Monday, December 21, 2015

Hillsong: If Nothing Is Wrong, Then Nothing Is Wrong

Sometimes you can get your "church news" on ESPN.  We don't have cable television, so I read sports on the ESPN website, where I saw Justin Bieber was baptized in the bathtub of NBA center Tyson Chandler's apartment in New York City.  One of the hosts was wondering who the "guy on the right was," who happened to be the "pastor," Carl Lentz, who baptized Bieber, commenting that he looked like the "dirtbag version of David 'Menemun' (sp?)."  Just from sheer appearance, an unaware ESPN analyst sees Bieber's evangelical pastor as a "dirtbag."  Someone's judging something to look awry.  Is it possible that something is wrong, when nothing can be wrong?  The world seems to think so.

GQ magazine has done a feature on Lentz and Hillsong, his church in New York City, entitled, What Would Cool Jesus Do?  Christians often chalk up secular magazine critique to persecution, but GQ pretty much nails Hillsong.  It offers a savvy tongue-in-cheek analysis to this pop version of Christianity.  Can anything really be wrong with Hillsong though?  Evangelicals long ago stopped judging the specifics of the culture and relegated anyone who did so to legalism or adding to scripture or the gospel.

What I'm writing is that all evangelicals are responsible for what they see in Hillsong and should have zero room for criticism.  They own Hillsong, because they can't judge cultural issues any more. Therefore, all evangelicals, including the entire Southern Baptist Convention, own Hillsong and everything like it.

Evangelicals know something is wrong with Hillsong.  They know it.  They won't say exactly what it is though.  Some of the conservative evangelicals nibble around the edges without getting into any specifics.  I've read their minimal critiques in various of the usual places and they usually mock them for being hipsters and celebrities.  They don't offer any substantive critique.  They don't give anyone any reason above personal preference for not associating with or even supporting a Hillsong or the like.

John MacArthur at the Strange Fire conference said, "It's the music.  It's like getting drunk so you don't have to think about the issues of life.  If you shut down the music, turn on the lights, and try to sell that with just words, it's not going to work."  This is about the extent of the critique you get, but they still don't say what's wrong with it.  They won't, because "the music" is also what MacArthur and other conservative evangelicals also use in their churches.  They know something is wrong, but they aren't stopping what they know is wrong in their own ministry.

Imagine a classroom situation where young people are talking and jesting in a boisterous manner outside of class, but when they enter the classroom their demeanor and disposition changes to one of respect.  The latter is expected as a proper classroom attitude and approach.  Today in the public school system, a major reason a classroom is out of control is because the system has lost that ability to say certain behavior is wrong behavior.  This is where evangelicalism is today too and a major factor for its continued destruction.


Farmer Brown said...

I am missing your analogy in the last paragraph. Are you saying it is good that the children are boisterous and then respectful? What is the application to the rest of the article?

Sort of off topic, I read the GC article. About the music, the author wrote this:

"Tonally and tunefully, it’s a Jonas Brothers song. Lyrically, it’s a hymn, and yet the singing is hot-breathed and sexy-close into microphones. It made my body feel confused."

How can she understand this but the majority of Baptists cannot make this simple point, that mixing the sacred and the fleshly is confusion? "For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."

Kent Brandenburg said...


I probably was going too subtle. I was talking about distinctions that people recognize. They know when behavior is not fitting. They judge it. How can they judge it when they can't know? Actually, you talk to public school teachers and they can't control classrooms because it is impossible to say behavior is wrong. Anyway, that was my point, and I made it very quickly. I was listening to something we just posted at our website, when I was teaching through Chronicles, and I used something like it as an illustration.

Ken Michael Lengel said...


I don't know if I shared my personal testimony about music here before or not.

I grew up in an Atheist household. I could jitterbug by the time I was young. Music was always on in our house.

When I got saved at age 15, the evangelical church I was in, told me it was ok to listen to Christian rock music if the words were Godly.

After I became affiliated with Independent Baptists, God started to convict my heart about the world's music even with these "godly" words.

I started witnessing to a coworker. After about 6 months time, one day at work we were allowed to listen to our own music instead of answering phones as long as we had headsets.

The person I witnessed to, asked if she could listen to my music. Sheepishly, I said, sure. As you put the headset on, she got a strange look on her face. When she handed back the headset, I asked her what she thought, was something wrong.

She replied, "well, how do I say this...(long pause) I never knew I guy like you would listen to music like this."

As someone who had spent a great deal of time witnessing to her, she could plainly see that my testimony and my listening to this music did not go together.

I think Christians are so wrapped up and grow up and live in their little tiny world and narrative, that they don't get why listening to the world's music even with "godly" words is not a godly testimony of truth and beauty. Worldly people see it, but many Christians do not.

If we were living the lives we ought to, by witnessing to others, there would be no place for this music in our lives. Most don't witness so, the impact is never seen. Out of sight, out of mind.

Ironically, for those who preach that the "gospel" is all that matters, it doesn't matter when it comes to their personal liberty and corrupted conscience. Who cares if the world "doesn't get it."

It is a sad state that Christians that go to even Independent Baptist Churches today can listen to not only Christian Rock, but secular music all the same. Their salt has lost its savour.

Celebrating the supernatural birth on earth of the Lord and Savior,
The Lengels

Tyler Robbins said...


Appreciate your testimony.

When it comes to music, I believe we need to ask ourselves (1) why do we really want to change the music, and (2) who is the music in corporate worship for?

The answers: (1) people want to change the music for themselves, because they like it better in a more contemporary style, and (2) the music is supposed to be our corporate praise to God - not to each other.

If local churches would answer those questions, and ponder their implications, I think a lot of the impetus for contemporary music in worship would vanish. The music isn't about us. The music is about God. That means it needs to be holy, somber and reverent. It certainly isn't pleasing to God to copy the mode of secular music and use them in corporate worship. The only reason to do that is to appeal to the congregation's flesh. What about God?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for the testimony. I think anyone saved knows this to be true. They know it on the inside, which makes me wonder about all of these people.


I totally agree that's where the issue is at. What does God want? Worship is giving Him what He wants for many reasons, and the music in churches has become about what people want. They would say, however, as you know, that we can't know what God wants, and the Bible doesn't have a play button.