If you’ve followed us at The Dissenter (formerly Reformation Charlotte) at all, you know we’ve covered the contemporary Christian music movement and have written about several of its mainstream figures, including Kari Jobe and Hillsong. It’s no secret we believe that the relentless promotion of much of this flesh-feeding ecstatic music does no good for the edification of the body of Christ. But perhaps one of the most deceitfully nefarious organizations pumping out poisonous exhaust is Bethel Music.
According to Wikipedia, Bethel Music is a collection of artists based out of the worship ministry at Bethel Church in Redding, California. Some of its artists include Brian Johnson, Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, Amanda Cook, William Matthews, Kristene DiMarco (of Jesus Culture, also out of Bethel Church), and quite a few others.
Bethel Music is known for its popular songs, such as Phil Wickham’s This Is Amazing Grace and Goodness of God, sung by Bethel pastor’s wife, Jenn Johnson, that are played throughout churches of all breeds on Sunday mornings. Of course, some of their music may appear to be just fine on the surface, but is this just a deceptive bait to reel you in? For even Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and he’s always looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This is why we must be sober-minded and alert, and always on the watch for his deceptions.
I don’t always agree with Al Mohler; in fact, I disagree with him on quite a bit of issues, particularly in the realm of social justice and Critical Race Theory. But he has a strong theological position when it comes to worship music that I find myself agreeing with him on over and over. In a recent episode of his podcast, he discusses the usage of music from aberrant sources such as Bethel and Hillsong, and stated that he would avoid it for the following reasons:
Now there’s some new hymnody that is being written and we love those hymns as well. Hymns such as “In Christ Alone,” they are just as theologically vibrant and rich. And frankly, they have already passed the test of theological orthodoxy and the love of the church.
But there are other songs that simply don’t meet that test. A lot of them I think are simply going to pass off the scene. And some of them, as you say, come from very problematic sources. Here’s the problem. When we do know the source and we know the source is theologically problematic, it becomes honestly pretty difficult to sing that song without thinking of the theological associations. So with reference to that, I would say don’t use it in worship.
Again, this is no blanket endorsement of Al Mohler, but I unabashedly affirm his take on worship music in this case.
Bethel Music unashamedly promotes false doctrine. Let’s be clear, all of the music that comes from this church are designed to draw people in and promote the message of Bethel Church. Under the leadership of Bill Johnson, the church promotes a message that is anti-gospel and cultish. Bethel is a New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) church that promotes nefarious theologies such as Word of Faith, Dominionism, Latter Rain, and Joel’s Army. Below is a video of Bethel Church practicing what they call a “fire tunnel,” in which people will quickly pass through the tunnel while others supposedly speak blessings and healings on the participants.
The NAR is a movement that elevates experience above doctrinal truth. Often times you will see many with contradictory beliefs about the basic tenets of Christianity come together in prayer and worship. Bethel’s pastor, Bill Johnson, who was labeled an Apostle by C. Peter Wagner, advocates for less Scriptural knowledge and promotes extra-biblical experiences as security for your relationship with God. He says in his book When Heaven Invades Earth:
Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know (Johnson, p. 76)
This is clearly a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture, and promotion of extra-biblical revelation. It’s no wonder that most of their music is shallow and insipid. Johnson was also instrumental in bringing false prophet Todd Bentley back into the mainstream. Bentley, who claims to raise people from the dead, is a false teacher that promotes Word of Faith theology and performs false signs and wonders.
But if that isn’t enough, Bethel Church recently hosted false prophet Heidi Baker, to impart demons and cast spells in front of their congregation.
This is purely demonic witchcraft, and there is absolutely nothing Christian about this.
The New Apostolic Reformation is the driving force behind modern worship. They use a deceptive tactic that mixes a little bit of truth with error which gives their music the appearance of holiness. But the fact is much of the music that comes out of this demonic center of darkness is designed to empty your mind by the use of repetitive lyrics, sensual music, and a fleshly experience that puts you in a state of hypnotic trance. An example of this would be Jesus Culture’s song, Fill Me Up, which repeats these phrases over and over, inviting an altered state of mind, and opening one’s self up to suggestion. John MacArthur says of this kind of music, “This is paganism. This is the Kundalini cult…This is what Hindus do.”
…I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. –1 Corinthians 14:15
Besides the bad theology in much of the music’s lyrics, the bigger problem lies in the music itself. There is no question that Bethel Music exists to make money and to promote their ideology, false signs and wonders, and the so-called ministry of their leaders. But the music they put out that has the appearance of holiness only serves to attract people to the blatantly unholy. Most people just assume that because Bethel Music and Jesus Culture are labeled “Christian music,” that it’s fine, but it isn’t. The music serves to marginalize God from true worship in truth and spirit (John 4:24), and promotes the singers, or even music itself as the object(s) of worship.
This is mainstream contemporary Christian music. It feeds the flesh and weakens our mission (Galatians 5:16). Bethel music, in its insatiable lust for more followers, is seeking to devour anyone who has itching ears (2 Tim 4:3). We are commanded in Scripture to avoid these false teachers, these workers of darkness who produce bad fruits, to have absolutely nothing to do with them, rather expose them (Eph 5:11). Christians need to turn from their fleshly desires of unholy worship and focus on that which is acceptable in the eyes of God, and what brings Him alone glory.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12:2