A DEFENSE OF SINGING SONGS FROM BETHEL AND HILLSONG

The following is a very recent article with the same title as this blog post, as well as the comments made to the article as of early this morning. It’s a very interesting article on several levels, and the comments contain links to other material relevant to the issue of using Hillsong and Bethel Music for worship in our churches. Without further ado I leave it all with any who read it; to form your own opinions on the matter.

A DEFENSE OF SINGING SONGS FROM BETHEL AND HILLSONG

August 6, 2021 | By: Sam Storms

Online Source

Perhaps you saw an article that appeared online recently in which Mackenzie Morgan, a worship leader at Refine Church in Lascassas, Tennessee, announced that she and her church would no longer sing songs that come from Bethel Church in California or Hillsong Church in Australia. After examining some of the teaching from both Bethel and Hillsong, she concluded that to sing any song that originated with or was composed by someone from either of these local churches was dangerous.

Morgan insists that when it comes to corporate singing in church, “theology matters.” “It matters,” she says, “if a song is weak in theology and is not accurately displaying the Holiness of our God.” I couldn’t agree more.

Here at my church, Bridgeway, we are intensely careful never to sing error. If a song is in any way inconsistent with Scripture, we don’t sing it, no matter who wrote it or how much we might like the melody.

Morgan is also bothered by the fact that in singing the songs of Bethel and Hillsong “royalties” are being paid to them, and in this we are tacitly subsidizing and spreading “their false gospel message.” She continues:

“What if the majority of the church is leading its people astray singing music that is less than worthy of a Sovereign and Holy God? Would God be pleased with the lights? With the smoke machines? With the obsession of hands in the air and ‘response’ from the crowd? With loud worship nights singing songs He doesn’t approve of?”

So let me go on the record in this regard. I don’t like the strobe lights that so often are used in church worship sets. I refuse to make use of smoke machines. But I’m puzzled by the reference to the raising of hands. Has she not read Scripture’s many references to this practice? Has she not considered the deeply symbolic and spiritual nature of not only this but of other physical postures in worship? I’m curious: Does a person’s stiff, statuesque posture, with hands firmly at one’s side or stuffed into one’s pockets honor God more than those that are lifted in praise?

And should we not expect a “response” from the crowd? I read in Scripture of shouts of joy and declarations of “Holy, holy, holy”, and affirmations of thanksgiving, among others. And what is the alternative to “loud worship nights”? Quiet or soft worship days? And as I said, no one is endorsing songs of which God wouldn’t “approve.”

Be assured of this. In no way do I endorse or turn a blind eye to the scandals that have rocked Hillsong in recent days. In no way do I endorse certain ministry methods that are employed at a variety of churches that artificially stir up emotions as an end in themselves or manipulate people into behaviors or experiences that lack biblical sanction. Every church, be it Bethel, Hillsong, or Bridgeway as well (including Refine Church in Tennessee), needs to labor more vigorously to tether our teachings and practices to the inspired Word of God.

But let’s go straight to the point. Because this lady believes that some of what Bethel and Hillsong teach is unbiblical, no other church should make use of the music composed or sung there. She also insists that we should “read their church’s doctrine and see what they preach, teach, and believe. But don’t stop there. Don’t compare it to your traditions or what you think is right. Compare it with Scripture. Scripture is the ultimate authority. Not me, not your pastor, not the world, only God. There are no gray areas in God’s Word.”

So, I did just that. Bethel’s statement of faith is profoundly evangelical and orthodox and consistent with the historic creeds of Christianity. They affirm the Trinity, the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the incarnation and virgin birth of Jesus Christ, his substitutionary death on the cross, bodily resurrection, and ascension into heaven. They explicitly declare that Jesus is “true God” and “true man.”

They further affirm that we are saved by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus. Bethel was at one time affiliated with the Assemblies of God, and yet their statement on the issue of Spirit baptism differs from that denomination’s viewpoint. Here is what they say:

“The baptism of the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 1:4-8 and 2:4, is poured out on believers that they might have God’s power to be His witnesses.”

Nothing is said about speaking in tongues being the initial, physical evidence of Spirit baptism. They do appear to believe that this experience is separate from and subsequent to conversion, but even then the language is a bit ambiguous. And let us not forget that although I and many evangelical charismatics believe baptism in the Spirit occurs simultaneous with conversion, the doctrine of “separate and subsequent” has been and still is embraced by numerous Christian denominations within the Pentecostal world, and is ably (even if not persuasively) defended by countless biblical scholars who minister in that tradition. We may disagree with their view on this point, but it is very much a secondary, perhaps even tertiary, doctrine. It is hardly a hill to die on.

They also believe in the Second Coming of Christ and the eternality of both heaven and hell.

One statement that clearly needs greater clarification is this:

“We believe the victorious, redemptive work of Christ on the cross provides freedom from the power of the enemy – sin, lies, sickness, and torment.”

I also believe this, but the question of when complete freedom from “sickness” is to be expected needs to be clearly stated. But note well: there is nothing in the statement that affirms the “Word of Faith” movement and its beliefs or the so-called “Health and Wealth Gospel.” If anyone at Bethel teaches these notions, it is not because they are acting in conformity with the church’s official statement of faith.

And there is a lengthy, thoroughly biblical defense in their statement concerning the historic and traditional biblical sex ethic, in which marriage is designed solely for one woman and one man. As for homosexuality and transgenderism, I can’t recall ever reading a more clearly defined and thoroughly biblical perspective on those issues.

I’m baffled by how or on what basis Morgan accuses them of preaching a “false gospel.” They preach salvation by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. They tether their hope of eternal life on trust in the sinless life, sacrificial, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus.

If some in Bethel or Hillsong believe in the so-called “prosperity” gospel, they are, of course, in error. But as grievous as that error may be (and is), it is not damning. Those who embrace that view are not, for that reason, consigned to eternal condemnation.

Now, are there certain other ministry practices embraced by Bethel that I find questionable and without explicit biblical support? Yes. But those do not make them heretical or deserving of cynical disdain. If more time were spent by Bethel’s critics praying for them than is given to writing hyper-critical reviews, perhaps such practices would diminish over time. Let me at the same time say that we should pray just as fervently for Morgan and those who agree with her article. I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the church in Rome. We would all do well to heed his counsel:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5-6).

I also followed Morgan’s advice and read Hillsong’s Statement of Beliefs (I wonder, did she?). Aside from one or two minor, secondary, doctrinal differences (Hillsong is affiliated with Australian Christian Churches, a traditionally Pentecostal denomination), it is thoroughly evangelical and orthodox. Do I agree with all that is done in the context of their worship services? No. It may not be my “style” nor that of Morgan’s, but that doesn’t make them heretical. It just means they are different, and perhaps unwise. But in numerous other ways, aren’t we all?

Morgan says that she will not sing songs that are not “worthy of a sovereign and Holy God.” Good for her. I agree. And I hope you wouldn’t ever sing such songs either. And if songs are composed by someone from Bethel or Hillsong that are beneath the dignity of our great Triune God, don’t sing them. But I challenge anyone to closely examine the lyrics of these songs, all of which were composed by someone in Bethel or Hillsong or related to them in close friendship or some other ministry alliance (such as Jesus Culture), and tell me they are dangerous, unbiblical, or not worthy of who God is and what he has done. Here is a small sampling:

“God, I look to you”
“Goodness of God”
“King of Kings”
“O Praise the Name!”
“Raise a Hallelujah!”
“No Longer Slaves”
“Living Hope”
“Jesus, We Love You”
“Ever Be”
“New Wine”
“This is Amazing Grace”
“Worthy is the Lamb”
“Cornerstone”
“Seas of Crimson”
“Outrageous Love”
“Abba”
“One Thing Remains”
“For the Cross”
“Man of Sorrows”
“Holy Spirit (You are Welcome Here)”
“Lead me to the Cross”
“Lion and the Lamb”
“Fall Afresh”
“Shout to the Lord”
“All Hail, King Jesus”

I will go on record and say that God is profoundly honored and exalted by each of these songs.

“Oh, but Sam. We disagree with some of their secondary doctrines. Won’t our singing of these songs communicate to people that we endorse what some in their churches believe? And we have to pay royalties to sing those songs. Aren’t we contributing to the spread of their errors?”

No. Folks, I plead with you: Don’t let cancel culture come to church! You may differ with Bethel and Hillsong in some (perhaps many) of their ministry practices. So do I. But we will sing with these people around the throne of the Lamb for eternity. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Surely, you are not prepared to denounce them as unregenerate, unbelievers because they don’t toe the line on every doctrine that you embrace.

What about Morgan’s concern that by singing the songs of Bethel and Hillsong we are paying royalties to these churches? Well, let me ask Morgan and others a question or two.

Where will you draw the line on where and to whom you will allow your money to go? I dare say that you will find it difficult to survive in our world if you refuse to participate in or make use of something, be it a song, a book, or a product, simply because you fear that by doing so you are promoting and indirectly subsidizing what you regard as unbiblical.

Should I throw away all the books in my library that were written by Jewish scholars because they reject Jesus as the Messiah? I’m talking about books with profound and instructive insights into the OT and other historical and textual issues. Have you ever purchased such books? Should you?

What about the numerous scholarly resources that are of tremendous help in our understanding of the biblical languages, backgrounds, and cultural contexts? Must I dispense with the multi-volume Anchor Bible Dictionary because a few of its contributors are likely not born again?

Have you refused to do your shopping at Kroger and Target because they are decidedly pro LGBTQ? Does not your purchase of their products indirectly support that movement?

Have you refused to take your kids to Disney World because of their widely public and visible stance on same-sex marriage?

Do you carefully avoid purchasing gas for your car from those stations who obtain their products from oil companies that fund Planned Parenthood?

Do you continue to read novels and other books written by decidedly non-Christian authors, lest by purchasing their works you contribute to their unbiblical lifestyle?

Have you stopped singing “A Mighty Fortress is our God” because its author, Martin Luther, made horrific anti-Semitic statements in his later years?

Do you make use of Facebook and Twitter, two companies owned and operated by unbelievers who support both LGBTQ and abortion causes?

And do you refuse to make use of songs written by Matt Maher or John Michael Talbot insofar as they are Roman Catholic?

Should we refuse to sing “It is Well with My Soul” because the author of its lyrics, Horatio Spafford, eventually denied the existence of hell, affirmed universalism and purgatory, and was guilty of multiple instances of fraudulent financial dealings?

Shall we never again read books by Jonathan Edwards or sermons by George Whitefield because both of them at one time owned slaves?

If someone within the Churches of Christ wrote an otherwise biblically based worship song, would you refuse to sing it in your church because they affirm water baptism as necessary for the forgiveness of sins?

In no way do I even remotely endorse the errors of these I’ve just mentioned, but to refuse to sing thoroughly biblical worship songs they wrote lest we be somehow tainted or defiled in doing so is both impractical and absurd and will only lead to a legalistic and Pharisaical local church culture.

It is virtually impossible in our day to travel, shop, participate, or in some manner support groups or companies or individuals that don’t violate our biblical standards of truth and morality. If you choose to “cancel” everyone who differs with you on some matter of doctrine or ministry practice, out of concern that your money will subsidize their errors, you will end up encased in your own echo chamber, isolated and alone, pridefully patting yourself on the back for being among the remnant who “get it right”.

I, for one, will instead continue to remain rigorously biblical in what I preach and how I sing, but do so without castigating and/or cancelling other Christians who happen to differ with me on some secondary issue or ministry style.

30 COMMENTS

RACHEL | AUG 10, 2021 AT 2:02 AM

You’ve nailed it, I teared up reading “We will sing with these people around the throne of the Lamb for eternity. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Surely, you are not prepared to denounce them as unregenerate, unbelievers because they don’t toe the line on every doctrine that you embrace”.

DAVID | AUG 9, 2021 AT 5:16 PM

I really enjoy your books and believe you and John Wimber are awesome. My fiancee was asked to leave Bethel because she simply asked about their teaching about Jesus emptying himself of His deity. I have the email that asked her to leave. We have not gone public about that and other things that go on there. Sad to see that someone I admire didn’t use discernment nor examine the plethora of information on Mike Wingers channel about Bethel. I believe in unity but the Lord never affirms heresy.

BART | AUG 9, 2021 AT 9:24 AM

Sam, you really really should consider doing more research on Bethel Church. Please watch/listen to this video. It’s Bill Johnson saying that if you believe that God causes or allows sickness, then you believe a different Gospel. It’s also where he says Jesus was born again. Although he has since tried to explain what he meant, it was too little, too late. https://youtu.be/UzAwFYKe3h0
Second video is of Bill Johnson and other self proclaimed “Apostles” slam a wooden staff similar to Gandalfs from Lord of the Rings on a stage saying they are declaring an end to racism. Sam, these are full grown men and women doing this. How can you possibly defend them? This is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s so much more bad theology and practices coming from Bethel alone that would take months to read and watch! I don’t care if you’re a continuationist but your endorsement of them is a tragedy and shows that you really should have done more research on them than just reading their sof.

LAWRENCE CHEE | AUG 9, 2021 AT 8:02 AM

Good defence … amazing bigotry from original author … the original wealth of USA was founded on slavery, significant economic gain by polluting the earth. Nevertheless she is concerned about paying royalties … how about cleaning the mess made from previous generations rather than waiting on Jesus to do it later. Is there such a thing as a perfect church? Go Bethel .. Hillsong .. we are grateful for the 1000s that have come to Jesus through your ministries.

PAUL MARK LACERNA | AUG 8, 2021 AT 10:33 PM

Brother Storms, looks like most of the Comments are giving us another reason to consider their evidences they made against Bethel and Hillsong especially the New Apostolic Reformation. I agree with Ms.Brianna.
Another one is: While I agree that we should cancel any song that would dishonor God and his Word, but we need to be careful lest we find ourselves damning their own brethren. We need to qualify that. Sadly, Cancel Culture is the norm of today’s Church. That’s alarming.
If you don’t like Bethel or Hillsong, why not Compose your own Songs that are in accordance to the Biblical Doctrines of the Evangelical Faith expressed in 5 SOLAS and the Creeds. I love the way Sovereign Grace Music compose their songs.

BRIANNA MONIQUE WILLIAMS | AUG 8, 2021 AT 1:58 PM

Hello Sam,
We don’t know each other. I think this article proves a lack of thorough research and is really opinion based.
The only research that was done to was to check Bethel’s website and to test them according to one Worship Leader’s opinion to test scripture.
Did you interview anyone who left the New Apostolic Reformation? Did you research some of the books and products that the church leaders of Bethel and Hillsong produce? And have you looked at the lyrics to their songs line by line and really test it against scripture?
For example in “Raise a Hallelujah” they sing “Your melody comes to fight for me” as if it is a weapon? How deaf people experience God fight for them? And we could say it is symbolic but take it from someone who was friends with one of the BSSM students… and who was associated with people who took it literal. When they would face what they considered a battle, they would go into a room and shut the door, blast the worship music and sing God’s praises believing their worship was activating God’s angels to fight for them and remove the obstacle before them.
Or their song, “Holy Spirit (You’re Welcome Here)”… why are we inviting the Holy Spirit to come dwell with us when He already dwells inside believers?
Also, Bethel teaches Sozo Prayer— unbiblical. They have teaching in the Enneagram— demonic. They have a book their Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry must read “The Physics of Heaven”— which literally discusses exploring New Age practices and taking them back to use them in Jesus’s name. That’s blasphemous.
And I have an ex-friend that got sucked into heresy because of the worship music, where the worship leader would sometimes be guest speakers and their speeches led to watching Bill Johnson who can’t preach God’s word to save his soul.
And Steven Furtick, wants his music and worship experience to be catchy so people will hear his preaching, he has said on the record.
So it’s just selfish to say the music is okay and to act like we’re not endorsing a false gospel when we sing those songs.
Like, I can only imagine people blessed by the songs who are in sound doctrine churches, amen that God doesn’t let a little heresy keep Him from His children who are truly seeking Him.
Feel free to check out my interview with Doreen Virtue on Steven Furtick and Word of Faith and why I left… I also have a series on my blog, category: “Confessions of Valor Alumna” that discusses why we should never support heresy by any means.
And lastly, the church definitely supports canceling what doesn’t honor God. We are to be set apart from the World. We should have the desire to honor God, not ourselves, and Bethel and Hillsong are only seeker-sensitive driven.

GLADYS | AUG 8, 2021 AT 9:27 AM

There is something “brewing” in Oklahoma! From your mayor to your churches, the Spirit is stirring!!

AMY | AUG 8, 2021 AT 8:13 AM

Excellent article, Sam! Mackenzie Morgan, the author of the original article, seems to have no trouble singing songs by Ariana Grande and Michael Jackson. Neither of which seem to have released very God honoring music. I would encourage her to take a long thorough look at her heart and at how hypocritically she’s coming across.

SH | AUG 8, 2021 AT 4:12 AM

Thank you! What an incredibly well thought out, well written and balanced article. If only all of us could show the same level of understanding and honouring of differences, within the framework of the fundamentals of our faith in Jesus. I look on at times with real Godly sorrow at both cancel culture and division within the church, especially in the US. It is very sad when I see Christians doing the work of Satan in throwing fiery darts around, sometimes to justify their own beliefs or the beliefs of their denomination (even above the Bible), occasionally to look virtuous – but mostly with a genuine (but I humbly suggest mistaken) purpose of being ‘correct’ over the unity that Jesus called us to. Our heart really matters to God. Accusing others is what Satan does, not what the church should be doing against itself in public. I honestly don’t think Jesus will congratulate us for pointing out the mistakes of others publicly, of dividing rather than building and of disunity above unity – one main thing that Jesus specifically prayed for so that non-believers would know Jesus. Love covers a multitude of sin and sometimes (as Derek Prince used to say) we can be so ‘right’ that we are ‘wrong’. And we are not ‘Holy Spirit junior’ trying to convict others. It doesn’t mean we accept everything but judging others rightly and within a Biblical framework is very important, not a public show of self righteousness. There are too many sites, blogs and social media posts about hammering others who dare to believe what ‘we’ see as being incorrect. But we should all reflect that we only see and know in part, that we are all on a journey towards Jesus, being changed into his likeness daily and we need each other. The essentials are the faith are essential but after that there is room for respectful disagreement as written above. This article is so helpful in moving us forward, so thank you! I’d almost say this article (certainly the heart behind it) should be vital reading in churches and Bible colleges.

JEDIDIAH W | AUG 8, 2021 AT 1:48 AM

This article was very frustrating to read. Even without the lens of theology, it was full of logical fallacies.
First, the conclusion doesn’t even follow from the premises presented in the body. Sam makes the conclusion that we should sing songs from Hillsong and Bethel because we give to companies like Disney that supports LGBT positions anyway. Further, the amount of time spent on reviewing doctrinal statements and concluding that they are sound, and therefore the songs are sound, is “beating the strawman”.  Statements can check out on paper but if there is a consistent heterodox teaching by lead pastors as commenters have provided examples of (and which Sam seems to be ignorant of), then statements are irrelevant. These are issues with theology and versions of the true gospel, not “secondary issues” or “ministry styles”.
Second, Sam’s opinion that prosperity gospel does not lead to eternal condemnation is disturbing. If we don’t believe in the right gospel (Col 1:25, Jude 1:3, 1 Cor 15:3) then what are we putting our hope in? As much as Sam hopes to, songs cannot be separated from the social contexts they are produced and performed in. This is why its easy to observe a pattern of certain churches singing these songs and having similar aesthetics (smoke machines, strobes). It’s simply the case that when we buy into a brand, we are less likely to think critically of it. If you ask many people who enjoy these songs, they’ll tell you they enjoy the preaching too. This is why it’s just easier to not promote these brand churches at all by avoiding these songs.
Finally, as a Gen Z it’s frustrating to see how Millenials and Boomers try to understand cancel culture. Dropping words like “cancel” and “Pharisaical” to build rapport among those of a similar generation betrays a misunderstanding of the social phenomenon that is cancel culture. Thinking critically and critical theory was around long before cancel culture became a thing, and even practiced in the church. You could say Jesus was “cancelling” the Pharasees and merchants in the temple. Surely thinking critically and erring on the side of caution when it comes to matters of teaching the faith (which singing does) through careful song selection is important and should not be dismissed as “cancelling”. One should be careful to notice whenever the term “cancelling” is dropped as a convenient way of dissuading vigorous debate.
There are a wealth of rich, theologically less controversial songs out there today. There are few reasons to choose contentious songs from contentious churches, other than superficial ones like “they sound good”. So other than creating fuel for people who love these songs, churches and inevitably heterodox theology, who will share this article on social media to defend their entrenched beliefs that worship songs should be cool, I’m not sure what the point of this article was.

JENNI | AUG 8, 2021 AT 12:23 AM

Amazingly written and thank you for your sound knowledge and wisdom and the way you carry yourself with those who are so adament about bringing division to the church and refuses to see beyond what they already know to be true and that there should be unity in diversity and not in total agreement. Thank you ❤️

DINA | AUG 8, 2021 AT 12:10 AM

Thank you Sam for taking the time to thoroughly examine and respond to all of this. I personally have never seen a man more like Jesus, as far as abundant love, grace, turning the other cheek, encouraging , completely humble, and the list goes on, in regards to Bill Johnson of Bethel Church. Satan creates division, that is biblical. He who is without sin casts the first stone is biblical,. I read division and judgement when I read her “theory”. She obviously has not seen or encountered the heart of this great Father/Papa – Bill Johnson. We need to be unified, now, division is coming from every angle, and her words are about division, in my opinion, because she is filled with Judgement. I love Bethel’s and Hillsong’s music, I feel Holy Spirit in them, she cannot tell me God is not pleased. I say we lift her up in prayer and ask that she shifts her energy towards the division of our nation snd pray for unity, which must begin in the church!

MACKENZIE MORGAN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 7:26 PM

Hey, Sam! Mackenzie here. I read your article, and I’d love to continue a conversation on the matter as much of what you wrote was a misrepresentation of what I was saying in my original post and sadly, I’m afraid you missed the whole point of my post. If you’d be interested in communicating, feel free to reach out to me.
God bless,
Mackenzie

ASHLEY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 6:06 PM

Well said! Your article is beautiful and I feel represents the heart of God well. Thank you for sharing.
#inwardwitness

WAYNE POWELL | AUG 7, 2021 AT 4:52 PM

If you don’t want to listen to a young music leader who may or may not be wise enough to speak on this issue then perhaps you will listen to an experienced pastor:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF96C8vg3PU&list=PLwZ6vhBCodsdzj3jdJT6M5wgbcV-UXIGN&index=9

HEATHER | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:52 PM

Wonderfully written! I know the Lord is honored by the respectful, loving, and thoughtful way you have approached a sticky subject. Thank you for your dedication to thoroughly look into the accusations and your courage in writing this response!

JEZA GRAY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:40 PM

Yes and Amen to what you said. Please Lord bring unity within your church.. Bring us together and may we keep the major things major and the minor things minor. Let us not give ron to the devils trap of offense and disunity over unimportant issues. Let us have truth and love. 1 Corinthians 13

SAM STORMS | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:21 PM

Wayne, I don’t want to engage in an online debate with you, but a brief response is called for.
First, I also believe Jesus lived, ministered, taught, and performed his miracles as a man depending on the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t simultaneously God. He most assuredly was. But he temporarily suspended the independent exercise of his divine power in order to demonstrate the kind of life that God desires of us, one in which we live in constant dependence on the Holy Spirit. You can read my defense of this in my book, Tough Topics 2, titled, “How did Jesus perform his miracles?”
Second, I don’t know what you mean in saying Johnson says that Jesus was “reborn.” I’ve never seen or heard this from him.
Third, yes, Christ’s death was designed to secure physical healing for us. Whether that happens now in part or in fullness at the consummation, where else would our healing come from if not from the cross of Christ? Check out Matthew 8 where his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is in fulfillment of Isaiah 53.
Fourth, miracles, healing, and prophecy do not add to the gospel. They are the fruit of it. If you are opposed to such works of the Spirit, what will you do with 1 Corinthians 12-14 and other texts that speak of these gifts?
Fifth, if a person does not preach the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in bringing freedom and healing to us, what else would one call this but a message of “weakness”?
Sixth, I also believe the Spirit can work through the sacrament of the bread and wine. His presence in awakening us to the blessings of the cross of Christ, via the elements of the Lord’s Supper, is a wonderful work of God for undeserving sinners. You say they say it is “why we should partake.” But where do they say it is the only reason we should partake? It may be one justifiable reason, but that is not to say that it is the only reason.
Seventh, and finally, I don’t care for the Passion “translation.” It is more an expanded paraphrase and the principles that guide its production are bothersome to me.
But for you to say there is no difference between what Bethel believes and what Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholics believe is surely a slanderous misrepresentation and one of which you should immediately repent.

JENNIFER L. WEIR | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:05 PM

Thank you Sam Storms. We loved your book Practicing the Power. I teared up reading it. What a beautiful book.

WAYNE POWELL | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:04 PM

To support Bethel and Hillsong is to support a different Christ who performed all his miracles as a man, was reborn, and whose death was for physical healing. They also change the gospel by adding miracles, healing, and prophesy to it. Bill Johnson calls it the gospel of power and declares the traditionally accepted orthodox gospel to be a gospel of weakness. They teach different Christ and different gospel, along with a slew of different practices and traditions. I’ll mention one that bugs me, they redefine the sacrament of communion as something which bestows power on the believer and that is why we should partake. They work closely with Brian Simmons who is rewriting the Bible in support of Bethel/Hillsong’s theology. With their own Bible, Christ, gospel, what makes them any different than a cult such as JW, Mormons, or the Pope? but hey, sing their songs and send money their way because what does doctrine matter anyway.

SHEILA ALOFAITULI | AUG 7, 2021 AT 3:00 PM

Thank you so much. Truly you’ve invested much time and thought into this write up. I too am indebted to the ministry of Bethel. I’m not a member of their church, but God has used their music, books and teachings by leadership to grow in my relationship with God The Father, The Son & The Holy Spirit.

DALE JIMMO | AUG 7, 2021 AT 2:38 PM

BRAVO!!

NICK ROBINSON | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:50 PM

Thank you Sam for this wonderful article filled with solid truth. Thank you for defending our Brothers and Sisters and leaders of these churches and thoughtfully, prayerfully, and meticulously breaking down and pointing out truth which often times can be clouded by people’s emotions. Bethel Church’s love for Jesus and the word of God literally saved my life (physically) at a very dark time when Drug Addiction almost took it. Their love for God and reckless abandon for the Lord pointed me to the arms of Christ and released a hunger and godly conviction in my heart. I’ll forever be thankful for them. I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about these said issues you have mentioned. Thanks again!

DAVID P | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:50 PM

Very well written! I believe it goes to “let me help you with your speck while forgetting I have a log in my own eye. ” I believe there will be long lines in Heaven while we ask our brothers and sisters for forgiveness for what we said about them. Matthew 12:22-37.

MIKE MCMACKEN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:36 PM

Sorry if I sent this twice it popped up again.
Sam thankyou for being a bridge of truth and love. Unity and healing comes through men like you
I have such wonderful memories of you and Ann in the days of Grace training center.
I still Ann’s words something is happening in Toronto, just after she got of the phone with the airport vineyard fellowship. I remember when you stopped the whole conference in Kansas City and asked all to pray for me as I had a brain tumor. Thank you my friend coming into my life and bringing and depositing more of the revelation of Jesus into me. I run this race harder because of you.

MIKE MCMACKEN | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:28 PM

Sam, thankyou for supporting truth and Love. I have such wonderful memories of you and Ann back in Grace training days.

ALMA | AUG 7, 2021 AT 1:05 PM

Great article and so true! Thank you for addressing such an issue! Let us love one another because from this the euros will know that we are the children of God!

DELANA BRADBIRY | AUG 7, 2021 AT 12:48 PM

Thank you, Sam, for taking the time to research and write. I read her article, and thought there has to be a way to lovingly present another view. Thank you!!!

HARV | AUG 6, 2021 AT 6:27 PM

Thank you Sam for publishing this terrific article. As you said: Don’t let cancel culture come to church! Amen and amen.

STEPHANIE GRADY | AUG 6, 2021 AT 2:25 PM

Thank you for taking the time to so clearly share your opinion about Bethel and Hillsong. I so appreciate the resources you have provided here and the well thought out nature of your post. We in the Body of Christ need to be aware of what the ‘cancel culture’ attitude can look like in the church and be ready to address it when it appears. My prayer is that we as followers of Jesus will impact the culture around us in powerful ways and not the other way around.

Kanye West vs. Bob Dylan

I wrote an article (never posted) about all of the hubbub around Kanye’s conversion. It was about how we ‘evangelicals’ love to idolize every Christian celebrity that makes a profession of Christ, no matter how doctrinally and theological inept they might be (the natural state for baby Christians). After downloading the lyrics to what Kanye said is a song that God gave him, I couldn’t help but think of another celebrity that published a couple of Christian themed albums not long after professing Christ.

That would be Bob Dylan, who in 1979 published “Slow Train Coming” a year after receiving Christ in the home of a Messianic Jew he knew quite well.

So rather than posting the first article I wrote, for which I might get hammered for being critical (albeit in a good way) about Kanye, here are the lyrics to Kanye’s divinely inspired song and my favorite track from the “Slow Train Coming” album.

Yo, we at war – KanyeWest 2019

 

We at war with terrorism, racism, but most of all we at war with ourselves

God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ to break me down

(Jesus Walks with me, with me, with me, with me, with me)

You know what the Midwest is?

Young and Restless

Where restless niggas might snatch ya necklace

And next these niggas might jack ya Lexus

Somebody tell these niggas who Kanye West is

I walk through the valley of Chi where death is

Top floor of the view alone will leave you breathless

Try to catch it, it’s kinda hard

Getting choked by detectives yeah, yeah, now check the method

They be asking us questions, harass, and arrest us

Saying “We eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!”

Huh! Y’all eat pieces of shit? What’s the basis?

We ain’t goin’ nowhere, but got suits and cases

A trunk full of coke rental car from Avis

My Mama used to say only Jesus can save us

Well Mama, I know I act a fool

But I’ll be gone ’til November, I got packs to move, I hope

God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ to break me down

(Jesus Walks with me)

The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now (I want Jesus)

(Jesus Walks)

And I don’t think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs

(Jesus Walks with me)

I want to talk to God, but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long

(I want Jesus)

God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ to break me down

The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now

And I don’t think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs

I want to talk to God, but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long, so long

So long

(Jesus Walks with me)

To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers

(Jesus walks for them)

To the victims of welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah

(Jesus walks for them)

Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly

I know He hear me when my feet get weary

Cause we’re the almost nearly extinct

We rappers are role models we rap we don’t think

I ain’t here to argue about his facial features

Or here to convert atheists into believers

I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers

The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus

So here go my single dog radio needs this

They said you can rap about anything except for Jesus

That means guns, sex, lies, video tape

But if I talk about God my record won’t get played

Huh?

Well let this take away from my spins

Which will probably take away from my ends

Then I hope this take away from my sins

 

Gotta Serve Somebody – Bob Dylan 1979

 

You may be an ambassador to England or France

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage

You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage

You may be a business man or some high-degree thief

They may call you doctor or they may call you chief

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk

You may be the head of some big TV network

You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame

You may be living in another country under another name

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You may be a construction worker working on a home

You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome

You might own guns and you might even own tanks

You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride

You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side

You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair

You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk

Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk

You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread

You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy

You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy

You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray

You may call me anything but no matter what you say

 

Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

 

We report, you decide .

Comments?

Alistair Begg on The Beatles

Below is an article from Christianity Today from 2003 that I found really interesting. It’s actually part of a longer interview with radio host Dick Staub. You can listen to the entire interview at Sermon Audio. Here’s the CT article:

Alistair Begg on The Beatles

from Christianity today

The author and pastor talks about the Fab Four’s cry for Help and why no one answered it.

April 1, 2003

Alistair Begg on The Beatles

The author and pastor talks about the Fab Four’s cry for Help and why no one answered it.

April 1, 2003

In the last several years, writers and academics have begun to seriously analyze what pop culture icons say through their worldviews. Books have explored the philosophy of The Matrix, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Seinfeld and the gospel according to Tony Soprano and The Simpsons.

Alistair Begg, pastor of Ohio’s Parkside Church and the author of Made For His Pleasure (Moody), has been a longtime fan of The Beatles. He doesn’t suggest the band had a solid theology or an admirable worldview. Instead, he feels the band is important to look at now because it asked a lot of pertinent question in its music—and too many of those questions went unanswered.

Why is it important to understand what The Beatles were saying during their era?

They were on the forefront of a generation’s thinking. At the same time, they were able to articulate things and were given a voice. Without fully understanding it themselves, originally, they found themselves the mouthpiece of a generation. They were actually interpreting some of the angst, the hopes, and the fears of teenagers with mothers and fathers who didn’t understand.

Did The Beatles simply reflect culture or did they shape it?

For good or for ill, they were shaping culture. That’s true if you take the development of the music alone. Everything that they did pushed the frontiers out. This wasn’t only true in terms of the way in which they were recording material or the way in which they were writing melody lines, but it was actually in the lyrical content as well. Think about what Elvis Presley was singing about, or about what Chuck Berry was doing. It was all about love and different things like that. The Beatles got into a whole new business the further they went.

The Beatles first said money was everything (in the song “Money“), then they said that love could give you anything you want on “From Me to You“, and then they record “Can’t Buy Me Love“. What do you see in this progression?

An American journalist asked Paul in 1966 if “Can’t Buy Me Love” was actually about prostitution. There is this morbid fascination with the idea that these guys were coming from the bottom level of everything. It is a shame. It carried over into fundamentalist/evangelical response to their music at that time.

I’m not suggesting that The Beatles had a wonderful theology, or that their worldview was perfect. It clearly wasn’t. It left them high and dry on just about every front, eventually. But they weren’t simply writing cute little tunes. They were beginning to take seriously the platform that they’d been given. That’s why so many people found them offensive; it was because of the things that they were prepared to tackle.

What do you see when looking closely at what The Beatles were saying or looking for in their songs?

If you take Lennon’s “In My Life,” you have the tender side of John Lennon coming out, a side that many people missed completely.

When they went in and got Lennon’s belongings after his untimely death, one of the closest family friends found a huge notebook, which contained virtually all of Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for everything he’d done, including this song. It was clear that what had happened to Lennon is that as the fame thing had come, a sense of nostalgia crept into his life. He started to remember the places in the past.

It was always sad to me that people couldn’t see that he was crying out for something. I just always felt that in Lennon you had this guy who every so often would open the door to himself ever so slightly. Every time he opened up, it never seemed to be a Christian response to say, “Hey, we’ve got an angle on that. We’d love to talk to you about that.” It was always, “Hey, get out of here, you long-haired nuisance. You’re destroying the youth of Great Britain and corrupting the life of America.” We did this in the ’60s and, frankly, we’re doing it again now.

Speaking of the religious community’s reaction to Lennon, there was a huge fervor after his comment that The Beatles were bigger than Jesus. But in an interview after that event, he said, “I wasn’t saying The Beatles are better than Jesus or God or Christianity, I was using the name Beatles … as an example. But I could have said TV or cinema or anything else that’s popular. Or motor cars are bigger than Jesus.”

It’s a shame that it served the agenda of certain people to misunderstand the quote. What Lennon was saying is what people might justifiably say today about all kinds of idols and icons in relationship to young people in particular. He was in some ways bemoaning the fact. He was honest enough to say what has happened here is a phenomenon that is way beyond anything that we could ever have conceived. The response, of course, was not particularly attractive—such as when the band hit Dallas and all those youth pastors came out to welcome them with bonfires.

While there were things that needed to be addressed in pop culture—and there always will be—I think we missed an opportunity. Later on, we see them involved with a maharishi yogi. You see Harrison’s interest in mysticism. While we can’t lay the charge at the feet of the Christians, nevertheless it is a sad thing that there was nobody there who had gained a platform to them at a time when they were willing to listen. The interviewer asked about the song “Help.” He said, “I wrote “Help” in ’65, and people hailed it as another advance in rock & roll. It was the cry of my heart and nobody came to answer.”

This is just a picture of what we’re dealing with every day in all of our lives. Lennon, the drummer in Smashing Pumpkins, and Kurt Cobain are only big, dramatic examples of the interaction that all of us have with kids. I want to encourage Christians to get serious about being real about Jesus Christ. Listen to music so that you can talk to people about it rather than sloganeering and banging the drum for the same old stuff.

Again, the entire interview can be listened to at Sermon Audio.