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Praise and Worship



Can a Christian worship God using music from a church with unbiblical teachings? Is it acceptable to use songs from Hillsong, Bethel, ...

Can a Christian worship God using music from a church with unbiblical teachings?​


Note – The worship of God involves our whole being and every act we perform. In this article, worship is used to refer to singing in a corporate worship service.

There is nothing more important than sound teaching in a church. To many churchgoers, however, the type of music used in the service is often a high priority. Church leaders sometimes struggle with the task of choosing music that both appeals to the congregation and teaches sound doctrine. More and more often, complicating the issue, church leaders must decide whether to use songs that are finely crafted and theologically sound but come from a church or writer who holds unbiblical views.

Many believers strongly believe that songs, even those with doctrinally sound lyrics, should not be used if the writer, composer, or parent ministry has unbiblical teachings. Those with such convictions should follow their conscience. If they feel the need to talk to the church leadership about the issue, they should do so in a spirit of gentleness and humility and seek answers with the goal of peacefully settling the matter. If the answer they receive from the decision-makers is not acceptable to them, they may quietly submit to the outcome or quietly leave the church.

Ephesians 5:19 says that, when we are filled with the Spirit, we will be “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” Music is thus an important means of communication in the church. It should go without saying that any song whose lyrics contain false teaching should be rejected. The Spirit will not communicate falsehood. Beyond the doctrinal test, there are several possible complications in considering a song to use in worship:

The songwriter has unbiblical beliefs. Horatio Spafford, the writer of “It is Well with my Soul,” didn’t believe in eternal hell or Satan. Francis of Assisi, who wrote “All Creatures of our God and King,” was Roman Catholic. Matthew Bridges, author of “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” converted to Roman Catholicism. Does this mean we must remove those songs from our hymnals? If the lyrics of the song are biblical, does the theological background of the writer matter?

More recent controversies don’t usually involve hymns. There are several churches and music groups today who release powerful, even theologically sound worship songs but are known for promoting bad theology in their services and concerts. If the bad theology is not actually expressed in the lyrics of their songs, can we use those songs for our worship services?

The songwriter has fallen into sin. What do we do with worship songs written by someone who comes out as a homosexual or who commits adultery and gets divorced? The sin of the composer does not change the quality of the song, but it might change the suitability of the song for use in a church service—depending on the associations the song creates in the minds of a congregation.

The lyrics, properly understood, have an unbiblical interpretation. For example, some popular modern songs speak of the Holy Spirit “raining down.” Many Christians assume this is a metaphor, speaking of the nurturing and cleansing blessings the Holy Spirit gives in our day-to-day lives. Singers may not realize the songwriter intended something more literal: a fresh visitation of the Spirit who will bring new prophecies and signs and wonders. Which matters more: what the songwriter intended or what the singers intend?

Using the song will support an organization teaching bad doctrine. One of the biggest arguments lately is that using a song produced by doctrinally flawed groups will support those churches or music groups and thus help spread their unbiblical beliefs. A popular song could draw people to investigate the church that originally produced it and introduce them to false teaching. In addition, the producing church or music group gets money whenever their songs are downloaded or performed and whenever their lyrics are publicly displayed. The concern becomes less about the song and more about boycotting an organization that doesn’t adhere to orthodox beliefs.

Worship must be done in spirit and in truth. It helps to go back to Jesus’ command that we worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). To worship “in spirit” means that we worship sincerely, with our whole heart. We can’t do this if the song reminds us of the unbiblical theology of the church or songwriter who produced the song.

Also, our worship should be “in truth,” that is, based in a true biblical knowledge of God. Every element of our worship should be theologically sound. If a song’s lyrics reflect questionable or unclear theology, it’s foolishness to use those words to worship God; if we wouldn’t stand in front of the congregation and say it, we shouldn’t sing it.

Regarding the choice of songs for worship, as in all things related to the ministry of a church, we should act in wisdom, grace, and humility. We need wisdom in choosing the best songs for our specific congregation and in determining the importance of secondary considerations such as the identity and character of the songwriters and composers. We need grace to avoid becoming judgmental and to help distinguish between personal preference and vital doctrinal matters. We need humility to live according to our convictions and at the same time live in peace with our fellow believers.


How to Worship Jesus Christ: Experiencing His Manifest Presence by Joseph Carroll
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What is Bethel Church, Redding CA?​


Pastors Bill and Beni Johnson of Bethel Church (Redding, California) are firmly within the New Apostolic Reformation movement (NAR). The Bethel Church can be characterized as promoting Word of Faith teaching, the prosperity gospel, and Christian dominionism. Some aberrant practices, such as “grave soaking” or “grave sucking,” have also come out of the ministry of Bethel Redding.

Bethel Redding has also become associated with certain phenomena that are interpreted by the leadership and the congregation as manifesting the presence and glory of God. The phenomena include the appearance of “glory clouds” and gold dust and “angel feathers” falling from the ceiling (or perhaps from the ventilation system). The “angel feathers” are easy to critique. Nowhere does the Bible say that angels have feathers. Rather, angels are spiritual beings and most often appear as men. Likewise, in the Bible, whenever the glory of God was manifest, the universal human response was fear and conviction (see Isaiah 6). The response of those in the Bethel movement is usually wonder mixed with excitement, dancing, and recording it with cell phone cameras. The appearance of gold dust and feathers is affirmed by Bill Johnson to be a true manifestation of God’s presence But if gold glitter and feathers are being placed in the ventilation system for release at strategic moments, then there is deep deception taking place within that church.

A bigger problem is the theology of the Bethel Church and Bill and Beni Johnson, who were influenced by the likes of John Wimber and the false teachers of the Toronto Blessing. Consistent with others in the New Apostolic Reformation, Johnson teaches that people today are receiving direct words from God and that the offices of apostle and prophet have been restored to the church. In this way, Johnson presents a low view of Scripture: the Bible must be either incomplete or insufficient, if we must keep adding to it with the words of modern-day prophets.

At Bethel Church, healing and deliverance are the evidence of “real” gospel ministry. There must be demonstrations of power. Bethel teaches that humans can speak things into existence by faith or even command God to speak them into existence. According to Bethel, physical healing was purchased in the atonement of Christ, and God’s will is always to heal. From Bill Johnson: “How can God choose not to heal someone when He already purchased their healing? . . . Were the stripes He bore only for certain illnesses, or certain seasons of time? When He bore stripes in His body He made a payment for our miracle. He already decided to heal. You can’t decide not to buy something after you’ve already bought it. . . . There are no deficiencies on His end. . . . All lack is on our end of the equation” (quoted by Carter, J., “9 Things You Should Know About the Bethel Church Movement,” 9/29/18, www.thegospelcoalition.org, accessed 2/20/24). In this view, Christians, when asking for healing, should not say, “If it is Your will,” because by faith we already know that it is His will to heal.

Bill Johnson also criticizes Christians who rely more on the Bible than on the Holy Spirit. He states that most Christians operate under a false belief that the Trinity is “Father, Son, and Holy Bible,” and that “it’s difficult to get the same fruit as the early Church when we value a book they didn’t have more than the Holy Spirit they did have” (Johnson, Bill and Beni, Walking in the Supernatural: Another Cup of Spiritual Java, ch. 26, “Read to Have a God Encounter,” Destiny Image Pub., 2012). According to Johnson, what Christians need is not doctrine but the manifest presence of God, and Bethel Redding is committed to seeking and experiencing just that: “Bethel Redding’s mission is to create a vibrant family of hope-filled believers who deeply experience the love and presence of God and partner with Jesus to express the joy and power of His kingdom in every area of life” (from the church’s official website, accessed 5/13/19).

While there is much on Bethel’s website about spiritual experiences, there is little doctrine. Under the “We Believe” heading are the following points of doctrine:
— There is only one true God who is the eternal King, Creator and Redeemer of all that is.
— He is perfectly holy, just, loving and truthful.
— He has revealed Himself to be eternally self-existent—one being in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
— The Bible is the inspired and only infallible and authoritative Word of God.

Revival is emphasized on Bethel’s website, and there are hints of the gospel there (“We believe Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of Himself made grace available that has the power to transform any individual’s life”). However, the gospel is never clearly defined. Rather than speak of repentance and faith, there is an emphasis upon an “encounter with Christ,” which is understood in physical and emotional terms. In addition to seeking visceral encounters with Jesus, there is a consistent emphasis upon the power that Christians should display, especially in the area of healing. Through the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, Bethel Redding conducts training on how to begin a “lifestyle of healing and miracles.”

At the very least, we can conclude that Bill Johnson and Bethel Redding omit discussion of vitally important issues at the heart of the gospel and elevate other issues to a place they do not deserve. In the process, they teach some things that are biblically inaccurate. “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who . . . put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (Romans 16:17).


A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement by Geivett & Pivec
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