Get Fake, Worship Music Out of Your Church

(Version 5)

In God's Word, we're commanded to sing songs glorifying Him. They're given by the Holy Spirit to actual believers in Christ to glorify the real Christ. We're warned false teachers who reject the Gospel will try to lead people away from Christ. We're to expose and avoid them, not grow their churches.

(If in a hurry, you can jump to the biggest problem which is spreading and funding fake gospels.)

Today, false churches preach that Jesus died to give us the good life. Health, wealth, purpose, many sins we like... we praise Him so He'll bless us. He's like a genie in the bottle to people in prosperity churches. They also either don't or rarely preach repentance to avoid God's wrath. Instead of living for Christ, they mix motivational speaking with a warped version of the Word to help you do what you want. You can easily go to Hell in these churches.

In seeker-sensitive churches, they likewise tell people what they want to hear, put on fancy shows, and avoid topics that might offend non-believers (eg LGBT sins). Their goal is bringing in large crowds (aka popularity). Believers or non-believers, they think it's "working" if the seats are full.

Instead of Christ and eternity, these "churches" focus on God fulfilling your desires for this life. Just give them money and do the right things. At best, they'll be Christians making people focus on all the wrong things. At worst, they're wolves in sheep's clothing leading people to Hell. The real Jesus wants actual believers in discipleship whose worship and lives please Him.

Some anti-Biblical churches realized great music would bring in bigger crowds (and more dollars). Their "worship" lyrics sound Christian on the surface. To appeal to their non-Christian audience, they mix praise and Biblical truths with promises of many, selfish benefits. Their Jesus is all about giving us material blessings, doing miracles, and solving our life's problems. The songs sound great, too!

Prosperity churches with famous bands: Bethel (takedown), Hillsong (critique), and Elevation (critique).

Seeker-sensitive churches, one with famous band: Willow Creek (critique); Saddleback (1/2/3/4); Northpoint (1/2).

Even worse, these songs are in real churches. Proponents say the truths in the songs by themselves justify their use. If they look Biblical, then we should be able to use them. They call this picking them by content alone. Although, we'll find that's neither Biblical nor are the lyrics what they appear to be.

(Note: This article is about songs for worship, not for entertainment. Some rules apply to both, some might not. We'll talk about entertainment toward the end.)

What is Worship Exactly?

Worship songs are a form of worship. Before we talk about songs, we need to ask: "What is true worship? When does something count as worship at all? What kind of worship pleases God?"

GotQuestions has a great overview of what worship is. Other writings include Piper, MacArthur, and Spurgeon (pdf). They all say the who and why of your worship is more important than your specific methods. GotQuestions further says:

"It’s also important to know that worship is reserved only for God. Only He is worthy... We are not to worship saints, prophets, statues, angels, any false gods, or Mary, the mother of Jesus. We also should not be worshiping for the expectation of something in return, such as a miraculous healing. Worship is done for God—because He deserves it—and for His pleasure alone... True worship is felt inwardly and then is expressed through our actions. "Worshiping" out of obligation is displeasing to God and is completely in vain. He can see through all the hypocrisy, and He hates it."

So, real worship is real believers worshiping the real God for the right reasons (right hearts). An action, or song, that isn't made that way is probably not a worship song in the eyes of God. Those people appear to be praising God for His character and benefits. If it's not worship, then what are they doing?

What is Idolatry?

Idolatry is worshiping anything other than God (1/2/3). An idol is anything so important to us that we either put it before God or worship it. It can be false gods, self-serving versions of God/Jesus, ourselves, or things in our life. Ours is a jealous God that gets angry at idolatry. He often punished it.

Instead of God and His will, people in the Old Testament often created false gods of their own making. They hoped these imaginary gods would serve and bless them with prosperity. With the right words and sacrifices, their gods would fulfill their hearts desires: money, sex, fame, and power.

These prosperity churches likewise preach a fake version of Jesus who wants us to have and do what we want. You have to praise fake Jesus for his blessings, give the church money, do some rituals, and maybe life improvements. The "worship songs" thank fake Jesus for how his blood guarantees we live like gods: health, wealth, miraculous power, family benefits, and so on. This is both idolatry and blasphemy.

"The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous." (Prov. 15:29)

"The sacrifice made by the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is his delight." (Prov. 16:8)

So, real worship is actual Christians making sacrifices for the real God. They do it for who He is, what He does, and His will for our lives. Whereas, idolators worship a fake Jesus for who He isn't, prosperity promises He didn't make, and to do their own will instead of God's. If it's idolators (the wicked), what they're doing isn't actually worship.  Their hearts are far from Him. They love themselves, not God.

Putting praise in songs about idolatry is like putting lipstick on a pig. Their songs probably disgust God.

How Were We Deceived?

Jesus and the Apostles said false prophets and false teachers would come. Jesus warned that they'll have terrible character that will cost them salvation in the end. Paul warned they'd twist the Word to lure Jesus' disciples into following them. Jesus said they'd do false miracles (eg TV healings) that could mislead even the elect. Peter tore them up: motivated by greed, full of sins (esp arrogance), seek their own pleasures, and be destroyed like animals eventually. People listen to satisfy their own desires. What are we to do?

Like God does, we start by hating the works of the wicked (1/2/3). Ephesians says don't partner with them, have nothing to do with their works, and instead expose them. Pastors must protect the flock from them. Paul tells Titus to silence false teachers.

In the old days, they killed those who lied in God's name, destroyed their idols, and wiped out whole cities. In time, they won't be remembered. God hates sin from its roots to the leaves it produces.

For Christians, Paul says to have nothing to do with unrepentant believers in general. Serious sin results in ejection until they repent.

If Israel was to kill fakes, how would the fakes help with the worship lyrics? If they destroyed idolatrous works, how would their songs survive? If whole cities were wiped out, would their bands still be playing? If Christians silence, push out, and avoid false teachers, how would they even know their worship lyrics? Much less use them?

If we hate their idolatrous songs, why would we enjoy singing them?

For Biblical examples, do you see any believers partnering with and promoting fake Christians or false teachers? And sending people to their churches?

Or do they keep confronting, avoiding, and ejecting such people?

Why Do Christians Use Their Songs?

To start with, false teachers hide their nature by using Bible quotes, even Biblical praise, in their sermons and songs. They also tell people what they want to hear. They also sound great. Their audiences often don't know any better at first. We just show them what they're really about.

Others still think their songs are find. Their theory: judge the content only. If the lyrics sound Biblical, then we should be able to use them. In our hands, their idolatrous song that God hated is now a real, worship song that God enjoys. Is that true?

Although a grey area, we can use common sense. If idolators are God's enemies, He probably doesn't like us using their work. Here's a few more questions to ask:

If real worship is about your heart, why do you even need "better" songs? If you want new ones, why would you avoid thousands of Christian songs to instead borrow songs from fake churches? If you know God hates their work, why would you even take the chance of displeasing Him in worship? Shouldn't we avoid them all by default? And stick with Biblical Christians and churches in our worship?

You can imagine a similar situation affecting you. Let's say people you can't stand came up with an alternate version of you who likes them, helps them, etc. They write a whole page of compliments and stories about you that are mostly true. While not caring about you, they use this praise to try to get stuff out of you. Later, your friends are repeating the same compliments thinking you liked them. Will you be glad every time your friends repeat your enemies' lip service? Or would hearing it make you cringe and want to tell your friends to just use their own words?

They make it take so much effort because they like the songs. In reality, it's much easier: testing only the content isn't Biblical.

Testing the Source vs Content

God's Word says to test the spirits (1/2) and the content (1/2). A non-believer or false teacher will stay misleading people. False teaching itself can keep spreading if not stopped. So, we're commanded to deal with both problems.

Even the content-only side doesn't believe their own claim. They're inconsistent. You can see it in their preaching.

There's fake Christians and false teachers with material that's enormously popular. They include Joel Olsteen, Joyce Meyer, Oral Roberts, and C. Peter Wagner. Some of their material is true with great presentation. Yet, most pastors won't use any excerpts of their work because they're evil or misguided people pushing lies. If that matters then, why would they bring the same kinds of people into their churches' worship?

So, we know what real vs false worship is. These are idolatrous churches. We know we're to test the source, separate ourselves from idolators, and have nothing to do with their idol worship. If that doesn't convince you, let's look at God's Word for more reasons not to use them.

More Biblical Reasons to Avoid These Songs

1. We're to worship in Spirit and truth.

We don't produce worship ourselves. Real worship comes from the Holy Spirit's work in real believers. He changes our hearts and minds before inspiring us to put our time into Him. "Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19) are a gift of the Spirit. His work pouring out from our hearts. We're using what God gave us to worship Him.

To imitate examples in God's Word, we should use worship songs made by Spirit-filled believers. That is, worship songs we know came from God.

2. We're to imitate Christ and the Apostles.

We're given examples of righteous conduct. God's will is that we default on following commands, principles, and righteous examples in Scripture. If anything is ambiguous, be as close to these as possible. He also gives examples of sin and wicked people. We're to be as far from their behavior as possible.

We don't see examples in Scripture of what people are doing today. We don't see Asaph or David letting the Babylonians write their worship about how they imagine Yahweh. We don't see Jesus reusing the Pharisees' best lessons and prayers. In Acts 2, we don't see Peter using Jewish preaching about receiving Abrahamic blessings with some Jesus mixed in. We don't see Paul asking the false teachers he kicked out improve their worship songs. This stuff was unheard of.

If we must imitate examples in the Word, which should we imitate? Should we use Christian worship or borrow from the Devil's people?

3. We have thousands of Christian songs.

The Holy Spirit has given us literally thousands of songs across at least half a dozen genres. We have classics, people modernizing them, and new ones made all the time. Many sound so good that the artists have been streamed millions or a billion times. Even non-believers listen to some of them. It's a myth that there's not enough good songs out there to use.

God has given us so many real, worship songs to use. We don't need idol worship from fake churches. Thank God for and use the real thing.

4. Don't use pagan traditions.

We're set apart by God to reflect Him by doing things His way. We're commanded to not adopt the worship traditions of pagans. We've already covered how they and their works were often destroyed. They probably didn't keep their worship songs.

For a comparison, and if singing the national anthem, it would be like using the national anthem of our worst enemy while changing the names in its lyrics to be about our country. You think patriotic Americans would want to sing it? Or the foreign country would sing ours done the same way? If they'd be disgusted by that, how do you think God feels when we sing the enemy's anthems?

5. God hates "polluted offerings" in worship.

The animals couldn't be low value, diseased, etc. Malachi said that believers must give our best worship to the real God. He was angry when their offerings were polluted by their selfish motivations. Malachi 1:14 said they had vowed to offer what was holy but actually sacrificed what was abominable. He promises to curse the congregation for it.

Worship songs made about a fake Jesus for selfish gain are similarly polluted. Saying diseased isn't a huge stretch since prosperity preaching is also a cancer in churches. We should offer God pure worship made to glorify Him.

6. The people want fake worship for human, not godly, reasons.

We're to build our practices on the commands and examples in God's Word. You've just read many Biblical reasons to worship right. Whereas, the people promoting using material of false churches have nothing backing that position. They have no commands or examples showing we worship with the works of false teachers. If not, how are they defending the practice?

In prior conversations and reviews of this article, all of the people on the other side exclusively cited traditions of churches, the opinions of people they respected, and their personal preferences. When pressed for Biblical examples, they've (so far) not delivered a single example of someone doing what they're doing. If they had a verse (rare), it's always a vague one stretched out of context.

Example: One cited "worship in spirit and truth." They said there's some truth in fake churches' songs. So, we can use them. The people Jesus was talking about would be believers with the Holy Spirit worshiping the real God. The quote also happened while Jesus was sharing the Gospel to get a woman out of false teaching!

In Jesus' time, the Pharisees put their human traditions before God's Word. If called out, they'd defend themselves using their authority, status, or some inherent value of their traditions. Jesus wasn't pleased with this.

Some pastors today are defending using songs from fake churches using human authority, not God's Word. If countered with the Word, they cite more sources outside the Word like they're higher priority. They need to put the Word first. These are often faithful believers who do put the Word first in other areas. Just not worship songs.

Would you rather give weight to Biblical examples like Jesus or human traditions like the Pharisees?

7. We're commanded to spread the real Gospel, not fake ones. Using these songs spreads fake gospels. That deserves its own section.

You Are Promoting False Gospels

This is the most, important argument against using anything from prosperity churches. Even non-believers understand why it's true. Tech companies use these lessons all the time. So, please make sure you understand this!

Let's first look at just how we support fake churches by looking at or sharing their fake, worship songs. Here's a few:

1. Directly by putting their names out there to people. Others might want to check out the bands or churches that made the songs. At the least, they might buy the songs which supports the churches. They might get into their false teaching, donate to them, or join them. Using their songs sends them and their money toward those churches.

2. Financially via royalties. Songs are licensed from owners with payments for how many and how often we listen to them. These royalties might be paid directly or through a music company (eg CCLI) that handles it. If bundled, the music companies pay royalties based on what's in demand. In short, fake churches may get royalties from real churches through copyright licensing. That CCLI's Top 100 list has many prosperity churches shows real churches are funding them this way.

3. Financially via streaming and advertising. Both Youtube and Spotify pay artists a cut of advertising revenue collected via their songs. It goes up with popularity. Sharing songs from fake churches on online platforms often sends money to them.

4. Spreading fake gospels by search results on Youtube, Spotify, or Facebook/Meta. These services score content for relevance to specific search terms or user profiles. Views, "likes," upvotes, shares, and purchases can all add to the content's score. If you look for "Christian worship" and click a song, it might also appear in search results when others look for Christian worship. You're promoting fake churches every time you even click on or listen to a song from a fake church. If you want to review them, the lyrics sites should be safer.

Bottom line: Churches that use songs from fake churches are spreading their false teaching and indirectly funding them. Should we use idolatrous songs if they promote and fund idolatry? No!

If you know this now, you'd be transgressing if you kept doing it. Instead, use Biblical songs from real churches. Then, you're spreading and funding actual worship.

Effects on Our Witness

Our first problem is hurting worship. Believers should be able to immediately sing a worship song by trusting their worship leader's judgement. Many believers don't want to ever repeat the words of a song from a fake church. If we use fake worship, then believers don't know if their newest song is actually Christian. Some of us won't sing new songs until we've looked up the band to spot fake churches. Others risk it while praying they sing few, fake ones. Believers should never have to worry about this in a worship service.

Our next problem is losing members, old and new. During evangelism, we often encourage unchurched people to get plugged in. Some people left churches that traded Biblical worship or preaching for false or worldly alternatives. They ask us if our churches' worship is Biblical. Imagine a church where their members have to be honest: "Most of the time it is. We do use some songs from fake churches that oppose Christ, though." May it never happen! Instead, they should answer: "Yes! Come enjoy real worship from the Spirit!"

What About Other Situations?

This article is specifically about worship and worship songs. Using pagan content in other situations is or may be fine for Christians. There's at least two exceptions I felt that I should mention. God's Word is less clear on these exceptions compared to His rules for worship. So, treat these as mere theories I'm sharing in case they help you.

The first exception is Christian vs worship music. Christian music is any music made by Christians for any audience embodying some Christian values, usually for entertainment. (Think radio songs or background music.) It ranges from non-religious with cleaner content to songs with actual worship. I'm hesitant to push a rule on this because the rule will likely apply to all entertainment. I'm not ready to commit to an answer on that.

For now, I'll just say filter the worst bands or churches for that, too. That obeys God's commands while preventing them from spreading. From there, make your own decision.

The second exception is using pagan material outside worship. Basically, reading, reviewing, or using anything in this world that isn't Christian. Such activities are inherent requirements of participating in society: our language, how we're educated, doing business, and so on. Righteous people in the Bible were sometimes educated in pagan lands. God's Word itself contains small amounts of pagan material. How do we reconcile this to the commands we've seen?

God's default rule is that anything is good so long as it isn't sinful. If it's not sin, not a product of sin, or is to counter sin, righteous people might do it. I added that last one to cover when we use pagan works to review or counter them.

For example, Paul wrote righteous letters to build up the church. Part of that was countering pagan traditions. In some, he quoted pagans to counter their errors. The quotes were small and clearly-marked. Likewise, Christians countering worldly philosophy have to study or share it. Isn't this a problem if we're using and possibly spreading pagan work?

The goals and effects of our work matter. The goals of real worship, Christian entertainment, and Paul's writing are all righteous. Most of the content is. Corrupt churches write their worship music for evil reasons.

Then, righteous authors cite a minimum of pagan work, mark it as pagan, and the audience usually doesn't use it or rarely does. For instance, a critical review of Jehovah's Witnesses might use material most won't follow or purchase. The review itself might be read once or a few times. Compare that to corrupted worship: many churches using pagan materials, it's the whole piece of content (eg song), it's marked as Christian, and actively promoted. We see that selective, careful use of pagan content to expose error has positive effects while worshiping with it has negative effects. Different outcomes.

In both exceptions, we're not offering worship via the pagan work. So, my theory is to just try to avoid depending on, supporting, or sending people into sin or to false teachers. Unlike famously-fake churches, avoiding nearly everything with a hint of evil might be impossible. Just remember that we have a high priest who was tempted like us but without sin. He understands how hard it is to live in an evil world. Just do what you can.


There's many reasons to keep songs from fake churches out of ours. We're to glorify the real Jesus, use what God gave real believers, and have nothing to do with false teachers. Using the other stuff, even viewing it, sends both money and future converts to fake churches. We might lead other believers into those sins. We're also no longer blameless in the eyes of believers looking for Biblical churches.

Get rid of worship songs from fake or watered-down churches. There's thousands of real, worship songs from real Christians about the real Jesus. Use them. Glorify God.

More broadly, we should ban all songs, programs (eg Celebrate Recovery), Bible studies... anything... from "churches" preaching prosperity gospel or watering down the Word (seeker sensitive). They're all designed to promote and fund those churches. If we need something, have real believers in real churches make it. God will grant it if we truly need it. Then, our work draws people to Christ and His Word.

(Read the Gospel with proof it's true. Learn to live it.)