This guest post by Michael Pugh is endorsed by Pastor Ken and Assistant Pastor Ryan. We thank Mr. Pugh for sharing this resource with the global church.
This document is intended to be used as a reference for why the church should avoid
the music produced through the ministries of Bethel, Elevation and Hillsong. The
intention in this document is to:
- Provide a scriptural basis for how the church should view false teaching
- Show examples of false teaching in these churches
- Establish how the playing of songs from churches that exalt false teachers does
not glorify God
This document will purely focus on false teaching and the seriousness with which
scripture teaches about that. This will not be approached from a lyrical or stylistic
standpoint. While there may be problematic lyrics and styles in many songs by these
groups, there are also many songs that do not have lyrical issues and are theologically
sound. Many churches only choose to sing the songs that are theologically sound. So
therefore, in this document, the focus will be on false teaching coming from these
ministries and how the church should respond.
Scripture is our best resource for being taught, reproved, or corrected. It is
through this lens that all of the following scripture is included. And it is only
through scripture that we can understand God’s standard for teaching and
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16
False teachers are around us. They teach heresy, and many follow. They exploit
people because of greed.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers
among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master
who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their
sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed
they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and
their destruction is not asleep. – 2 Peter 2:1-3
False teachers will try to blend in. We are to recognize them by their fruits.
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 7:15-18
False teachers may creep into our lives unnoticed, as they did in Jude.
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this
condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and
deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1:4
People will seek false teachers that suit their own passions. These teachers do
not speak against sin, they teach myths.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching
ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will
turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be
sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2
Some are led away from the faith by deceitful spirits and even demons.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by
devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons – 1 Timothy 4:1
We are to test everything and abstain from every form of evil.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what
is good. Abstain from every form of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:19
We are to take no part in what is unfruitful, but call it out.
Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of
darkness, but instead expose them. – Ephesians 5:10-11
We are to worship God in spirit and truth. This comes from true knowledge of Him
through the scriptures.
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the
Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship
the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God
is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:22-24
We are to teach only what accords with sound doctrine.
They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable,
disobedient, unfit for any good work. But as for you, teach what accords with sound
doctrine. – Titus 1:16 – 2:1
False teachers will attempt to distort the gospel. If anyone preaches a different
gospel than what is in the Bible, let them be accursed! We should be seeking to
please God, not man.
There are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we
or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we
preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If
anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be
accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to
please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. –
The False Teaching of Bethel
● Bethel has the most easily identifiable false teaching of these 3 churches. They
regularly speak heresy and put much more emphasis on emotions than the Bible.
● Bethel is a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. This is a
dangerous, growing movement which teaches that God intends for the church to
be led by modern-day apostles and prophets.
What is the New Apostolic Reformation? | GotQuestions.org
● Bill Johnson teaches that Jesus was not God. In his book When Heaven Invades
Earth he says, “Jesus had no ability to heal the sick. He couldn’t cast out devils,
and He had no ability to raise the dead. He said of Himself in John 5:19, ‘the
Son can do nothing of Himself.’ He had set aside His divinity. He did miracles as
man in right relationship with God because He was setting forth a model for us,
something for us to follow….Jesus so emptied Himself that He was incapable of
doing what was required of Him by the Father – without the Father’s help”
● Johnson says God’s desires are shaped by ours. Here is a quote from his book
The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, “For many years I
misunderstood the biblical concept of desire. Psalm 37:4 tells us: ‘Delight
yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.’ Like many
pastors, I foolishly taught that if you delighted yourself in the Lord, He would
change your desires by telling you what to desire. But that’s not at all what this
means. That verse literally means that God wants to be impacted by what you
think and dream. God is after your desires. The word desire is made up of the
prefix ‘de’ meaning ‘of,’ and sire meaning ‘father.’ Desire is, by nature, of the
● One of the worship pastors at Bethel, Jenn Johnson teaches that she views the
Holy Spirit like the genie from Aladdin
Jenn Johnson – Holy Spirit is like a Sneaky Blue Genie
● The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry website says “Students will learn how
to read, understand, and ‘do’ the Bible, how to practice His presence, to witness,
heal the sick, prophesy, preach, pray, cast out demons and much more.”
● The BSSM website describes a prophecy course where students are instructed
to flip through the phone book, point to a name and declare something for that
person. They are then to call the person and tell them the prophecy.
Staff Resources Pick: Prophetic Training – BSSM School Planting
● Bethel teaches that it is always God’s will to heal someone. Bill Johnson says
“How can God choose not to heal someone when He already purchased their
healing? Was His blood enough for all sin, or just certain sins? Were the stripes
He bore only for certain illnesses, or certain seasons of time? When He bore
stripes in His body He made a payment for our miracle. He already decided to
heal. You can’t decide not to buy something after you’ve already bought it.”
● Members of Bethel have participated in a practice called grave soaking. This is
where someone lies down on top of the grave of a Christian who has passed in
order to “soak up” the deceased person’s “anointing”.
What is grave sucking / grave soaking / mantle grabbing?
● Bethel teaches prosperity: “We are believing the Lord for: Jobs and better jobs,
raises and bonuses, benefits, sales and commissions, favorable settlements,
estates and inheritances, interests and income, rebates and returns, checks in
the mail, gifts, and surprises, finding money, debts paid off, expenses decrease,
blessing and increase.”
Bethel Redding’s Liturgical Prayer to the God of Mammon
● Bethel put an end to racism?
Bethel Church Official Cures Humanity Of Racism
● Bethel claims that the Holy Spirit comes to their services in visible clouds and
Response to Glory Cloud at Bethel
The False Teaching of Elevation
Any Given Sunday
It is likely that a discerning Christian could listen to any message from Furtick
and understand he does not preach the full gospel. Furtick doesn’t usually come out
with direct heresy like you might see from Bethel. It is much more subtle. But Furtick’s
sermons are man focused, not God focused, and this is always the case. His sermons
are more like self help seminars than sermons, and they make everyone leave feeling
better about themselves.
Here, we will break down one sermon as an example. This is from a sermon
titled “It’s always been in you” from the summer of 2021.
● Furtick says “God told me to tell you this”. And “are you getting this revelation”.
This suggests that Furtick receives divine revelation from God.
● Furtick incorrectly reads us into the Genesis 34-35 text where God confirms his
promises to Jacob for the nation of Israel under the Abrahamic covenant.
● Furtick says that the new covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31 means “what God
puts in you is greater than whatever gets put on you”. He never talks about the
actual new covenant, just a twisted version that puts us at the center.
● Furtick constantly uses the phrase “it’s always been in you” – but he never
explicitly says what “it” is. This is a common technique of vagueness that Furtick
uses to avoid being explicitly heretical.
● One of his examples for “it’s always been in you” is a little girl that has the gift of
● Furtick says “I am God Almighty”. This was likely not intentional, even for him.
But he never addressed this again or apologized.
● The sermon was pure self worship. It was all about what is in us. The scripture
was completely misapplied, there were several twistings of the gospel, and the
actual true gospel was never spoken.
● Sermon Link: It’s Always Been In You | Pastor Steven Furtick
● Biblical Critique Link: F4F | The 33 Degrees of Furtick Almighty™
Dishonesty and Manipulation
Elevation has falsified baptisms and manipulated others to be baptized. During
spontaneous baptism services, Elevation had volunteers stage baptisms in order to
manipulate others to respond. They even published their findings in a how-to guide
about the process.
WCNC wrote about this when the church came under fire for it. “The guide
instructs, Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move
when Pastor gives the call. Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and
the longest walk.” This article can be found here: How Elevation Church, Pastor Furtick
produce ‘spontaneous’ baptisms
Elevation also uses volunteers that sit in the front during Furtick’s sermons to
manipulate emotions. These volunteers are asked to be loud, amen, and raise hands
whenever Furtick starts to get worked up.
Guilty by Association
Furtick has preached at Joel Osteen’s church, Lakewood. He has preached
alongside Bill Johnson and TD Jakes. He has invited Joyce Meyer to preach at
Elevation, calling her the “greatest Bible teacher alive today”.
More about false teachers he associates with: Steven Furtick — Museum of
Idolatry — Pirate Christian Media
● Holly Furtick (Steven’s wife) regularly preaches at Elevation.
● Furtick tweeted “Following Jesus doesn’t change you into something else, it
reveals who you’ve been all along. What would it be like to see the you that God
● Furtick tweets “If you want a change of heart, you must first change your habits”
stevenfurtick on Twitter: “If you want a change of heart, you must first change
● Furtick says that “God broke the law for love”.
Steven Furtick Denies the Sinlessness of Jesus
● Furtick says “If you know Jesus Christ, I’m sorry to break it to you, this church is
not for you”. Steven Furtick – Elevation “Church” is Not For Believers
The False Teaching of Hillsong
Any Given Sunday
Brian Houston is the Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church. It is likely that a
discerning Christian could listen to any message from Brian Houston and understand he
does not preach the full gospel. Below, we will look at a sermon titled “It’s Beginning to
Rain” and talk about the problems with it.
● Houston says that he feels he is called to prophesy “rain” into businesses and
● The term “rain” is used frequently. He says it represents “harvest” and
“fruitfulness”. He is talking mainly about finances in this context and throughout
the sermon. But he will use scripture that talks about literal rain as his supporting
● This troublesome quote perfectly sums up the prosperity gospel preached here –
“I called people forward who were dry and were believing for rain. One business
guy came forward and has since then has landed 2 massive, supernatural
business contracts. So praise God. It’s raining in his life and I believe it’s going to
rain in your life as well.”
● The scripture he preaches on mainly is Deuteronomy 11:11-14. The scripture
describes the Mosaic covenant and how God intends to bring them into the
promised land. He applies this to our prosperity.
● Houston talks about God’s promise for rain in the given scripture. He reads us
into the text and says that God has promised prosperity to us – “And in your life,
whatever’s going on right now, God’s eyes are on His promise for you, and for
your life, and for your resource, and your finance. So let’s take a hold of this
● Houston talks about the early rain and the latter rain that are described in these
verses but twists them to be relevant to our prosperity. He says “Maybe you
started a business. Maybe you started an endeavor. Maybe the launch had
promise. You saw some early rain, but suddenly the rain dried up and it feels so
dry and it seems like there is no answer and you can’t find your way to what God
has for you. But the latter rain is even greater than the former rain. And I’m
believing for you, I’m believing for latter rain.”
● The next scripture he uses is Luke 15 and the parable of the lost coin. This
scripture is talking about repentance and God seeking us out. He completely
misapplies this one.
● Regarding Luke 15 he says “What’d she do? Literally the Bible says she swept
house. She got rid of the clutter and she found the coin. Sometimes when it’s dry
we’re believing desperately for something to come from the outside but maybe
the wisdom of God is just clean house and get rid of some of the clutter. As you
get rid of some of the clutter perhaps you’re going to find the lost coin, you’re
going to find the blessing within.”
● This sermon stands as a terrible misapplication of scripture. Houston
manipulated scripture to fit his agenda of prosperity and led others astray
because of it.
● Sermon Link: Hillsong Church – It’s Beginning to Rain
● Biblical Critique Link: F4F | Brian Houston: Its Beginning to Rain
The pastor of Hillsong New York, Carl Lentz was not rebuked or asked to step down
after repeated false teachings. He was pastor at the church from 2010 to 2020. He was
dismissed only after being caught in adultery.
● Lentz believes there are other ways to Christ than Jesus. Lentz gave a
universalist answer to Oprah when asked if people who weren’t Christians could
be in relationship with God. Carl Lentz with Oprah Winfrey
● Lentz refused to take a stance on abortion on The View
Hillsong Pastor, Carl Lentz, Compromises on Murdering Children
● Lentz refused to take a stance on homosexuality
HC NYC Pastor Carl Lentz won’t preach on homosexuality
You Need More Money
Brian Houston wrote a book called “You need more Money”.
● Quote from the book: “We have to become comfortable with wealth. Poverty is
definitely not God’s will for His people. In fact, His promises talk of blessing and
● How does Houston say he knows that God didn’t intend for people to be poor?
He says the Biblical passage about the poor saying they are rich is in view here.
● Link: Hillsong / Brian Houston’s Gospel of Greed – YOU NEED MORE MO…
Guilty by Association
There have been numerous false teachers invited to speak at Hillsong and the
Hillsong Conference. This list includes Bill and Jenn Johnson, John Gray, Steven
Furtick, T.D. Jakes, Joseph Prince, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer.
● Bobbie Houston (Brian’s wife) is a senior pastor and preaches regularly at
● Hillsong’s website hints at the prosperity gospel – “We believe that God wants to
heal and transform us so that we can live healthy and blessed lives in order to
help others more effectively.”
● Hillsong’s music is often problematic along with the preaching. This blog post
from Grace To You helps shed more light on this: Blog Post – Hillsong & Man
Why it Matters
These leaders of Bethel, Elevation, and Hillsong have modeled their churches
much more like cults. The teaching that comes from these pulpits tickles the ears and
leaves people feeling good about themselves. This version of the gospel is focused on
self improvement, not the glory of God.
Bethel, Elevation, and Hillsong preach a different, changed, false gospel and
Paul tells us the seriousness of this (Galatians 1:7). Why would we want to associate
ourselves with these false teachers which Paul would call accursed? Is it perhaps
because we are trying to please man instead of God as Paul alludes to in the same
passage (Galatians 1:10)?
Scripture is clear on this issue. And the evidence couldn’t be more concrete. We
must try to please God in each thing we do, not man. This is not a suggestion that God
can’t be worshipped through one of the songs from these churches. But it is a belief that
He is calling us to a higher standard.
Use of these songs financially supports the songwriters in these churches
The CCLI license requires churches to disclose the songs sung and the number
of times they are played. Royalties are given to the writers, and many of these songs
are co-written by the false-teaching head pastors. By using their music, the church is
financing heresy, contributing financially to the spreading of false teaching, and helping
make these false teachers millionaires.
These churches use music as a tool to draw people into their ministries
Bill Johnson of Bethel says “Music bypasses all of the intellectual barriers, and
when the anointing of God is on a song, people will begin to believe things they wouldn’t
believe through teaching”. These 3 churches use their music as a tool to draw people in.
Many people hear this music and are drawn to it, and often this leads to seeking out the
teaching of these churches.
There are many testimonies of people who were sucked into these churches
because of the music and were stuck in false teaching for years. Some people get
sucked into New Apostolic Reformation and Word of Faith teachings. Some young
people will attend worship schools that teach apostolic spiritual gifts such as prophesy.
By singing the music of these churches, the church is giving our stamp of
approval to them. And we may be inadvertently encouraging some in our churches to go
listen and learn more from these cults. This understandably sounds like a stretch, but go
read the testimonies. It has happened to many, many people.
In response to this, our question should simply be, how many is too many? What
if even one person is led astray because of this? One would be too many.
Where do we draw the line on false teaching?
We must draw the line somewhere, and that line should be right where the
gospel is twisted and presented incorrectly. Would we sing music from the Church of
Latter Day Saints or another cult? They probably have some songs that would pass the
lyric test. But the teaching is not the true gospel.
We may have incorrectly assigned different levels of false gospel. The Bible’s
language about false teaching should lead us to view the false gospels of self and
prosperity just as wrong as those of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
One final thought …
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but
the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to
me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name,
and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never
knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23
The part that should make this all so urgent for us is thinking about the people
that are being led astray by these false teachings. Like the woman at the well, they don’t
know the true God, and until they do, they can’t worship in spirit and truth. We should
praise God that he has brought many out of these churches and given them
discernment. But not everyone will be brought out. This sad truth should break our
Many will continue under these false teachings and they may never hear the true
gospel. Why would we want to associate ourselves with that? Why would we want to
financially support that? Why would we want to risk the flock being led astray? We
should surely want to run as far from it as possible.
This document was compiled by Michael Pugh. I welcome others to use this as a
resource and share it with others. For any questions, please feel free to reach out.