Why It's Illogical To Shun Hillsong
I have written in the past on why churches should not copy Hillsong.
However, being around (southern) baptist churches, I have
noticed that there is an attitude that exists among conservative
evangelical baptists in general. That is, people tend to
shun Hillsong. They tend to come up with many reasons why
they don't play any Hillsong music that I think are not only
illogical, but childish.
Understand, again, I do not think any church should be Hillsong. Churches should be what God wants them to be. God doesn't want every church to be Hillsong, otherwise He would've spelled it out in scripture. However, the other extreme, that Hillsong music should be avoided, is quite prevalent. Those I've spoken to come up with a few reasons, such as past scandals, lyrical content, denominational/theological reasons, and style of music, which I shall address.
Those who are against Hillsong bring up past
scandals. This basically boils down to two faulty logic
systems: either 1) that the person assumes to know how Hillsong
works, and that this is indicative of their entire history,
and/or 2) that one failure makes a church ineligible to write
music any more.
First, that this is indicative of all of Hillsong. This is illogical for a reason that is non-Biblical, but mentioned in Proverbs 18:13 (ESV) "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame." Basically, the one who does this is assuming to know something they do not know. It's sort of similar to mind reading: you think you know what someone is saying, but you really don't. Proverbs says that all such behavior is foolishness and shame(ful).
Second, the one who brings this up is using "all or nothing" thinking. The flaw in thinking this way is so easy to point out that I don't even need to find a verse in the Bible about it: even secular philosophers know that's not true. Human beings are rarely ever all or nothing, black or white. We are all on a spectrum. And then, to bring the Bible into it, does the Bible ever say that if we confess our sins, God holds them over our head forever? No. In 1 John 1:9 (ESV) we read "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." If God forgives people, surely He forgives churches, which are made up of imperfect people. The heart of it is this: the person who brings this up for this purpose is essentially denying God's forgiveness, and is therefore sinfully judging.
Another complaint I've heard is their
lyrical content. Although some of people's concerns are
warranted, I have the following advice as to why this can be a
a. Your Church Doesn't Have to Sing Everything Hillsong WritesBeing a fan of a music group or liking a music group doesn't mean unconditionally accepting everything they do. It simply means you like them. But no one is asking you to like Hillsong. Pick a song that works for your church. I don't have the time to fully elaborate this point for this specific article, but I'll be brief:
- Worship songs are best done in the "me" or "we" perspective, but not all have to be this way (read the Psalms)
- It is my personal opinion that all songs that are meant for, good for, worship will mention the name of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit at least once, so that people understand who the song is talking to.
- In 2 Timothy 2:20 we find that in a large house there are
good and bad vessels. Not every song is intended to be
for worship: some are meant for listening in your car.
Do you actively worship in music 24/7? No, you have a
life and a job. But everything you do can and should be
worship to God.
- When Hillsong performs these in church, the context is clear: all are Christian and all are intended for the believer.
- Those who believe "hymns only" don't practice what they preach: do they always talk to God in prayer as if they're writing a song that sounds like a theology textbook? No. Do they always talk to their spouse or children like they're writing a doctoral dissertation? No. If we don't live constantly in a densely packed communication with God or ourselves, why should we assume every song needs to be this way? Now sure, if you want to sing those in church, then pick those specific ones you like, but don't discount the writers at Hillsong because you don't like every single song they write.
- The human brain hates monotony, and so does God. This is why the universe is orderly, yet filled with variety. We've yet to discover, for example, all the species God put on this planet. The writers of the Bible were diverse: they were from many different backgrounds and had different personalities. God didn't force them all to write exactly the same style, though they all communicated God's truth. Those who go down this road don't really understand the bigger picture of freedom in Christ, and may end up alienating people through a monotonous music selection pattern, since (again) the human brain hates monotony.
b. Hillsong is Staffed by Christians who Write SongsNot everyone writes the same, whether musically or poetically. If someone wants to accuse them of living an immoral life, that's fine, and that's a valid point, but would only apply if it's gross and un-repented-of sin (1 Corinthians 6 type of stuff).
Sure, there have been scandals. The one that comes to my mind first is the Healer/Guglielmucci controversy. I won't re-tell the story, but if one has read the story, one should know that it was dealt with in a biblical manner. He was removed from leadership and put in counseling.
However, as I look across the history of more conservative (such as baptist) churches, I find the same pattern of sin. There is no perfect church, person, or denomination. My first church in the Florida panhandle was the subject of a pastor who was caught being a pedophile (and removed/taken to court). Then, shortly afterwards, there was a church split about musical style. Conservative churches aren't perfect, nor immune, to controversy, so this attitude of "at least we're not Hillsong" is not from God.
Here's an example of the hypocrisy: I've heard people complain that Hillsong's lead guitarist has long hair (I'm not a fan of that, but read the scripture), while ignoring that one of their own deacons also has long hair. This is an example of how bad it gets in some churches. The Bible does address hair, but ends with "we have no such custom." Bottom line: don't point fingers. Don't worry about what other churches are doing, so long as it's not sin and doesn't affect you. You've got enough to worry about for your own church.
The childishness must cease if we are ever to move forward for God. Don't judge others because they prefer a style of music.
Denominations exist for a reason.
While some of it is biblical, I'd be willing to wager that most
is preference. But be that as it may, it's how things
That being said, I don't usually see anyone in different denominations writing intentionally divisive or controversial topics. I don't read songs with lyrics like "indie fundies are wrong, God has a Fender Stratocaster" or "Calvanism is right, God will bring them in", etc. So while the lyrics are usually not controversial, and almost never heretical, we shouldn't be bothered who writes what. Focus on the lyrics. There are plenty of great theologians, for example, in history that your pastor sometimes reads and borrows from. Quite a few of them were Catholic: so what? All truth, if it lines up with the Bible, is God's truth.
And shocking of all, did you know there will be Catholics, Methodists, and Episcopals in heaven?
So long as the lyrics don't disagree with the Bible, it shouldn't matter. Really, this is just petty.
Style of Music
Last of all, style of music matters.
I'm going to try and remain professional for this one, but it
might be hard.
Ira D. Sankey, writer of several songs and hymns, wrote in the style of the common man. It might be hard to grasp in our time, but those songs were considered pop music in his day (circa 1899). He was greatly criticized, but Moody backed him, and the two went on to see thousands saved.
I think it's more important to get the lyrics into the hearts of men and women than it is to quibble over style.
The lyrics matter most: I've witnessed 7-10 year olds from inner city Chattanooga rapping full lyrics to the songs they heard on the radio. We retain lyrics.
Is there something to be said for style of music? Sure there is. If my lyrics are about peace with God, they'll probably go best with a more calm, slower, peaceful song, though not always. But there is nothing in the Bible about style of music.
The more common complaint, usually from the independent fundamental (over-conservative, and yes, I used to be one, trained as a music minister in their own college, Tennessee Temple University) crowd, is that rock music is somehow evil. However, the main problem at this point is their hypocrisy:
- They usually don't listen to Christian music in their car (Philippians 4 has something to say about that)
- They usually listen to "rock music" at Christmas (Manheim Steamroller and/or Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
- They usually listen to Steve Green, not realizing that if
they listen very closely, they can hear electric guitar in the
So first of all, their actions don't line up
with their statements.
Second, often these overly-conservative people then run to the refuge of saying there's no guitar in Psalms, etc. Not only is this illogical, the Psalms mention percussion quite often. A church who used Psalms analytically as a formula for their worship music would be very percussion-heavy. Trumpets, flutes, and many string instruments would dominate. There would be no piano, no organ (the KJV didn't translate Psalm 150 musical instruments correctly). Organ is a set of pipes, but the word is actually better rendered "pipe" or "flute." We'd also use ram's horns. I see ram's horns more often in charismatic style church worship sessions than in conservative ones. By the overly-conservative person's logic, that means the charismatics are right and they are wrong.
But the bigger picture is this: the psalms aren't intended to be a formula for what instruments can or cannot be used in church. To use them that way is wrong. Really, the key is Psalm 150: it lists instruments, but ends with "let everything" that has breath praise the Lord. It's not just talking about instruments, but all living things.
As for the past, the 80s and 90s were full of videos produced by well-meaning, but wrong, overly conservative groups, explaining how rock music is bad for you. All things have their place. Ecclesiastes states that there's a time to dance, and a time to refrain from dancing. The Psalms, one should note, are full of passages encouraging us to dance to God in worship and praise: even if rock music "makes you dance", it's ok if you do, per Psalms. Can you see the hypocrisy of a church that preaches that King David danced before God and didn't sin, reading Psalms that encourage us to dance in praise and worship, but then judging those who do? Let's call this what it is: to do this is sin. There are a lot of overly-conservative preachers and congregations that need to repent and experience revival.
Then these attack videos said "well rock music can numb pain at high volume levels." First, who cares? Definitely not the medical community: is loud music being used to numb pain? Second, no one in church is, or really should be, listening to music that's too loud per OSHA levels. But third, even if we did, and we helped only one person in the congregation that day temporarily forget his or her pain (grief, loss, guilt, hardship) and put their eyes on Jesus, and experience godly relief, did we do a good thing? You be the judge. Jesus healed on the sabbath, for what it's worth.
The divisiveness of the war against styles of music in the church breaks my heart. We have spent way too much time fighting ourselves over what doesn't matter and not nearly enough time helping the broken and hurting in our communities, things that do matter. May God forgive us.
Last, these attack videos claimed there is backwards masking. There are a couple of problems with this concept, however. First, and probably most telling: there's no scientific link between backwards masking and behavior modification. In fact, the forward-playing lyrics have much more to do with this. Second, even when people think they heard something in backwards playing music, it's only that they thought they heard it. There's a psychological reason for this: the human brain seeks faces in paintings and meaning in everything around it. Our brains are designed to do this. This is why it's very difficult to find a perfectly objective observer to any event: our brains also try to interpret information through life experiences and information we already know. Last, even when we think we heard something, the sentences are always either not how a normal person talks (in how the sentences are formed), or they are nonsensical. So if the devil is backwards masking writing lyrics, his lyrics are absolutely horrible. Not the level of perfection I expected from the devil.
Within the realm of sanity, and not destroying one's body (sorry, I don't think God would give you a voice for you to destroy it, as in the "screamo" music), there's no admonition in scripture about musical styles. But even if God undeniably told someone to scream their voice out for God, who am I to stop them?
The beauty of God moving people to write music is that there is, and should be, incredible diversity of styles. Why is that important? Because there will always be a type of Christian music out there that even the newest Christian can enjoy. This is important because we're supposed to be listening to God-honoring music at all times (Philippians 4). All things we bring into our brains, to the greatest extent possible, should please God. Not only is this good for our mental and physical health, but primarily it's good for our spiritual health.
So I have the following requests:
- If you're running around telling people that Hillsong is evil, you are wrong, and you need to repent.
- If you're running around telling people that only hymns are inspired by God, you are wrong, and you need to repent.
- If you're judging your brother for their style of Christian music, so long as it is truly Christian, you are wrong, and you need to repent.
- If you're fighting your church leadership over style of music, music that honors God, you are wrong, and you need to repent.
- If you're a Christian who is not listening to music that honors God in your car or at home, you are wrong, and you need to repent.
- If you are dividing the church over issues that are not spelled out in Scripture, that don't violate the principles taught in the Bible, you are wrong, and you need to repent.