if this upsets you, blame it on the time – late night thoughts about elevation music

Two days ago I posted a question on my Instagram story, asking for opinions about listening to music from churches like Elevation and Hillsong. I did this because Elevation came out with a new album that I can only describe as straight fire. To give you an idea… more than a few hours of my Friday morning were spent drinking coffee, organizing my to-do list and completing initial tasks for the day, while shamelessly pausing every few minutes to close my eyes and praise the Lord, as I soaked up the lyrics that were echoing deep in my soul.

“Everything is possible
By the power of the Holy Ghost
A new wind is blowing right now
Breaking my heart of stone
Taking over like it’s Jericho
And my walls are all crashing down”

Lyrics from a verse in “Never Lost,” which btw they released a new version featuring Tauren Wells. Straight. Fire.

I am not blind, however, to the self-centered theology often taught at the megachurches producing these songs. Many of Steven Furtick’s sermons are essentially psychology lectures or self-help messages sprinkled with a few “hallelujahs” and mentions of Jesus. These teachings, however, can not be seen as substitutes for God’s Word, even when saturated with sporadic scripture. Of course this is not an opinion I hold alone; many people have similar beliefs about these illustrious churches. My perspective becomes more grey, though, when it comes to their worship team and the songs they produce. So, as I mentioned, I took to Instagram and asked my followers: is it okay to listen to and support Elevation’s music?

Many people had a lot to say in response to this question. In sum, both sides were represented, and everyone seemed to make a fair point. From yes “it’s music that I enjoy singing and it points my heart closer to Jesus,” to no “music is their gateway to teaching,” there is no doubt that this question has been one many people have pondered.

My thoughts? I suppose I’ve got a unique perspective of Elevation church. Let me explain… Almost four years ago, my heart was being pulled on hard by the tragic reality of human trafficking, and I gathered some friends to join a team for the A21 Walk for Freedom in Raleigh. This is a public demonstration giving a voice to the victims who have been robbed of their own. It is a chance to publicly proclaim that slavery still exists and it will never be okay. (If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out a21.org or find a local walk to join this year! Assuming covid-19 is done interrupting the world’s normal by fall, it is scheduled for October 17.) After the walk, we took a group photo, and it was brought to my attention that the event had been hosted by Elevation Church.

For the next couple weeks, something in my heart kept telling me that I was supposed to be at that walk for a greater reason. Something was telling me to go check out this Elevation place. And because of their eagerness to introduce themselves at the walk, I stepped into church, not knowing at the time that it was the beginning of a year long journey of coming to know Jesus.

But as the title of the current book I am reading says, “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.” The enthusiasm of Elevation brought me to church, but it didn’t bring me to Jesus. To be honest, our entire drive home after the service that day was silent. Blaring loud music, surrounded by giant smiles (the kind that make your face hurt to look at and you wonder how long they’ve been stuck like that) took all the energy out of me. We were overwhelmed by the neon orange welcome packet that told everyone it was our first time visiting, the merchandise table right when we walked in, and the members crowding the hallways with ipads in hand, trying to get us connected or something. Simply put, that first visit was also my last.

freebies… not bought from the merchandise stand – ha!

BUT, if it wasn’t for this church, I may have never been open to the idea of going to the Summit church a couple months later. I may have never opened my ears to my sweet friend Macey as she told me about Jesus. So in that sense, I’m thankful for that day. And I’m thankful for Elevation.

so glad i captured this moment, not knowing that book would change my heart forever

Now that we’ve gone down that rabbit hole, back to their music.

I don’t know if there is a right answer to this debate. However, I’m not sure we need to agree on one answer. (It’s like the whole home school or public school debate.) I definitely don’t think God wants us to argue about what music we listen to while we worship Him.

My sweet husband doesn’t understand my love of their songs, not because he is trying to discourage me from listening, but because he doesn’t find them to be very meaningful. And I am so thankful for this man in my life, who appreciates the value of good lyrics and the value of our Savior. He knows which ways of worship best turn his eyes upon the Lord, and he also knows this may not be the same for everyone. So he lets me blast the volume on our TV and shout the lyrics to “Graves into Gardens” so off-tune that even Tucker leaves the room.

My point is, I may not agree with Elevation’s theological teaching, but I know that I feel closer to Jesus when I turn on their music. It grows my desire to know and love Him. And for some people, this desire may grow while hiking in the mountains. Or in writing or photography. Baptists, close your ears, but some people may find this in rock music or, dare I say, dancing. We worship God best when His gifts point us back to the Giver.

Hear me when I say, though, we’ve got to allow this desire to know and love Jesus to move us. It should push us to strengthen and deepen our relationship with Him. And we don’t do this through loud modern songs, old hymns, or rock and roll. We do this by opening His Word. This is how we know Him, and when we know Him, that’s when we will love Him.

We’ve got to allow this desire to know and love Jesus to move us. It should push us to strengthen and deepen our relationship with Him.

John 1:14 tells us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the Word, remember? He is the way, the truth, and the life. Nobody get to the Father, except through Him. Not through Stephen Furtick. Not through a traditional hymn. Not through choosing what music believers should or should not listen to.

The bottom line is, I trust that the Holy Spirit can work in the hearts of those who attend Elevation and listen to their music, just as He did in my own heart 4 years ago.

Philippians 1:18 – Paul says, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”

Let us rejoice, then. And turn it up a little louder.

<3 I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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