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Should our church sing Bethel Music worship songs?

bethel music tides album cover artA frequent question I hear has to do with the music being made by groups coming out of Bethel Redding and other churches that have New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) beliefs. The question is, is it OK to sing their songs as long as the lyrics don’t contain any error?

By way of background, Bethel Music, a popular record label, is known for producing high quality music, and their songs are sung in churches across America on Sunday mornings–not just in NAR churches, but even in many mainstream evangelical and non-denominational churches. And the truth is that many of the people in these churches sing along, having no idea that these songs come from a leading church in an aberrant movement. I, myself, have sung along with songs in church or on the radio, only later to discover that those songs came from Bethel Music.

Churchgoers who are aware of the songs’ origins sometimes feel conflicted singing along. And worship leaders face a dilemma of whether to include anything from Bethel Music in their weekly song selection.

Recently, someone called Grek Koukl’s podcast and asked Greg this very question–about whether it’s OK to sing songs made by Bethel Music, as long as the lyrics contain no obvious error. I thought Greg’s answer was spot on, so I’m including a link to the podcast here. On the link, see Topic No. 5, “Should music from a doctrinally compromised source be judged on its own?” The question about Bethel Music, followed by Greg’s answer, starts at 00.51:57. I was also pleased to hear Greg refer his listeners to one of my co-authored books, God’s Super-Apostles, and this blog, especially since Greg’s podcast is one of my favorites.

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Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

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22 Responses to “Should our church sing Bethel Music worship songs?”

  1. Ron Rilee Says:

    I would disagree, but from a financial standpoint.  Every time a church sings a song by a CCLI member, they are paying royalties to that person/group.  So Hillsong and Bethel make big $$$$ from churches using their music.

  2. Holly Says:

    You raise a very good point, Ron.

  3. Stpehen Says:

    The devil always takes Gods truth to spin his web of deception to lure even Christians who are not satisfied with the work of salvation and the Holy Writ sound doctrine the bread to nourish our souls but instead want more is it not that what caused  Adam and Eve to fall. I thank God he delivered me out of the Godless Pentecostal and Charismatic movements and brought me to the sound reformed church.

  4. David Mitchell Says:

    Jesus never stopped the poor widow from offering up all she had to GOD in the temple, despite knowing   everything about its inner workings was so corrupt that His Father was going to have it destroyed anyway.
    Just a thought.

  5. Becky Says:

    I understand why not and have not listened since I saw the errors. Now, I didn’t grow up with hymns and though they are close to the Word I just can’t get to like them. Where to find what I CAN listen to that comes close to contemporary worship? Every time I ask this it is always quiet on the other side?? I’ve enjoyed Shane and Shane but what else is there?

  6. Jaeson1992 Says:

    I think the problem is their music lures people into the teaching (or can).  Like “oh yes I loVE that song let me get their album” . then the next thing you know they are like “oh what church is that from?” and then they start listening to Bill Johnson.  That would be my main concern.  Also the church might be paying royalties to use it (as someone above mentioned).  

    Having come out of this whack a doodle movement I still remember a lot of their songs, I used to really like them, however knowing that they believe some very odd things, and that many of their songs have latter rain ideology tangled throughout, I now just cringe when I hear them.

  7. Donald Bate Says:

    Greg Koukl did not give an answer (singular), he gave two alternative answers, both considered reasonable choices. We have just one record of Jesus and his disciples singing, in Matthew 26:30/Mark 14:26, but of course no further information is given about what hymn they sung or who penned it, so we are none the wiser. Personally I lean towards keeping the source pure, so that my conscience is clear before God. For example, in Deuteronomy 23:18 we see that God does not want money brought into the temple to pay a vow (in itself a righteous act) if earned by prostitution (ie. a defiled source). Perhaps that is an extreme example and not in context, but do you agree with the principle, when applied to bringing our gift of worship to God?

  8. Glenn E. Chatfield Says:

    I wrote an open letter to worship leaders about this very subject, and I think my argument against using material from groups like Bethel is solid.
    https://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com/2016/09/open-letter-to-worship-leaders.html

  9. Elizabeth Says:

    The problem is the culture speak of the NAR and company. 
    Their connotation of biblical language and passages has been altered. Take Psalm 46:10 Be still and 
    know that I am God …  the meaning of this passage has been corrupted to mean people getting to know their inner divinity. 
    there are many other examples
    Ie.  intimacy with God – a good and godly desire is corrupted to mean a romantic longing, exacerbated by women wearing revealing clothing while they  purport to be leading worship. 
    I have determined in my heart to do without music that I like and to try to seek after ways of worshiping God in a manner That pleases Him. This is where we(I) stumble: are we  seeking to please God or are we seeking to please ourselves?   This applies  to everything. And in the Scriptures I think we find that the wof ship that is acceptable unto the Lord is pure from its very beginning to the very end and the same time it is defined by God. Not man.

  10. David Pitts Says:

    Donald. There is little doubt that the hymn Jesus and his disciples would have sung was part of the Hallel Psalms (Psalms 113-118). So, we have a clear idea who penned it. As a good Jew, Jesus would have sung these scriptures. Just look at a few excerpts from Psalms 116. 

    The snares of death encompassed me, the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD; “O LORD, I beg you, save my life!”… For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I walk before the LORD in the land of the living…
    What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD… O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving… (Psalm 116:3-4, 8-9, 12-13, 16-17)
     
    What’s my point? Personally, I would love to see the church sing from the scriptures rather than other writings. How many times do I find myself knowing the words to a song by memory without ever trying to memorize it. If only I were singing the scriptures, then, I would have them memorized. Yet, in the church we seem determined to sing other things. We love what other writers write more than we love the scripture.

  11. Tim Says:

    I have visited churches that will use a Bethel Music, unbeknownst to me, as I have worshiped with them because they do not put on the overhead the name of the song or where it came form. It makes it very hard to worship unless I really know the songs lyrics. I end up having to read along for the first pass through of the song and then join in if I feel that the song is theologically correct. I am not sure how they get away with doing that. Are they not supposed to “credit” the song on the “big screen”?

  12. Richard Says:

    1 Michael Brown and Michael Heiser discussed this on the Naked Bible podcast following the one Holly did. Worth hearing from 2 men of good rep who admit not really being expert on music
    2 I play these as instrumentalist at a church, and am very cautious about the message of songs compared to the scriptures. About 80% are good enough, 20% are not so much “error= as just lacking any meaning. Vague lyrics. Writers matter.
    3. I know hymns well, and there are a boatload of hymns that are biblically lousy.
    Most hymns in english come from a relatively narrow timeframe of evangelism and reflect pop theology and form of the era. Some are outstanding.
    4 our catholic/sacramental  brethren in well-funded churches rollout astoundingly beautiful music written by great minds & hearts sincerely seeking to bring music fit for our high king. When I’m at home or driving and want to listen to moving, great music I listen to classical sacred works

  13. Preferring the Narrow Street Says:

    When I was growing up, I remember church-going family members listening to traditional Christmas hymns performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  When I became a believer and found out Mormon beliefs, I wondered why in the heck they listened to that music.  Yes, it was musically impressive.  But the people singing it were interpreting the truths that they were singing differently than the Scriptures teach.  I couldn’t “worship” with them because I knew that they were singing to “another Jesus”!  And I didn’t  want to “get past” THAT! 

    I heard Michael Heiser’s discussion about the music.  (I believe that he was in conversation about the music with the guy that helps him on his podcast, not Michael Brown.)  As scholarly as Heiser is about Biblical languages, it doesn’t follow that his interpretation of how to handle life situations is any better than anyone else’s.  With due respect, the whole podcast, beginning with his off the cuff conversation about music with his “co-podcaster” and the interview with Michael Brown, showed that he didn’t know any first-hand facts about this movement.  Particularly, he has not heard the clearly heretical things that they teach nor about the forbidden things that they practice.  They were even joking about liking to listen to Joel Oosting! 

    Heiser and Brown seemed to “poo poo” the idea that the NAR is really a “thing”.  We know that this movement has not been masterminded by any person (Not even Peter Wagner though he gave it some “wheels”!). No, the spirit of our age and the technology of our times has made the conditions just right for multiple people and their organizations to come together in this particular set of doctrines of demons.  Its kind of like a subtle and seductive spiritual epidemic. 

    Heiser said at the outset that he was planning on taking a “Middle Earth”, (that is: middle-of-the-road) position between Holly’s perspective and Brown’s.  As if this controversy is merely an issue of denominational infighting.   Though in reality, Heiser was already acquainted with Brown and they are on friendly terms and he seemed to accept the “Narnia is not real” spin Brown put on the existence of such a movement.  It was very disappointing!!  (If he can quote LOTR, then I can quote Silver Chair!)

    It is folly for a Christian to be committed to hold a “middle of the road” position in regards to a controversy without really finding out the truth of the claims on either side!  They can only make an uniformed decision and mislead others.  It would be better to keep quiet.  I wonder what middle-of-the-road position would have worked when Paul confronted Peter for “nulifying the grace of God” by his refusing to eat with Gentiles?  Galatians 2:11-21

  14. Jane Says:

    Both the link in the email from Apologetics Coordinator and here above take me to an invitro discussion and I’m wondering what making babies has to do with Bethel ‘music’?  Sure wish I had the right link.

  15. Dennis Says:

    Holly,

    I really appreciate your work, and I was glad when you appeared on Dr. Heiser’s podcast. But I was unimpressed with the following podcast with Dr. Brown. I was especially unimpressed with the co-host’s banter about Bethel music and Joel Osteen. It is almost as though Heiser is afraid that he might alienate too many, so to be fair he must give equal air to the other side. I find Dr. Brown to be disingenuous.

    I am just writing to let you know that there are those out here who stand with you.

    My Christ encourage you and keep you strong!

  16. Jon Says:

    It’s such a shame that you have to write so negatively about a church that is doing so much in transforming a generation. Showing people Jesus like I’ve never seen before. They do brilliant work and combine amazing talent with a thirst for God. Thank you for sharing your opinion but I’m with Bethel on this one! They are great 🙂

  17. Richard Says:

    Jon, would you be ok with a song from a Scientology “church?”

  18. ALM Says:

    We live in the age of video. This has changed how we think of Christian music. We need to be careful with that. Many of the lyrics are very good and well-aligned with scripture. If you didn’t associate the lyrics with a dark, flashy video or a cultish church because you were unaware of its authorship, does that still make the song bad? Should we be so focused on the PERSON who wrote the song rather on the meaning of the song?

  19. Deborah Hawkins Says:

    absolutely not. a church cannot be part of the spirit of error and falsehood. the main objective is to lure people into the bethel teachings and cult movement. a good tree cannot produce bad fruit and bethel has fruit rotten to the core. do you think God is pleased when we invite a false spirit into our worship, surely we should worship in spirit and in TRUTH there is no truth that comes from Bethel Church. you cannot go to the altar of God and sit at the table of demons at the same time.

  20. Sharon Says:

    Jon, this Jesus you are seeing is “another Jesus” from II Cir 11:1-3
    That also warns of “another gospel and a different spirit”.

  21. Shawn Says:

    The apostle Paul addressed the issue of whether or not to eat meat which had been offered as sacrifices to idols. The purchasing of the meat required going to the places where they were offered up and gave profit to those selling it, who were not Christians. Paul did not say to avoid lining the pockets of those worshipping idols. He did not say to just not eat meat if you don’t know its origin. He did not even warn that people could possibly be led astray by it. He said if you are too weak to handle it, then don’t eat it, but definitely too leave the stronger brothers and sisters alone as they could handle it. How does this relate? If the lyrics are worshipful of God and are of good quality and do not distract you, then by all means worship to it! If you, however, are too weak because you feel the need to become a judge during your worship, not even knowing if the person who wrote it 100% subscribes to the “church” from whence the album derives its name, then you should not worship to it. If you hear it sung in church and are bothered, then use the time to pray for your brothers and sisters who might have some weaker theology…that they would come to some truth. But using that time to stand in bitter judgment does not show their failures, theologically, so much as it shows your own sinful judgment. Stop making worship about other people and make it about God! Even the most ‘sacred’ music you say you like could have its roots in something you would otherwise not care for. For example, a hymn (I will not name it, but reformed churches LOVE it!) which melody originated from a folks song called “cuckoo”. Or a Catholic collection of songs from a monastery that, when translated to English, depict some very salacious lyrics (but the music sounded so majestic and / or serene! …Carmina Burana). Where do you draw the line? Do you find somebody without sin who has what you, personally, consider perfect theology? If you do, you will fail on the first part and the second part has made worship about you, not about God. This is an opportunity for us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, as the Word says we ought.

  22. Will George Says:

    First of all, all truth is God’s truth first. I think that is a good lens we must look through with concern to music and worship.

    But there’s something more. Most of the Bethel music is affective, shallow, and highly self “man” centered.

    Here is a good litmus test for most, but not all church music: Could I take that music and give a scripture-centered sermon or instruction time using the song or hymn? If it’s easier making the case that Jesus is my boyfriend from the music, then we’ve got a problem.

    I say “not all” because some great music is simple, repetitive and it is meant to impress a great truth upon us. The church in the ages has done this.

    And then finally, is there a consistent thread of content meaning found in a certain publisher’s music, e.g. Bethel? If it all seems to be somewhat shallow and self/feeling-centered, then that tells you the theological anemia that plagues the organization.

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