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What role does music have in your congregation? Does a song carry morality with it? Or is it just words set to music?

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 what many determine to be 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 titles 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?



34 replies on “Why One Worship Leader Won’t Sing Hillsong Songs”

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.

2nd John 10 if there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. If we are going to do what God says hear, how is it okay to buy their songs and support them. Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned and avoid them. Galatians 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again. If any man preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed.

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)?

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?

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.

Dan, That’s sad that you take more time to put a church down than uplift. I’m sure it’s more of a deeper issue for you than just Hillsong & Jesus Culture. I suggest you get help on that. As a worship leader you shouldn’t be complaining.

I actually don’t have a problem singing Hillsong and Jesus Culture songs but Paul you seem to just chalk up Dan to needing help and as a complainer. I think he has a point that we all need to hear. There are many songs that are doctrinally incorrect as well as churches. I know we are all imperfect but we need to be responsible for the truth we have come to know. So we need to have an open dialogue about such things. It’s Christians who are supposed to know the truth and share it. Obviously not with the intention of hurting but to teach the truth to set people free to live life in love, obedience and to the mission we have in Christ.

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

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…

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Does Jesus get the GLORY? Does it draw people to the reality of Jesus and His finished redemptive sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection to rescue us from our sins and wrongs and eternal death so when we believe in God the Son and repent of our own selfish rebellion and innate sinful nature, that we will have everlasting life and be covered in Jesus’ righteousness and have heaven to come? (Romans 8, John 3, Romans 3) Is GOD lifted up or is it a man or pastor or music group getting the praise and honor and glory? If born again followers of Jesus can sing in worship to God and praise to Him alone, then maybe the songs are okay to sing, especially as most congregations may not be aware of the flawed nonBiblical health and wealth bent that it seems the churches the groups come from stand for… how sad- Jesus clearly promised we would face troubles and hardships and persecution if we truly followed Him and stood for His truth and Word but that we would have Him with us and know that we have heaven’s assurance to come one day “Take heart, I have overcome the world!” I know our church has used some songs and i just became aware of this questionable marketing and false teaching that the hillsong churches do- how sad to think they are leading sheep astray- may God show Himself and His Truth and Love in the middle of any twisted mistruth or darkness. suffering is actually one of the “blessings” we as believers should expect and rejoice in since we have hope of heaven to come and Jesus with us through it. 1Peter John 14 Trust in Jesus Obey His Word (and repent over and over when we mess up praise Jesus for His ready forgiveness and grace and patience with me! -1 John Rest in God and rely on Him even in hard times-Hebrews 4!

What is truth and is it important to support it? What should we stand for and how far should we go to protect it? Are there somethings we should protect more then others. Yes, loving people and realizing that they are not perfect and they may not have the same views on a certain thing as you do is important, but how does truth come into play here? When I found out that I was singing songs from a church that did not protect the truths that I hold dear, I felt betrayed. Yes, many of the songs that I was singing are very heartfelt and I felt near to God when I sang them, but now that I know, how can I consciously support and promote, with my mouth and my money, such a organization or Church that does not hold up to truth, the doctrines that the church was founded upon. The one who brought up Hitler in there post has a valid question. Would we support a Church or person who stands for heresy even if their songs were godly ones? Now I have a dilemma, do I humbly stand up for what I believe because my conscience demands it and risk my fellow christian brothers and sisters condemning me for my stand on this issue, or do I roll over and go with the flow and forget I ever knew, burying my conscience along with it? What would you do in any other situation? Does Jesus get the glory? Yes. Did He cleanse the temple? Yes. I don’t have a problem with singing the songs as much as supporting their ministry. I want to sing songs that aren’t tainted with a foundation of heresy and there are plenty out there to choose from.

Much qui without answer will not take you anywhere,
Just trail your manuscripts and follow it in passion and you will see the light

I recommend that every christian listen to Justin Peters’ on why we should not have Hillsong or Bethel music played in our churches. He has studied false cults for years and studied the scriptures diligently. They have some very strange beliefs which are definately not what a Bible believer would embrace. The whole church is based on deceit with the covering up of Brian Houston’s father Frank Houston being a pedophile first being put out of The Salvation Army in NZ and then becoming one of the leaders in the AOG NZ preaching and be involved in that Bible College in which I attended. He then went on to Australia and worked and preached with his son Brian for years while all the time abusing young boys ( I have just listened to the testimony of a man who was raped repeatedly by Frank while staying at his home) W hen this was exposed the church covered it up. Young people are listening to their songs in our churches and thinking we endorse Hillsong and go there for a bit of “life” and get swept into the deception. Out Baptist church sing there songs and I cant sing them knowing that our church is supporting them. Hillsong pray the same prayer altogether before taking up a collection. Its plain greed for more and more finances to be given to them. Our churches need to wake up!

Well, that truly is his belief and all we can do is respect him. I truly admire a preacher who really practices what he preaches. For example, Keion Henderson,, a Houston TX preacher who truly does the good work of the Lord!

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