What’s wrong with these contemporary Christian music songs?

(image courtesy ontheroadtohealing.org.uk)

(image courtesy openhymnal.org)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Jesus Culture is the music ministry emanating from the extreme charismatic Bethel Church, Redding CA (associated with Bill Johnson). However, it has reached beyond Redding.[1]

I joined a discussion online about Jesus Culture.[2] The thread began with this warning: ‘I’m curious if this stuff is creeping into the Baptist churches. If so, you should warn your pastors and worship leaders. If they scoff, you may strongly reconsider being a part of such a church’.[3]

A supporter of Jesus Culture chimed in:

My Wife listens to Jesus Culture, whats (sic) wrong with the music?

It mentions scripture and it praises God in it’s (sic) lyrics.
Were (sic) not talking doctrine, denominations, gifts of the spirit (sic). – Talking about Music, specifically Jesus Culture.[4]

The person who started the thread accused the Bethel Church and affiliate ministries of ‘utilizing witchcraft to manipulate anyone who comes under their teachings or music’.[5] That got the bees humming in the back and forth of witchcraft in Bethel Church and Jesus Culture.

But we were still lacking examples of the lyrics in Jesus Culture songs for evaluation.

1.  Words from a Jesus Culture song

I asked the original poster, ‘Why don’t you find one song from “Jesus Culture” that has lyrics that are promoting false theology so that we can discuss the biblical content of this song?’[6] When it was not forthcoming, I found a song from Jesus Culture to discuss.[7]

Here are the lyrics from a Jesus Culture song:

Rooftops Lyrics
[Metro Lyrics: Jesus Culture Lyrics]
from Come Away
New! Highlight lyrics to add Meanings, Special Memories, and Misheard Lyrics…
Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

Is all satisfactory biblically with these lyrics? Is there anything we should warn people about in this song?

2.  It’s praising God: It’s not against the Gospel

clip_image009(image courtesy poetrybydeborahann)

 

A supporter of Jesus Culture replied:

Are you guys serious? What’s wrong with this song? It’s Praising God. I would not let my wife listen to ANYTHING that is against the Gospel,
I am quoting TWIN 1954 here:

What separates those who are preaching another gospel and those preaching the truth is that the Gospel is according to the Scriptures as Paul laid out very clearly in 1 Cor. 15:1-4. (1Co 15:1) Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; (1Co 15:2) By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1Co 15:3) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (1Co 15:4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

I asked you many times show me scripturally how these songs are against the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please show me.[8]

3.  This song fails the test

What’s wrong with this song?[9] Do you mean to say you can’t see it? Can’t you see the me-centred nature of this song? It’s egocentric. Let’s look again at it and I’ll highlight in bold the self-centred (egocentric) emphasis:

Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

This is an egocentric song that wants to tell God who I am and how I feel towards Him: ‘I am Yours, I am Yours’, etc. This song misses the greatness of the Lord God whom we serve and praise. Exalt Him; laud His praise.

This song leaves me flat because the theocentric emphasis (having God as the central focus)[10] is not there. From what you say in your post, that doesn’t seem to bother you.

The Jesus Culture supporter did admit, ‘I agree also, the song is not very doctrinal (You won’t learn from the song), but I don’t believe there is anything biblically wrong with the song’.[11]

I don’t see this kind of prominence:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish, like leaves on the tree,
then wither and perish; but nought changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render: O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

[Words: Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), 1867 (Oremus Hymnal)]

Or,

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

[Words: Re­gi­nald He­ber, 1826. Heber wrote this hymn for Trin­i­ty Sun­day while he was Vi­car of Hod­net, Shrop­shire, Eng­land.

Music: Nicaea, John B. Dykes, in Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern, 1861 (MI­DI, score)].

4.  Beware of false teaching in songs

Songs may teach false doctrine or misleading interpretations.[12]

The Bible speaks about those who are false teachers (Gal 5:7-12; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 1 John 4:1-6; Jude 1:4) and false prophets (Matt 7:15; 24:24; 2 Pet 2:1) who can all be using the Bible. Nevertheless they are false teachers and prophesying falsehood.

They may sound reasonable but be false. False teaching and false prophesy can find their ways into songs we sing.

In 2013, Christianity Today ran an article, ‘Reformed Rapper Calls Out 12 Popular Pastors as “False Teachers“‘. A careful read may edify.

Have you read Sandy Simpson’s article, ‘Worship song rating‘?

4.1  Another song from Jesus Culture

A promoter of Jesus Culture provided the lyrics from another song on a Christian forum He said:

From beginning to the end
All my life is in Your hands
This whole world may hold me down
But it can never drown You out
I’m not merely flesh and bone
I was made for something more
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
Through the dark I hear Your voice
Rising up I will rejoice
For I was lost but now I’m found
‘Cause even death can’t hold You down
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You![13]

His comment about this song was, ‘Nothing but praise, Not against scripture at all’.

5.  Beware of false or misleading teaching in songs

My examination of this song was very different from that of the Jesus Culture promoter:[14]

You say, ‘Nothing but praise, Not against scripture at all’. Let’s check out how egocentric this song really is and you seem to miss it. There is false teaching here. I’ll highlight in bold the egocentricism and the false teaching that is repeated:

From beginning to the end
All my life is in Your hands
This whole world may hold me down
But it can never drown You out
I’m not merely flesh and bone
I was made for something more
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [this is false teaching]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
Through the dark I hear Your voice
Rising up I will rejoice
For I was lost but now I’m found
‘Cause even death can’t hold You down
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
[this is false teaching repeated]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I‘m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [false teaching repeated again]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [a repeat of false teaching]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
?

No source for this song was provided online by this person.[2] I located a version, ‘Alive In You’, that approximates these words by: Kim Walker-Smith, Skyler Smith, Jordan Frye 2015 Jesus Culture Music, Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin Capitol CMG Publishing) at Praise Charts: http://www.praisecharts.com/songs/details/27704/alive-in-you-sheet-music/ (Accessed 14 April 2016).

The egocentric emphasis, in my understanding, is streaming through the ‘I’ statements.

6.  I consider this to be false teaching

It is false teaching to sing this teaching, ‘You are strong in my brokenness‘. God is always strong, whether I’m broken or not. If the emphasis were, ‘When I’m down and broken, the Lord God is my support and his strength helps to lift my burden’, then I could accept that emphasis. But I can’t see that meaning in, ‘You are strong in my brokenness’. If that is what is meant, it is not at all clear.

The sovereign Lord Almighty is strong in his essence. ‘Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle’ (Psalm 24:8 NIV). The Lord does not need your or my brokenness to make him strong. His essence is that of might and strength. That does not change through your or my brokenness. This is confirmed further in Psalm 29:8 (NIV), ‘Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you’.

Jeremiah 50:34 (ISV) confirms the Lord God’s essence of strength:

Their Redeemer is strong,
the Lord of the Heavenly Armies is his name.
He will vigorously plead their case
in order to bring rest to the earth,
but turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.?

It is false teaching to say that God the Lord is strong ‘in my brokenness’. He is strong by his very nature and is strong whether you are broken or not. This is his attribute of omnipotence. Nothing you or I can do can change that. It is an attack on God’s nature to say he is strong ‘in my brokenness’.

It is correct teaching to say that when I am broken, the Almighty God is powerful to act in the situation in which I am and to intervene according to his will. However, that power or strength is based on who the Lord Almighty is and the attribute of his omnipotence never changes. My brokenness does not cause Him to be strong.

7.  Emulating worldly tactics

Are Jesus Culture, Hillsong and other promoters of some Christian music endorsing a worldly or secular approach to marketing songs? The person who opened this thread had a penetrating summary:

The worldliness within these movements is through the roof. Watch the official videos, their image is so finely crafted you would think some big-time record label put them together to market. They make the world look uncool. They seek to draw the world into a worldly version of Christianity.

This is at work even in smaller churches who are into this movement. I had countless people on my facebook feed who emulate this culture of worldliness. There’s always a bunch of people with the finest digital HD cameras running around in these circles documenting these glorious self images. Then there’s (sic) the comments, “I love this girl!” or whatever. These movements are full of cliques based upon outward appearance, ministry connections, or your ability to be like act like the world.

It’s just plain shallow and it’s not the Christianity that Christ walked out.[15]

8.  Tunnels of fire

I asked a person: Do you support the prayer tunnels, the ‘Tunnels of Fire‘ at Bethel Church? [16]

Where is the sound doctrine in this chaos?

The retort was penetrating and accurate with Scripture:

Paul said, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” [1 Tim 5:22 NIV].

The laying on of hands is something only to be done with clear direction of the Holy Spirit, and it’s not something the Holy Spirit does willy-nilly.

I’m making a list of things this movement does that fly directly in the face of clear teachings of scripture. It’s getting longer by the day.[17]

9.  Conclusion

There is chaos taking place in some churches in the name of the Holy Spirit. One needs discernment to know that what is happening is not following 1 Cor 14:40 (ESV), ‘But all things should be done decently and in order’. Prayer tunnels and people lying on the floor screaming, barking and howling are not biblical expressions of the Holy Spirit in action.

See:

clip_image011Weeping With Wilkerson (or These Strange Manifestations Are Not the Holy Ghost);

clip_image011[1]Look before you laugh;

clip_image011[2]Does New Age Christianity Exist In House Churches?

clip_image011[3]When Bethel invades your church;

clip_image011[4]Tunnel of Fire at Bethel church, Redding, CA

clip_image011[5]Why Jesus Culture, Bethel Church, and Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry are Spiritually Dangerous (Part 1 of 3).

clip_image013

(image courtesy www.mp3tunes.tk)

Notes

[1] See: http://jesusculture.com/about/ (Accessed 6 April 2016).

[2] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Are your churches using Jesus Culture songs in praise and worship?’ Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/are-your-churches-using-jesus-culture-songs-in-praise-and-worship.7939788/page-3 (Accessed 6 April 2016).

[3] Ibid., AGTG#1. This person made a number of posts against Jesus Culture songs.

[4] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#4.

[5] Ibid., AGTG#5.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#47.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#49.

[8] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#50, emphasis in original.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#54.

[10] Oxford dictionaries (2016. S v theocentric).

[11] Christian Forums, PrettyboyAndy#63.

[12] I posted these Scriptures and this emphasis in ibid., OzSpen#46.

[13] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#116.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#120.

[15] Ibid., AGTG#73.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#78.

[17] Ibid., AGTG#80.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 September 2018.