Jude famously wrote his epistle to warn believers against false teachers. He used several strong images to describe them, ensuring that his readers would understand the danger these teachers presented. Let me quote a couple of verses with these images.
12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. ~~Jude 12-13 (NASB95)
He begins by calling them hidden reefs. Living in the First Century when travel depended on boats and ships, Jude undoubtedly knew how unseen reefs could tear up a sailing vessel before the sailors even knew a reef was there. He chose this image to emphasize his point from verse 4 that false teachers come into churches under the radar, avoiding detection by blending in with church culture. Often, Christians don’t realize they’ve been deceived by these false teachers until it’s too late. These figurative hidden reefs shipwreck the faith of unsuspecting souls.
In the 21st Century, false teachers seem to be all over the place, requiring that we know the Word of God backwards and forwards. To this end, it’s imperative that we submit ourselves to churches in which our pastors not only preach with faithfulness to Scripture but also encourage us to rightly divide the Word. In most cases, familiarity with the Bible is the best defense against falling into deception.
This past week, however, I learned that sometimes even the best shepherds can unintentionally let a stray wolf wander into the fold. This potentially serious mistake usually happens when they put too much trust in leaders of the music team.
Occasionally, even in very sound churches, musicians will select songs from Hillsong, Bethel, The Vineyard or Elevation Church. We understand that they make such choices because they’re musicians first — not theologians. The lyrics, in and of themselves, align with Scripture, so the music leaders choose the songs based on their artistic merit. Therefore, if a song seems Biblical, the musicians go ahead and pay whomever owns the rights to it for permission to sing it on Sunday morning. It rarely occurs to them that a song’s origin can lead people in the congregation to accept the false churches that the songwriters represent.
Case in point: friends of mine in another state once had a Sunday when (for reasons I can’t remember) they couldn’t meet in their building. They had, by that time, been singing songs from Hillsong for about 20 years. So when their pastor learned that they wouldn’t be able to meet that week, he recommended that they visit the Hillsong church in the next county.
Hillsong music had persuaded the pastor that he could trust the Hillsong church to feed his people good spiritual food. But in sending his flock to the Hillsong church, he exposed them to Word of Faith teaching instead of solid Biblical exposition. Thus he failed to guard them against false teachers.
When people see Hillsong, Bethel, The Vineyard or Elevation Church credits on the bottom of Power Point slides on Sunday morning, they understandably assume that their pastors endorse these churches. So they download their mp3s and perhaps visit the websites. They may watch YouTube videos of Bill Johnson or Stephen Furtick preaching reasoning that they must be okay since the pastor allows their music in church services.
Someone who becomes introduced to these churches through their music probably won’t leave her church in order to join one of them (although that has definitely happened on occasion), but if her children go away to college, chances are high that they would seek out one of those fellowships. Similarly, a job relocation might encourage her to join one. Hillsong and Bethel count on this happening. Their music is purposefully designed to attract people to their churches.
Research what I’ve said for yourselves, ladies. Start by going to YouTube and searching for “Justin Peters Hillsong.” Listen to the evidence Justin presents. Ask yourselves if he’s right in saying that this music is a gateway to false teaching. If so, these songs truly are hidden reefs that will shipwreck your faith.