Worship of the one true and holy God, the triune God of the Bible, is the ultimate purpose in the life of a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. We exist to bring glory to El Elyon. We are are called, we are commanded, and we are compelled by the love of Christ in us, that those of us who live may no longer live for ourselves, but for our Savior, for our Redeemer, and for our God. We have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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 12:1-2
True worship begins in and flows from the heart and the mind. To worship the Lord is to ascribe to him the honor, glory, adoration, praise, reverence, and devotion that is due him.¹ Man does not set the standard, determining what is acceptable or unacceptable to bring before the LORD of hosts in worship. God sets his own standard, and he has set forth that standard for us in Scripture.
Worship is often identified with the praise of God through the mode of music or singing, and while this is one way in which we worship our creator, worship is not exclusive to a single expression of our adoration and love. We are called to worship and glorify God in all things (Rom. 10:31), to worship him through the fruit of our lips that acknowledge his name (Heb. 13:15), by serving others and living in a way which pleases God (Heb. 13:16), and through prayer (Matthew 6:9-10).
God will not accept worship that does not result from an outpouring of reverence for his holiness as well as the humility and sincerity of our heart. Worship must always be grounded in theological accuracy so that we may worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). In the book of Amos Yahweh rebukes Israel for the worship that they were bringing before him.
I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. -Amos 5:21-24
The seriousness of true worship isn’t a subject limited only to the Old Testament. Jesus himself addresses the issue of worship that is not honoring to God when he rebuked the religious leaders of the time in Mark 7, referencing Isaiah when he says to them:
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. -Mark 7:6b-7
While worship may be passionate, it must always be grounded in truth. Many in the Church confuse emotionalism for worship. But emotional experiences that are not governed by theological truth do not honor the Lord. Genuine worship engages the mind; it does not bypass it (1 Cor. 14:15). Moreover, God-honoring expressions of worship are characterized by decency and orderliness (1 Cor. 14:40). Churches should not promote mindless, chaotic, or worldly practices in the name of worship. Such practices undermine rather than foster the kind of worship that honors God.¹
Because this seems to be an ongoing and widely accepted practice, the desire to bring music into the Church produced by un-biblical sources, I want to look more closely at the theological inconsistencies of Hillsong. I believe Scripture shows that God takes the worship of himself seriously and as a result that gives us no room to approach worship in any form with an attitude of complacency. While I do think that there is a plethora of evidence giving proof as to why there is a need for concern and biblical discernment regarding Hillsong and others like it, I again want to encourage you to look into it yourselves and discuss it with the members of your church, your elders, and your pastors. Measure everything you hear, including my thoughts and opinions, against Scripture to make sure that they line up. Scripture is our ultimate source for knowledge and wisdom, and man’s opinions amount to nothing unless they stand on the firm foundation of biblical truth.
The Patriarch of Hillsong, Brian Houston, is no stranger to controversy. Investigated by the Royal Commission in 2014 for the alleged cover up of his fathers pedophilia, he did not find it necessary to inform the members of his fathers church although he knew about it for years (his father was a pastor and Brian co-pastored with his father at one point). He was eventually forced to admit his knowledge regarding the multiple incidents of sexual misconduct of his father abusing underage children after the Australian media picked up the story. In 2000, he wrote a book called You Need More Money. The description on amazon gives this description of the content:
Presumptuous or prophetic, Brian Houston takes the bull by the horns and addresses a subject that affects everyone. His sharp wit and clear perspective tackle the various attitudes and perceptions on wealth and prosperity, dealing with wrong thinking passed through religious tradition. Money is a powerful tool in the hands of Bible-believing purpose-driven Christians. Brian challenges you to look beyond yourself, live according to the principles of God and see His blessing on your life as you become a money magnet.
What a great testimony to the Church and to the unbelievers in the world. Asked in the later interview if he would change anything about the book, due to an immense amount of criticism he received from the evangelical community, Houston responded that he would change the title. He wrote his autobiographical Live Love Lead in 2015 and is apparently still chasing his dreams of prosperity.
“Your words can frame your future. Speak your faith, start seeing miracles … Owner of your first home! Best selling author … Mother of handsome sons and beautiful daughters! Businessman who is prosperous and fruitful! Your brother’s salvation, your sister’s healing … Speak it into being! Speak it into being! Speak it into being! Amen!”²
Brian Houston has built an empire that is estimated to rake in over $100 million annually from its growing international and media (read: music) operations. Called by the article “the reigning couple of Australian Pentecostalism,” Houston and wife Bobbie “pulled in tax-free revenues of nearly $80 million in Australia” in 2014.³
Bobbie Houston openly praised Carl Lentz (lead pastor of Hillsong NYC) for his interview with Oprah where he denied that you have to be a Christian to have a relationship with God.
You can see a portion of that interview in this article Men Who Must Be Silenced: The Empty Talk Of Carl Lentz, Compromised Leader Of Hillsong New York.
Hillsong has exemplified a string of other questionable behaviors over the years including Hillsong NYC having an openly gay choir director at one point. Selena Gomez leading worship at Hillsong NYC. A women’s conference with an appearance by British character and sexual pervert Austin Powers. Hillsong United front-man Joel Houston responding that it is refreshing to hear “Christian” author Jen Hatmaker’s statement that same sex marriages can be holy and she would happily attend a same sex wedding. Joel Houston praising the book and subsequent heretical movie The Shack saying that it is “perfect for right now, is because people are searching for something real. And something true.” Houston encouraged his audience to see the movie because “it helps people see why they’re here, what they’re made for and has the potential to change your life.” As if all that wasn’t enough, Hillsong NYC youth pastor Diego Similia, paraded on stage as the “naked cowboy” with nothing on but boots, underwear, a cowboy hat, and a guitar during a women’s conference. This is behavior coming out of an organization who claims to be a part of the body of Christ. Some of these incidents can be viewed here: The Marks Of An Unholy Assembly: The Rise Of The Entertainment Empire Hillsong.
This fits the biblical description of a people who honor God with their lips but not in there actions. We are not called to emulate the world in any way. In fact Scripture tells us that if we love the things of the world, the love of the Father is not in us. Meaning that if this is an ongoing characteristic in an individuals life we can identify them as likely not possessing true salvation. Biblical salvation is evidenced through a repentant heart, a life lived in submission to the Lordship of Christ, and obedience to his inerrant word given to us in Scripture. Do not be afraid to evaluate others who claim Christianity but do not bear consistent spiritual fruit, behaving in ways which contradict Scripture.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. -Matthew 7:15-20
So if we can recognize these behaviors and identify them as being of the world, why do we still wish to use the music which the world produces to bring before a holy and righteous God? Is this worship that has been prepared by individuals who’s sole focus is to bring accurate, biblical, God honoring worship before our creator? Or is the driving force financial gain and power. With an annual revenue surpassing $100 million a year I would be willing to say that it is most definitely the latter.
None of these people would be around if they weren’t making this kind of money. They wouldn’t be around if the world and even much of the evangelical community stopped idolizing the artists and the music which drives this empire. They would no longer be interested in Christianity if being a Christian meant that you were a social reject, persecuted, hunted, and stoned as Stephen was in Acts 7.
Hillsong exists because the western Church has watered down the gospel so much that anyone who calls themselves a Christian is accepted as such. We have been conditioned not to question anyone’s claim to Christ even if they live like a complete pagan, with no regard or desire for the glorification of God. We live in a Romans 1 culture, a culture under the wrath of God. Yet the much of the professing church wants to embrace the world and ignore the commands of Scripture because it takes actually believing in something in order to stand up for it.
I am weary of men who are cowards, who take no issue with compromise, instead excusing their willful disregard by using love and grace as a shield to deflect the biblical responsibility to fight for the purity of the bride of Christ. Men who are afraid to stand up and defend the Church, unwilling to take hard postures on truth, or to take firm theological stances in Scripture. Stand up for what is right, we are called to greater things than mediocrity. We have no obligation to the world aside from preaching Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Gentile. Be valiant. Be strong. Stand firm in the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. -1 Corinthians 16:13
1.MacArthur, John. Biblical Doctrine: a Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. Crossway, 2017. 790-792.
2.Snow, Deborah. “Inside the Hillsong Church’s Money-Making Machine.” The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Nov. 2015, www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/inside-the-hillsong-churchs-moneymaking-machine-20151026-gkip53.html.