Sunday, September 23, 2012

Be Still

Contemplative or Listening Prayer & Psalm 46:10

Passion 2012

After reading Ephesians 1:15-23 (lectio divina, i.e. Latin for reading sacred things) at the Passion 2012 conference, and while standing on stage with the other keynote speakers beneath a giant screen reading Jesus, speak to me,
Beth Moore tells the audience:

Without any comment please, let’s pause and be still,
and ask Jesus to speak His word to us.
Held in Atlanta, GA, last January 1-3, at the Georgia Dome, and attended by over 42,000 college age youth, one can observe Lecrae (a converted rap and Hip Hop artist), Francis Chan, Louie Giglio and John Piper, along with thousands of youth, participating in the mystical practice of contemplative or “listening” prayer at Moore’s behest, and this despite the fact that Scripture provides no instruction or any illustration for engaging in such a “spiritual” activity.[1] 

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“Be still, and know that I am God . . .” (Psalm 46:10)

Those promoting contemplative or “listening” prayer refer to this Scripture as a biblical endorsement for pursuing this spiritual discipline. As a precondition for experiencing Soul-to-soul communication from God, contemplative Christians advocate cultivating quietude for the purpose of creating a spiritual tabula rasa (i.e., Latin for blank slate) in which personal communication from God can be received. Influential Christian leaders and spiritual directors encourage listening prayer (praying without words) as a means to experience ”God’s guidance in everyday life.” At face value, Psalm 46 verse 10 appears to endorse this increasingly popular but ancient and mystical way to pray.

A major Christian magazine once devoted a full page advertisement promoting a DVD titled “Be Still.”[2] The DVD case bears the inscription of Psalm 46:10 and a promotion which reads, ”In Today’s Fast-Paced, Hectic Life, Be Still Is an Important Tool that Keeps You in Touch with Yourself, Your Family and God.”[3] The magazine’s advertisement of the DVD stated:

BE STILL... demonstrates how contemplative, or ‘listening,’ prayer can be be a vital way to find peace in the midst of a frenzied, fast-paced, modern world. BE STILL examines the importance of silence and reflective prayer as a way to receive God’s guidance in everyday life. BE STILL... features a useful ‘how to’ section that shows how contemplative prayer can be used to return to a more simple life and reaffirm that which is truly important.[4]

As advocated by some of today’s most notable Christian communicators, what should Bible believers think about this DVD advocating contemplative prayer?

Bible Interpretation 101 teaches that every text without a context is pretext. Extracting Psalm 46:10 to be an endorsement of meditative-listening prayer is just such a pretext. Here’s why.

First, the injunction to “Be still” must be understood in the milieu it was uttered. The Psalmist addressed a cosmos in crisis. The crisis imperiled the creation (vv. 1-3); threatened the city (vv. 4-7); and besieged the country (vv. 8-11). In the crisis with their world falling apart, the people were afraid (v. 2).

Second, the verb “Be still” (Hebrew, rapah) is used 46 times in the Old Testament with meanings everywhere from describing laziness to ordering relaxation. Though the majority of versions translate the injunction “Be still”, other meanings are “Cease striving ” (NASB), “Be quiet” (NCV), “Desist” (Young’s), or “Calm down” (CEV). In no biblical usage or context does the Hebrew verb enjoin God’s people to meditate or practice contemplative or listening prayer. Rather, believers are to rest and trust in God.

Third, verse 10 contains two co-ordinate imperatives, with the emphasis being on the second command, to “know that I am God,” not the first, to “Be still.” With the first imperative functioning as an adverb, the verse might read, “Calmly (or quietly) know that I am God....”[5] Thus by their focusing upon the initial command, to Be still, comtemplative spiritualists ignore the greater command, and that is, to know that I am God.

The command “know” primarily means, “to know by observing and reflecting (thinking)....”[6] As such, believers are encouraged to find comfort of soul by reflecting upon the saving works that God has both performed and promised. The meditation the psalm envisions is therefore objective, not subjective. “Be still” does not call persons to induce within their consciousness a wordless void or incubator in which state a mystical experience or word can be hatched. The cognitive command to “know” cancels that notion. In the light of God’s mighty works and providence, the psalm exhorts believers to reverence Him. As the prophet Habakkuk wrote, “...the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20).

Fourth, the command to “Be still” (v. 10) is specifically addressed to the survivors of a war torn nation, people that on all sides continued to feel threatened. To those scared to death by what was going on all around them (v. 2), the sovereign Lord encourages them to stop their trembling. As one commentator observed, “In this explosive context, ‘be still’ is not an invitation to tranquil meditation but a command to allow God to be God, to do his work of abolishing the weapons of war.”[7]

And finally, in the third section the Psalmist looks forward to a new order when God will impose his peace plan upon the world (See Isaiah 2:4.). As He will have ended conflicts and destroyed the weapons of war (vv. 8-9), the Lord affirms that in the coming kingdom age he “will be exalted among the nations” (v. 10). In view of this prospect, the sovereign Lord encourages his covenant people to, “Be still, and know that I am God....” In the end, the sovereign God will defeat war and end terrorism.

There resides a potential danger in mystical practices. It is this: In their attempt to journey into an altered state of consciousness, contemplative meditators may forget that God is the object and they are the subjects. As the theologian Warfield noted almost a century ago, “The history of mysticism only too clearly shows that he who begins by seeking God within himself may end by confusing himself with God.”[8] Thus by fixating upon the secondary imperative “Be still,” contemplators may, like eastern mystics and New Age devotees, forget they are not God!

A friend of mine, devoted to the pursuit and practice of alternative spirituality for some of his adult life, related how one New Age class adapted this verse for use. At each session’s beginning, participants were told to relax and say to themselves, “Be still and know (pause)... I am God.” Thus by using the psalmist’s words to affirm their own divinity, New Age practitioners turned God’s Word outside in and upside down!

To those who misuse Psalm 46:10 to endorse contemplative or listening prayer I say, “Nice try!” In no sense does “Be still” call believers to cultivate quietude. One study Bible states, “This is not a call for ‘silent’ worship.”[9] Though on occasions Christians ought to retreat in solitude to read Scripture and pray, “be still” is not an injunction to practice the silence of listening prayer. Rather, in light of the prospect that the sovereign God will one day institute and enforce his peace plan in the world, the psalm calls believers to serenity of heart and to “know” when that peace comes, then God “will be exalted among the nations.”

This article, originally authored six years ago,[10] is still current in light of Beth Moore's call[11] to "be still and ask Jesus to speak His word to us" One website has succinctly summarized the significance of the Passion Movement:

The Passion Movement, which held its first conference in 1997, continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  Passion 2012 – a three-day event – concluded yesterday and attracted around 45,000 enthusiastic attendees to the Georgia Dome.  For those like me who were not familiar with this huge event, here is a brief overview as well as a recap.

The Passion Conferences are restricted to those between the ages of 18 and 25.... Louie Giglio is the founder and architect of the Passion Movement.... Giglio has assembled a team of speakers, and those who joined him in speaking at Passion 2012 included John Piper, Francis Chan, Beth Moore, and Christine Caine.  Music is a HUGE part of the Passion Movement....[12]

Another web commentator described Passion 2012 this way:

Passion featured an interesting lineup of speakers such Francis Chan, Beth Moore and New Calvinist mentor John Piper. Not surpisingly the conference had a distinctive charismatic and even contemplative flair....[13]

The Truth:

To reiterate the spiritual dangers, 

A passive or empty mind will not remain an empty slate. Something, or someone, will fill it. Voided minds are permeable, suggestible, impressionable and malleable. Insatiably, they desire filling by something . . . anything. Hence, meditation serves as an open doorway into the world of the occult, a world of supernatural phenomena and forces..... 

Self-induced, mind-emptying and mind-altering disciplines/devices desensitize the Christian’s sensitivity to biblical reality as the mind abandons its defenses and letting go of restraints, no longer can discern truth from error.... To this end, entering an altered state of consciousness serves to anesthetize persons against discernment as they are overcome by a lax, apathetic and permissive state of mind. This happens in spite of the biblical call to be sober minded....

The exact opposite of mind-numbing meditating is the rehearsing of God’s Word on one’s mind for edification, encouragement and strength. Scriptural meditation involves going over and over Scripture in one’s consciousness. In this activity, in one's “right mind,” the Holy Spirit seals the eternal truths of God in the soil of the regenerate human soul thereby bringing the life of the Word of God to the inner man (2 Corinthians 2:16).[14]

[1] “Beth Moore Leading Lectio Divina lite With John Piper At Passion 2012,” YouTube, January 5, 2012 (
Readers might note that Beth Moore, in addition to Dr. Henry Cloud, Richard Foster, Max Lucado and others, is one of the featured speakers on the Be Still DVD documented in footnote number 3 below. On the video recording, one can observe her in addition to Lecrae (a converted rap and Hip Hop artist), Francis Chan, Louie Giglio and John Piper and thousands of college-aged youth participating in contemplative or listening prayer.
[2] Advertisement, Christianity Today, April 2006, p.5.
[3] Be Still (DVD © 2006 Twentieth Fox Home Entertainment LLC).[4] Op. cit.
[5] Of this type of construction (imperative waw imperative, “Be still and know”) one grammar remarks that, “the second verb usually expresses the principal idea, while the first indicates the manner, and may conveniently be rendered in the translation by the use of an adverb.” See Ronald J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1969): 43.
[6] Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr., eds., Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980) 212.
[7] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1999): 210.
[8] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Mysticism and Christianity,” The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2003): 661.
[9] New Spirit Filled Life Bible, Jack Hayford, Executive Editor (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2002): 724.

[10] The original article by Pastor Larry DeBruyn is posted at and this version is reproduced with his suggested significant additions.
[12] The Wartburg Watch 2012: Dissecting Christian Trends: Passion 2012 – A Recap," The Wartburg Watch, January 6, 2012 ( Bold added.
13., "BETH MOORE AND JOHN PIPER SET FOR PASSION 2013 WITH LOUIS GIGLIO," Ibid. See the film footage posted at this site for illustrations of the concerns expressed in this article. 
[14] "Altered States: A Different Gate," 

Related reading: See Herescope posts by Pastor Larry DeBruyn "Getting 'High' on God" and "Getting 'Higher' on God" and Hush! Whispers at Willow Creek." 

The image at the top of this post comes from Passion 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

NAR in the Political Limelight

A Theocratic Dominion Apostle 
Gains Political Exposure at the RNC

A Commentary by Dr. Orrel Steinkamp

I have followed the rise of the Latter Rain for a number of years. The Latter Rain, an end-time fringe Pentecostal movement that arose in the 50s, has made its way through the following decades with different names and expressions. The Latter Rain is a fraudulent allegory pieced together as a new end-time teaching which in effect replaces the teachings of the New Testament. These fringe Pentecostals simply took the Old Testament reference to the agricultural growing season in Palestine (Deut 11:10-21, where God explained, “I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain,” vs. 14) and concocted a new end-time eschatology paradigm. In Palestine the early rains were the signal to plant barley. These early rains (sometimes called former rains) would gradually wane and then toward the harvest the "latter rains" came to fill out the barley and prepare for the final harvest. 

The free-wheeling Pentecostal allegorists preempted this Old Testament reference of the growing season and made it into a new symbol of the New Testament from Pentecost to the “final harvest.” In this heretical paradigm, the biblical Pentecost and early church stands for the early rains, the Dark Ages of the church are the dry season, and the Latter Rains are the end-time Pentecostal rains leading to a final harvest. It’s a clever allegory but it contradicts the teaching of the inspired Bible-writing genuine apostles of the early New Testament. It not only contradicts, but there isn't even a hint of it in the New Testament. (The final harvest mentioned in Revelation 14:15 is reaped by angels, not end-time Latter Rain apostolic agents.)

The central new teachings of the Latter Rain were the restoration of the office of apostles and prophets, and an end-time conquest of church and society (state, culture). This would be a restored band of office-holders of apostles and prophets that must reign before Jesus could return. These apostles are self-anointed and self-appointed, and they claim to be imbued with supernatural powers. 

In the past decade a new convert to the Latter Rain movement, missiologist C. Peter Wagner, has welded together a movement he has called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The NAR is a world-wide network of several hundred apostles with the stated goal of taking dominion over society and government. It was Wagner who gave the green light to enter the world of politics as a sort of halfway house in procuring the world dominion for the apostles and prophets. 

The inspired canonical Scriptures, of course, have no reference to any so-called restoration of these apostles and prophets at the end of the age. But these “restored” prophets give additional new revelations that in effect add to the Scriptures, and thus their new words serve to endorse these later day apostles and prophets with their new revelations. How clever. 

In addition, it was by new revelation that the current dominion teaching of taking dominion of the so called 7 mountains of culture became known and is now finding acceptance around the world. This whole movement presupposes that the New Testament end-time teaching in Scripture is essentially wrong and/or incomplete. So a new eschatology has arisen in which dominion is the key tenet

These self-proclaimed apostles and prophets continue to replicate. One reason that this movement continues to grow is that many of its apostles and prophets have their own ministries and they often do not accentuate their role as apostles and prophets. They hide their movement behind multiplying organizations and various ministries and thus avoid naming themselves apostles and prophets. (C. Peter Wagner no longer publishes the membership of his International Coalition of Apostles, for example.) This tactic is borrowed from current political affiliates who hide their true identities. An example would be Mike Bickle who is officially a restored apostle, yet he rarely states this, and his own ministry called IHOP (International House of Prayer, whose lineage goes back to the Latter Rain movement) occupies his calling card. So is the case with Rick Joyner and many others with multiple venues. 

Samuel Rodriguez is officially a NAR apostle. However he wears many hats. He is head of The National Hispanic Leadership Conference. But he has also been the Vice-President of the Oak Initiative, a religio-political entity initiated by Rick Joyner who is also a NAR apostle who has his own ministry called Morningstar Ministries. Rodriquez, however, plays on many different fields at the same time. He states in his biography that he has advised President Obama. Rodriquez is a huge multi-tasker. He was a part of the Circle of Hope Coalition of Evangelicals dedicated to helping Obama help the poor. 

Understandably, Rodriquez is then courted by various political movements. But he is at bedrock an NAR apostle with a "prophetic calling." Rodriquez has attempted to deny his office as a NAR apostle. But, despite his denials he is an apostle of the NAR. He is a member of Wagner's elite International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) through 2009, when they quit publicly publishing their membership). Although he is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, he has apostolic authority over a group of ministries, and he is, in turn, is under the apostolic authority of apostle Steve Perea. Perea, in turn, is part of the Kingdom Leadership Network that is under ICA apostle Pat Francis. (See Rachel Tabachnick, “Samuel Rodriquez, The NAR and the Apostolic Government of the Church,” Talk2Action, and other articles raising questions about Rodriguez.) 

This example illustrates the reach and authority of the restored apostles. On the surface these leaders may not herald their apostolic relatedness to other apostles. They may be ordained by a denomination. They may participate in myriads of organizations and seem very mainline. But the bottom line is that they must answer to their apostolic government. In particular, Rodriquez has mastered the art of being a stealth apostle. He markets himself as a new kind of Pentecostal. He has stated: "We need a new kind of Christian in America. It's not the Christian Right. It's not the Moral Majority. It's not the Christian Coalition. It’s a kingdom Culture." 

Rodriquez just gave away his real mission as a stealth apostle. It is dominion kingdom culture he advocates. He completes the sentence by saying: "the Kingdom Culture is multi-ethnic, multi-generational righteousness and justice movement dedicated to the Lamb." He repeats this phrase often at NAR meetings. It is his version of the Dominion mandate. This is often called the cultural mandate to make it seem less aggressive.

On a Tuesday evening in August Samuel Rodriguez, a stealth apostle, mounted the podium and offered the benediction at the Republican National Convention. It was a good prayer. So what is the problem? The problem is that he is a member of the ICA as an apostle. This is a group that believes they have the same authority as the biblical prophets of the New Testament (and Old!). That makes him a false apostle in the real Kingdom of God. No more no less.

Rodriquez has, of course, other credentials. Besides being an ordained AOG minister he sits on the board of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the NAE and Christianity Today. But these mainstream credentials do not change his identity and his false claim to hold the office of an apostle. As an apostle, Rodriguez has many other associations with leaders of the NAR and other associated leaders, including controversial ones like T.D. Jakes and Benny Hinn.

Being an end-time apostle is no longer a liability. A teaching an end-time dominion theocracy apostle is apparently not questioned by the professional political groups nor the NAE evangelicals. Perhaps they don’t know or are too preoccupied to notice. After all, many of the apostolic leaders and their allies have tried to deny their extreme dominionism teachings. 

These apostles claim to have authority even greater than Paul, Peter, Luke etc. The restored prophets, with a straight face, announce that Isaiah, Jeremiah will one day in glory accept and declare them as their greater peers. There are now a cadre of Latter Rain national politicians who use their power to introduce the apostles and prophets to the political limelight. Other politicians are seeking to buy the votes the NAR can promise, and the end-time apostles are happy to gain power and prestige on their path to dominionist theocracy

For more reading, see Dr. Orrel Steinkamp's Plumbline Newsletter Archives.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Getting “Higher” on God

(A Sequel)
Opiates and the “Experience” of Rave Worship[1]

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” 
The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 5:18-21

Scores of architecturally significant churches dot the landscape of the Australian city of Adelaide, structures that were built to last and perhaps bear testimony to a Christian influence in that part of the world. Upon visiting that city last year, my initial impression was perhaps like that of the Apostle Paul when he was in Athens and said, “Men of Athens [Adelaide], I observe that you are very religious in all respects” (Acts 17:22).

Under the auspices of Christian Witness Ministries and with Philip Powell the director of CWM, the Lord gave me the opportunity of ministry with The Street Church, a small Bible fellowship of committed Christians in Adelaide, a year ago (September 24-25, 2011). The church is led by the Corneloup brothers, Sam and Caleb, the former who came to the Lord out of a life of crime. In many ways the fellowship encouraged my spirit with the presence of many young people. For the seminars, the church rented The German Club in the downtown area in that city.

With some of the members of The Street Church, I had my first opportunity at “street preaching” at Rundle Mall, an open air shopping area in the heart of Adelaide.[2] As an American with a distinct “Michigander” accent, people passed by, briefly stopped to listen, and then went their way. Because The Street Church regularly engaged in the activity, secular authorities tried to muzzle the preachers by passing laws against them. But in the name of “free speech,” and because of the legal knowledge of Caleb Corneloup, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the street preachers. If other secular groups espousing a radical ideology were allotted the legal right of public assembly to express their views, then why not The Street Church?

The weekend of a whirlwind on ministry passed by quickly, and before I knew it, the time arrived for me to get to the airport on Saturday evening in order to catch a flight to Melbourne so that I could connect to another flight to Wellington, New Zealand, the next morning. (For a week, I was scheduled to preach in various cities throughout the north island.)

My driver, a young man from The Street Church, drove me to the Adelaide airport. During that ride and upon leaving the city proper, we drove by one of the beautiful church structures in that city. From the outside, the church appeared no different from the other church buildings with the exception of a large banner that brazenly hung across the steeple and over the entrance of the historic building. On that banner was painted one word: HEAVEN. I turned to my driver and asked him, “Is the name of that church HEAVEN? He answered, “Yes!” and then proceeded to inform me that the church was the one he used to attend before he became a believer in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I asked him what kind of church it was. He informed me it was a “rave” church. Well, not knowing what a rave church was for not ever having heard of such a church before, I questioned him further about what it was. He told me that in their gatherings the worshippers played loud and raucous music, danced, did drugs and partied (And who knows what else?).

Needs based Worship
After his description of “rave” worship, I thought to myself . . . Is this where adapting worship to fulfill the “thrills and chills” sought by seeker audiences, where tweaking the worship style to fit the mood of the culture and the needs of congregants will lead? Worship that resembles the atmosphere of Israel’s partying before the “Golden Bull” when “the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 32:1-35; *6); clamorous worship that to Joshua sounded like war was going on in the camp (Exodus 32:17). Is this what results when so-called worship becomes sourced in “the wants” of peoples’ bodies and brains (i.e., the Bible calls them “the lusts of the flesh,” i.e., Greek epithumias sarkos)?

Rave in the Nave
Rave worship seemingly originated amongst young Anglicans in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom, where Matthew Fox, the defrocked Roman Catholic priest who later became an Episcopalian, picked it up, brought it back to San Francisco, and adapted it to suit his New Age “eco-mysticism.”[3] In 1994, about a year after leaving the Roman Catholic Church, the LA Times confirmed that Fox got the idea for “the head-banger liturgy [the rave mass] after visiting a band of unorthodox young Anglicans in England—where the ‘Rave in the Nave’ features loud music, women dancing in bikinis and video monitors flashing messages such as ‘Eat God’ [evidently referring to their belief in the Eucharist’s transubstantiated elements].”[4]

On this point, it can be noted that as early as 1991, evangelical leader Leonard Sweet sourced his “creation spirituality” in Fox’s “eco-mysticism” when he wrote that, “Creation spirituality is of tremendous help here in weaning us from this homocentric warp [that is, any understanding that makes humanity the centerpiece of God’s creation and entrusts the stewardship “over” nature to them].”[5] Rave worship, sourced in the eco-mysticism of a pantheistic or panentheistic worldview, has as its mantra, “If it feels good, do it!” So do it they do.

Perhaps spinning-off the idea of Rave Masses, some Anglican-Episcopal churches now blasphemously call their Holy Communion service a “U2-Charist” in which hymns are replaced by the Irish rock-group’s best-selling songs.[6] The communion service is described:

In what is more rock concert than Book of Common Prayer, a live band will belt out U2 classics such as Mysterious Ways and Beautiful Day as worshippers sing along with the lyrics, which will appear on screens. The [nightclub] atmosphere will be further enhanced by a sophisticated lighting system that will pulse with the beat.... [7]

A few years ago, USA Today reported that “U2-charsists” have also come to Episcopal congregations in the United States, and perhaps will find their way into other denominations and congregations as well.[8] One young worshipper, a Roman Catholic who attended a “U2-charist” at a nearby Episcopal church, reported of her “U2-charist” experience: “It makes you, like, warm inside. Usually at church you love Jesus and everything. But this way you can express how you feel.”[9]

Descriptions of Rave
Rave is thought to be a rising supernatural movement in the UK consisting of a wide specter of Christians who, disaffected by and having dropped out of organized religion, “are burning for Jesus.”[10] A 4th annual “Sloshfest” held in 2010 in South Wales, attended by a crowd of about 600 from “alternative churches” all over the UK, was described as involving “wild-eyed and out of control” participants—“sweaty clothes clinging to their backs”—flailing “wildly to a booming beat.” During what appeared to resemble more a primitive and tribal religious celebration like those which have occurred in many cultures from time immemorial, some “ravers” even passed out amidst their whirling and dancing. The party, so it is claimed, consisted of “revellers” unaffected by either booze and/or drugs, but rather by the power of God, an ecstasy of worship that participants ascribed to “‘God-ka’ and the ‘yum rum of Heaven’.” One 38-year-old participant made no apology for the participants acting out of themselves because in his opinion, God is “a party animal who wants to win over youngsters with supernatural highs.” Another raver states:

Heaven is going to be wild. God will show up and be the life of the party. We want to see fun coming back into the Church.

Testimonials of Ravers
Matthew Fox first became acquainted with “rave masses” in England. In one instance, the Mass was “held in the basement of a sports complex and included 42 television sets flashing images of galaxies, dancing atoms, DNA, lunar eclipses and male-female archetypes.”[11] He offered his impressions of the masses he attended:

My first experience of the Mass was that this is a very friendly experience for a generation raised on television. My second experience was that these people are taking television away from the broadcasters and doing it live in the heart of the community, which is worship.[12]

Now the following testimonials of participants in the rave worship which occurred at Sloshfest are offered:[13]

People are looking for something relevant to them. If you like to party, drink and take drugs, our advice is, ‘Don’t drink Vodka, drink God-ka’.

There is no greater high than the Most High. When you come into God’s presence there is an intoxication that is overwhelming.

God wants us to enjoy his wine and embrace the spiritual realm.

Of course we all like to drink the yum rum of heaven, too.

When I’m worshipping I know I look absolutely insane, but that’s how I’m affected by my heavenly daddy.

It is such a wild fire. It is a fierce wild fire. It is untamable and undomesticated. (These words were spoken by a middle-aged woman dressed as Pinky Pirate who shaking uncontrollably grabbed a microphone and bellowed them out to the raucous crowd.)

I’m Mrs. Jesus. I love my husband. (A woman dressed as a pirate queen uttered these words while crawling on the floor, looking spaced out, and manifesting red, puffy eyes and a vacant stare despite no sign of alcohol or drugs consumption.)

Revellers or Revilers?
Because Sloshfest is a Christmas party, revellers dress up like a monk, priest, nun, dancing pirate, Abraham Lincoln, unicorn, winged fairy, court jester draped with Christmas lights, etc. Amidst all the costuming, “in the main room the party is pumping, with dry ice, air horns and dazzling disco lights adding to the debauched atmosphere.”

So is Sloshfesting, reveling in God, or reviling to Him? To answer the question, only the Word of God can be our guide and judge. And on this point, what was the Lord’s take on one of the original Sloshfests (I say “one of the original” because amongst primitive peoples they had been going on long before the incident of Israel’s worshipping of the “Golden Bull.”)?

Assurance for me regarding this issue, notwithstanding all the participants’ testimonials, can only be moderated by the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). To this point, Archibald Alexander wrote:

There is nothing more necessary than to distinguish between true and false experiences in religion.... And in making this discrimination, there is no other test but the infallible Word of God; let every thought, motive, impulse, and emotion be brought to this touchstone.[14]

To this pastor it stands axiomatic and logically consistent that the spiritual work of God will in nowise contradict the Scriptures which the Holy Spirit inspired to be written (1 Peter 1:21).

Unlike the crowd at the first Pentecost, whom skeptical onlookers accused as being drunk with “new wine,” but who in fact were not (Acts 2:13), the claim of ravers that their euphoria has nothing to do with taking drugs or drinking alcohol may ring a bit hallow. As one worshipper exclaimed, God “makes me so happy. I love him but I’m a bit drunk.” One well-known speaker at Sloshfest, who claims to have met Jesus on an acid trip, is described as slurring through his sermons and talking “about ‘smoking the Baby Jesus,’ being ‘whacked out’ and ‘tokin’ [urban slang for smoking pot] on the Holy Ghost’.”[15] He calls these expressions as “metaphors” of the Christian life! In 2005, that speaker, John Crowder, wrote a book The New Mystics in which he promoted “Sloshfest-style ecstatic worship and mystical Christianity.” Then in 2009, he wrote a sequel, The Ecstasy of Loving God: Trances, Raptures, and the Supernatural Pleasures of Jesus Christ.

Further insight into the question lies in John Crowder’s testimony, one in which he claims to met Jesus while on an acid trip, and his message when he talks about “smoking the Baby Jesus” and “tokin’ on the Holy Ghost.” How can such activities, so diametrically opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit, things categorized by the Apostle Paul as “lusts of the flesh” (i.e., “sorcery,” Greek, pharmakeia or drugs, and “drunkenness, carousing and things like these,” Galatians 5:20-21, NASB) in contrast to “the fruit of the Spirit” (i.e., “self control,” Galatians 5:23, NASB) be  instrumental in saving a person’s soul in any way? Persons may be saved from such activities, but they are not saved by such activities (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). In all fairness, one Sloshfester does testify to his having been saved from drugs and alcohol.[16] But this man’s soul was not converted because of the influence of drugs and alcohol, but in spite of it.

Are These People Mad?
Sloshfesting impresses me not as being church, but as carousing. Rave worship (as in “stark raving mad”) impresses me as being the opposites of one fruit of the Spirit, “self-control.” In rave, people are “out of control.” The inbred and eccentric phenomena of rave, observed first hand by passers-bye or inquirers who watch it on YouTube, will not only give unbelievers a wrong impression about the meaning of the gospel, but also fail to impress many observant believers. As the Apostle Paul questioned, “If... ungifted men or unbelievers enter [or go online?], will they not say that you are mad?” (I Corinthians 14:23). Illustrating the apostle’s point, one curious passer-by is reported to have shook his head and laughingly commented after having through a steamed-up window observed the rage of rave: “Looks like one hell of a party.” To me, the phenomena of rave church as manifested at Sloshfest 2010, may be compared to The Toronto Blessing of the 1990s, only on steroids.[17] As rave and Sloshfesting, doing the “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey” belongs to the same genre of worship so-called.[18]

“Getting High on God” was meant to draw attention to a study coming out of the University of Washington which suggests that “attending a Protestant megachurch actually does produce a high much like being on drugs.”[19]

Drugs: An Implicit Connexion
From the U of W study, it has been noted that megachurches are “powerful purveyors of emotional religious experience” as they blend together popular music, state-of-the-art technology and positive and non-threatening messages, all of which and more, contribute to make up an “Oxytocin cocktail” that affects a “sense of recognition, trust, and a reduction of stress” in the brains of congregants.[20] The U of W study makes an implicit connection between the megachurch and the inner opiates that, when stimulated by the right mechanisms, provide spiritual euphoria.

Drugs: An Explicit Connexion
This article, “Getting Higher on God,” has sought to draw attention to the new wave of worship that many are seeking to catch a ride on, worship that unabashedly makes an explicit connection between drugs (Whether induced from within or ingested from without, who knows?) and the attainment of spiritual ecstasy. The point being, that such spiritual experiences, whether emotionally euphoric or mystically ecstatic are not the result of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the life of a believer, but rather the result of the hyped-up machinations, manipulations and managements of man. The difference between the euphoria engendered by the megachurch and the ecstasy by the ravechurch may well be only one of degree, but not kind. A comparison might be made between smoking pot (“the euphoria lite” engendered by the megachurch) and shooting heroin (“the ecstasy heavy” roused-up by the ravechurch). Megachurches have mastered a strategy of how to offer their congregants a “lite” dose of experience (euphoria) while the ravechurch is offering its participants a heavy dose of experience (ecstasy). Neither movements evidence sober-mindedness, that spiritual attribute the New Testament enjoins believers to cultivate (Titus 2:2, 4, 6; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).

In fact, if the euphoria or ecstasy is induced by means other than by the Holy Spirit, then it violates Paul’s injunction to “be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit,” the manifestations of which (“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”) bear no resemblance to those exhibited in “Sloshfesting” (Ephesians 5:18-21). Worship that masquerades as drunkenness in the Holy Ghost resembles more the wine-bibbing of a bacchanal celebration than worship of the Holy God.[21]

“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”
The Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8

[1] My initial article’s title “Getting High on God” was based solely upon my reading of The Church Report article written by Chris Lisee. At that writing, I was unaware of Keegan Hamilton’s article “Getting High on God: A new UW study suggests that attending a Protestant megachurch is a lot like doing drugs,” which had appeared in the Seattle Weekly News, August 29, 2012 ( I became aware of Hamilton’s article and its title as I was researching and writing this sequel. Though titles are not copyrighted, my ethics dictate that I should explain to any readers that knowingly I did not copy Hamilton’s title, but titled my article independent of any knowledge of what he had written. I appreciate Hamilton’s article in that it both informs and substantiates my thinking about the “genius” of the megachurch as it has developed over the last several years.
[2] “Street Preaching in Australia,” YouTube, September 4, 2011 (
[3] Religious News Service, “‘Rave Masses’ Seek to Appeal to Those Raised on Television,” Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1994 (
[4] Ibid.
[5] Leonard I. Sweet, Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (Dayton, OH: Whaleprints, 1991): 124. In footnote number 67 on this page, Sweet refers readers to Fox’s books, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality Presented in Four Parts, Twenty-six Themes, and Two Questions (1983), and Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth (1990).
[6] Jonathan Petre, “Hymns replaced by U2 lyrics at church,”, January 30, 2007. Online at:
[7] Ibid.
[8] Gary Stern, “Episcopal ‘U2-charist’ uses songs in service,” USA Today, October 26, 2006. Online at:
[9] Ibid.
[10] David Lowe, “The ravers who get high on God,” The Sun, January 21, 2010 ( Unless otherwise noted, all quotations and allusions in this writing are taken from Lowe’s report in The Sun.
[11] Religious News Service, “Rave Masses.”
[12] “‘Rave Masses’ Seek to Appeal to Those Raised on Television.”
[13] All the quotes which follow are taken from “The ravers who get high on God” by Lowe.
[14] Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1978): xviii.
[15] “The You Tube Prophet (aka Getting High on Jesus), Parts One and Two” YouTube ( The video exhibits the actions of participants to be like those manifested in The Toronto Blessing, only “kicked-up several notches.”
[16] He states: “From around the age of 18 I got into drink and drugs. I’d take speed, acid, amphetamine and smoke cannabis every day. Three years later I went to a church in Newport with a friend who’d reformed and I realised [sic] Jesus had plans for my life. I gave myself to him and that ripped out the desire for drugs and alcohol.” Ibid.
[17] See Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “Sour Grapes: Vineyardism and the Toronto Blessing,” Guarding His Flock Ministries, November 1, 2010 (
[18] “The Crazy ‘Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey’,” You Tube, October 22, 2011 ( For discerning critique, see Dave James, “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey,” The Alliance for Biblical Integrity, March 19, 2010 (
[19] Hamilton, “Getting High on God.” Hamilton satirically assesses: “But with all the passing of the collection plate, the substantial time commitment, and the constant exposure to contemporary Christian rock, it might be cheaper and more pleasant just to start shooting heroin.”
[20] Ibid.
[21] Bacchus was the Roman god of wine and intoxication, equated with the Greek Dionysus. A festival, introduced in Rome around 200 BC, honoring the god was celebrated in the late winter and early spring of the calendar year.

Re-published with the permission of the author. Original posted here:

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Getting “High” on God

Inner Opiates and the Genius
of the Megachurch “Experience”

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
Jesus, John 3:6-7

When looking out upon pan-evangelicalism, a diverse movement primarily consisting of Christians claiming a quasi-commitment to the Gospel, one can be left groping to explain the rise of the megachurch within that community of faith. During this last generation, over 1,600 super congregations, primarily evangelical, have emerged on the American religious scene.[1] Can the megachurch movement be accounted for reason that church-goers want to be part of something “big,” where for reason of the strength and unity of their numbers, they really feel that God is at work? Do parents desire their church to be a “full service” institution that can meet the needs of their entire family? Does superior preaching attract the masses? Is the attraction the choreographed spectacle of modern and upbeat “worship” performed by professional musicians that when combined with the latest technological special effects, can deliver the “worship experience”? Answers to these questions and more may help to explain the phenomenon of the megachurch in America, and account for how these large congregations both attract and keep the folks coming back for more. However, a recent study, coming out of the University of Washington, may provide another answer to the question, why the mega-church?

Euphoria’s Source: Transcendent or Immanent?
That study, “‘God is like a drug’: Explaining Ritual Chains in American Megachurches,” concludes that these churches are exceptional in orchestrating the arousals of strong feelings amongst their congregants; euphoria that might be compared to the feeling a crowd gets when seeing its basketball team win a championship game on a last second shot.[2] Katie Corcoran, a Ph.D. candidate who co-authored the study, suggests that megachurches are “somewhat unique in that these feelings are not just experienced as euphoria but as something transcendent or divine.”[3] As she observed, “You can look up to the balcony and see the Holy Spirit go over the crowd like a wave in a football game.”[4] Yet that same study suggests that the raison d’être for the megachurch may be something more immanent than transcendent.

The megachurch is good at evoking emotions which, according to Corcoran, are inspired by employing a “unique style of worship” that creates a common and shared experience among their crowds. With the goal of stimulating a unified euphoria, the megachurch employs “upbeat modern music, cameras that scan the audience and project smiling, dancing, singing, or crying worshippers on large screens, and an extremely charismatic leader whose sermons touch individuals on an emotional level,” the synchronicity of which serves “to create these strong positive emotional experiences.”[5]

Then too, there’s the “pastor [who] functions as an ‘energy star’ who engages the congregation through an accessible, informal and emotional sermon” that “‘just feels right’ or ‘just makes sense’ for congregants,” says James Wellman, a professor of American religion who along with Corcoran, co-authored the study.[6] But the explanation for the megachurch phenomena may yet have a more inner reason.

Chris Lisee, the reporter who covered the presentation of the University of Washington study, assesses, “Maybe religion really is the opiate of the [megachurch] masses—just not the way Karl Marx imagined.” Well, what is the religious opiate that the revolutionary was not aware of? The opiate may in fact be a combination of inner chemicals/hormones that when called up, directly affect the brain to “feel good.”

Pleasure Seekers
Opiates and Oxytocin
A generation ago the English psychiatrist William Sargant (1907-1988) noted that, “feelings of divine possession... can be helped on by the use of many types of physiological stimuli.” He goes on to state that, “electrical recordings of the human brain show that it is particularly sensitive to rhythmic stimulation by percussion and bright light among other things....”[7]

Now two authors of the University of Washington study theorize that the arousal of good feelings within the human body-soul can be induced by applying the right combination of external stimuli. (I use the combination “body-soul” in recognition that the characteristics belonging to humans are complex and interwoven, and that the interplay between the physical and mental can be externally manipulated to induce profound internal experiences, whether religious or not.) On this point, the authors of the U of W study “theorize [that] the spiritual high from megachurch services is experienced” for reason of “the brain’s release of oxytocin, a chemical that is thought to play a part in social interaction,” something they call an “oxytocin cocktail.”[8] Oxytocin acts as a neuromodulator in the brain, and for the role it plays in social recognition, pair bonding, etc., is “sometimes referred to as the ‘love hormone’.”[9] And in a sensate culture, people just “love to feel the love.”

Desires and Dopamine
Several years ago, Dean Gotcher researched the interplay of hormones within the human body, and wrote about the role played by dopamine. Of the affective inner drug, he states:

Dopamine is a chemical which the body naturally synthesizes to transmit messages of pleasure from the nerve endings to the midbrain. The midbrain then synthesizes the neurotransmitter dopamine to activate other parts of the brain in an effort to find what caused the pleasure, to record it, and if necessary to figure out how to continue, restore, or create the environment which caused the pleasure. Our body naturally loves the effect of dopamine. It seeks after the conditions which trigger its release in the body. Most drugs of habit are related in some way to affecting dopamine production, replacement, or inhibition....[10]

Megachurches are big businesses, and big business calls for an affective way to stimulate and manage growth. If a business is to be successful, the product must be made pleasurable (It seems that’s why advertising capitalizes upon images of people having being happy and having fun, of partying, romancing, etc.). Advertising must project pleasure in order to make profits. To this end, means must be devised by the corporation to affect the release of dopamine in the human body in order to stimulate customers to feel need for their product(s). For corporations to become profitable, their product(s) must be made pleasurable. For this reason, megachurch philosophy has tapped into the human need to be pleasured and ministering to those  “felt needs” they helped create.

In his book PyroMarketing that describes Rick Warren's marketing campaigns, Greg Stielstra notes that,

Our brains are electrochemical devices. Electrical impulses trigger the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters, which, in turn, govern the behavior of electrical impulses. The chemical messenger dopamine is the pleasure drug. Its presence reinforces pleasurable behaviors.[11]

Remember the cultural manta, “If it feels good, do it.”? As we live in a sensate culture, it then becomes the “purpose” of the megachurch, like any other successful business enterprise, to plug into a marketing philosophy that will cause its customers to “feel good” about what they’re doing—what might be called the dopamine affect. On this point, Stielstra writes:

The reward circuit that we each possess influences our thoughts and guides our behaviors.... As we anticipate a good experience, our brains release a certain amount of dopamine. If our expectations are met, then elevated levels continue. If things turn out even better than we had hoped, dopamine is increased even further. If we are disappointed, then dopamine levels plummet. We learn by repeating those activities that feel good and avoiding those that don’t.”[12]

Of course, the obvious connection of the dopamine affect to the megachurch phenomena is their emphasis upon ministering to “felt needs”; and in an intentional way, emotional “needs” tend to overwhelm rationality. That is why the U of W study relates that the “energy stars” who serve as  the churches’ “communicators” generally are not “analytical or theological” in their messages.  (Or should I have written, ‘massages’?).

Ecstasy and Endorphins
In her best-selling book, Full & Fulfilled, Nan Allison states that, “High concentrations of endorphins in the brain produce a sense of euphoria, enhance pleasure, and suppress pain, both emotionally and physically.”[13] In his book Music, The Brain, and Ecstasy, Robert Jourdain states:

Special neurons produce substances called endorphins, which resemble opiates and which act on neurons in the brain’s pain pathways . . . If endorphins are released when there is no pain to be counterbalanced, a euphoria results that is much like that produced by drugs like morphine.[14]

What then can be employed to stimulate the release of endorphins—the morphine which is endogenous to the human body? Jourdain observed that as a mechanism, music can stir-up ecstasy. Of the pleasure, he wrote:

Ecstasy melts the boundaries of our being... engulfs us in feelings that are “oceanic.” A defining trait of ecstasy is its immediacy.... Ecstasy happens to our selves. It is a momentary transformation of the knower.... Music seems to be the most immediate of all the arts, and so the most ecstatic.... Nonetheless, once we are engulfed in music, we must exert effort to resist its influence. It really is as if some “other” has entered not just our bodies, but our intentions, taking us over.[15]

Renowned guitarist Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) knew what his music could do to his audience’s head. He testified,

Once you have some type of rhythm, like it can get hypnotic if you keep repeating it over and over again. Most of the people will fall off by about a minute of repeating. You do that say for three or four or even five minutes if you can stand it, and then it releases a certain thing inside of a person’s head.[16]

The brain’s release of the pleasure hormones may explain what Hendrix noted about his audience’s response to his music, and why Rick Warren thinks that a song can touch an audience in ways that a sermon can’t. On his Pastors.Com website, he has stated,

A song often can touch people in a way that a sermon can’t. Music can bypass intellectual barriers and take the message straight to the heart. It is a potent tool for evangelism.[17]

Because of its intrinsic emotional appeal, music delivers “feel” to the human body and soul. That’s why the language of music is said to be universal. Though listeners might be linguistically diverse, they can together feel a song even though not comprehending its words.

Why are certain songs felt? Who knows, whether it’s a hit by an “oxytocin cocktail” or perhaps some other combination of inner opiates which affect a “feel good” mood within the human brain and body. Nevertheless, the release of these hormones may help to account for the genius of the megachurch. From the effects observed, audience-driven megachurches know how to titillate the release of the feel-good hormones within the brain (like adrenalin in the body) so that their seeker-sensitive audience will leave on a “high note.” This may explain one congregant’s candid explanation of why he attended one megachurch. In an interview for the U of W study, he confessed: “God’s love becomes . . . such a drug that you can’t wait to come get your next hit. . . . You can’t wait to get involved to get the high from God.”[18] And it’s called worship, of course.

This whole idea of going back to church to get your next “love-hit” from God reminds me of a 60s hit song, performed variously by different artists and groups. Evidently, in a created ambiance consisting of upbeat music, special effects and the “energy star” whose sermons touch the congregants on an emotional level, megachurches have discovered their “Love Potion No. 9.” That song concludes with a man, so love smitten with the help of a gypsy counselor,  kissing a “cop at Thirty-Fourth and Vine”! On this point, it can be noted the original version of the song did not end with the lyrics of a man kissing a policeman, but rather:

I had so much fun, that I’m going back again,
I wonder what happens with Love Potion Number Ten?

And in their going back to church to get repeated “highs from God,” returnees might be wondering what’s going to happen when they get “love hits” numbers 11, 12, 13, 14, and so on. As the following testimonies indicate, music affects mood.

Pleasure Finders
Testimony #1—Rob Bell
In his book Velvet Elvis, the emergent-liberal churchman Rob Bell describes his musical experience turned spiritual:

I remember the first time I was truly in awe of God. I was caught up for the first time in my life in something so massive and loving and transcendent and... true. Something I was sure could be trusted. I specifically remember thinking the universe was safe, in spite of all the horrible, tragic things in the world. I remember being overwhelmed by the word true. Underneath it all life is somehow... good... and I was sixteen and at a U2 concert. The Joshua Tree tour. When they started with the song “Where the Streets Have No Name,” I thought I was going to spontaneously combust with joy. This was real. This mattered. Whatever it was, I wanted more. I had never felt that way before.[20]

Seemingly, music can be “consciousness-altering,” can’t it?

Testimony #2—Wilburn Burchette
In Brad Steiger’s book Revelation: The Divine Fire, Jack Wheaton relates in an interview that, “rock music... is the simplest and cheapest—and least dangerous—way for young global village adolescents to ‘trip out’.”[21] Then Steiger tells how he developed a fascinating relationship with a “young occultist-musician named Wilburn Burchette” who “was deep into his unorthodox experiments with music”; for Burchette believed that at the most basic level, “everything in our universe is composed of vibratory atoms.” So in order to experience “any creative-spiritual breakthrough,” the vibrations of music must be experimented with. So Burchette experimented and reported this “breakthrough” which happened to him while listening to rock music as a young boy:

I was getting to the point where my mind was blank. I remember shifting consciousness and having a sensation of my mind being above time. I felt I could move forward, backward in time. The physical sensation is an orgasm of the soul, because you are in complete, absolute union. You extend your mind and being out of this dimension, and wham! You receive a knowing beyond words. When you transcend over into the other dimension, you split in two, and yet you are one. This is what all the alchemists brought out: you split in two, and yet you are one. This is pretty weird for most people, but you have split in two, you have another being which can realize the Absolute, the Godhead. These two you’s are in perfect union.[22]
Burchette then adds: “Emotions are not stagnant; they are dynamic. This is why music motivates them [emotions] so well.”[23]

Testimony #3—Tom Beaudoin
Tom Beaudoin describes his spiritual encounter engendered by listening to music.

The effect of the music coursing through my nervous system is to produce a lift, a somatic levity that sends me at once deeply within and outside my body, spacing me in three simultaneous modes: as embodied spirit, as disembodied spirit, and as a spirit ecstatically holding them bound.[24]

Who and where was he when he experienced such mystical ecstasy that was simultaneously both inside and outside his body? The author was a guitar player who played Christian rock-‘n’-roll for 15 years, and what he experienced, while listening to the rock band Creed, was on a spiritual retreat in of all places, a monastery!

Testimony #4—a Disc Jockey
A reporter for the Chicago Sun Times interviewed a popular area disc jockey. When asked to define himself spirituality, the disc jockey responded, “I’m a mystical expressionist.... I take the idea of mysticism very seriously... the idea that there is something within each and every one of us that can take us to a place we’ve never been before....” Then the reporter comments, music is the “vehicle” that pushes her and the disc jockey “and so many others—toward the place we might call enlightenment, or God, or the higher consciousness, or Grace.”[25]

Testimony #5—the International House of Prayer (IHOP)
Mike Bickle testifies that, after years of “pretty boring” prayer, “a series of supernatural events and divine directives” caused him and twenty full time “intercessory missionaries” to launch the International House of Prayer, Kansas City, Kansas. These missionaries would commit to raise their own financial support and pray fifty-hours a week, one half of that time being spent in a central prayer room where intercession would be blended with musical worship. How did the music affect the “experience” of praying?

Bickle reports that since the blended worship started years ago, “the music has never stopped. We call that keeping the fire on the altar,” he relates. Misty Edwards, the most recognized worship leader at IHOP, testifies of the experience of leading twelve two-hour sets of prayer-music-worship each week for nine years: “In those early days, the music being related in our brains to fire was brilliant.[26]

Testimony #6—King Saul
When in His judgment upon the king the Lord allowed an evil spirit to trouble Saul’s soul, his servants knew that a musician “who is a cunning player on a harp” could make him feel better (1 Samuel 6:16). If only fleetingly, music possesses power to soothe the soul. Though David’s music did not drive the haunting spirit away from Saul, it temporarily relieved the king from the angst caused by his sin and the evil spirit (1 Samuel 16:14-23; 18:10; 19:9). David’s ministry to Saul was palliative.

Seemingly, music-worship can be “mind” and “consciousness” altering. As indicated by these testimonials, music can affect a persons’ perception of their psychological being, and to one degree or another, all of us perhaps, have experienced the “feel good” relief music can provide. But many people, Christian and not, testify of having attained psychological relief in their beings through experiencing music. The relief within their consciousness is no doubt triggered by the release of inner opiates that pleasure the human soul and body.

Worship Eroticized
So like secular rock concerts, many contemporary worship services employ music and technology to stimulate the audience’s experience of ecstatically feeling at one with each other and with God. A dictionary on alternative spiritualities states that the activities of drumming, chanting, dancing and hand-clapping are considered means for “raising consciousness because the energies and movement of many people are united, which facilitates achievement of the objective.”[27] And what, we ask, is the objective people seek to experience together? It is, as the dictionary says, to “achieve an altered state of consciousness, ecstasy, communion with the Divine . . .”[28]

In modern worship the experience of “communion with the Divine” evidences itself as the audience—with their eyes closed and faces alternately contorting in grimaces of ecstasy and agony—lifts their hands toward heaven, mouths the familiar words, and sways together from side to side. Feelings of being at one with God and each other are enhanced as “cameras... scan the audience and project smiling, dancing, singing, or crying worshippers on large screens.”[29] In a technologically rich environment, worshippers are experiencing the psychological abandonment of self which lies at the heart of all mystical experience. Worshippers believe that in their altered states of consciousness they are experiencing God. But the explanation of the phenomena may lie closer to home; worship experiences may have resulted from the release of “feel-good” hormones (love potions) in the body, the release of which has been triggered by the energy of up-beat “worship” music and enhanced by visual technologies that build into a crescendo the audience’s feelings of togetherness with God and with each other. (Can’t you just feel the love in this place?) As to this assessment, each believer under God and in the Spirit needs to make their personal evaluation all the while knowing that one of the Spirit’s fruit is “self-control” (Galatians 5:23). And as indicated by many worship scenes today and as at a secular rock concerts, people, individually and corporately, appear “out of control.”[30]

My impression of the whole contemporary worship thing, and inquiring onlookers are catching on to it, is that much of the so-called worship experience in megachurches results from the application of certain stimulants to the soul (music being the most immediate), and as such, as the flesh is momentarily gratified, as the angst of guilt temporarily relieved, and as self-control briefly lost, worshippers exit the celebration exclaiming, “Wow! I could really feel the love in this place!” As an elderly Jewish friend, now deceased, once told me, “People leave church all excited over excitement!”

But such worship is not really spiritual because worshippers are being manipulated by the baser stimuli that naturally lie within them. That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). Proof to the point: one can attend or observe secular rock concerts and observe the same mass erotic behavior and phenomena taking place as in modern worship services. Readers, you may not agree with this assessment. But from the phenomena that are taking place in “the church of what’s happening now,” somebody, and I am not alone, needs to address this issue.

In some earlier writings, I documented that the essence of music is mysticism; that is, by itself, as it originates within the human soul without words, music is alogon (i.e., irrational).[31] (Perhaps that’s why a certain genre is called “soul music.”) As to the influence of mysticism upon the Christian faith, T. Austin-Sparks, whose insights in the differentiation between soul and spirit I have grown to appreciate, observes that mysticism easily deceives people into thinking they’ve had a spiritual experience. The author explains [bracket comments are mine]:

How near to the truth in perception and interpretation can the mystical go! What wonderful things [a world of make believe] can the imagination see, even in the Bible! What thrills of awe, amazement, ecstasy [passionate feelings], can be shot through an audience or congregation [the worshippers] by a master soul [“an extremely charismatic leader... an energy star”]! But it may all be a false world with no Divine and eternal issues. It may all go to make up this life here, and relieve it of its drabness, but it ends there. What an artificial world [musically and technologically induced] we live in! When the music is progressing and the romantic elements [inner opiates, oxytocin “cocktails”] are in evidence—the dress and tinsel—and human personalities are parading [worship teams], see how pride and rivalry assert themselves, and what a power of make believe [positive emotions] enters the atmosphere [“Can’t you feel just feel the love?”]! Yes, an artificial world.[32]

Yes, it’s a world dominated by the artificial, superficial and temporal love-god that originates within the human soul, the god which goes by the name of Eros. Austin-Sparks then goes on to say, “The tragedy in this melodrama is that it is ‘real life’ to so many. This soul-world is the devil’s imitation. It is all false, wherever we may find it, whether associated with religion or not.... How Satan must laugh behind his mask!”[33] As Warren Smith has stated regarding his experiences in New Age religion, “The devil can make you feel good about things that are bad, and make you feel bad about things that are good.” And devil’s trick resides in the inner “trip”.

“Centuries ago” commented Dr. Wheaton, “Plato said that he cared not what others taught in the schools of a society, but that if he could teach music, he would eventually control that society.”[34] Megachurch leadership has evidently caught on—if they control the music, they can control the emotions of the congregants, and if they can control the emotions, they can control the micro-society which is their congregation! The problem with such a control mechanism is that it begins with the arousals of the flesh and ends in the arousals of the flesh. There’s nothing spiritual about it. The whole thing is a charade.

“Wow” Worship
We live in an erotic and sensate culture which says, “Let your feelings be your guide,” a culture that megachurches have discovered how to tap into through the manipulations of modern technology. So the “experience” of worship can be accounted of for reason of the awakening and release of inner opiates in the human body that lie dormant until aroused and sustained through technological control mechanisms, which the megachurch has discovered to involve upbeat modern music accompanied by strobe lights and smoke (the arousal), giant screen projecting images of an audience smiling, dancing, singing or crying together (creating the feeling of oneness), and a cool communicator who touches people at the emotional level (this place just feels right). On this point, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) warned, “that our ‘techniques’ and our ‘mechanics’ [of spirituality] actually divert the attention of people from the truth of the message to some lower, particular, immediate and practical action may have the opposite effect from what is intended.” He then adds, “It is surely our business to avoid anything which produces a merely psychological condition rather than a spiritual condition.”[35]

Simply stated; much of modern worship appeals to fleshly instincts, those canal delights resident within humanity’s fallen being. What begins in man’s heart ends in the same sphere. While momentarily gratifying, fleshly feelings are ephemeral. They don’t last. As the congregant previously cited confesses: “God’s love becomes... such a drug that you can’t wait to come [back to worship and] get your next hit.”[36] This fact alone ought to indicate that these ephemeral arousals have nothing whatsoever to do with God’s steadfast love, His “lovingkindness” (See Psalm 48:9.). Nevertheless, the fleshly appeal of getting your next “love hit” prevails over much of what today passes for, “Wow-Worship!”

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) noted that carnal worship distracts Christians from really desiring God. He assessed:

We’re so determined we want to be happy that if we can’t be happy by the Holy Ghost we’ll drum up our happiness. Religious ‘Rock and Rollers’! We’re going to get happy somehow [even] if we’ve got to beat it up with a tom-tom.[37]

Often contemporary worshippers excuse their new way of worshipping with the caveat, “Oh, it’s not about us.” But with the selfish arousals the music and accompanying technology stimulate, along with egocentric feel-good sermons that feed those arousals, maybe... just maybe, the worship really is about them and not Him. And if that is the case, then like Israel’s worship of the “Golden Bull,” a god they could both see and “feel,” the worship really is idolatry, all protests not withstanding! How Satan and his demons must laugh behind their masks as contemporary Christians—stimulated by the sights and sounds of worship so-called, and thinking they are worshipping Almighty God—have in reality become “hooked” upon their own emotional experiences. But then, maybe in a panentheistic way, their feelings do represent the god they believe dwells within (entheogens).[38] In the fleshly nature of souls, have in the fleshly nature that is their soul, become duped on dopamine!

“Will” Worship
Scripture does portray music as employed to worship God, but from the New Testament perspective, only as it glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ (See Colossians 3:16; Revelation 5:9-14.). If like marijuana, music is employed to stimulate ecstasy within the human body-soul, it is, as the worship of the “Golden Bull” in Exodus portrays, idolatry. And as described by the sight and sounds narrated in Exodus, that worship does resemble a rock concert and what passes today as worship celebrations (Compare Exodus 32:1-35; Psalm 106:19-27; 1 Corinthians 10:6-8.).

To me it stands as an irony that, as in contemporary churches, stringed instruments are the instrument of choice for worship in Heaven (Revelation 5:8). But in some way, Lucifer must distorted the worship of Heaven for Scripture records that in God’s judgment “the pomp and music of [his] harps” were thrown out with him (Isaiah 14:11). Perhaps those instruments were perverted by Satan in the idolatry of self-worship (“I will... I will... I will... I will... I will...; Isaiah 14:13-14). I think it can be concluded that Satan’s worship was all about himself.

To remind us, Jesus stated: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Unlike false teachers whose modus operandi is appealing to fleshly arousals (2 Peter 2:10), the Apostle Paul never employed the methods of the flesh to achieve results in the Spirit. Like oil and water, flesh and Spirit do not mix. Jesus said so. But Satan’s con-job is ever to make people think that experiences in the soul are experiences from the Spirit. Yet based upon the findings presented in this writing, I am fearful that so much that is called worship today is simply the parading and gratification of the flesh, and “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

[1] As a former local church pastor, I attempted in a previous writing to understand the megachurch movement and offered my explanation which for the most part, with a few exceptions, was treated with disdain and disagreement by many, and indifference by most. See Larry DeBruyn, Church on the Rise: Why I am not a “Purpose Driven” Pastor (Indianapolis, IN: Moeller Printing Company, Inc., 2007). I concluded that the genius of the megachurch was that it was able to deliver “feel-good” experiences to congregants via rock ’n roll music and short and uplifting messages delivered by the pastor. As my views were scorned by many, I sometimes wondered whether or not my views were sane. Now a recent study by researchers at the University of Washington has brought some confirmation regarding the “genius” of the megachurch movement.
[2] Chris Lisee, “Study: Large Worship Services Trigger a High,” Church Report, Wednesday, August 22, 2012 ( default&objectID=159270). Ironically, the results of the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington that consisted of 16,000 surveys and 470 interviews of mega-church attendees, were presented at the American Sociological Association in Denver on Sunday, August 19, 2012.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid. The reporter quotes Corcoran’s assessment.
[6] Ibid.
[7] William Sargant, Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brain-Washing (London, England: William Heinemann Ltd., 1957): 88. Though disavowing Sargant’s humanistic assumptions and conclusions, I find his treatment of the techniques whereby religious experience can be manufactured helpful for understanding what may be taking place in many of today’s churches.
But that God has reasonably revealed Himself in the Word, delivers my soul from any despair that the Christian faith and experience can be accounted for and explained away by reason of having applied certain mind-altering techniques. Salvation comes to us not by the application of procedures, but rather on account of believing God’s revealed Word. In Christ, God has come down to us! Therefore, experiences manufactured below will not get us to the One who is above. Disavowing salvation by the application of any technique, Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6a).
[8] Emphasis added, Lisee, “Large Worship Services Trigger a High.”
[9] Emphasis added, “Oxytocin,” Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (
[10] Emphasis added, The Discernment Research Group, “The Dopamine-Driven Church,” Herescope, April 19, 2007. See: ( This article interacts extensively with Dean Gotcher’s presentation, “The Dialectical Drug Culture: If you build it, they will come,” Institution for Authority Research, Revised April 6, 2007, which can be read at: (
[11] Emphasis added, Greg Stielstra, PyroMarketing: The Four-Step Strategy to Ignite Customer Evangelists and Keep Them for Life (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005): 127. See the Herescope series "The Dopamine-Driven Church in the Spring of 2007 for more information on Greg Stielstra and his connection to Rick Warren. Also see:
[12] Emphasis added, Ibid.
[13] Emphasis added, Nan Allison, Full & Fulfilled, quoted in “What are Endorphins?” Altered States ( “Endorphins (‘endogenous morphine’) are endogenous opioid peptides [originating from within the body] that function as neurotransmitters. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise, excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm, and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.” See “Endorphin,” Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (
[14] Emphasis added, Robert Jourdain, Music, The Brain, and Ecstasy (New York, NY: Avon Books, 1997): 317.
[15] Emphasis added, Ibid. 327-328.
[16] Emphasis added, David Henderson, Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: The Life of Jimi Hendrix (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1981): 356.
[17] Emphasis added, Rick Warren, “Match the music to the people you want to reach,”, Ministry Tool Box, Issue 190, January 19, 2005 (
[18] Emphasis added, Lisee, “Large Worship Services Trigger a High.”
[19] “Love Potion No. 9 (song),” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (
[20] Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 20005): 072.
[21] Jack Wheaton quoted by Brad Steiger, Revelation: The Divine Fire (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1973): 90. Dr. Jack Wheaton, then a member of the Music Department at Cerritos College (1973), has subsequently authored books on the decline of Christian music, including Crisis in Christian Music (Volume 1), Crisis in Christian Music: The Paganization of Worship (Volume 2), and The Amazing Power of Music.
[22] Ibid. Burchette quoted by Steiger, 92.
[23] Ibid. 95.
[24] Beaudoin, “Ambiguous Liturgy.” Understanding rock music’s connection to mysticism, Beaudoin describes one singer to be “like some modern-day hesychast.” A “hesychast” is “a member of a sect of mystics that originated in the 14th century among the monks on Mount Athos, Greece.
[25] Cathleen Falsani, “The Rev. of rock ‘n’ roll,” June 25, 2006 (
[26] Marcus Yoars, “IHOP Marks 13 Years of Non-Stop Prayer,” CHARISMA NEWS, May 7, 2012 ( Reproduced on the Internet, the article originally appeared in the November, 2010 issue of Charisma magazine.
[27] Rosemary Ellen Guiley, “Chanting,” Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991):92.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Lisee, “Large Worship Services Trigger a High.”
[30] In his study of the relationship between drumming, dancing, trance, and collapse among African tribal peoples, Sargant observed that during part of the ritual, “They looked very much like fans of the Beatles or other ‘pop groups’ after a long session of dancing.” See William Sargant, The Mind Possessed, A Physiology of Possession, Mysticism and Faith Healing (Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1974) 118.
As described by Sargant, the tribal phenomena may be compared to “The Spinners,” a communal group of young followers of Grateful Dead, who would twirl away as the band played. Upon completion of the concerts, they were often observed lying prostrate. See Matthew Rick, “The Magic and Mysticism of the Grateful Dead,” Deadisticism (
[31] See DeBruyn, Church on the Rise, 123-138. Pastor Larry DeBruyn, Drumming up Deception: whether in celebration or in contemplation—“feeling” the beat! (Indianapolis, IN: Moeller Printing Company, Inc., 2008). Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “On Religious Excitements,” Discernment Newsletter, May-June, 2009 ( Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “Emergent Worship: Wonder or Wasteland?” Discernment Newsletter, January-February, 2010, (
[32] T. Austin-Sparks, What is Man? (Tulsa, OK: Emmanuel Church, 2009 reprint of 1963 edition): 78.
[33] Ibid. 78-79.
[34] Plato cited by Jack Wheaton. See Steiger, Revelation, 91.
[35] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Conversions: Psychological & Spiritual (London, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1959): 40. Lloyd-Jones wrote this booklet as a response to Sargant’s point that religious experiences could be wholly accounted for reason of the mechanisms applied.
[36] Lisee, “Large Worship Services Trigger a High.”
[37] A.W. Tozer, Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, Compiled by James L. Snyder (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997): 103.
[38] The word entheogen derives from three Greek words: a preposition “en”; the noun “God”; and a verb “to generate.” The resultant meaning of entheogen is “that which generates god or divine inspiration in a person.” Some drugs are known as “entheogens.” To achieve consciousness of one’s own divinity, entheogens (i.e., psychedelic drugs) are employed. In Galatians 5:20, in the apostle’s list of the fruit of the Spirit, “idolatry” and “witchcraft” (‘sorcery,’ NASB; Greek, pharmakeia, i.e., drugs) are associated together. As they mess with peoples’ consciousness, drugs engender the idolatry of feel-good experiences apart from God.

Re-published with the permission of the author. Original posted here: