An individual on my Facebook acquaintance list shared a Hillsong article entitled “7 Tips for Raising Up a Youth Worship Team” by Laura Toggs (daughter of Bobbie and Brian Houston). It is… not good. Overall it’s devoid of substance, unclear, and vague. However, I wanted to take a few moments to point out some of the odd priorities and theology presented in this piece.
The youth are literally the next generation coming up through the Church, so it’s massively important to pour into, to disciple, and to bring the creativity/leadership out of each one of them to ensure the Church as a whole moves from strength to strength.
Here are just a few tips that I’ve collected while working in our youth ministry over the years, and we pray that they’d be such a blessing to you, your youth ministry, and your church.
Well, that’s an intro. Yes, the youth are the next generation. What does Hillsong mean by “pour into” the youth? I hope somewhere in the tips that follow we’ll get a clear idea. Discipling the youth is a good thing, but in what? Are we talking about discipling them in Christ Jesus? in the Word? Are we talking about doing this with or without their Parents? Finally, what is it to “bring the creativity/leadership out” of each of them, and how is it this point that is connected with the strength of the Church? The strength of the Church is in her foundation… laid by the apostles with Christ as the Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-21). Let’s see if the 7 tips provide any clarity.
1. It starts with you
Have a revelation of the importance and value of bringing through young worship leaders, musicians, and creatives. From generation to generation we commend His works, declare His faithfulness, and desire His glory to shine brighter & brighter… This means that we have a responsibility to genuinely champion the next generation, and our hope should be that they see and do greater things than what we have seen or done — all for the name of JESUS. (How exciting!)
Have a revelation of the importance and value of bringing through young worship leaders, musicians, and creatives.
Okay, so I will say that their web promotion is very slick… having formatted twitter bites throughout their blog is savvy. Now let’s look at the tip… what is it, exactly? Oh yes… It starts with you. Interesting that this is the very first point. Seems most sermons coming out of Hillsong suffer from this same narcissism. Remember how I called the promotion slick? Notice at the very end… we get a mention of Jesus. Does that rescue the point? Not at all, this is only included as a cover, should someone (like myself) point out the narcissism and man-centered priority of this list. But this is a separate clause that is tacked onto the end of the central thought of this point… it’s up to you to genuinely champion the next generation so that they see and do greater things than we have seen or done.
Time for our CTT portion for today: From generation to generation we commend His works, declare His faithfulness, and desire His glory to shine brighter & brighter… sounds like a passage of Scripture… but no reference is given. The author then goes on to explain what it means. The closest match I found is Psalm 145:4, but it doesn’t say what this article is saying. Let’s look at the Psalm.
Psalm 145 (ESV) | Great Is the Lord
A Song of Praise. Of David.
145 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The Lord is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
This is a song of praise to God and a commitment to train up the younger generation to continue that praise by teaching them of His mighty works. Do you think King David would have begun his list of tips with “it starts with you”? Well, let us not dabble in conjecture and philosophy… let’s look at King David’s instructions to Solomon after he had been anointed as King.
1 Kings 2:1-4 (ESV) | David’s Instructions to Solomon
1 When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3 and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
David pointed Solomon to the word of the Lord God as it is written in the Law of Moses. He could have worded it in a way that references himself as a model… but he didn’t. It doesn’t start with us, it starts and ends with our Lord God.
2. Stop waiting and start developing
You have a team of young people who are just waiting for you to unearth their potential. There is a wealth of God-given gift, talent, and anointing within your youth ministry — identify them, believe in them, disciple them, and then release them. Be generous with your encouragement, time, and wisdom because they are worth your investment (and remember, God has a habit of using the unlikely and non-obvious ones).
So many buzzwords totally lacking in substance. unearth their potential, anointing, release them. Now, if there is one thing I’ll give this idea credit for, it’s in the idea that a church should not simply skip or forgo worship simply because they haven’t hired a slick musician with a relevant look who is willing to perform on a small budget. Worship doesn’t require skill or trappings, but a contrite spirit and a penitent faith in Jesus Christ. The rest of the paragraph is cryptic Word of Faith and Presence theology lingo for super-charging some hidden, untapped, god-given potential for greatness that needs to be called up, energized, or released in them… or something. Look, our youth need to be taught the Word of God. Those with musical skills should be trained in music also, but not at the price of sound doctrine. Without sound doctrine and Biblical discipleship we risk creating more Jennifer Knapps, Gungors, or Katie Perrys instead of faithful Christians with hearts for worship.
3. Teach your young people to honour
Honour leadership, honour people, honour the platform, and most of all — honour God. They may not quite understand the privilege, the weight, the responsibility, and the sacrifices made (and I’ve come to realise that this is NOT their fault, but rather the challenge of a generation being born into blessing), so tell them stories of the many faithful people who have paved the way. Guide them towards being grateful and remind them, remind them, remind them of WHY we do what we do, and WHO we do it for. (Be unapologetically repetitive).
To honor what? Leadership, people, the platform… and God gets an afterthought behind another dash. Hillsong employs and teaches the Vision casting leadership model of Church. To question the Leader is to question God’s appointed leader, which is to question God. That is why this list is in the order presented. Hillsong does not abide anyone who questions Brian or his underlings, they will not suffer a noble Berean. And there lies the real meaning of the Why we do what we do and WHO we do it for. Cleverly written, plausibly deniable, completely intentional. Hillsong is a corporation of men, not the Body of Christ.
4. There are seasons for releasing & empowering and seasons for reining-in & bringing back
Allow your young people to express their own unique sound and enthusiasm freely, but always bring it back to the heart of worship. Let them be confident, but prioritise humility. Allow them the honour of the spotlight, but also the privilege to serve in a capacity of which is unseen. (Perhaps the same person who worship leads one night could be the same person scraping chewing gum off the carpet at the end of the night).
Now this point, buried in the middle of the list has some practical advice for young musicians. It is good to have leadership systems in training… I remember my younger brother (an awesome drummer) talk about competing for first-chair in his section. This is good for students to grow both musically and as leaders in their art. Teaching them responsibility in the menial and unseen tasks is also good. All of that empty talk of “releasing and empowering” is worthless.
5. Just do what you do, and let your young people in on it
Song-write with them, roster them on to co-worship lead with you, let them observe you during rehearsal, save a seat for them on the front row with you, invite them over to the odd family dinner…you know, stuff like that. The most valuable lessons are learned in a way that is natural & organic (and practical is awesome).
And we’re back to me, er “you”. This is basic mentorship and discipling, but again we don’t see here any direct tie to God’s Word. Since we are still talking about youth, the absence of mention of the youth’s parents is again, troubling.
6.Make it the most fun and exciting thing for your young people to be part of ever!!!!!
Make memories that will last forever!
Okay, now I’m thinking the author gave up at 5 points, but didn’t want to have to rewrite the title. How is this a tip? This rah-rah motivational pabulum. What does this have to do with the very real responsibility of leading the people of God in worship? There is no substance here.
7. Most importantly disciple your young people to JESUS, JESUS, JESUS
Point them to Jesus and allow Him to shape their hearts. He can do in a moment what we couldn’t do in a lifetime.
Point them to Jesus and allow Him to shape their hearts. He can do in a moment what we couldn’t do in a lifetime, so only ever and always point them upwards. In everything, JESUS…with everything, JESUS.
Again with the final thought, a vague mention of Jesus. Sure they repeated the Name of Jesus several times, and in general this might be a decent way to start a greater discussion of how to disciple our youth… but that’s not what is going on here. Point them to Jesus and allow Him to shape their hearts. What does that mean from an organization that places man first in all things and fails to rightly handle God’s Word? None of these tips pointed to Jesus. None of these tips pointed clearly (and correctly) to God’s Word. I mean, one might think that after reading these 7 tips the Bible must be fairly empty on the subject of youth, worship, training, teaching, leadership within the church… but it isn’t. The bible clearly addresses all of these topics… but the Bible points to God and doesn’t leave room for Hillsong to get their glory.
Ultimately, what it all boils down to is that either Hillsong doesn’t understand what Worship is, or it simply doesn’t care. They’ve figured out how to profit off of entertainment with a thin Bible veneer sold as a spiritual experience that all Christians should seek out and desire. Hillsong (and Bethel) are cancers in the visible Church. They do not teach sound doctrine, instead they preach themselves and are waterless clouds.
Jude 5-13 (ESV)
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
Hillsong is a money-making machine, devilishly clever, and completely compromised. Come away from them, and learn to Worship the One True God in Spirit and in Truth.
Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present youblameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,