I have to say, after reading an article that appeared on John MacArthur's blog, Grace To You, I felt a heavy pang of sadness. In it, the two writers fiercely critique the famed worship music group 'Hillsong' and effectively deduce that they are heretical to the core.
But, to me, the content was somewhat of a minor issue. The thing that saddened me the most? Their tone. It was laced with false assumptions, projected personal preference, and plain nastiness towards this fellow group of Christians.
"We should be wary when our ancient and exclusive faith is overrun with modern songs featuring a fluid and indistinct message," they write. Now, do I think that we should be theologically careful when it comes to worship song lyrics? Absolutely! Pastors and worship leaders are right to pour over the themes, imagery and scriptural reference found within congregational songs - old and new. These songs will be proclaimed amongst God's people, so some Biblical vetting is essential.
But for me, the most wrenching word in this sentence is "exclusive."
From what I've seen and heard, Hillsong, and indeed many of the Churches that are served by their music, are fighting tooth and nail against an "exclusive" faith which would seek to banish those who are in need of hope from entering their sanctuary. Accessible worship music, a relaxed atmosphere, and culturally relevant aesthetics usher in a sense of inclusiveness and facilitate an environment of belonging. These elements extend a hand of invitation to those who wouldn't normally find themselves in a Church. Would someone please tell me why this should ever be labelled a bad thing?
The writers continue to criticize Hillsong's lyrics. “My sin was great, Your love was greater” begs more questions than they’re willing to answer," they write.
See, I would say that this phrasing is actually an excellent, simplified summary of the gospel. Our sin was serious enough for God to send his only son Jesus Christ to earth, to suffer and die on the cross and to atone for our wrongdoing. His love overcame the grave, and by his grace we are saved.
And yet again, personal preference and an aversion to modern worship styles dictates their value judgements on the Church's set-up: "Hillsong LA’s church services are virtually indistinguishable from rock concerts. From the moment you walk in, your eyes and ears are assaulted by incoherent multimedia displays, with vague artistry passing for profundity," they write.
They end with possibly the most ridiculous statement of the entire article: that Hillsong's influence is "sowing confusion and corruption into the next generation of the church." Where is the love and kindness in this statement? Where is the lengthy explanation for this accusation, of which the writers are constantly demanding of Hillsong's songwriting process?
At the end of the day, Hillsong have impacted millions through their ministry and music. Their youth band 'Young & Free' are stirring up passionate worship within the hearts of young people across this Earth. They have served the Church far and wide, and have drawn thousands closer to Jesus. This is something to build up, to encourage, and to praise God for. Of course, there is a place for critique, but please, can we try and do this both with grace, and with a healthy dose of unbridled encouragement and love for our fellow believers.