We laugh at that notion, as if no one with of a functioning brain would swallow such a ridiculous idea! Only a complete idiot would believe that!
At the same time, some of us who profess Christ would subscribe to a slightly different notion:
“The music is fantastic, it MUST be a great church!”
Well, don’t we? (Rhetorical question) Whether it’s tender lyrics that make us feel all loved and warm inside, electric guitar riffs accompanied by loud pounding drums reminscent of our non-believing days, or somewhere in between, we automatically assume we’re in a great church!
But is it true, or are we getting ‘Hooked on a Feeling’, like B. J. Thomas used to sing. (aging myself?)
At ths point I have to admit that I have two specific ‘churches’ in mind, Hillsong and Bethel. I recently visited family in Texas and the music of both was glowingly spoken of. A friend at work, when I asked him if he had a good weekend, said yes and going to the recently released Hillsong movie was part of it. If you don’t know, it was billed primarily as ‘experiencing’ worship. You can hardly find a church thesemdaysmthat doesn’t play Hillsong and Bethel music on a regular basis.
In case you think / this a Hillsong/Bethel bash fest, don’t worry, it’s not. I’ll leave it to you to investigate their respective ‘doctrines’, vision statements, etc.
Some of you won’t have an issue with Word of Faith, the prosperity gospel, glory clouds, gold dust, dead raising teams, etc.. If you are one of those, I encourage you to read the Bible, in context, and ask yourself if they are biblical.
In fact, I would ask us all to be a bit more discerning when it comes to both contemporary Christian music and the doctrine(s) held by the churches who have laid classical theology rich hymns aside in order to attract more of the ‘unchurched’. Hillsong and Bethel aren’t the only ones dispensaing spiritual junk food.
While you’re examining the church behind the music, also ask yourself if the preaching there is more about you and your felt needs, or God and his glory.
A Christian relative of mine had a friend who was giving everything up and moving to Redding, California so that he could be a part of Bethel. I did what I could to explain to my relative that I was very concerned. It appeared that the young man had made up his mind and there was no turning back for him. I often wonder what happened to that young, dedicated man. I pray that God opened his eyes to the truth of what is happening in Redding.
I just went to the Bethel site. It is at https://www.ibethel.org/#home-intro.
“On earth as it is in heaven” is the first thing one sees. Maybe it’s because I know a little about the gold dust experiences, but my reaction to these wonderful words wasn’t good. It bothers me that “Thy will be done” isn’t included. God created this wonderful earth but we certainly can’t make it heaven no matter how much faith we have. Maybe I’m over sensitive.
I have to admit that I loved the music of the early Contemporary Christian artists. I think it was an entirely different type of music than many young “believers” hear today. I still have fond memories of the members of Mustard Seed Faith climbing out of two vans and setting up their equipment on the Campus at Mt. San Antonio Jr. College in Southern California. It must have been around 1977. They gave a complete concert and even though Oden Fong wasn’t there that day, the other main singer preached the gospel message to the students at lunchtime. I have no idea how far they came but these guys were not there for the money. I think our Christian Club scraped up $80 for the 4 young musicians that showed up. There was nothing fancy about their concert. It was music from the heart by young men who made an impression on me as servants of God. The message was simple. Word of Faith and prosperity were not part of it. It was more like “take up your cross and follow me.” The effect it had on me was a desire to know more about what the Bible said about me and my future. I already knew that I was a sinner because my parents were Christians who went to church every Sunday. Being around people like those early Christian artists who were very talented reinforced the fact that I was a sinner in need of God’s help. I believe that God used those early “give us whatever you can afford” servants to give many young Christians encouragement.
A few of these early artists did well enough to make a bit of a career with their talent. The vast majority barely got by and are a tiny footnote in music history. I won’t forget them. A few include: Gentile Faith, The Archers, Honeytree, and Erik Nelson. There are at least a hundred others.
As God increased my knowledge (still have so much to learn, of course), I began to teach a high school Bible Study and helped lead our church youth group when our youth director left the church for another teaching job. One of the Bible studies we did involved the study of cults and other belief systems. Because I was teaching the class as a teen myself, I learned more than I already knew about the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, etc.
Sadly, if I were teaching the same class today, I would have to include the Word of Faith teachers and those who preach a prosperity gospel. Hillsong and Bethel would definitely be included. Young Christians need to know the dangers of these “churches” that teach false doctrines that have nothing to do with scripture.
I did not grow up in a perfect environment. Drugs and sex were everywhere and somehow God protected this young, shy believer. Good parents didn’t hurt. It was God, however, who used some of the philosopher/artist/Christians to help me to see the futility of worldly things. I wish young people today could experience what I did.
Thankfully, one thing will never change. God’s Word is the same and always will be. I look forward to the New Jerusalem. Until then, I will pray the entire Lord’s prayer.
Almost forgot to mention, I remember B.J. Thomas well.
And then there is this…(Please indulge me) A few years ago, the main guys from Mustard Seed Faith got together and played a title song off of their most popular (of two) album.
Lots of memories reading your comments! A bunch of young believers putting their young faith out there. No fear. Just wanting a wayward generation to turn to Christ.
That’s exactly the way it was, Dan!
It seems when it comes to music, for some Christians theological discernment goes out the window just so long as the music itself is good…
I agree. I even think that some who might have had questions about doctrine would forget their questions when they get ‘hooked on feelings’ because the music ‘stirred’ the flesh.
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