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Why One Worship Leader Won’t Sing Hillsong Songs

Why One Worship Leader Won’t Sing Hillsong Songs

On Tuesday, a worship leader explained on his blog why he won’t sing songs from Hillsong or Jesus Culture at his church. The blog post was taken down because the debate got pretty intense. But if you’re looking for the summary, he chooses to avoid songs from those two churches because of the theology taught by their pastors. Specifically the prosperity gospel.

His idea is that singing these songs endorses the platform, contributes financially to their goals, and contributes to the compromised philosophy.

Note: This is irrespective of theology contained within a particular song. It’s merely a reflection of the songs’ writers and their affiliations.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. I’ve also wondered how many churches have stopped singing Vicky Beeching songs since she came out as gay—not wanting to associate with a lifestyle they don’t agree with or believe honors God. I also wonder how many of those churches name their series titles things like “Modern Family” or based on other pop culture trends.

At what point do we draw the line? If a worship leader has a moral failure or divorces his wife unrepentantly, does that warrant a removal of their songs from your song library? There have been a slew of moral failures among worship leaders I’m aware of that haven’t exactly made headlines.

I suppose the true question is this: how much of a song holds the mark of its writer? I think of songs like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, whose tune was a popular bar song. Does a song carry morality with it? Or is it just words set to music?

Again, I’m not sure I have a particular opinion one way or another on this. And I’m frankly not sure there is a right answer. But I think it’s a valuable thing to wrestle with these questions—to evaluate and prayerfully consider the role music has in our congregations.

What are your thoughts? Where do you stand on the issue?

About The Author

Jonathan Malm

Jonathan is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of “Created for More,” a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind. You’ll find him in San Antonio, Texas, roasting his own coffee beans and enjoying life with his Argentine wife, Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanmalm.

20 Comments

  1. Seth

    I think what’s at issue is the whole concept of censorship, that the pastor needs to ‘protect his flock’ from bad doctrine by ensuring that they never come into contact with it. Not only is this probably wrong-headed, it’s also impossible. What you can do is try to educate people in what orthodoxy IS, then they will hopefully recognize what it is not.

    Reply
  2. Dan

    Jonathan, thanks for discussing!

    Seth, my desire isn’t to shield anyone from exposure to bad theology. I know they’re expised to it all week long. My philosophy is, there is no lack of songs being written by imperfect people in far more orthodox settings than those who espouse the Prosperity Gospel. I wouldn’t quote their pastors or let them preach in our church, so why would I use the songs they write (even if the theology contained within is sound)?

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    • Poco Reese

      I agree. Why does a pastor tell me that the prosperity gospel is not of God but approves the worship songs directly from the prosperity church?

      Reply
  3. Jonathan Malm

    Was glad you posted the blog post. Bummed you took it down…but I imagine some of the comments quickly became less than civil. I respect the choice. 😉

    Reply
  4. Dan

    I chock it up to my own shortcomings in communicating. I don’t think the conversation got started very well, and I hoped it would straighten up, but it just spiraled downward. My hope in writing anything (controversial or not) is to get us thinking deeply about our underlying philosophies and checking whether they are grounded in biblical principles or not.

    Thanks for discussing here, Jonathan.

    Reply
  5. Jonathan Malm

    Once people have made up their mind about what they think you’re saying…there’s often no coming back from that unfortunately. People are quick to judge, quick to speak, and slow to change their minds. Haha

    Reply
  6. Blanton

    Interesting perspective. I’m not aware that Hillsong or Jesus Culture promotes a prosperity gospel, but that may mean I’m ignorant :^). I’m happy to be enlightened. I’d be curious how the “prosperity gospel” is defined, and then I’d like to see how their statements of faith support that. I’m not saying they don’t, I just wasn’t aware of it.

    Anyway, with Vicky B it’s a different issue. First, she said herself that she is gay, instead of someone saying it about her. Reading the story – it’s heartbreaking. It seems the church community didn’t deal with it the right way – instead of helping her to live an integrated life, admitting her attraction and walking in community to deal with it, she basically had no community & took her confessional to the newspaper. That doesn’t mean that the church was wrong in saying the homosexual lifestyle is wrong though.

    I believe that everyone will stumble in some way and God can and does use flawed leaders. If someone stumbles and the issue becomes public, they have a choice to make… agree with what God’s word says, repent, and begin the healing process walking in community, or just say God is wrong…

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    • Mikey

      Blanton, you can look at Amazon and see Brian Houston’s book there entitled “You Need More Money”. You can hear his sermons and see how wrong they are. You can also hear sermons from Bethany Church (Jesus Culture) and see that they too perhaps promote prosperity, though the pastor is so stream of conscious it’s hard to know exactly what they stand for. The certainly do stand for hyper-emotionalism though. Bethany is more of a circus than a church.

      Reply
      • Ed

        “The certainly do stand for hyper-emotionalism though. Bethany is more of a circus than a church.”
        You are exposing your own opinion via an assumption lead by you. In doing so you are no better than the people that you deride, revile (please look that one up in the Bible and please heed the warning). Instead, use ‘in my opinion’ as opposed to make a statement. As a Church we are responsible to observe the one thing as a higher calling above all else. LOVE. Please can we walk in it. If your response to me is less than loving then you are, in Paul’s words: a ‘clanging cymbal’ and the sound is far from good and more hypocritical than the subject your noise is made about. Forgive those who turn a corner in a way we don’t like but still understand that as they do, they walk the same road that we do.

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  7. Greg Farra

    One correction: Luther or the Wesleys did not use drinking song tunes for their songs.

    Reply
  8. Mikey

    Hillsong’s prosperity gospel doesn’t bother the Bride of Christ enough to remove it’s songs from our repertoire. But how quickly we would drop and flee from their entire discography were they to endorse same-sex marriage. There is no distinction between the two scenarios but that the first is real. And is just as much an abomination to the true Gospel as the latter.

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  9. Poco Reese

    It is so sad that the evil that is done is not properly labeled. Brian Houston has compromised in many ways. Hillsong is an apostate church. Now if Hitler wrote beautiful and sound doctrinal songs, would we sing them in church? Would we ask the congregation to learn the beautiful songs? As a choir member, it offends my conscience to sing songs of a Church that teaches false doctrine. I don’t care how beautiful the tune or how sound the song. We cannot let go of our candy, our feel good songs, even though we know the pastor states that Muslims and Christians serve the same God? I believe when a church is unrepentant we must pull away after we have spoken to them. So Putin kicked all the non-Russian Orthodox Christians and all the cults out of Russia. Do you think it would be proper to buy Christian music coming out of the Russian Orthodox Church? They fine Christian Organizations to the tune of 15k for each offense. Why would we continue to do business with them and buy their music? I do not care how beautiful the music is we should let it go. We become hypocrites if we condemn a church for teaching Prosperity (and refuses to teach what the Bible states about homosexuality) yet we continue to pad the pockets of the Apostate Church. Brian Houston and Bobbie are laughing all the way to the bank. They should be forced to change their Statement of Faith to what they actually preach. When we buy their music we contribute to their negligence. “We have no rivals, We have no Equals….” I hear them sing.

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    • judith

      i dont know you and so I cannot tell why you feel the way you do, but it makes me sad. You sound angry and hurt. Is there any grace in your life? then give a little of it back – God will be the judge in the end – and we may be surprised at who is told ‘ I never knew you’. Peace to you.

      Reply
  10. Nathan Hall

    God uses imperfect people and imperfect churches all the time. He always has. In fact, if He wants to use people (even the “gate-keepers”) that’s all he has to choose from. If all truth is from God and the song is true then it should be fine to use. I’m having this debate with one of my very good friends, and we come down on opposite sides of the issue. We’re both in senior leadership at our church to make things more complicated. While appreciate his commitment to truth, I’m frustrated and saddened by the entire situation. Guilt by association is a terrible rule to live under and one Jesus didn’t care for much. Learn what you can from each person and test it in light of scripture and move on.

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  11. CHRISSY COLE

    Somehow I stumbled upon this post today – years after the original conversation started. To be honest, I’ve never posted on on a public forum like this, but I felt compelled based upon many of the comments above. It’s saddens me to see Christians knocking down other Christians and churches, rather that building each other up. I have to wonder how many of those on this thread have sat under Pastor Brian’s leadership. As a person who attended Hillsong College and had the privilege to attend the main campus in Australia for nearly 4 years, I can attest to the falsehood of many of the accusations presented throughout this thread. Yes – It’s true that “no local church is perfect because it’s full of people.” As humans we have differing views and may never agree with every piece of doctrine, every word that one speaks from the pulpit, etc. However, Jesus calls the Church to love one another, to spur each other on, and to encourage each other. He certainly never asked us to publicly speak poorly against other pastors on our soapboxes behind our digital screens. I have to wonder if we all spent more time encouraging rather than tearing one another down what the world would look like? My guess is probably better. Saying a prayer for each of you today. Be blessed.

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  12. dan clark

    i think the worship leader (and anyone who agrees with him) should also throw away their Bible along with the CD’s of any one who has ever fallen short, as the Bible was written by “Short-comers” (PAUL, DAVID, MOSES, need i go on?) So please before you delete hillsong songs please delete your Bible also because you must stay consistent with your “beliefs” SMDH!

    Reply

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