Should Your Church Sing Jesus Culture & Bethel Music?

One of the top questions I receive is about Jesus Culture and Bethel Music. Inquiring minds ask, “What do you think about listening to the music, or using only the songs that are sound?”

It’s a fair question that deserves an answer. Still, each person must determine how they’ll proceed. To spark your consideration, the 5 reasons below approach the topic from a few unique angles.

Let’s start with the obviously theological reasons, then let’s move to some practical implications that can directly or indirectly effect your church and ministry.

  1. Their movement & leaders preach a heretical Christ

When I use the “H” word here, I’m not being extreme. Scriptural teaching, early church teachings, early church councils, and your Bible college textbooks would all confirm, the “Jesus” that Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, Bethel Music, and Jesus Culture propagate is not the real Jesus. Blending Kenotic Theory (that Jesus emptied Himself of Deity), and shades of Arianism and mysticism, Bill Johnson’s teaching is beginning to be widely rejected after years of remaining mainstream and acceptable. So what took so long? Perhaps it was the tolerance narrative that evangelicalism tends to lean towards, or, people have to see enough friends and family led astray before it hits home. Whatever the reason, it’s praise-worthy to see church leaders standing up for the true gospel.  There is no debate here. The “Jesus” of Jesus Culture and the rest of the Mystical-Miracle movement is not the Jesus of the Bible. If you’re not familiar with Bill Johnson, Bethel Music, or Jesus Culture, here are 5 options to read through (both short and long). I’ve listed our book last since it’s the longest.

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement  By Stephen Tan

Book Review: When Heaven Invades Earth, by Bill Johnson By David Schrock

Responding to the False Teaching of Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, and Todd White By Gabriel Hughes

Why I Don’t Sing the Songs of Hillsong and Jesus Culture By Jonathan Aigner

Defining Deception: Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement By Costi W. Hinn & Anthony G. Wood

  1. They need to be rescued with truth; not mitigated in their errors

A typical response to this article might be: “Even if the movement is heretical, the music is still really good. I’ll just not sing the ‘bad songs.’” Or, “We’re just singing catchy songs, it’s not like Bill Johnson is preaching our Sunday services.” 

Let’s be honest for a second, even it stings a bit. You’re avoiding the real issue if this is your attitude. If their version of Jesus is the “kenotic theory Jesus,” then there could be a lot of people believing in, singing to, leading others to, and following a false Jesus. In other words, like Mormons or other false religions who appear to be “Christian,” a lot of people in this movement aren’t being given the truth and they need the real gospel. There are many following these false teachers (like many of us were before being rescued) who are in serious danger. That means we need to view them as a mission field instead of making excuses for our using the music. We need to engage them with the truth and reason with them from Scripture. The power we need is the power of the true gospel. When we start making concessions on the music, or using apathy to avoid facing hard truths, we’re cowering from the Great Commission. Be different. Don’t sing the music. Don’t muddy the waters. Reach these people.

  1. They get paid royalties to keep funding their heretical cause

Perhaps the most practical reason not to sing their music at your church is that by doing so you’re (or your church is) paying them royalties. These royalties fund their schools and programs like Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry and WorshipU, that allow them to keep reproducing more false prophets, more music, and more musicians; spreading their teaching around the world. Through CCLI, direct downloads, or other purchase methods, even when you use the “good songs” and leave out the “bad songs,” you’re putting money in the same pockets. In the previous generation, there was little discussion about using the music produced by false teachers like of Juanita Bynum, T.D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn. First Baptist down the street was not going to feature a special recording during the offertory by Hinn’s crusade choir just because it sounded good. The unanimity around them being prosperity preachers and a danger to the gospel was, and is, without question. Therefore, no discerning Christian wanted to support their ministries financially by using their material. We need to take the same approach today. However, this is a new generation and the lines must be drawn again. I don’t know too many believers who want to knowingly support false teachers. Avoiding their music is a sound decision.

  1. You could be limiting the creativity and talent of your church’s own band

How many songs would be written if we stopped using Jesus and Bethel Music and had to come up with our biblically reliable music? How much would it challenge us to new heights of excellence if we had to make great sounding music that was not on the downgraded slope of apostasy? What next-generation world changers would rise up to be used of God in the music industry if we fostered their value in our congregations by asking them to write homegrown songs? If we knew that our music originated in the right place, our questions on this issue begin to fade. Many churches are sitting on amazing talent and gifts but do not use what God has provided. Take advantage of the autonomy that Christ allows each individual assembly to have and take ownership of creating your own songs and music.

  1. People need clarity on this issue more than ever before

People will naturally call it legalism when we’re taking about whether or not to sing Jesus Culture or Bethel music. But the church may do well to “steal” an idea from our Baptist friends. Just like a most Baptists avoids drinking altogether for the purpose of avoiding even the appearance of evil, a church may consider avoiding singing songs by heretical groups under the same guiding principle. Wisdom and prudence may be in order on this subject because it has become such a stumbling block for people today – just like alcohol. Is it sin to sing a Bethel song with sound lyrics? Is it a sin to take a sip of wine? No. But it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to risk confusing people in an effort to not come across legalistic. There are better hills to take, and more pressing issues to focus on. This one gets put to rest if we just draw a hard line and move on. If anything, the question of music is an easy one to deal with if you keep things biblically balanced. Why even associate with anything that is unbiblical or in question? Some New Testament guidelines that can help with this hot-button issue are:

  • Avoid being a stumbling block to others (Rom. 14:13-23)
  • Avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22)
  • Dangerous people should be silenced, not supported (Titus 3:11)
  • False teachers should be marked, not mitigated (Rom. 16:17-18)
  • Leaders are responsible to guard their doctrine and lives closely (1 Timothy 4:16)

While you may not agree with all the points listed here, at the very least, I hope I’ve provided you with some food for thought as you determine your own trajectory both at your church (whether in leadership or not), and in your home.

49 replies
  1. Jordan Riley
    Jordan Riley says:

    Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, and Hillsong United are nothing more than a Trojan Horse that opens the door into the heresy that these churches teach.

    Thanks for this article. The church I was going to for several years sang Bethel and Hillsong Choruses and I lovingly approached the Pastors about the truth of what lay behind these songs and the errors and they didn’t want to hear it. They told me they went to both of those churches websites and checked what they believed and deemed them to be sound churches. After several attempts to share truth and being rejected and told they were solid Christian churches I had to leave my church.

    Reply
    • Tim Holman
      Tim Holman says:

      Same here, Riley. Exact same scenario. We left in June of this year. Turns out the pastor’s favourite song is “Good. Good Father.” I truly believe the singing of Hillsong and Bethel affirms the poisonous theology and blasphemes the Holy Spirit. Grace and Peace to you as you stand for the truth!

      Tim H

      Reply
    • Brother Chuck
      Brother Chuck says:

      Jesus came to set us free. Always keep that first. Confess with your mouth believe in your heart thats it. Remember the Pharisees tried to weight believers down with doctrine. Jesus rebuked them for it.
      Paul said don’t let your faith and freedom cause another to stumble. Definitely don’t make a division of the church. Or Not by power or by might but by my Spirit says the lord, Keep them close pray for them without ceasing God will answer your prayers if your so holy right? I also forgot to capitalize lord you think he loves me less? Let’s just point them to Jesus WE know who he is right. God will show them who Jesus is, He makes everything perfect in His timing. P

      Reply
  2. Lady Claire
    Lady Claire says:

    Great article Costi. Thank you. I agree with all your points, but particularly that the tolerance narrative has taken and continues to take a huge toll in the church. I’m grateful that folks like yourself are calling this stuff out. Bless you.
    There’s a good series called ‘Sound Effects’ about music in the church in general. This is the penultimate one and mentions Bethel music specifically. https://www.prophecytoday.uk/study/teaching-articles/item/1005-sound-effects-iii.html

    Reply
  3. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    Read Acts and Corinthians. Pray to understand the prophetic gifts. Jesus said we would see greater miracles than He did. Bethel is a Church walking in the fullness of thr gifts of thr Holy Spirit promised by Jesus.

    Reply
    • Jordan Riley
      Jordan Riley says:

      No Sharon you misunderstood the Word. JESUS said we would do greater works, NOT MIRACLES. In context He was talking about spreading the Gospel because He had already did every miracle. There is no greater miracle than raising the dead and seeing a dead heart come alive to Christ.

      Reply
      • Em
        Em says:

        Mark 9:23
        Romans 15:18-19
        Acts 2:43
        Acts 5:12
        Acts 6:8
        Acts 8:13
        Acts 9:36-42
        Acts 19:11-12

        It is not God we put inside of a box, for that would be impossible for us to do and arrogant to think we can. What we actually do is put ourselves inside a box and limit our trust in what the Holy Spirit can do through us.

        Reply
      • dietoself
        dietoself says:

        Assuming Jesus was referring to “greater miracles”, then none of the apostles after His resurrection managed to do anything greater than the time He had raised Lazarus, who had been four days in the tomb. Jesus was limited to Galilee and Judea during His ministry on earth, but His disciples continued to spread His Gospel widely. Today, we can do greater works globally as the larger Body of Christ and witness daily the miracle of salvation.
        Reference: https://www.gotquestions.org/greater-works.html

        Reply
    • Adrian Murray
      Adrian Murray says:

      Nope, ‘Bethels Jesus’ is bankrupt and only partially divine… according to Bill Johnson himself.

      Their ‘miracles’ over promise and under perform.

      If their faith formula worked, Beni would be healed of her cancer already, and their son would no longer be hearing impaired.

      False miracles, and capitalizing on teaching people to be healers and prophets is forbidden in the Bible. The gifts aren’t for sale.

      Reply
    • Tony Fraga
      Tony Fraga says:

      Your right Sharon, This Hinn charactor doesn’t understand that slander and jealousy is worse than possibly making a few mistakes with the gospel. No church is 100 % correct with the gospel. Only pride would make one think they where.

      Reply
      • Hagen Junger
        Hagen Junger says:

        Hi Tony.
        It’s sad to see so much arguments over this. What is really a problem is not about greater works or ‘moves of the Holy spirit’, or prophetic gifts etc. The problem is the Jesus that Bill Johnson preaches. Study carefully what he says about Christ, and compare that to Scripture. Paul wrote several times in his new testament letters against false teachings such as Gnosticism and legalism in very harsh ways. And he called these teachers by name at times. No matter how great any supernatural work is, if the people performing/ involved with it do not proclaim a biblical Christ and gospel, one needs to look very carefully at it.
        Wouldn’t you call out someone that tries to teach a different Christ or gospel?
        It’s every believer’s responsibility to see for themselves if what someone proclaims is true. And no matter what anyone says, God will hold us responsible if we don’t verify whats proclaimed. And that we can only do by studying the Scriptures.
        What groups like Bethel and others do is declare that people who rely on Scripture as the final test of faith are pharisees and legalistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the Scripture says “Your Word is Truth”. Jesus said that we shall know the truth and it will set us free. The Word of God given life by The Spirit is what sets us free.
        Bethel etc, keep a stranglehold on people by the proclamations of apostleship and prophets. This is extremely similar to that which Evangelical Christians have always accused Catholics of, IE Letting the words of the Papacy and Catholic rites/traditions supersede what is plainly taught in Scripture. What then happens is that people do not confront these things for fear of ultimately going against God Himself…after all these leaders supposedly have a direct access to him that ordinary believers don’t.
        Remember, the best way for a wolf to catch the sheep is to pretend to be one. PLEASE check these things, and then make a decision, and be accountable to God for that decision. We all are…

        Reply
  4. Cherie D
    Cherie D says:

    So sad! You don’t think Jesus still does miracles? You probably don’t believe in tounges either, or think we are supposed to be poor and sick. He said he came so that we may have Life and to the full, overflowing. I believe that means in every area of life. To me you are the one teaching heretical Christianism, Not true Christianity. My God is a Good Good Father. Every good thing comes from God. That’s Bible.

    Reply
    • Adrian Murray
      Adrian Murray says:

      He didn’t say Jesus doesn’t still do miracles.

      He is stating that ‘Bethels Jesus’ is bankrupt and only partially divine… according to Bill Johnson himself.

      Their ‘miracles’ over promise and under perform.

      If their faith formula worked, Beni would be healed of her cancer already, and their son would no longer be hearing impaired.

      False miracles, and capitalizing on teaching people to be (fake) healers and (false) prophets (at BSSM) is forbidden in the Bible. The gifts aren’t for sale.

      Reply
  5. Em
    Em says:

    Seriously?? This is the third article I’ve read from this site this year and these articles reek of division. Just because they don’t fit in your realm of theology doesn’t mean they’re heretical. Come on now, the Body of Christ is better than this.

    Reply
    • Jordan Riley
      Jordan Riley says:

      No they dont. They are standing for the Word and rightly dividing it. You probably need some discernment because Costi and this site are spot on according to the Word of God.

      Reply
      • Em
        Em says:

        Rightly dividing the Word? Can you elaborate?

        Not everything in the Bible is black and white Jordan. That’s why we have many theologies. It seems that when an opposing view on theology is heard about from this site they are quick to shoot it down without real debate.

        Ex. If I believe man is a tri-being (made of spirit, soul, and flesh) but my brother in Christ only believes man is only spirit and flesh, it’s a disagreement, not heresy. It will not matter in comparison to eternity.

        Now I don’t know all of Bethels theology (info that this article fails to clearly communicate) and I may not agree with all of their theology, but I see the fruits of their works, the love that they share, how they glorify Christ, how others have been blessed through their songs, and have a friend who one of Bethel’s song is an influential part of her deliverance testimony.

        I doubt any of us will have 100% correct theology until the 2nd coming of Christ. Now if Bethel was saying actual heresy like there is no trinity or Jesus Christ is not our Savior, then I’d be worried. But what I’ve seen from this site is disagreements on topics that boil down to points in theology that just don’t have black and white answers in Scripture.

        I see no love on this site, it’s not even sharpening. I only see one-sidedness, single-mindedness, and the fruit of division.

        Reply
        • Scott
          Scott says:

          Interestingly, division leads to unity. Look at what happened with the Protestant Reformation. Some churches will stand firm on the perspicuity (clarity) of scripture while some will say there’s no way to really understand what it really means.

          History repeats itself, whether you see it happening or not.

          Reply
          • Em
            Em says:

            Your response reminded me of 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. Although I believe there is partial truth to your statement. The division between Judah and Israel is another example of this. However, the outcome of both your and my examples were rooted by sin and not part of God’s original plan. Solomon rebelled and the Catholic Church turned to man-glorifying legalism. But because our God is rich in mercy and grace, He can make what is intended for evil and use it for good.

            And I do see history repeating itself. I see the returning of legalism and modern day Pharisees in the church since the Protestant Reformstion. I see places, such as this site, telling people what is and what is not, do this and not this, act this way and not this way, and so on.

            Jesus tells us to look at the fruit of people’s lives. When I see and hear of people’s testimonies that have been involved with Bethel or Jesus Culture, I see them fall more in love with Christ, excited to proclaim His Gospel, and live in surrender to His will. When I look at this site I only see bad fruit. I see nothing here but legalism, control, and division.

  6. Deb
    Deb says:

    The greater things that the Bible is referring to is actually the spread of the Gospel Through the Ages not necessarily additional Miracles or signs and wonders. It is not that God cannot miraculously heal absolutely can. What that scripture is taken completely out of context

    Reply
    • Em
      Em says:

      Mark 9:23
      Romans 15:18-19
      Acts 2:43
      Acts 5:12
      Acts 6:8
      Acts 8:13
      Acts 9:36-42
      Acts 19:11-12

      It is not God we put inside of a box, for that would be impossible for us to do and arrogant to think we can. What we actually do is put ourselves inside a box and limit our trust in what the Holy Spirit can do through us.

      Reply
      • dietoself
        dietoself says:

        Mark 9:23 – “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”
        [But only if it is in His will]
        Mark 14:36 – And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

        Romans 15:18-19
        Acts 2:43
        Acts 5:12
        Acts 6:8
        Acts 8:13
        Acts 9:36-42
        Acts 19:11-12
        Above 7 quotations are acts of the apostles. How these verses are applied depends on whether you’re a cessationist or continuationist.
        While we shouldn’t limit God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we should know Him more via the Word before exercising our spiritual gifts, otherwise it can be dangerous too like the Corinthian church.

        Reply
        • Em
          Em says:

          I completely agree with you. I believe miracles and exercising gifts can be done today, but only in God’s leading and through His Holy Spirit. Thanks for pointing that out. Gifts done in ones own will is only self-glorying.

          Reply
    • dietoself
      dietoself says:

      Assuming Jesus meant greater “miracles”, then none of the apostles would have done greater miracles after His resurrection, than when He raised Lazarus who had been four days in the tomb (John 11). Jesus was limited to Galilee and Judea, but His disciples spread the Gospel even further. Today, as the larger Body of Christ, we can do greater works globally and witness the miracle of salvation – the healing of the greatest illness(sin).

      Reply
  7. Tgreen
    Tgreen says:

    This is a joke right? Well, the Bible does tell us that Chriatians will be persecuted, so here it is. God will continue to bless both bethel and Jesus culture regardless!

    Reply
  8. Jean
    Jean says:

    Have you read the Bible? The religious leaders in Jesus day thought He was off….so whats different now! Read the Bible… miracles still happen… I am one.

    Reply
    • costiwhinn
      costiwhinn says:

      Hi Jean! I completely agree, miracles still happen. This post has nothing to do with miracles though. It has everything to do with the Christological heresies that Bethel teaches. Hope you’ll research and discover that. Acts 17:11.

      God bless you!

      Costi

      Reply
  9. Joshua Campbell
    Joshua Campbell says:

    Not every church has perfect theological teaching and doctrine. If we searched the authors church or denomination we would find unbiblical teachings or interpretation. Bethel Church isn’t perfect but they are the real thing. What people really don’t like is that they preach a miracle working Jesus and the active gifts of the Holy Spirit working in the life of the believer today. Last time I read my bible Jesus and the earlier apostles preached and walked a gospel of power and any gospel void of that power is a form of godliness and is heretical. Just because it goes against your experience or interpretation of of Scripture does not make it false.

    Reply
    • costiwhinn
      costiwhinn says:

      Joshua, thanks for sharing your thoughts here. One thing to note: this article has nothing to do with Jesus doing miracles or teaching such things. If you simply read Bill Johnson’s book, “When Heaven Invades Earth” and compare it to biblical teaching and orthodoxy (right teaching on essentials), it is completely off the biblical path. Power is in the truth, no matter how much someone believes a lie. Rom. 1:16.

      God bless.

      Reply
  10. Jim
    Jim says:

    It’s all good music. I think you have overlooked the subject here. It could be a lot worse.they could be singing rap or hip hop grabage. I love bethel music and hillsong as well and im 48 years old and a music producer and songwriter, and they reach a lot of our youth which is great!!! You should waste your time and energy on something else besides what kind of Christian music people should sing… why dont you try and write a song
    about God and see how it comes out.seriously….

    Reply
    • costiwhinn
      costiwhinn says:

      Jim, thanks for your comment. I’d say that using the, “It could be a lot worse” argument is similar to a husband to cheats on his wife yet says, “It could be worse, I could be beating on you…” This is not helpful for the analysis of Christological heresies. Encourage you to do some research. Acts 17:11. Not speaking here as a stone-throwing outsider, but rather, as someone who came out of the inner circles of this movement.

      Reply
  11. Benito
    Benito says:

    Thank you for speaking the truth about Bethel Music/ Jesus Culture. I heard of their music by listening to a Christian station in Fayetteville HISRADIO. I would listen to various christian songs playing and began to create a playlist of different music. I never listen to the pastor from where they came from. I started seeing news feed on FB about his false teaching and the music of this group. I did research on my own along with videos on YouTube and saw how the music isn’t good. I end up removing songs from my playlist and it took a minute. I saw music as however you the person got from what was being sung. I saw a few songs I did liked as God speaking. I do see a lot of church choirs using there music. I also see being Latino many churches in Latin America and Brasil also.

    Reply
  12. Hagen Junger
    Hagen Junger says:

    Reading the different comments is a bit disturbing. I dont think the issue should be whether miracles and supernatural gifts still exist, which was not the point of the article. Bethel aren’t noted as heretical because they believe in the miraculous. i have my opinions on this, but for now thats not the point. Bethel are termed heretical because of their beliefs about the person/deity of Christ. Just as we should consider Jehovah’s witness heretical, we should consider any group(whether “Christian” or not) that preaches a different Christ to be that. What bill Johnson teaches is completely unbiblical. I encourage anyone that sincerely seeks the true heart of God, to do some research. EG read his book “Physics of Heaven” and compare to Scripture.
    As believers, we can get bogged down with the argument about supernatural gifts, when the real issue is far more serious. For people that seriously defend Bethel, there is enough information freely available to do research.
    Remember, God wont hold against you if you search His Word to verify if something is true. Even Paul, bringing the gospel to the Bereans, commended them for checking, and not just believing him blindly. So any believer can have no fear that they may be going against one of God’s anointed(as is often said) by checking the Scriptures..
    The one point I partly agree upon from Bethel defenders is that perhaps Word based Christians have tended to marginalize the Holy spirit. He has kinda been relegated to the lesser part of the Trinity,(almost just an add-on in Baptism and Benedictions, and possibly to help in understanding the Bible). He is more than just that.This probably widely happened due to the excesses attributed to Him in the Charismatic movement and the rejection thereof(throwing the baby out with the bathwater)

    Reply
    • costiwhinn
      costiwhinn says:

      Good clarity, Hagen. You’re right, this post is 100% not about sign gifts, miracles, or any part of that debate. This is about Christological errors and the proliferation of music that supports that end in one way or another.

      Reply
  13. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    I’ve read all these comments going back and forth and back and forth.
    If we are truly walking with Christ and guided daily by his Holy Spirit , won’t he guide his people to the truth ? God is exposing a lot of corruption in the body of Christ , if you listen to these groups , just pray and ask God to reveal truth , and pray for discernment….some walk with no discernment whatsoever, the minute you hear the word God or Jesus , we automatically think a group is singing for the Lord ….remember Lucifer was the Chief in the music department in Heaven …..you don’t think he has lots of counterfeits ….think again ……

    Reply
  14. Dennis Homer
    Dennis Homer says:

    Dear Costi, Advice from a seventy-seven year old friend of the family: Don’t be a heretic hunter. It’s not worth the time or energy.
    If the fundamentalists had been burning heretics at the stake thirty-five years ago, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be here.
    All through history there have been people that love the Lord that have had crazy theology. The folks that are writing the books and the music may not have everything exactly right, but God knows their heart. And so do you. Preach the gospel and leave it to the Holy Spirit to sort out the heretics. It’s all going to work out. Just love ’em…

    Reply
  15. Em
    Em says:

    Wow, it’s nice to see that my comments are being deleted. Only reveals more about the character of this site and their legalism and sense of needing to control. I’ll be screenshotting this comment right after this post should this behavior continue.

    Reply
    • costiwhinn
      costiwhinn says:

      Em,

      Comments are not denied approval on this site unless they contain one of the following:

      – Profanity
      – False claims and character assaults (ad hominem)
      – Refutations of articles or claims made without supporting evidence

      If you have responded in one of those 3 ways, your comment may have been denied, which this site reserves the right to do. Feel free to take screen shots should you feel the need to track this.

      In Christ,

      Costi

      Reply

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