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In 2010, Darlene and her husband became the senior pastors of Hope Unlimited Church, another Pentecostal church in Australia, but she continues to be involved in music projects with Hillsong.
Hillsong is hugely popular and influential and has invaded many independent Baptist churches.
The New York Times reported that Hillsong is “without a doubt the most influential producers of worship music in Christendom” (“Megachurch with a Beat Lures Young Flock,” Sept. 9, 2014).
Hillsong’s music is raucous and worldly. “In sensory stimulation, Hillsong’s productions rival any other contemporary form of entertainment” (Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research, New York Times, Sept. 9, 2014).
The co-pastors of Hills Christian Life Centre, under whom Zschech ministered for decades, are Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie. The church features a large rock band with five back-up singers and a Word-Faith prosperity message. In 2002, the church took in $10 million in tithes alone, not to speak of the sale of music and materials. Brian Houston’s book You Need More Money teaches the way to prosperity through giving and “kingdom living.” Houston says, “If you believe in Jesus, He will reward you here as well [as in heaven]” (“The Lord's Profits,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 30, 2003). His wife and co-pastor Bobbie published a tape set entitled Kingdom Women Love Sex, which doubtless was a top seller. (When I inquired about it at the Hills Christian Life Centre bookstore in October 2004, I learned that the name had been changed to Kingdom Women Love & Value Their Sexuality.)
When asked by a Sydney Morning Herald reporter why the church is so successful, Brian Houston replied, “We are scratching people where they are itching” (“The Lord's Profits,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 30, 2003). That is right out of 2 Timothy 4:3, which is a warning of apostasy. It describes people who itch for a new kind of Christianity and heaps of preachers who will scratch this illicit itch. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
Zschech’s song “Shout to the Lord” is used widely in contemporary worship circles. The album by that title remained No. 1 on “praise and worship charts” for over 30 weeks. It won Song of the Year at the Dove Awards in 1998. It has been estimated that it is sung by 30 million Christians around the world, and it has been sung even at fundamental Baptist churches.
One of the major themes of Hillsong in general and Darlene Zschech in particular is ECUMENICAL UNITY. For example, she makes the following comment about the album “You Shine”: “There is a new sound and a new song being proclaimed across the earth. It’s the sound of a unified church, coming together, in one voice to magnify our magnificent Lord” (from the album cover).
She gives no warning about the fact that vast numbers of churches are apostate and that the Bible says that unity apart from doctrinal purity is wrong. The New Testament warns repeatedly that the end of the church age will be characterized by apostasy and spiritual confusion rather than faithfulness to the truth (i.e. Mat. 24:3-4, 11, 24; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 3:13; 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 3-4). That is precisely what we see when we look at Christianity today. Yet, the authors of contemporary praise music typically give no warning about apostasy.
In an interview with Christian Leader magazine, March-April 2002, Zschech said she had a vision about the importance of unity:
Q. What do you envision for the future of the contemporary worship movement?
Zschech: You know, I had this vision a few years ago of how God saw the worshippers and worship leaders, linked arm and arm – the “musos,” the production personnel and everybody that is involved in the worship of God. There were no celebrities out in front. We were all together in the line just walking together. It was how I imagined God’s heart for what we are doing. We were all in line, and we were slow, but we were all walking around and we weren’t leaving anyone behind. We were taking everyone with us. But then I saw a picture of what it is like now, and although we were arm in arm, there was a struggle going on. People were running forward in pride while others were shrinking back out of insecurity. There was very little movement because of disunity. I think that means we’ve got to become strong people so that we can stand strong together. God says he will bless us, and when God says “blessing” it’s an out-of-control blessing, but that only comes when we are bound together.
This is a vision of her own heart, because it is contrary to the Scriptures. The New Testament nowhere says that God’s blessing is out of control or that it only comes when professing Christians are “bound together.” To the contrary, the Bible says God’s blessing is always under control, always orderly, never confused. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:39). Paul instructed Timothy to allow “no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). That is an extremely “narrow” and very strict approach to doctrinal purity, but it is the Word of God and we are to follow it until Christ returns.
This strict biblical attitude about doctrine is 180 degrees contrary to the philosophy of the movers and shakers of the contemporary praise movement. They teach that the Holy Spirit cannot be “put in a box,” meaning we cannot be sure how He will act and that He might create disorder and confusion. They teach, in practice, that doctrine is less important than unity. They teach that women can be leaders. These things are in open and direct rebellion to God’s Word.
Zschech participated in Harvest ’03 in Newcastle, NSW. The ecumenical rock concert, which featured U.S.-based evangelist Greg Laurie of Harvest Ministries, brought together a hodgepodge of churches, including Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Anglican, Seventh-day Adventist, Church of Christ, and Roman Catholic (“Hunter Harvest -- Rock Evangelism,” http://members.ozemail.com.au/~rseaborn/rock_evangelism.html). A participating Assemblies of God pastor stated, “THE BRIDGE BUILDING GOING ON BETWEEN CHURCHES HAS BEEN AWESOME.” In reality, it was spiritual confusion and gross disobedience to the Holy Scriptures (i.e., Mat. 7:15; Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 2 Tim. 2:16-17; 3:5; 4:3-4, etc.). The Word of God commands us to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), yet the aforementioned denominations hold dozens of heretical doctrines that are contrary to that faith, including the false gospels of baptismal regeneration and sacramentalism, both of which are under God’s curse in Galatians 1.
In a 2004 interview with Christianity Today, Zschech expressed her radical ecumenical philosophy: “I’ve been in the Catholic Church, in the United Church, the Anglican Church, and in many other churches, and when worship is offered in truth, this sound emerges-regardless of the style. It’s the sound of the human heart connecting with its Maker” (quoted by Michael Herman, “Zschech, Please,” christianitytoday.com, June 4, 2004).
She doesn’t explain how worship can be “in truth” in the context of an ecumenical unity among denominations that teach doctrinal error.
Zschech and Hillsong performed for the Roman Catholic World Youth Day in Sydney on July 18, 2008. Pope Benedict XVI was present and conducted a papal mass on the last day of the extravaganza. The mass is a supposed continuation of Christ’s sacrifice. The consecrated host is said by Rome to become Christ Himself and is worshiped as such when placed in the monstrance and eventually in its own little tabernacle. Hillsong, led by Darlene Zschech, performed after the Stations of the Cross. The 14 Stations allegedly depict Christ’s trial and crucifixion; but--beyond the fact that this is not faith but sight and the pictures of Jesus are fictional and are forbidden by Scripture--several of the Stations are purely legendary. Jesus supposedly falls down three times, meets Mary on the way to the cross, has His face wiped by a woman named Veronica, and is taken down from the cross and laid in Mary’s arms. None of this is supported by Scripture. The pope promised a plenary indulgence to anyone who participated in World Youth Day. This is the forgiveness of the temporal penalty (referring to a penalty owed either on earth or in purgatory) due for certain sins. It is the same vile heresy that Martin Luther protested 500 years ago.
Phil Dooley, youth leader at Hillsong, had only positive comments when interviewed in regard to the Catholic World Youth Day. Dooley was interviewed by The World Today, a news program aired daily on the Australian Broadcasting Network, when it was announced that the pope was scheduled to attend the event. Dooley said: “I think anything that is encouraging young people in their spirituality, and I suppose putting Jesus up there in our state and in our city is a positive thing. Look, I think just generally in church life you’ve got to be relevant to each generation, and I think any church is understanding that if we want to … if our message is going to be accepted by the new generation then we’ve got to relate to them in a way that they understand” (“Catholic Youth to Congregate in Sydney for 2008 Festival,” The World Today, Aug. 22, 2005). It is unconscionable to have such an opportunity and not use it to warn that the Roman Catholic Church preaches a false gospel. John warned: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 10-11). To pretend that the Roman Catholic Church’s “spirituality” is acceptable before God and that its Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible is to be partaker of its evil deeds.
On July 3-4, 2015, Darlene Zschech and Hillsong joined hands with the pope at the Convocation of the Renewal of the Holy Spirit at the Vatican. On her Facebook page, Zschech said: “Honoured to be singing this week, with Andrea Bocelli, Don Moen, Noa [Israeli singer], with Pope Francis and thousands of worshippers gathering in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. This is a celebration of unity and peace in the Renewal of the Holy Spirit. Amazing days for the Body of Christ.” The Catholic mass was celebrated at the event led by Cardinal Angelo Comastri. According to blasphemous Catholic dogma, the priest has the power to turn the bread into the actual body and blood of Jesus, and it is then worshiped in the form of the consecrated host. We wonder if Hillsong addressed some of their enthusiastic worship to Rome’s Host-Jesus? Pope Francis praised the charismatic movement’s zeal for unity and said that Christian unity is “rooted in a common baptism” (“Pope Greets Members of the Renewal,” July 4, 2015, FullyCatholic.com). According to Roman Catholic dogma, baptism is the new birth and the entrance into the Christian life which is then nurtured by the sacraments. It is a cursed “grace plus works” gospel (Galatians 1:8-9) which the Catholic Church in recent times has cleverly rebranded as “grace only.” In Rome, Darlene Zschech and Hillsong sang “God Is Here,” but whatever God they were singing about, it is not the God revealed in Scripture, for He does not countenance heresy, false gospels, and rebellion to His Word. We wonder if the Hillsong folk took the time to visit the Santa Maria Maggoire (Saint Mary Major) basilica to pray to the Queen of Heaven and to meditate on the statue, just outside the church, of Mary hanging on the cross with Jesus?
In a 2017 interview, Darlene was asked, “In your wildest dreams did you imagine that you’d be singing for the Pope?”
“And singing next to Andrea Bocelli? No! (laughter). It’s so funny. I caught so much flak for going and doing that. In the end, it didn’t matter, but it made me a bit sad because there were some Christians who got terribly personal and threatening. But I’ll tell you what I’ve seen over my life, and I’ve been leading worship now for a long time. I don’t want to do anything else. It’s my greatest privilege, as far as the musical context goes. But I’ve seen, whether it’s in Vatican City, or Capitol Hill, or distant crazy circumstances where I’ve sung with guards with automatic rifles standing behind me, like in Zimbabwe. I don’t go into these places to talk about people’s theology. I go wherever I’m invited to exalt Christ and to lift up His name. What I’ve found all over the world is that every time you do that, yes, there are going to be haters, and you’re going to get people who don’t understand, but I have a commissioning and a very refined purpose in my heart that knows that Jesus works anywhere that He is announced. Jesus works! He works in poverty, and He works in the richest of places. My job is to announce Him, and to get people to see Him.
“So, singing in St. Peter’s Square was a crazy privilege. For the couple of days leading up to the event we were staying in some very modest hotels in Rome with various priests and some Jewish leaders that had come, along with Andrea Bocelli and his family. Louie Giglio was there too, and for those couple of days we ate all of our meals together, and we got to talk for days about what the Holy Spirit was doing. And that was probably as rich and beautiful as the actual experience of leading that worship moment in Vatican City” (Interview with Darlene Zschech by Doug Doppler, Mar. 25, 2017, www.worshipmusician.com).
To this CCM artist, it is “hate” to reprove sin and error. If a Bible believer reproves her for being a pastor or for her charismatic heresies or for yoking together with false gospelers, all of which are plainly forbidden in Scripture, they are “haters” in her book.
Hillsong United participated in Together 2016 in Washington, D.C., joining hands in that forum with Pope Francis, who delivered a message by video. Other CCM artists who participated were Kari Jobe, David Crowder, Kirk Franklin, Jeremy Camp, Lacrae, Michael W. Smith, Passion, Casting Crowns, and Matt Maher (Roman Catholic).
In 2017, the senior pastor of Hillsong Phoenix made the following statement via video:
“I’m Dr. Terry Crist, the senior pastor of City of Grace [Hillsong Phoenix], and the Chair for the [Arizona] Governor’s Council of Faith and Community Partnership. And I want to congratulate Dr. Gary Kinnaman, Joe Tuscany, [Catholic] Bishop [Thomas] Olmsted, and [Catholic] Bishop [Eduardo] Nevares for their extraordinary work in bringing together Catholics and Evangelicals. Something powerful happens when we rally around the person of Jesus. Our church is a member of a global family of churches called Hillsong. Our primary church is located in Sydney, Australia ... And it’s been beautiful to see over the last few years how that Catholics around the world have lifted the songs of our church and have begun singing them universally. Songs like ‘Shout to the Lord,’ ‘Mighty to Save.’ In fact, the demand for our kind of worship has become so popular in Catholic charismatic churches over the last few years we offer a track at Hillsong conferences for charismatics, Catholics, and evangelicals to come together for worship” (https://videos.files.wordpress.com/gp1P36St/roman-catholic-hillsong_dvd.mp4).
January 31-February 1, 2019, Hillsong Phoenix hosted the annual Alpha Conference. Catholic priest Mike Schmitz, one of the speakers, conducted a Catholic mass.
Hillsong music is also permeated with PENTECOSTAL LATTER RAIN HERESY. Consider the lyrics to Hillsong’s popular praise anthem “Shout to the Lord.”
“I believe the promise about the visions and the dreams/ That the Holy Spirit will be poured out/ And His power will be seen/ Well the time is now/ The place is here/ And His people have come in faith/ There’s a mighty sound/ And a touch of fire/ When we’ve gathered in one place” (“I Believe the Presence” from Shout to the Lord).
The lyrics to Zschech’s “Holy Spirit Rain Down” begin: “Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down/ Oh, Comforter and Friend/ How we need Your touch again/ Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down.” Where in Scripture are we instructed to pray to the Holy Spirit? To the contrary, the Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray to the Father (Mat. 6:9). The charismatic movement is not in submission to the Word of God and does not care one way or the other that there is no Scriptural support for this type of prayer.
In an interview with CCM.com in October 2003 (“20 Things You Probably Don’t Know about Darlene Zschech” by Christa Farris), Zschech said that she is “a bit of a hippie at heart” and described herself as “hopelessly devoted” to rock star Olivia Newton-John. She said that her favorite movie is “anything with Julia Roberts in it.” (Roberts became a super star by playing the role of a prostitute in “Pretty Woman.”) Zschech said the three people she would most like to meet are Billy Graham, Bono of the rock band U2, and Mother Teresa. She said that her teenage daughter’s favorite music includes the secular rock band Coldplay. The band’s song “We Never Change” has the lyrics “Oh I don't have a soul to save, Yes, and I sin every single day...”
In one of her books Zschech said: “I once watched Sting in concert (he was absolutely incredible!). So much gift for one human being! Thoughts raced through my head, ‘My goodness, Sting, you are like King David, full of psalms, melodies and music, and you sing as if you don’t even know that His hand is upon you. You are so close to the heart of God. You are a master poet, full of love, and your capabilities are not because of your own natural abilities, you have tapped into the source of your Creator’” (Zschech, The Kiss of Heaven, 2003).
To liken a filthy rock singer to the “sweet Psalmist of Israel” or to say that a rock singer has tapped into the source of his Creator is pure nonsense. The Bible says the devil is the god of this world and the unsaved walk not according to the God of the Bible but “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). Instead of telling her readers that she went to a Sting concert and loved it and leaving them with the idea that it is fine for a born again child of God to attend filthy rock concerts, she should have repented and apologized for disobeying God’s Word, which says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). This is yet another example of what we have often warned about, that Contemporary Christian Music is a bridge to the world.
My friends, contemporary praise music does not exist in a spiritual vacuum. These are days of great spiritual deception and apostasy, and central to that apostasy is the charismatic movement.
Its visions are false; its prophecies fail; its healings can only on the rarest of occasions be authenticated; its doctrine is corrupt; its practice is confusion and disorder. It is one of the major elements of the ecumenical movement of these apostate end times. Through mysticism and sensual music it aligns Roman Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, and Pentecostals in an unholy union of truth and error.
Hillsong United is a youth ministry that publishes contemporary rock music.
In recent years, Hillsong has branched out to start churches in many countries. Among others, there is Hillsong London, Hillsong Cape Town, Hillsong Amsterdam, Hillsong Barcelona, Hillsong Stockholm, Hillsong Seoul, Hillsong Moscow, Hillsong New York City, Hillsong Los Angeles, Hillsong Phoenix.
Two Hillsong churches in the United States are pastored by Brian and Bobby Houston’s sons. Joel leads Hillsong New York, and Ben leads Hillsong Los Angeles.
In February 2016, former Hillsong pastor Pasquale “Pat” Mesiti pleaded guilty to assaulting his second wife and was awaiting sentencing (Christian Headlines, Feb. 29, 2016). He was forced to step down in 2002 because of adultery and visiting prostitutes. In an interview with Sight Magazine in May 2006, he said he had a “sexual addiction.” That was the year he was back in “ministry” after divorce and remarriage and a “restoration” process. He is now known as “Mr. Motivation” and promotes a “millionaire mindset” that comes from the charismatic prosperity doctrine. The following is from a report by Hughie Seaborn titled “Warning: What Do You Know about Hillsong?” which was published in response to Hillsong’s World of Worship Conference at the Cairns Convention Center September 4-7, 2002. This report by a former Pentecostal exposes the immorality that is rampant in these circles: “Hillsong had its beginnings in 1986 and was the inspiration of Mark and Darlene Zschech and Geoff Bullock. Bullock was a leader in the ‘music ministry’ of Brian and Bobbie Houston’s Hills Christian Life Centre at Castle Hill, Sydney. Along with Pat Mesiti who eventually founded Youth Alive, the Zschechs were formerly part of a band that had an outreach to high school kids. (Mesiti, who rose to the exalted position of National Director of Australian Christian Churches, was sacked after it was discovered he was involved in adultery.) The Zschechs were introduced to Hills Christian Life Centre by Mesiti and were soon thrust into the ‘music ministry’ alongside Bullock. When Jeff Bullock ‘resigned’ from Hillsong after divorcing his wife, Darlene Zschech stepped into his position and was ‘worship pastor’ of Brian Houston’s Hillsong Church. Brian is the son of Frank Houston, an ex-General Superintendent of the AOG in New Zealand. Frank moved to Australia from NZ in 1977, in controversial circumstances of a sexual nature, and established Sydney Christian Life Centre. Despite the sexual offences committed in NZ, Houston rose to a position of eminence and great respect in the Pentecostal churches, as well as to the most senior position in the AOG in NSW. In 2000, Frank Houston was sacked after the NZ sexual offences became public, offences that were so serious he was not even given the option of quietly retiring [Sydney Morning Herald, March 27, 2002].”
According to the New York Times for October 17, 2014, a homosexual couple, Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly, sing in choirs at Hillsong New York City, and Canfield is a volunteer choir leader. Canfield and Kelly were billed as the “Broadway Boyfriends” on the reality show Survivor: San Juan del Sur.” In a December 16, 2014, interview with Playbill, Canfield described how that he “came out of the closet” at Hillsong. He also speaks of his “engagement” to Kelly. He said, “I became truthful with my church. I’m a part of Hillsong NYC. I’m one of their choir directors. I also sing on their Worship team. They’ve been amazing as well. Nothing has changed there now that I'm completely out and with Reed. He sings in the choir as well.” After this was recently re-reported by a blog operated by Geoffrey Grider, Brian Houston of Hillsong Sydney issued a statement that marriage is only for “heterosexual couples.” But in truth Hillsong is trying to face both ways on this issue, as so many others are. Last year the senior pastor of Hillsong NYC, Canfield and Kelly’s pastor, told CNN, “We have a lot of gay men and women in our church and I pray we always do” (“Hillsong New York Pastor Carl Lentz,” Christian Today, June 6, 2014). In the same interview, Laura Lentz, Carl’s wife and Hillsong NYC co-pastor, said, “It’s not our place to tell anyone how they should live, it’s--that’s their journey.” There’s where Hillsong really stands on moral issues, and Laura is brave enough to say so plainly. Carl Lentz said, “I am still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people.” Perhaps I can help him out here. What Jesus did say in regard to homosexuality was three things. First, Jesus exalted the law of Moses as God’s holy law. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19). The law of Moses that Jesus exalted as God’s holy law says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). Second, Jesus limited marriage to one man and one woman as in the beginning of creation (Matthew 19:3-9). This completely destroys the biblical legitimacy of “same-sex marriage.” Third, Jesus said that His Spirit would lead the apostles into all truth (John 16:13). We find this canon of Spirit-taught truth in the New Testament Scriptures, where we find the strongest statement against homosexuality in the entire Bible in Romans 1:24-28. To separate the authority of the Gospels from the authority of the Apostolic Epistles is rank heresy, for we are told that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Obviously Jesus left no room for homosexual Christianity and “same sex marriage,” and His teaching on this was very public, Mr. Lentz. The Hillsong churches are so “culturally relevant” that they are traitors to the truth of God’s Word, yet their music is influencing large numbers of Baptists and fundamentalists. When asked by a reporter why Hillsong is so successful, Brian Houston of Hillsong Sydney replied, “We are scratching people where they are itching” (“The Lord’s Profits,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 30, 2003). That is right out of 2 Timothy 4:3, which is a warning of apostasy. It describes people who itch for a new kind of Christianity, and it describes heaps of preachers who will scratch this illicit itch. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” That describes Hillsong to a “T.”
In the brouhaha surrounding the aforementioned public statements about an engaged homosexual couple participating in the music program at Hillsong New York City, Brian Houston of Hillsong Sydney said, “We are a gay welcoming church but we are not a church that affirms a gay lifestyle.” He said that Hillsong allows homosexuals to be members of its churches but not to serve in leadership positions. What does this mean, though, and how does it work? How can a church welcome homosexuals without affirming a gay lifestyle? On one hand, “old fashioned” Bible-believing churches have been doing this for 2,000 years, but this “old” model is definitely not where Hillsong wants to go. According to the Bible, the welcoming without affirming is done by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all sinners, welcoming all to repent and believe, and receiving as members those who do. It is very simple. This is what we see in the church at Corinth. The members had formerly been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners, but they had been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). This is the example put forth in Scripture, but this “old” model presents a problem for emerging churches in that it requires plainly identifying homosexuality as something that is sinful that must be repented of, whereas this is no longer culturally acceptable. Today’s homosexuals are proud of their homosexuality. They believe that God accepts them as they are, and if He doesn’t, He’s the loser. They don’t want merely to be welcomed to hear the gospel, and they will not accept merely being welcomed. They demand to be affirmed in their lifestyle, and in truth, Hillsong is doing both by allowing homosexuals to be members without repenting of the sin of homosexuality and without a new birth experience that radically changes their thinking and their lifestyle.
In January 2016, a reporter for the ultra-hip, “metro-sexuality” GQ magazine defined Hillsong’s popularity in a report on Hillsong New York City. After identifying Hillsong as the church of choice for the likes of Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez, and Bono, and after interviewing Hillsong attendees, she writes: “And all around the church, that is the story the congregation tells from beneath their hats: that finally there are clergymen who look familiar, who offer messages that relate to their actual lives, who accept that they’ve lived in New York long enough to know it won’t fly to smear gay people, or tell women to go home and have kids, or expect young, bright, beautiful, maybe-cool people to dress humbly and plainly and ignore the thrills of modern life in a mega-city. This church is the one, finally, that really is different” (Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “What Would Cool Jesus Do?” GQ, Dec. 17, 2015). Taffy’s report makes it clear that she doesn’t understand the gospel, thinking that baptism is regeneration, but then again, a visit to Hillsong probably didn’t help her much in the theology department, that not being their strong suit. She definitely understands worldly cool, though, and she recognizes that Hillsong’s draw is its compromise with the pop culture and its refusal to preach against the elements of worldly cool that people love the most. If Hillsong suddenly started preaching repentance and the whole counsel of God and proclaiming the command of God’s Word to separate from “the thrills of modern life in a megacity,” they would just as suddenly be mega nothing. I suggest that they start with this one: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
Taffy Brodesser-Akner also explained the motivation for contemporary Christianity. “Hip” pastors aren’t fooling the world for a minute. Here is what the reporter said about Hillsong New York City: “I was witnessing the logical conclusion of an evolutionary convergence between coolness and Christianity that began at the dawn of the millennium, when progressive-minded Christians, terrified of a faithless future, desperately rended their garments and replaced them with skinny jeans and flannel shirts and piercings in the cartilage of their ears, in a very ostentatious effort to be more modern and more relatable” (Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “What Would Cool Jesus Do?” GQ, Dec. 17, 2015). She nailed it. Cool Christianity is about trying to be acceptable to the world, but hip pastors aren’t trend-setters; they are pathetic followers of whatever the world happens to be wearing/hearing/doing. If an “old-fashioned,” pre-21st century, dinosaur “fundamentalist” Christian happens into a cool mega-church, he or she is the one who is really dressed differently, the one really going against the stream, the one really marching to a different tune, the one not being conformed to peer pressure. The uber-cool female reporter for GQ understands exactly what that crowd is up to. They aren’t fooling anyone but themselves, if that. Cool Christianity is not about truth; it’s about being accepted by this generation and it’s about love for the sensuality of the world. Cool and Christ are contradictory masters, and you can’t love both. That decidedly non-cool James, from the first century, could tear up any megachurch with one message. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Taffy Brodesser-Akner described her experience with Hillsong’s music as follows: “The music of Hillsong is a catalog of Selena Gomez-grade ballads, with melodies that all resemble one another, pleasingly, like spa music. ... Lyrically, it’s a hymn, and yet the singing is hot-breathed and sexy-close into microphones. It made my body feel confused” (“What Would Cool Jesus Do?” GQ, Dec. 17, 2015). What the reporter experienced is the confusion of combining the holy with the sensual. From my late 60s and early 70s “hippie” days, I understand all too well the sensual power of rock & roll, even in its “soft” forms. After I came to Christ in 1973 at age 23, the Spirit of God dealt with me about separating from the “lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John. 15-17), which is a perfect definition of the music I had loved since the early 60s. It was not an easy decision or a quick one, but one day, probably in early 1974, I shut off my car radio and turned my back on rock & roll for good. I have never regretted it, and through the years I have re-examined that decision before the Lord and have been reaffirmed and strengthened in my resolve. I made that decision because rock is sensual and worldly. By its lyrics and music, it has, from its inception, promoted rebellion to God’s “strict” path of holiness. More than any other one societal influence, rock has promoted selfishness, stirred up rebellion, broken up homes, created alienation, encouraged moral relativism. I lived rock & roll, and I have studied rock & roll. The GQ reporter unknowingly wrote one of the most candid and accurate descriptions of contemporary worship music that I have ever read. “Hot-breathed and sexy” (apart from the marriage bed, Hebrews 13:4) has nothing to do with biblical Christianity, and the fact that CCM can be described as making someone’s “body feel confused” is an irrefutable witness to the fact that it is not holy. “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).
In May 2016, Hillsong New York City hosted a Hillsong Women’s Conference that featured, among other things, scantily-dressed ‘cheerleaders,’ an Elvis impersonator, and a naked cowboy wearing only a cowboy hat, boots, and a guitar. The cowboy was Hillsong New York City’s own youth pastor, Diego Simla. Soon afterward, Brian Houston of Hillsong Sydney issued a public statement claiming that his wife, Bobbie, “who was at the event, was clearly unaware that this was going to happen” and that Hillsong New York’s pastors, Carl and Laura Lentz, “were not part of the decision” (“Brian Houston Responds,” The Christian Post, June 5, 2016).
Hughie Seaborn, a former Pentecostal who lives in Australia and has followed the antics of Hillsong for decades, makes the following observation: “In the same way he lied about any knowledge of his father, Frank’s, paedophilia, Brian is lying again. This time about Hillsong New York’s leadership, including his wife Bobbie, having any knowledge of a naked cowboy appearing at the Women’s Conference. The video clip clearly shows that the Naked Cowboy was choreographed into the performance. None of the other participants in the debacle was shocked to see a naked cowboy coming onto the stage. He didn’t have to shove anybody out of their place and steal their position. The Hillsong leadership are all complicit in this diabolical event, including his kids and his wife Bobbie, who you might remember produced a series of sexually explicit ‘teaching’ tapes back in 2001 entitled ‘Kingdom Women Love Sex,’ which were available from Koorong ‘christian’ Bookshop for $21.95. Watching this short video clip tells us a lot about the downward progression of Christendom, not just in America, but in the world, when you see a couple of thousand professing Christian women all screaming and acting like lunatics--even before any naked cowboy appears. They all bring reproach upon the name of Christ.”
In 2016, Carl Lentz of Hillsong New York was asked by Oprah Winfrey, “Do you believe that only Christians can be in a relationship with God?”
He replied, “No, I believe that when Jesus said that ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ the way I read that, Jesus said that he is the road marker, he is the map, so I think that God loves people so much, that whether they accept or reject him, he’s still gracious, and he’s still moving, and he’s still giving you massive red blinking lights, for chances to take a right turn when maybe you’d take a left, but I believe God loves people, and that’s what this whole gospel is based on, it’s love.”
This is how Lentz defined the gospel: “Our thing is to say, hey, if you allow God, if you bow your knee, admit your need of God, and if you do that, and Lord … there’s a moment where my repentance matters, and it’s right now, I am handing over the keys, if you do that…I think the premise of Christianity is looking in the mirror going, alright, I’m not going to make it, I can’t do enough, God I need you, and in that moment, I believe there’s a rescue of salvation that you can’t counterfeit any other way.”
Fundamental Baptists and Bible-believing churches that use charismatic contemporary praise music are playing with fire. They will learn, probably too late, that this music brings with it a philosophy that will change the character of any fundamentalist church. It builds bridges to the “broader church,” which is progressing toward the formation of a “one-world church.”
We do not doubt that Darlene Zschech is sincere in what she is doing, but she and her fellow charismatic praise leaders simply do not know what they are doing. They are the blind leading the blind.
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