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July 29, 2021

Debunking the Defense of Using Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation Music in Church

By Anthony Wade

Why Hillsong, Bethel and Elevation music should not be used in sound churches today...


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"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)

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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

Once again trying to split the bill. Trying to sound reasonable in his unreasonableness. So there are conflicting stories but you need clarification on some things from Bethel? Please stop minimizing this. Kim Walker-Smith did not just "once lead worship at Bethel." Jesus Culture was birthed from Bethel. She was taught her doctrine from Johnson. Her testimony, which she shares at her events, includes a waking visitation where Jesus whisked her away to the throne room of God where she met the Father face to face. She asked Father God what He was thinking about when He made her and God responded by ripping out a piece of His own heart to mold a miniature version of Kim Walker-Smith to dance for Him while He clapped maniacally. Let that settle into your spirit for a second. Now we know that the bible says if this was true she would be dead for no man may see the face of God and live. That leaves two choices. Either she is lying, which I do not believe, or she cannot tell when she is demonically visited. That is who you believe is "solid."

"Because I myself have often been misrepresented, I appreciate those who try to hear both sides. It's good to be concerned and lovingly rebuke churches such as the ones mentioned above, but at the same time, we should consider the heart of the worship leader who is writing and leading the songs. For example, do you have any idea who wrote this: "So much heresy is running rampant in the church because we're not clearly preaching the reality of eternal judgment, the reality of heaven and hell, or the frequent commands concerning holiness, godliness, purity and true Jesus apprenticeship"? Jeremy Riddle, worship leader at Bethel, wrote that on April 10, 2020, on his Facebook page. In case you missed it, that's a powerful declaration of sound doctrine." - Shane Idleman

Sigh. It is not a powerful declaration of sound doctrine because Jeremy Riddle still remains at Bethel! He is right that the church is filled with heresy but it starts with his church! As for lovingly rebuking these churches - are you serious? These are not small congregations that are dabbling a bit into unsound teaching or error. These are the founding fathers of the most popular errors today! They have been rebuked for decades and they refuse to change because they are making a killing leading the sheep of the Lord to slaughter. You want me to consider the heart of the worship leader who is writing the songs? Sure - it is deceitful wicked above all else. Just like mine and yours. The man who wrote "healer" lied about having cancer to cover up his pornography addiction. The earlier mentioned Israel Houghton was receiving Dove Awards while he was cheating on his wife. I do not need to consider the hearts of the worship leaders - just what they write, speak and sing.

"While not true of everyone, as in the case of Mackenzie Morgan, the vast majority of those who have issues with this music seem to disdain emotional worship and are often not open to what is referred to as revival. They don't like to sing "Let It Rain" because they don't want to get wet. You can read more about genuine revival in my past articles. I stand in awe of how many famous conservative pastors quote George Whitefield yet fail to acknowledge the oddities that happened under his preaching. The same is true of Jonathan Edwards and others who ushered in great moves of the Spirit. Now, with that said, I am not validating questionable ministries. I have similar concerns as many of the critics, but it is interesting that those mocking are often the same people who would (and do) mock a genuine move of God's Spirit. I'm hoping that this article sparks dialogue within the controversial bands and a movement to revisit theology is sparked." - Shane Idleman

But you are validating them Shane. That was the entire point and result of this article. For the record, I disdain emotional worship because it is passed off as spiritual. Let it Rain is fantastic example of a song churches use to gin up emotional responses to cover up the lack of the movement of God's spirit. Revisiting theology is not the issue because the tree is still rotten. Trying to polish spoiled fruit is meaningless.

"Most of these worship groups are young and need theological grounding. Perhaps the young musicians in some of these bands just need believers who are spiritually mature reaching out to them rather than calling them heretical. In closing, my big concern for many of us is found in Revelation 2:2-5 (NIV), "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. ... Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Could it be that the very thing we need (and that Hillsong, Bethel and Elevation need) is the very thing we are running from: revival and a powerful move of God's Spirit via brokenness, humility and repentance?" - Shane Idleman

Really Shane? Is this where you are left to go? Sean Feucht is 37 years old and has been at this for well over a decade after graduating from Oral Roberts University. He has recorded 22 albums and co-written five books. Kim Walker Smith is 39 years old and has been around since the inception of Jesus Culture in 1999. Here is some disappointing news for you Shane. The bible does not promise that great end times revival you keep seeking. That is because it is NAR theology and not based on sound doctrine. It does however promise a great end times apostasy, of which you are now actively participating. If your revival is partnered with Bethel, Hillsong and Elevation Shane then you got far bigger problems than some heresy hunters who are lovingly trying to correct you.

"Additional Resources - In this sermon, I talk about when my heart was very hard and I was becoming a modern-day Pharisee. The New Apostolic Reformation always seems to slip into this type of discussion. Since I don't know much about the NAR, I found a video for those interested: "The Truth About NAR and 7 Mountain Theology." Michael Brown also interviewed Bill Johnson in this video. Granted, I would have asked harder questions, but he was still able to clarify many things. Here is what baffles me: it's almost as though people don't want to know the facts." - Shane Idleman

I have removed all hyperlinks, as usual, because I refuse to point people towards more bad teaching. These "additional resources' reveal all we need to know about where Shane Idleman is and what direction he is heading. The NAR video is from Michael Brown, who serves as a gatekeeper for the NAR and has pretended in the past that it does not even exist. The interview with Johnson clarified NOTHING. It was just one softball question after another. He asked him for example what was the deal with the grave sucking. Johnson denied it. Brown exclaimed that he was glad that was settled! Huh? The bottom line here is that the time is running out on this age. The only thing that matters is sound doctrine because only the true gospel can save anyone. Using music from any of the top three heresy swamps on the planet must be met with a decidedly negative response. Perhaps if they left their false church, repented of their teachings and worked to restore sound doctrine we could think otherwise. As for you Shane, you need to stop acting as their gatekeeper. You will answer for every sheep you lead astray. Even if you did not realize you were. Since you like Spurgeon so much I will leave you with his words:

If we choose a false way of worship we shall, ere long, choose to worship a false god.

Reverend Anthony Wade - July 29, 2021

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.