The People Behind the Praise: Megachurch Music and You

By Kris W. Sky | Posted April 24, 2023

Bethel, Hillsong, Passion, Elevation—if you are involved in the Christian music scene, you’ve no doubt heard of these music groups born out of megachurches bearing the same names. Three of these churches are nondenominational. All four entities have dominated the Christian worship music charts for at least a decade.

A six-person team recently published a study in which it was found that “from 2010-2020, 38 worship songs appeared on the CCLI [Christian Copyright Licensing International] and PraiseCharts Top 25 list.” The team further observed that of these 38 songs, 13 were from Bethel, 9 each from Hillsong and Passion, and 5 from Elevation—or their affiliated parties.

To put this in perspective, “while most churches in the United States are small, most Christians worship at large churches.Faith Communities Today’s 2020 report on various faiths in the United States, Protestant Christianity being the largest, noted that just 10 percent of congregations “have more than 250 [attendees] in weekly services” yet garner a majority 70 percent of the total amount of attendees. In other words, while these megachurches make up the minority of churches in America, they shepherd the majority of the country’s believers. Given these facts, the resulting popularity of certain songs isn’t shocking.

Patterns in Praise Music

According to one of the study’s leaders, Bethel, Hillsong, Passion, and Elevation “all come from the charismatic tradition of Protestant churches. All of them, he said, have a spirituality that believes God becomes present in a ‘meaningful and powerful way’ when the congregation sings a particular style of worship song.” Indeed, the team’s inaugural article suggested that people may “[feel] like most worship music sounds the same.”

The team further recognized that the hit songs from “these churches have changed the spiritual practices and sometimes even the theology of congregations from many traditions.” What ramifications, for instance, would Elevation founder Pastor Steven Furtick’s claim that “God broke the law … by sending His Son in the likeness of a sinful man” have on your theology?

Another of the study’s leaders commented on the top songs’ lyrics: “A lot of it is, what is God doing for me now? And what has God promised to do for me in the future?”

The Christian Post reposted a blog in 2017 on trends occurring in popular Christian music, notably the recurrent theme of “once saved, always saved” and the stark absence of the concept of repentance. 

What It Means to Worship God

It’s no secret that contemporary Christian music has received a fair share of criticism. Some, however, believe that the pushback is merely a stylistic generational gap from conservatives intolerant of any music other than hymns. But is it?

Let’s look at this from a less common angle: Why do Christians sing? As the lyrics of “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord),” one of the study’s top 25, explain: “Sing like never before, oh my soul / I worship Your holy name.”

Indeed, Christian music is a form of worship (Psalm 66:4). Does God care how we worship Him? According to the Bible, He does: “‘Your fathers have forsaken Me,’ says the LORD; ‘they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law’” (Jeremiah 16:11). So, worship of God constitutes service to Him, in particular obeying His law.

How much of your worship of God is devoted to searching His Word in order to understand what it means to obey His law?

God’s Word actually says that Jesus Christ is sinless (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5); that is, He has never broken His own law (v. 4). The Bible says that, rather, Jesus “became obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus took “the wages of sin[, which] is death” (Romans 6:23) in order to give you eternal life: He “who knew no sin [was made] to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

God’s Word says that this “love of Christ compels us, … that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (vv. 14, 15). In truly understanding this, your worship ceases to be about what you get out of God but how you are to serve Him: “You present your [body] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1), to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 2). You allow God to change you from a lawbreaker into “the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18) of Christ, into God’s obedient servant. “God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17, 18). “He [Christ] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9)—not to all who live however they choose. 

Which life does your worship of God reflect?

For a deeper look into “Music and the Christian,” try part 1 and part 2 of our free presentation. And for more on why worship is so important for the Christian today, check out our free book The Beast: Who Will Worship It? God’s final message for the world is an explicit call to “worship Him” (Revelation 14:7). Those who do, the Bible says, will be “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (v. 12).

Kris W. Sky
Kris W. Sky is a writer and editor for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.

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