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Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

The Megachurch Worship Monopoly, Part II

The Roys Report
The Roys Report
The Megachurch Worship Monopoly, Part II

Hillsong Church has been embroiled in a steady stream of scandals, exposing sexual and financial misconduct—and a toxic and exploitative leadership culture. So, should we still be singing their worship songs? Or should we re-think our song selection and worship sets?

In this podcast, Julie continues her dialogue with two collaborators of a groundbreaking new study on modern worship. And in this second of a two-part conversation, we explore the scandals surrounding the megachurches producing so many of our worship songs.

As we discussed in part one of our discussion, the new study found that almost all the top worship songs, being sung in churches across America, are produced by just four megachurches. They are Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation, and Passion City Church.

Now, the two study collaborators, Elias Dummer and Dr. Shannan Baker, join me for part two, where we discuss the scandals at these incredibly influential megachurches and implications of using their creative content. Elias is a singer/songwriter who’s also worked in marketing and research. And Shannan is a post-doctoral research fellow at Baylor University, who’s studying contemporary worship. So, they know this subject matter extremely well and were able to provide valuable insights.

At some points, though, we disagreed strongly. But Scripture tells us that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) and we believe that this kind of challenging discussion helps all of us think more critically and deeply.


Dr. Shannan Baker

Dr. Shannan Baker is a postdoctoral research fellow at Baylor University, where she recently received the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Humanities. Her research focuses on contemporary worship. She explores the theology of the text, the music and industry of the songs, and its practice in the church. Her hope is that her research will edify the body of Christ by finding practical applications for the worship life of the church.

Elias Dummer

Elias Dummer, a native of Ontario, Canada, and current resident of Nashville, Tenn., is passionate about the local church. A founding member of The City Harmonic, he was lead singer and songwriter for the contemporary Christian band which disbanded in 2017 after eight years together. Recently, he helped plant a church near Nashville and has released a two-part solo album entitled The Work.
Show Transcript


Hillsong Church has been embroiled in a steady stream of scandals exposing sexual and financial misconduct and a toxic and exploitative leadership culture. So, should we still be singing their worship songs? Or should we be rethinking everything, including our worship sets? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And this is part two of my discussion of a groundbreaking new study on modern worship with two study collaborators Elias Dummer and Dr. Shannon Baker. Elias is a singer songwriter who’s also worked in marketing and research. And Shannon is a postdoctoral research fellow at Baylor University who’s studying contemporary worship. In part one, we explored how almost all the top worship songs being sung in churches across America are produced by just four mega churches. They are Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation, and Passion City Church. It was a fascinating discussion exploring the history and development of the modern worship movement. And I encourage you if you haven’t already, go back and listen to that podcast. But in part two, we talk about the scandals these incredibly influential mega churches had been involved in and what that means for worship pastors and congregants. Ours was a very lively discussion, and at some points, we disagreed strongly. But I believe we generated more light than heat. And so, I’m really excited to share this podcast with you.

But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out. Just go to

Well, again, joining me to discuss some of the difficult issues surrounding the worship industry, and the songs that we sing every week in church, are Elias Dummer and Dr. Shannon Baker. We pick up our discussion with my explanation of the conundrum I feel in singing worship songs produced by mega churches like Hillsong, which seem so corrupt.

This worship was making Brian and Bobby Houston, the founders of Hillsong, rich. It was enriching their son Joel, who was heading up Hillsong worship. In fact, Joel Houston wrote The Stand. And I watched the video, and it was from 12 years ago, I watched it last night. And honestly, I am even now thinking about it. It’s hard for me, because that song, I remember singing, right? I remember being moved by that song. And I’m seeing people on this video clearly impacted singing worship to the Lord. And yet right now it turns my stomach. There’s no way that the people at the top didn’t know what was going on, and what they were participating in. How do we process so much of this? Let’s just look at Hillsong first, and let me just ask you Elias; today, would you play a Hillsong song at your church?

Without hesitation.

You would play one?



I think if you start to go down that road, you may as well rip two thirds of the Psalms out of the Bible. David was an accused rapists for all intents and purposes.

And murderer.

And murderer. Paul, once upon a time murderer. I think it’s also really easy to look and see a shared last name and assume that everything Joel did, it’s an impossible game to win. And we’ve all worked in and alongside larger institutions. And while there are cultural facets that play out if that’s very true, I think the specifics matter. The sort of Whack a Mole boogeyman thing doesn’t work because it is so often distraction to solving the real problems. I’ll give you a really specific example. In the Hillsong documentary that came out a couple of years ago, I guess now, the last episode of that documentary, the focus on the assaults and the cover ups. That was really the meat of what that thing should have been the entire time. And probably because of the way that Netflix distribution deals work, they had to make three episodes. I’ve been in the media world we all know how this works. They made three episodes out of a one-episode, important conversation piece. And what they filled almost an entire episode with discussions about manipulative music. When in reality, not manipulative music most people would consider to be bad music. Like we literally go to music to be emotionally manipulated. We go to all music for that purpose.

And so, it is a tricky thing because we engage music, we love the art, the art does something in us psychologically, neurologically, and emotionally. And then we come out of that, inferring upon its author all kinds of trust, and goodwill and assumption, in most cases, that may or may not be fair. Like, O Holy Night; people love O Holy Night. I might be wrong about this. But I had heard it was written by a guy who’s not a believer at all. So, we have to be really careful with assuming that art and its author always have this direct relationship to its use. I think we’ll be sorely disappointed in the Bible’s authors; we’ll be sorely disappointed in the authors of the Psalms, and we’ll be left with very little to do if we’re looking for humans that aren’t complex to create art. May as well the AI do the rest.

A lot there. Let me push back a little bit. Because I hear the David thing all the time, right? I think one of the things we forget about David is that he was punished. His firstborn with Bathsheba was killed, the Lord took his life. We also forget that David repented. And I haven’t seen repentance from the Houston’s.

But we don’t strike the pre repentant Psalms from the Bible.

No, but I’m saying what we see in David is someone that the Lord called a man after his own heart, and part of being a man after his own heart, was how he responded to sin. And he was very repentant in what happened. And when I report these stories, people often say, what are you hoping for? I’m hoping for repentance. I’m not hoping for things to burn down. I’m hoping for the leaders to repent. I have yet to see it.

You and I are on the same. I mean, my wife and I had this conversation not too long ago. I’ve had eight senior pastors in my life that I’ve served under or alongside. Of those eight, three are no longer pastors because of something related to sexual sin or adultery or similar things. So, it’s not like I don’t understand what it means to see the scale of the problem. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is, we can’t take for granted like, what is it that Joel Houston is supposed to be? It’s a leap, for example, to say, because this happened at the top, and they share a last name, it must mean that he knew what was going on, it might.

if you look at the whistleblower documents that have come out, the enriching that was going on, was throughout the entire organization.

And I’ll give you an example, the reporting on that scandal about a month ago, I believe, indicated as one of its big whistleblower elements, that Hillsong had paid a million dollars in royalties to Joel Houston. And this was treated as one of the negative components. The crazy thing about that is Hillsong was legally obligated to pay those royalties to Joel Houston. They were collected through ASCAP and BMI and these sorts of things. And Joel and Hillsong as the song publisher, now we can have a conversation about that. But Hillsong as the song publisher couldn’t keep the money, it had to go to Joel.

And that’s the way things were set up. I will say right now.

That’s how songwriting works.

I don’t know why that wasn’t happening, as I understand, with Vineyard when they were doing it.

It’s kind of that’s a different conversation, then. Yeah, yeah, question of whether songs are tracked. And whether the whether $1 exists, that’s never the question. Somebody somewhere made a few bucks. And in the days of Fanny Crosby, it was the hymn publisher who made the money, and it just didn’t happen to flow down all that often. So, there is and always is money in the distribution of goods right? Now, our relationship to that I’m not taking that for granted as good. That’s not my point. My point is that we want to say, the way it is now is uniquely evil. I think it’s different. And I think it’s complicated. And I think if we don’t deal with the specifics, then our efforts to deal with what looks like the problem end up being a little more than hot noise and white noise, that we never deal with the real thing because it’s too easy to dismiss. And Hillsong is filled with examples where that documentary was a perfect example. Somebody could go and what are you talking about? Listen, all music moves me. And then the credibility of the documentary is shot. The documentary has spent an hour talking about something that’s easily dismissed before addressing a thing that’s very much a problem.

I’m not arguing that. Yeah, and I’m not arguing in favor, I think Hillsong there’s been a lot of documentaries made and they’re made by organizations that, frankly, don’t understand half the time. The media organizations they may be trying to do their job, or they may be trying to sensationalize.

But there’s a lot of information missing.

But there often is, and this is my thing with so much of the media when they report on evangelicalism. They don’t understand evangelicalism, they don’t understand the church. And so, they don’t, I don’t think they do it well, and they often miss it. And sometimes they do it very well. But sometimes they don’t.

But I cannot overlook how big and how much money is being exchanged. And when we talk about these four churches again, the whistleblower documents that were released what it showed, and it called the whistleblower themselves who came from within Hillsong this wasn’t an outsider, this was an insider, called something called the celebrity preacher scam. This whole, you invite me to your church, my church will pay you an exorbitant honorarium, then I’ll invite you to my church, we’ll pay you an exorbitant honorarium. We’ll give you first class or business class travel, we’ll put you up in the best hotels, and who’s the honorarium going to? It’s coming from the church from donors money, but it’s going to the particular pastor who’s coming to speak. And when we look at these four churches, here we go. Hillsong is a number one mega church that’s driving all of this. I would say, it’s so much of this worship music. Louie Giglio of Passion was a regular speaker at Hillsong, pulling honorariums between $5000, which may seem reasonable to $35,000 Australian dollars for each engagement. Bill Johnson, head of Bethel spoke at Hillsong least four times between 2019-2020 making between $5000-$28,000 a speaking engagement that’s in Australian dollars. Steven Furtick, of Elevation Church spoke at Hillsong, at least once. Again, these aren’t the whistleblower documents aren’t comprehensive of everything. it’s what was reported and what we have, but at least once was paid $14,000 to speak at Hillsong. But of course, we know Steven Furtick lives in a 16,000 square foot, multimillion dollar house. I am looking at that seeing in Scripture that you’re right, money isn’t evil, but the love of money is. And when you see these kinds of huge honorariums going to the head of these churches. And you see the kind of collusion when you’re talking about, you can say there’s nothing evil about that. But how much has money perverted, and this is the question, I guess, when we get right down to it, is how much has money and the love of money, perverted not just these churches and the way they’re operating, but the worship industry itself? Because let’s look at the four most powerful churches that influence the songs that we sing. And are they even living in a godly manner? How would Jesus feel if he came today, to those churches? Would he be flipping the tables? Would he be?

Those are great questions. I mean, I think it’s a complicated space that we live in, and I Shannon hasn’t as much I’ve lived in that space for the last 20 years. There’s a couple of things to consider. This isn’t necessarily an apologist approach; I’m just throwing it out there. The way that the talent industry works, and the way that the music industry works, and whether we like it or not, that’s what we’re talking about here, talking about people who have managers and agents, and so on. And depending on their book publishing deal, depending on their record label deal, and how it all there’s people who have to share everything, it’s all percentage splits. So, if you are a speaker, and you have an agent, that agents probably taking anywhere from 10 to 15%, sometimes more, depending on their deal, you have a manager who’s taking 15 to 20%, sometimes more depending on the deal. And so, you’re looking at anywhere from a range of minimum 25% to 35-40%, going out the door immediately. So, every fee gets split, and then you’ve got costs on top of that. So even your $5,000 fee starts to look pretty unreasonable for the sort of black and white value that a speaker would bring to attending an event. And now that’s, of course, more true in the conference space than it is true in the local church environment. That’s a different ballgame. But at some point, it does get complicated and weird. You’re right. I will say in from my own life, I’m someone who has gone out of my way to set my life up so that I’m operating with integrity. To some people’s standards, I make good money. The reality is most of that money is made in my business ventures. So, what people don’t, it can be easy. And it’s helpful to have the real black and white documents, of course, but it can be easy to project onto Oh, the fees are there. Therefore, this is happening. When I think of Saddleback and that sort of thing, where the salary was $0. And his books were selling enough that the books bought his house multi times over. And Stephen Furtick’s case I know he’s often listed as a writer; we could talk about that. But at the end of the day, if he’s a writer on all of these big songs, to what extent is that the fruit of his work as a pastor speaker versus the fruit of his work as a creator and that sort of thing? I don’t know that I have the answer to that. I do share your discomfort with it. With the sort of sheer scale and the way that there is this ability to dictate the market when you have a big enough share of the market. That’s true in every market.

One thing, let me just when it comes to Steven Furtick, his name being on all the songs, interestingly, because I’ve spent a lot of time reporting on Harvest Bible Chapel. And James MacDonald was on some of those songs. Luke MacDonald was on a lot of them. I’m not sure what role they actually played on them. But I know when they set it up, you’re right, Vertical Worship, they will get a cut. I don’t know if they’re still getting a cut. I know they were. I also know that those contracts from talking to Josh Caterer who used to be a worship pastor there, but who had been in the music industry for a long time, before he became a believer, actually had a punk rock band. And he said, those were the most exploitative contracts he’d ever seen. In fact, he left because he wouldn’t sign it. But Furtick Yeah, he’s probably getting a commission on the music. Some might look at that and say, well, he wrote it, and he should be a part of it. Some might look at that and say, Well, isn’t that nice? He got his name on there, so he could get the royalty. There’s two ways to look at that.

I do know that he contributes to some songs very meaningfully. I’ll say that. He’s not a writer.

Okay. Let me say too, though, when you look at his house, we don’t know his salary, because they don’t disclose it. If you’re a secular nonprofit in the United States, you have to disclose your top wage earners. The only ones that don’t are churches. And why is it that a church, a religious nonprofit where you have people giving to God’s work, why should the leaders there be less accountable than your secular nonprofit? So, we don’t know what his salary is. But we do know that the people that set his salary, who are supposedly providing accountability, are other megachurch pastors. Who are the megachurch pastors that are setting a salary, and what are their salaries, what do they think is reasonable? And the fact that they won’t tell us there is no transparency. So that kind of transparency, like you’re teaching us some stuff about what’s happening in the music industry. But there is a lack of transparency across the board.

I totally agree. And I think that’s part of what motivates us a little bit, is the idea that I think we operate with a sort of naive mythos of what worship songs are, and partly evangelicals and Christians, maybe not at large, but evangelicals certainly have this sort of allergy to talking about business in business terms. So, we’re drawn to using spiritually veiling language instead of discussing money as money.

I think for me, part of what motivates me in this, and I’ve said this to Phil Wickham, when he asked why we’re doing this, it is, at the end of the day, I think it’s important that we talk about what is true so that we can solve real problems with real facts,. It is really hard if what we’re doing is talking about these ideals we hold about the things and not treating the participants as human beings and not taking for granted that basically caricature which isn’t quite what you’re doing in this case. But I agree with you in transparency, we need to be talking transparently about how money works in the music business, about how royalties work about how we discover songs, but what we really think about that sort of thing, and what we think about where worship songs come from, and why. And if we can have an honest conversation about that, then maybe we can shape an industry which is going to exist in some form, into something that we all feel better about. But if what we do instead, just like with senior pastors, is prop up a sort of mythology of the thing, then we can’t do that. It protects the status quo. Now our team is a bunch of participants. We’re not trying to take this thing down. That’s not at all what we’re trying to do. I probably trust the Joel Houston’s of the world more than you’re prone to do. And that’s fine. But it’s not because I think the sun shines out of something. It’s just as simple as saying, I think our relationship to art is complicated. And the industry, which we’re all forced to participate in, in doing this is also very complicated. And naivety around that is part of what contributes to the degree of hurt that so many of us experience.

Shannon, let me ask you, when we’re talking about some tough things, and I liked that this conversation has gotten real. I think it’s healthy to have this kind of back and forth. But as you look at scripture and principles, what should be guiding us as we do try to evaluate this industry and these kinds of issues that we’re talking about?

Yeah, I think the guiding factor for me, as I’m thinking about, I’ve also been a worship pastor at a church for a few years, is when we’re looking at all of these songs, I think, above all else, making sure that we’re selecting songs, wherever they come from, that have solid, biblical and theological truths that align with interpretation of Scripture, for your context, I think is the most important factor. And I think I’m being broad intentionally because there are churches that will use Bethel songs and have no problem with Bethel theology. And will use Bethel songs. Great if it’s edifying your church and people are coming to know Christ, awesome. Because that’s the goal, right is to have more and more people drawn to Christ. I know there are other churches that don’t agree with Bethel’s theology, and will not use Bethel songs, and they’re finding other songs, and people are coming to know Christ.

And I think at the end of the day, yes, it’s helpful to know who the songs are by. I mean, Elias has already given a lot of contexts for maybe how to approach who the artist is. But I think for me, it’s really just important that whatever you’re singing is theologically true and aligns with good interpretation of Scripture. So, and I think what really comes down to that is some people would look at these four mega churches and say none of them do. They’ll look at all four of them and say, the songs, none of them are theologically true. It’s all heresy. Which, you know, that’s their prerogative. I think there are some great songs coming from these churches. But I would say for the ones who just blindly use the songs from these four primary contributors, just for whatever reason, maybe they don’t have enough time to listen for new people, or they just trust them. So, we’ll use whatever they get from them. I would just challenge to look for the songs that are maybe a little more hidden. Spotify makes it really easy. And whatever songs you find, just remembering too, yes, music can be manipulative, but making sure that the words we’re singing and that worship pastors are choosing for people to put on their lips and say before God, are theologically true.

I’m trying to think the on the list that I saw, was In Christ Alone on there?

So that song was written before 2010.

I was gonna say that would be an outlier.

It does appear it says there are a few outliers like that. In Christ Alone I believe appeared on almost every single list in the 2010s decade. So, there are a few of those songs that are still sung just weren’t new songs on our list.

That would be one, I would say it’s theologically rich. But you’re right. That’s a good question. We haven’t really talked that much about the actual content of the songs and what’s happening with them. We used to have a joke, I know at our church, that there are meteorology songs, let it rain and let the winds blow and the song, and some of them have very little theological content. Although I will say too, one of the things I think that worship music gets really pounded for is people say, Oh, it’s just mushy, love songs. And when I look at the Psalms, that’s a lot of mushy love songs in there. And people would say, we sing them over and over again. And I’m like, What do you kiss your wife over and over again? Yeah, I mean, I think we forget that this is relationship with God. And I appreciate what you brought up there, Shannon.

At our we had a Restore Conference last year. And it was our second one that we’ve done, but it gathers a lot of folks that have been hurt or wounded by the church. And in our first one, I intentionally wanted to have worship there. I know there’s some people that will be like, when you gather people who have been wounded by the church, these are just all triggers for them, and some will go so far that we shouldn’t talk about God because they were hurt by the church. And if we don’t talk about God, and we don’t invite the Holy Spirit to be present, then we’re cutting ourselves off from the source of our healing. And that will be devastating to us. So, the first one we did that we actually had a band. The second one, I just really felt it was important to strip it all down. And so, we just had a guitar and the worship leader brought, he did bring somebody who played keyboards and would sing background, but it’s very stripped-down worship. And almost all of our songs were hymns. Because I did notice that so many of the worship songs today, for these people who have been hurt in the church, have triggers for them. But it makes me wonder but for the people listening who have been through sort of a church hurt experience, and they’re looking at these songs or even looking at how it can be done differently, speak to them. How should they look or approach this worship music that and I understand what you’re saying Elias. Handel’s Messiah, I don’t think Handel was a Christian even. And yet we worship with it. But yet I think now because of the current cultural moment that we’re in, with so many of these scandals blowing up, and because of people being wounded in those environments, what would you say to them when they say, I know a lot of them saying, I have trouble even entering into worship anymore, because of what happened to me.

Sure. Yeah. That’s definitely a heavy thing to think through. And like I mentioned earlier, not something that I don’t personally understand exactly. My own main mentor in life is somebody with whom I have a complicated relationship in my mind. I think of stuff going on over in the UK right now as a really good example of the same sort of thing and people like Matt Redman are commenting on it. So, I think there’s this.

And let me just for those who don’t know about that, we actually just published a story not long ago about Mike Pilavachi, who was the founder of Soul Survivor, which brought huge youth festivals, would bring in like 30,000 youth from all around mostly UK, but really all around the world. People would come from all over.

It was hugely influential for me.

And what’s coming out is that a lot of allegations that he abused these young men who were a part of the Ministry of Soul Survivor, and Matt Redman was one of the early people that came his worship music really became popular through Soul Survivors. Go ahead.

Yeah. So, all that to say, I think there is often this kind of flattening of the question of experience of church based on the platform versus not the platform, that I don’t know if it works in reality. I think there is a pretty big gap between the senior pastor in the church and everybody else very often. And there’s just people have different roles to play, and they play them. And so, I think, experientially, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be easy to be in a context where you’re experiencing something that for you is associated with pain and hurt. I can understand that. And I can understand needing to work through that. But at the same time, we’re human beings.

So, if I think about like, what it means to think about humans coming together in worship, there isn’t really another activity that’s as unifying, in a holistic sense, in an embodied sense, as song. And so, it’s difficult to think of something which would cause 300 people to pray the same thing at the same time and feel something about it. It’s basically music, that’s what we’ve got. There’s no easy answer to that question, I guess is what I’m saying. It just really is a difficult thing to work through. I think where it gets hard is when we start to want to remove anything that can be very difficult. I don’t know exactly how we do that, and then not end up with something which is as lifeless and soulless, and almost dualistic in a sense. We start to take the things like the one that gets raised a lot in my world is that question of emotional manipulation. Is worship music emotionally manipulative? And my answer is yes. And the reason is, what I said earlier. We look to music to do that thing; that’s music’s function is to move us. And the person who first sought to manipulate the music was the writer trying to manipulate themselves, in a sense. Like trying to bring about in them a feeling that conveyed the thing they were trying to put across. And it’s so easy to look at the people doing this and infer intent and infer sort of malice, where maybe it might exist, and it might not. And I wish there was an easier answer for this. But in my experience, there isn’t. It is just a complicated thing that is hard to wrestle through, if you’ve been through that sort of hurt.

I’m writing songs like this. And I was talking with my friend Chris, who’s in a band called Brain Collective. And we were writing a song together. And we were saying how it can be so hard to write worship songs, because every song is practically an existential crisis. You don’t have that when you’re writing love songs about your wife, it’s not the same. And so, it’s not as though the writers of these songs are lacking gravitas and are not wrestling with these questions themselves. They are. They’re often some of the first victims of it. And so, I think we need to be comfortable, or we need to at least do the work of seeing things for what they are and what they are not and approaching them as such. And yes, that can be like untangling a ball of yarn. But on some level, if we hope to still be around in this thing. That’s work we have to do. And it’s hard.

I know for me, there was a period where I couldn’t listen to any modern worship. I’ve come back to being able to and I lead worship, just in a small context now. But being able to play some of those songs that have such positive connotations for me, where it says in Scripture, come back to the things that you did at first, and often those are those songs that are so meaningful, that first connected me with the Lord. And so, I found that very meaningful. Now, will I ever be able to sing an Elevation song again? Or Hillsong? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. That would be really tough for me personally, but I hear what you’re saying. And I appreciate it. Shannon, any final thoughts on your part before we sign off here?

I guess my final thought would be our study focused on the 2010s decade. It focused on the previous decade leading up to the pandemic. The worship landscape now, the contemporary worship landscape now looks very different, and there is starting to be a shift. That is encouraging. There are new artists that are emerging. One of them seemingly has no connection to these big four. Her name is Charity Gale. She’s becoming more and more popular. Maverick City is coming up. Other names are becoming known whether they have associations to these big four are not. So, I would say, on an encouraging note, the 2020s, I think, are going to look very different than the past decade. And there are a lot of positive changes that I think are coming.

Is there any chance that somebody who just writes songs and isn’t a great singer or performer, that their song will ever their worship song could ever be played?

If they’re not the one particularly recording it or releasing it themselves? I think they can collaborate with some people who are, and it probably will get known that way. But without, right now, I think unless you’re latching on to an artist that’s becoming popular right now without a connection to them, or getting and landing a big record deal, I think it’s very difficult. Which again, puts the burden on the worship pastor and the worship leader to take the challenge and the responsibility to seek out lesser-known artists who are writing great songs. You just have to look for them.

And maybe within your church context, there can be songs that are just yours, and are happening being written by your own people. Well, Shannon, and Elias, thank you so much for this challenging discussion and for the insights you have from the study. I know it’s continuing to be released. I think you’ve released like three articles, which is releasing part of your study. But like a total of you expect about eight, right? So, we’re not even halfway through some of the unveiling that’s going to happen. So yeah, I look forward to that and to reading those. But thank you so much for taking the time today. Really appreciate it.

Well, again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’ve appreciated this podcast, would you please consider supporting the work we do at The Roys Report? Its generous supporters like you that make this podcast and all of our investigative work at The Roys Report possible. And this month for gift of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Wounded Workers: Recovering From Heartache in the Workplace in the Church. I know a lot of you who listen to this podcast have experienced church hurt, and many may be in a situation right now where you’re trying to evaluate whether to stay or to leave. This book is especially designed for you, and I think you’re going to find it invaluable. So, to donate and get a copy of Wounded Workers just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you were blessed and encouraged.

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19 thoughts on “The Megachurch Worship Monopoly, Part II”

  1. Handel was a Christian (brought up Lutheran). I too struggle with singing songs that enrich false teachers and/or abusers.

    1. These people compare their songs to scripture, they surely need to read scripture and see if they indeed are what they say they are, their comments are disturbing to say the least !

  2. Excellent podcast. Baker and Dummer opened my eyes to the complexities involved with music publishing and rights. For a long time I was supportive of new worship music, and still am to some degree. But with the Christian industrial complex now dominating much of our contemporary worship, it’s time to ask hard questions. Since the 1960s, American capitalism has more and more concentrated wealth and power in the hands of the few. We have a bunch of religious Elon Musk’s with outsize power to shape what we sing and how we worship on Sunday mornings. Thirty years ago, worship and praise music was fresh and innovative. Now it’s stale with everyone using the same formula. But that is what happens when an industry is dominated from the top down. Innovation becomes stifled and anything like the great hymns of the church gets run over by those making a buck on the backs of the people of God.

    1. Yay! My comment was deleted because it was too long, but yours is better. I realize that I have to see the young man as a product of the times he’s grown up in. But no: relationship cannot be reduced to manipulation, as if it’s all manipulation. Manipulation vs sincerity is the basis of the fear of clowns. The issue is real. Worship is supposed to be sincere, not manipulative fakery. The “bidness” may think manipulation is good enough for its consumers, but worship needs sincerity, even beyond that which we can work ourselves into. When we worship God, we have to seek sincerity, and let the Holy Spirit lead us even deeper into truth than we already are.

  3. Julie you are so correct about David’s repentance and worship. This guy is too far into the “the industry”, and business of worship music to understand. The issue is so much more foundational than he understands. Keep fighting and keep flipping tables Julie.

  4. Well it’s very clear scripturally!

    All thru scripture we are commanded to TEST ALL THINGS as the Bereans tested Paul !

    Clearly these are all false churches with false teachers !

    Paul commanded to mark them which do not preach the true gospel which none of these churches do being involved deeply in New Age practices and false doctrines

    These churches are sll WORD OF FAITH! Which is metaphysical origins plagerized into the false church by ESSEX KENYON an unbeliever and new age practitioner

    Music is used to give credibility to these damnable churches and because of have to be sharply rebuked and avoided

    This is scripture for 2 john states anyone even giving them Godspeed is a partaker off their evil deeds!

    God holds us accountable with a grave judgment against us that support God’s damnable enemies !

    For Jude and Peter say they bring in damnable doctrines of devils !

    Jesus, Paul, John, Peter and Jude all spoke about these false teachers that directly pertain to Salvation !

    It’s a most very serious topic !

  5. As for how Stephen Furtick ended up in the songwriting credits for Elevation Worship songs, it is my understanding that anyone “in the room” when the song is composed gets credited, as that’s simpler than keeping track of who contributed what words or musical piece. A person suggesting one word to complete a rhyme gets credit as one of the composers.

  6. Elizabeth Morrison

    I went to Hillsong for many years. I left in September 2021 after starting to see people being treated cruelly. I can barely stand to hear the whistle blower details as someone who tithed for so long I remain in shock, processing feelings of disgust, humiliation, anger etc. I would not be able to enjoy any hillsong worship music. How could i possibly reward financially such deceptive, unrepentent, arrogant and misogynistic organisation. The depth of their betrayal feels unending.

  7. It seems we have forgotten a big contributor here in all this; God, via the Holy Spirit. Should we even be singing formulaic songs to manipulate emotions? Is our primary goal to manipulate human emotions or to praise God? Is music for our benefit or to God’s honor? If our goal is to unite people in an emotional experience, is that what praise and worship is now boiled do to? Where is God’s / Jesus’s, and the Spirit’s worthiness in that?

  8. Tami Schroeder

    Thank you for this thoughtful discussion. The church I attend incorporates songs by the Getty’s: Keith and Kristyn vs the mega church offerings.

    It is my belief that God can use all truth regardless of the format and there is grace and freedom in an individual’s form of worship.
    Understanding vs legalism and finding a body of believers that worship is a safe way for you I thinks are key components to worship.

    1. Agreed. Grace and freedom must be in the mix. Prayerful oversight by leadership can be a protective, but can also turn into an excessive “worship police” scenario, where the Spirit is quenched.

  9. Interesting you do not bring up Riddle’s book The Reset. This brings up many of these topics. Sadly, not personally seen any change from it. Then again Heart of Worship 20 plus years ago did not seem to change much.
    I struggle with who these worship leaders endorse and play at their churches – Joel Osteen for example. Time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  10. Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.”The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.”The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;* and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”
    John 4: 16-23
    I have wondered for many years what Jesus meant when he said we must worship the Father in Spirit and truth. Probably because she was one woman in the Bible that I related to. I tried to find out by reading, but was never satisfied with the answers. Now I believe that it means (for me at least) that Spirit and truth are those moments of overwhelming love and joy and I am filled with praise for my Father. But I have to say I never cared for the repetitious sing song stuff, no matter who produced it. My favorite praise song is the old hymn, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow. Obviously I was raised strict Catholic.

  11. David Peterson

    Hi Julie- I have a bit of a side issue. It’s the Accompaniment. I stream music, and sometimes I’m bothered by the chords and rhythm even before they start singing. Something is off but I can’t put my finger on it. And when I check who the artist is, it’s always one of those big 4 or Gateway or Vertical. For example, a couple days ago one came on I don’t think I’d heard before, and sure enough, it’s Hillsong. After that came a Michael W Smith. Although I was annoyed by his doing coaching and cheerleading during the song, it didn’t have any of the steady repeating background chords. I don’t think I ever heard this from Integrity or Maranatha etc. back in the day either. Then I replayed the Hillsong one and the computer selected one from Passion to follow it. Same thing. I don’t know if this is intentional or sinister… Maybe if you interview some more experts they could address it?

  12. I wish this podcast had focused more on the musical/theological issues involved instead of the size of Furtick’s mansion, or the money trail. Those are important topics, but they don’t have anything to with how the narrow repertoire of music is stunting the role that worship should play in spiritual formation/discipleship. I was expecting, for example, a discussion of the narrow range of theological topics found in most the the Big Four worship repertoire. They don’t explore the themes of lament, sorrow, loss, and self-denial. It’s mostly about God making me victorious, and the Spirit making me feel good. Victory is divorced from the cross and holiness. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the leadership of these organizations live the way they do.

  13. My problems with the music of the “Big Four” would be:

    1. They seem to wimp out on the hard work of crafting beautiful, rich lyrics.
    2. A fixer-upper God; God’s role is to fix everything for me—slay my giants, move my mountains, heal my body, provide my needs, make all things possible, give me victory in all things.
    3. Conversely, “victory” never seems to involve denial of self, taking up the cross of Christ, suffering, sorrow, perseverance, discipline, or loss. My problems never seem to involve my own spiritual blindness, pride, hard-heartedness, sinful motives, or foolish actions. It’s always those mean giants out there causing me problems.
    4. I’m “available” but not really a bondservant, or willing to trust God in the dark night of the soul if a miracle doesn’t happen.
    6. I want the Spirit to “fill me” but the scriptural roles of the Spirit are rarely mentioned outside of “comfort” or vague “presence.”Conviction of sin and righteousness and judgement, holiness and sanctification, and leading into truth are rarely mentioned in connection with the Spirit.
    7.Songs seem to accomplish the weird achievement of being simultaneously boring (4 chords ad nauseam), yet too complicated (fussy, syncopated melodic rhythms, difficult for congregation).
    8. Melodies tend to be designed to show off the lead singer’s vocal chops instead of being congregational.
    9. Making the lead singer sound good takes priority over congregational engagement.

    Like one of my friends quipped, “Christian Music Business has three words, and only one of them counts.”

  14. At the end of the day, for all issues-Music, celebrity preachers, McArthur- we see the use of Christ to idolize men. Being and growing as a christian comes from Loving God/Christ with ALL my heart, my mind, my soul, and my power (Deut 6:4-6, Mat 22:37, I Cor 16:22, Eph 6:24-25). This is the goal of God for my life, and the Spirit’s work in the heart. The World is still the World (I Jn 2:15-16), and False doctors and/or men who prostituted their call to appeal the fleshly desires of men (Gal 5:19-21) including the narcisstic worlview prevailing today (2 Cor 2:17, 4:2-3, I Thess 2:4, 2 Pet 2). I love music, but today I sing everything that elevates God/Christ than what appeals to my opinion about my greatnes!!! Success, wealth and pragmatism have replaced faithfulness.

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