Bethel Church, and doing what you're singing

Every now and again, I take a 2 1/2 hour drive up Interstate 5 North to Redding, CA to attend Bethel Church. After having heard buzz about it in the various church circles I roll with--some singing its praises and others questioning its spiritual praxis--I decided it was time to go and check it out for myself. You can read about my first visit to Bethel by clicking HERE.

Yesterday, I returned there because my experience worshipping with the Church (big "C," Universal Church) at Bethel has always been positive, encouraging, convicting and inspiring.

While there, I've never barked like a dog, clucked like a chicken or been slain in the Spirit, nor have I heard any noises indicating the presence of animals in the building. I did, however, hear Biblical truth preached that resonated with the Spirit of God living in me. I experienced an enlightening, of sorts, that brought Biblical concepts to life inside my soul.

One thing to admire about Bethel Church is that their approach to God, and His Word, is not merely intellectual, but holistic in scope; encompassing mind, body, spirit, soul and response.

Bethel worshippers take responding to God quite seriously. Their reputation for being charismatic, loud and expressive precedes them because their church service leaves plenty of room for response to God's working in their lives. They respond to His work with loud singing, cries of praise, shouts, laughter, intercessory prayer and fellowship.

I am not a charismatic person by nature, and would probably be labelled as being quite conservative in my expression of worship to God (I'd rather think, wonder and awe over God's majesty than wave a flag), but, my God, how refreshing it was to see people actually shout when a song said to shout and lift hands when a song said to lift hands and cry out when a song said to cry out and bow down and raise their voices and dance wildly for God as mentioned in the lyrics being sung. There was something really sincere and appropriate about that, obviously.

It seems wrong to play songs that exhort us to do things that we never intend on doing. If we're not really going to be a "dancing generation" then we should scrap that song. If were not really going to "shout unto God with a voice of triumph" then maybe we shouldn't play that one either.

As one who leads worship from the front, I'll admit that it's kind of awkward to play songs that talk about dancing, shouting, kneeling, crying out and lifting hands when no one is taking those actions in the congregation. It's not like God is requiring these acts from us (His concern is our hearts), so why then do we put ourselves in these situations--singing expectations over ourselves that we aren't willing to take? Is it our hope that we'll eventually get to the point of being able to act in the ways that we are singing about? Maybe we're slowly growing into our potential. If we keep singing these kinds of songs maybe the actions will follow.

Is that the thought process? Is anyone else thinking about this?

Or maybe there are just certain personality types that will never worship God in outwardly expressive ways, and there's nothing wrong with that. Right?

I propose, however, that for these conservative types (myself included), we should start singing different songs that don't talk about outward expression of actions that we've no intention of enacting. If we're not really going to "take it to the streets" then why are we making such a fuss about it with amplified guitars and crashing cymbals?

I'm all for sincerity. I don't want to say, do, or be anything that I am not. Worship should be entirely sincere; whether it be sincerely reflective and meditative, or sincerely raucous and triumphant. The choice is up to the worshipper. God is worthy of all our praise, which might look like a conservative pondering over of His attributes, or it might look like an undignified celebration of His glory.

Bethel is good at basking in God's glory, which I don't think is deserving of criticism. In fact, I find their congregational charisma as being a complementary part of the Universal Church body; whereas I mostly reside in the brain, Bethel's like the hips that shake. And the world needs to see a Church that moves beautifully with passion and grace. It may look a little crazy sometimes, but I'm sure David wasn't looking too sane while dancing naked in the streets before God's ark. At Bethel, they do what they sing and sing what they do. And that actually makes a lot of sense to my brain.

...ramble on...


  1. Great article! I'd like to comment on something you said. Nothing huge. But you mentioned, "I'll admit that it's kind of awkward to play songs that talk about dancing, shouting, kneeling, crying out and lifting hands when no one taking those actions in the congregation"

    I think the process should be what the songs are saying. How can we NOT cry out or dance or SHOUT with rejoice to the One who DIED FOR US.. We plainly do NOT deserve life but He chose US. I do not get a congregation who stares motionless when we are called to worship. I just don't get that.

  2. Thanks for reading. I'm glad you don't get blank stares and unresponsiveness in your congregation during worship songs that call for action. That's great!

    I was just making the point that that's been my experience on a number of worship occasions and that's what I was addressing in much of the blog. I want that to change. We have all reason to respond, so why don't we? That's my challenge/question/concern/etc.

    Peace and Love,