right from almost right. Even when Satan lied to Jesus he mixed some truth in. Hillsong, Elevation and Bethel are three of the most heretical cesspools on the planet. They are led by three of the most egregious heretics in Brian Houston, Steven Furtick and Bill Johnson. Just from the standpoint of being a gatekeeper you cannot lead your sheep to these ministries.
"First, I want to be clear that my position has never been, "I don't care what the roots are; I'm playing their music." I myself am in the process of evaluating. I recently preached a sermon series on revival. Bryan and Katie Torwalt led worship during one of the messages, and Kim Walker-Smith during another one. Then let us know your thoughts. Were the services God-honoring? Were the lyrics theologically sound? Were the messages biblically accurate? Could there be abundant fruit?" - Shane Idleman
This is where Shane tries to sound reasonable when all he is really trying to do is provide cover for what he must know is simply wrong. Now, the Torwalts and Walker-Smith are worship leaders from Jesus Culture, which came out of Bethel. This is not a knock on their apparent niceness. I am sure they are friendly, sweet, and the kind of person you might enjoy a cup of coffee with. They come from Bethel. They were taught at Bethel. Their pastor is Bill Johnson. There is no getting around this Shane. Could there be abundant fruit? No! That is the point Jesus is trying to make in the key verses! A diseased tree cannot bear good fruit! Not to mention that if just one of your sheep decides to look into Kim Walker-Smith or the Torwalts and is led back to Bethel, what damage have you wrought for tacitly endorsing them?
"Just for reference's sake, I use the MacArthur Study Bible, read the Puritans and love any preaching from Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon and the like. I'm not endorsing and promoting Bethel or the others. I have concerns too. I understand that playing a church's music (in a sense) is viewed as promoting them. I get that, but there is a huge difference between direct promotion and indirect promotion because we have to legally acknowledge the source of the songs for licensing reasons. With that said, I've put forth a few questions and answers that may offer clarity:" - Shane Idleman
So what are you saying? That because you like Spurgeon you should be allowed to promote the devil out of the other side of your mouth? You are endorsing Bethel! Don't you get it? You allowed two of Bethel's most popular worship leaders, lead your sheep into worship! This is not just about giving licensing credit. There is little difference between direct and indirect promotion Shane. Who you lead people to is who you lead them to. If you would not directly promote them, why do you think indirect would somehow be acceptable?
"1. How inconsistent should a group be before we completely discontinue their worship? Should we eliminate all songs because we disagree with some of what their pastors teach? Yes and no. What if the worship leaders are solid in their walk with the Lord? It all depends on the severity of their error. Some people draw the line in the sand much quicker in regard to removing their music, while others are not there yet." - Shane Idleman
Yes and no? Take a stand pastor. Stop trying to split the bill. You cannot be friends with the darkness and still pretend to be in the light. I do not even need to get into their individual music, which is problematic enough. Their churches tell me all I need to know. Steven Furtick is the most self-absorbed pastor in the country. He will teach you that every bible story is about you. There are charges of modalism as well as an unhealthy indoctrination of Elevation youth to the vision of their pastor. Brian Houston wrote a book once called "You Need More Money." Look at the falls from grace at Hillsong New York and New Jersey. Read about Brian's own father and the accusations of cover up. Watch the sleazy silent night or the youth pastor "dressed" as the naked cowboy for their women's conference. Hillsong is a global cancer on the body of Christ. The problems with Bethel are just as far reaching. Bill Johnson endorses nearly every false teaching available today. Prosperity, word faith, false signs and lying wonders, gold dust, gem stones, glory clouds and angel feathers. They have a dead raising team and promoted grave sucking until they got caught. They have open mic prophecy night where anyone with a demonic spirit can come on up and share. Why in the world would I ever want someone who leads worship for these people to even set foot in my church unless it was to repent and hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ? How inconsistent should you allow a worship leader to be with doctrine? How about zero tolerance? I am not talking about occasional error but uncorrected error? That is known as heresy.
"2. Have I done my due diligence in investigating these bands? The problem is that there are many conflicting reports. I know people who attend Bethel, and they say the complete opposite of those who condemn it. For example, Bethel's leadership condemns grave-sucking here, but people still say that they teach it. Yes, I have seen the picture of lead pastor Bill Johnson's wife near a grave, but pictures don't always tell the whole story. You wouldn't believe the number of heresy hunters I heard from when I released this picture." - Shane Idleman
Beni Johnson is hugging a tombstone in one picture and lying on top of a grave in another. What "other story" do you think is not being told? Grave sucking is not even the main problem. Just listen to sermons from Johnson, not softball interviews where of course he will deny anything controversial. As for the picture Shane references here it is of him and Francis Chan. Now Chan was once the darling of the evangelical world until he fell off the doctrinal planet. It all started when he spoke at IHOP's annual conference and declared that he "loved Mike Bickle." IHOP and Bickle of course are right up there with Bethel and Hillsong and do not even get started on how bad their internal worship is. After listening to most Misty Edwards worship songs I need a shower. Anyone can make a mistake, so it was not until Chan went back to IHOP the following year that it became obvious he was losing his way. His doctrine soon followed and he wrote that anyone who dared question people like Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll were going to hell! Driscoll who stole $250,000 of tithes to immorally promote his book and Rick Warren from the purpose driven church infamy. You can call me a heresy hunter all day long Shane but I do not have to go deep into the hunt when you pose smiling with Francis Chan.
"But, with that said, I have also heard Johnson say things he needs to clarify. I talked to Bethel Communications for over an hour in 2019. They said they were releasing short clips explaining the controversies, and they have finally begun that process at this link. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but knowing people like Kim Walker-Smith and Sean Feucht (who are solid), I would hate to throw the baby out with the bathwater because they were once leading worship at Bethel." - Shane Idleman