“Jesus Culture” going mainstream?

Church beware. If sent your youth to the Passion Conference in Atlanta (January 1-4), you’ll want to pay close attention to this warning from well-respected reporter and researcher Erin Benziger over at Do Not Be Surprised. Erin has done her homework on a very concerning movement called “Jesus Culture,” and I encourage you to dive into this report and understand why this group is leading believers astray. Here is her report, reprinted in full with permission:

Jesus Culture and Judah Smith to Join Piper, Moore, Chan and Others at Giglio’s Passion 2013

by Erin Benziger, Do Not Be Surprised

A new year means a fresh batch of conferences. And a fresh batch of conferences means a whole new crop of questionable decisions being made by the leaders and organizers of those gatherings.

To start off the 2013 conference season is Louie Giglio‘s Passion 2013. Held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, it will run from 1–4 January. Giglio aims this gathering specifically at young people, and according to the event’s website, last year saw “more than 40,000 students and leaders from around the world” at the US event. Today The Christian Post reports that 60,000 students are scheduled to attend this week’s event.



Passion targets the younger generation with such high-profile names as Beth Moore, John Piper, Francis Chan, rapper Lecrae and this year, pastor Judah Smith of The City Church in Seattle and popular Christian band, Jesus Culture.

Who Is Judah Smith?

Judah Smith has been profiled briefly here before when, in May of this year, Smith invited Word Faith teacher Brian Houston of Hillsong Church (who, incidentally, just preached weekend services at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church) to preach at The City Church. Oddly enough, New Calvinist pastor Mark Driscoll was excited about the invitation, even encouraging his Twitter followers to attend.

Judah Smith co-pastors his church with his wife, Chelsea, making the Reformed Driscoll’s endorsement even more perplexing. The presence of a pastrix at The City Church ought not surprise, though, when it is considered that this church was founded by Judah’s parents, pastor Wendell and pastrix Gini Smith:


The reader will note that, in the screenshot above, it states that Wendell and Gini Smith originally served under Dick Iverson at Bible Temple in Portland. According to C. Peter Wagner’s book Apostles Today: Biblical Government for Biblical Power, Iverson was the “founder of one of America’s foremost apostolic networks, Ministers Fellowship International, out of Portland, Oregon.” So it sounds as though The City Church has some rather colorful roots.

Who Is Jesus Culture?

Speaking of colorful, this leads to the concerning inclusion by Louie Giglio of the “Christian” music group, Jesus Culture. The group’s website tells us that it was spawned out of the youth group at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, California. For those who are unfamiliar with Johnson and Bethel, the following video shares some of the “signs and wonders” shenanigans that take place there, and also demonstrates some classic Bill Johnson Scripture-twisting:

Now, one could camp for quite awhile on some of the statements made by Johnson in that video, but since Johnson is not under discussion here, we’ll move on. The point is, of course, that this is the church that birthed the Jesus Culture phenomenon.

The entirety of Jesus Culture’s “About Us” page warrants a close examination, and will aid in understanding why Christians should be concerned that this band is being mainstreamed by men like Louie Giglio:



The choice of words in the paragraphs above is curiously alarming. The language surrounding a “new breed of revivalists” emerging is of particular interest, as such vocabulary is prominent within the New Apostolic Reformation movement.

Note also that the group claims direct revelation and instruction from the Lord Himself.

The members of Jesus Culture claim that the Lord spoke to them, revealing the characteristics of their movement (which noticeably does not include repentance or sanctification, only love and supernatural experience), commissioning them to “mobilize this new breed,” and in so doing issued a mandate to Jesus Culture that cannot be ignored. Taking this to its logical conclusion, then, to question the actions or words of Jesus Culture and its members is to question God Himself.

Examination of this website further reveals that the goal of this group is to lead people into an experience or an “encounter” with God. It seems that truth may be cast aside in favor of temporary and potentially deceiving experiences.

The Music of Jesus Culture

It behooves us, then, to see just how it is that the music of Jesus Culture may lull the professing Christian teenager into a so-called “encounter” with God. Below you will witness the group leading the crowd in a repetitive mantra, followed by some singing and what appears to be tongues-speaking. The clip will close with band member Kim Walker-Smith breaking into spontaneous prayer and declaration.

The repetition of the mantra “Jesus” at the beginning of the clip, while appearing to be spiritual, actually potentially could lead a person into an altered state of consciousness. Contemplative prayer, which is little more than a “Christianized” version of Eastern meditation, often encourages such a practice, as one seeks to journey inward to discover the “divine spark” within oneself. Yet, Scripture nowhere teaches this type of praise or prayer, but rather condemns the practices of pagan religions.

Also of note in the clip above is the apparent spontaneous breakout into tongues at approximately 2:30, following the singing of the line, “Heaven beckons to me.” The fact that these were nothing more than gibberish and were not a known language, as per the biblical definition of ‘tongues,’ ought to cause concern as well.

In watching and listening to Jesus Culture, it does not take long to realize that the focus of their music and teaching is all about an experience of “God’s love.” Yet, without acknowledging the righteous wrath of God, His love can never fully be understood or appreciated. Unfortunately, a warm-fuzzy feeling up and down one’s spine does not a true Christian make.

The “Teaching” of Jesus Culture

Jesus Culture does more than simply play music, however. It seems that, at times, various members of the group also may preach or teach. Below is Jesus Culture member Kim Walker-Smith preaching to a large crowd at the Awakening 2011 event, and offering a rather detailed account of her own personal encounter with “Jesus.” This video is a bit lengthy, but the reader is urged to watch it in its entirety.

Kim Walker-Smith claims that she spoke with Jesus, that He cuddled her, and that she saw God the Father. And while she acknowledges that such visions are not regular occurrences, she nevertheless indicates that she’s had multiple encounters with Him. One wonders how many people sitting amongst that large crowd left disappointed that night that they had not “encountered” Jesus as Kim Walker-Smith claimed that she had. Walker-Smith’s recollection of the vision is natural, and seems to presume that everyone should experience such a thing. Yet, when face to face with God Almighty, how did Isaiah react?

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1–5)

And Ezekiel?

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face…(Ezekiel 1:26–28)

Moses, who we are told spoke to the Lord as a man speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11), was not even allowed to see Him in all of His glory!

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18–23)

Not one of these men, after a brief moment of awestruck fear, “fell into Jesus’ arms” as Walker-Smith claims that she did. Not one describes God the Father running around deliriously and laughing while Isaiah or Ezekiel danced around in a music box. So to Kim Walker-Smith’s claims above that she has spoken personally with Jesus Christ and God the Father, I would like to offer this challenge: Prove it. And while you’re at it, disprove this: God just spoke to me and told me that you are lying, Kim Walker-Smith. Don’t believe me? Well, who is to say that your experience was real and mine was not?

Christian, herein lies the grave danger of such claims of personal revelation and visitations from God. They cannot be proven and they are not Scriptural. If they are to be found in Scripture, they appear to be more indicative of the deceptive angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14–15) than anything else.

Parents, if your teenager is attending Passion 2013 this week, this is the type of so-called Christian leaders to whom they are being exposed. This is the type of music that will bombard their eardrums during these four days. If your impressionable teen is wandering in the crowd of Passion 2013, it is my prayer that you will pray mightily for his or her protection.

What Happened at Passion 2012?

As a reminder, last year’s Passion Conference saw the featured speakers lead the humongous crowd in a troubling display of “Lectio Divina-lite.” In the post, “Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence and What Really Went On at Passion 2012?” the topics of contemplative prayer and lectio divina were discussed more thoroughly. The following videos of Session 5 of the Passion 2012 conference also were shared in that article.

Here is popular New Calvinist preacher John Piper:

Here we see the SBC’s favorite female Bible teacher, Beth Moore:

And here is Passion founder Louie Giglio closing this session:

Of special note are the words spoken by Giglio at the close of this exercise:

How many of you heard the voice of God speak specifically, clearly, directly, and personally, to you? Can you just put a hand up? I’d like you to share it. Can you put a hand up for a minute?

Just want you to look around; that’s people saying, “God Almighty (pause) the Maker of heaven (pause) the one Who’s sitting on the only throne (pause) that’s not under threat (long pause, audience cheers)—He spoke to me. He spoke to me.”

“God spoke to me.” (long pause) Don’t let the voice of the darkness, tell you that you are not (pause) worth (pause) that God would not speak to you. (pause) Don’t let him tell you, you don’t matter. (pause) God spoke to you.

As was asked in last year’s reporting of this event: When did Protestant leaders begin to teach that we need the Bible “plus” anything? God has spoken. He has graciously, clearly, and perfectly spoken in His Word. We have no need to be still and wait for His audible voice outside of Scripture. He has not stuttered. He has not stammered. He has not whispered. If you want to hear from God Almighty, open your Bible and read.

Until Passion 2013 commences, there is no way to know if a similar exercise will be practiced again. A live stream of the event will be provided, and those who are concerned may want to take the time to watch some of the sessions.


It is important to note that this article is not attempting to throw anyone under the guilt-by-association bus. No one is saying that, because one of these individuals will be sharing the stage with another that they necessarily endorse that other person’s ministry. Of course, that does not speak to the wisdom of certain speakers choosing to participate in this event. What must be acknowledged, however, is that simply by extending an invitation to these individuals, Passion founder Louie Giglio is issuing an apparent endorsement of each one’s ministry. For those who maintain that Giglio is a conservative and trusted teacher, this poses a rather complicated problem.

Evangelicalism appears to be taking broader strides toward the wide road of destruction. Compromise is rampant as numbers take priority over fidelity to Scripture. These are not small issues, dear Christian. What we are witnessing is the mainstreaming of movements that once existed only on the fringe of the “Christian” community, such as Word Faith and dangerous, deceptive “charismatic chaos.” In the face of the visible church’s compromise, the true Christian must stand on God’s Word alone. To ground oneself upon anything else is to guarantee a certain, perhaps eternal, collapse.

Further Reading
Louie Giglio to Join Word Faith Lineup at 2012 Hillsong Conference
Beth Moore Preaches Sunday Service at Louie Giglio’s Passion City Church (Christian Research Network)
Beth Moore and John Piper Set for Passion 2013 with Louie Giglio (Apprising Ministries)

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14 Responses to “Jesus Culture” going mainstream?

  1. Joey says:

    Jesus Culture has lead me closer to Jesus. The encounter/ experience is good. Feeling Gods love is good. Praying in tongues is absolutely good. There really isn't no argument here. Whether or not Jesus culture is teaching a perfect doctrine or not we find ourselves overwhelmed by Gods grace. In this day and age we cant focus anymore on these small disagreements. Gods grace is larger than doctrinal error.


  2. Horatius Bonar says:

    "let us beware of that unscriptural, unphilosophical sentimentalism which affirms that the heart may be all right when the head is all wrong."


  3. To Joey,
    If you can ignore some 50 verses about the importance of doctrine such as 1 Timothy 4:16 "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." and a stern warning about those who do not follow a pattern of sound doctrine— to not receive 2 John 1:9-10 "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:"
    You are wrong Joey, to be in God's grace you have to be walking with Him clearly doctrinal error is no trivial matter God overlooks. You need to turn from your error and read what the Bible teaches and not rely on your feelings.


  4. Adam says:

    I was a long follower of Passion, and supporter of Louie up until probably the last few years, even with Passion City Church. I think he's a great guy wonderful communicator, but what bothered me most in the years I've known Louie and most of the staff, is I believe they have gotten caught up in this experience with God and Jesus. Your experience with God is your life, and how you live it out to be a testimony for others and that it leads them to ask questions about why you live the way you do as salt and light. What I find troubling is this thing that happened last year with lecto divina lite, it's more than troubling is it is leading people astray because God doesn't call you into experience He has called you into repentance and to live a life that please Him with all you do. Passion has a goal of building things like wells and bridges, in other countries, I'd like for them to plant churches and give Bibles out, and witness. I consider at this point in time if the goal was true revival, it is experienced when movements like this are broken up because the heart of God is about saving the lost with his redemption message of salvation thru the cross as the only true way to get to Heaven, by His blood and stripes we are healed. Louie would do himself a favor in Gods sight to take a couple of years off and really get a hold of this, because true revival young or old is experienced thru salvation. That's your experience, the day you find Christ is sheer joy, and you want to live your life in service for Him. You don't really want to get to Heaven and say Jesus did you see me at the Passion gathering raise my hand like I was speaking to you and you spoke to me, Jesus turns around and says that wasn't me, I already spoke thru my word. That's a dangerous ground to base your salvation and hope on. This emergent church and modern Christ in everything is really damaging the brand of Christianity. I like Louie so I am not going to bash him, other than to say that he really needs to check himself and who he is following.


  5. Jeff says:

    I believe the Biblle is the Authoratative Word of God, and we must examine everything in light of scripture. It teaches that we can know God personally and intimately. How can you say that God doesn't speak today? That is what relationship is all about. Communication!! I know that he does speak to people individually and corporately, and that he desires for us to experience his presence and power in a deep, life changing way. That does not negate the need for repentance and turning from sin. In fact, Gods presence will facillate deep repentance, holiness and obedience in one's life. For the sake of your own well being and God's Glory, do not put God in a box and say he can only act in a certain way. God is big, God is Great, and yet he Loves us and desires us to encounter him in a very real way. He also commands us to Love each other in the body of Christ, even if we have different doctrinal persuasions. We can all learn from each other, because Jesus has only one Bride, which includes Baptists, Charismatics,Methodists, Pentecostals, and anyone that has trusted in Jesus alone and his shed blood as an atonement for sin. I am looking foward to fellowship in heaven, when we will be "known as we are fully known" Until then, I will always hunger and thirst for more of God, because I am passionately in love woth him, and want to make him known on earth, and take as many people as I can to heaven!


  6. Jeff says:

    Sorry, i meant "we will know as we are fully known"


  7. Stand Up For The TRU says:

    I get so tired of your radio program and blog beating up on other Christians. Whether there is merit to what you might say or not, is it not our duty to build up the kingdom of God and not tear each other down in the process? God brings people to His kingdom in all different ways. Maybe even through, heaven forbid, a program like Passion Conference with highly noted bible based evangelicals like Beth Moore. Shame on you for throwing good Christians under the bus like you do. We should all exercise discernment and the only way to ensure we do this as Christians is to know what God's word says. Not to listen to fanatical rants like those found daily on Stand up for the truth.


    • Amy Spreeman says:

      Beating up? Please, tell me what words were used to beat up other Christians? On the other hand, we are to hold teachers and each other accountable by examining all that is said and taught against the Bible. If you think our discussions are "fanatical rants," then why do you listen daily?


      • Kevin says:

        All I know is this world has seen enough of Christians beating up on other people. Have you not noticed that Christianity in America is dead? There is one reason for it, and one reason only. It's not God, it's not Jesus, it's not the Holy Spirit. It's us. People look to us who claim the name of Jesus to be an example. We are to live in truth and love. Are we? I can understand your concern, but the point of the matter is, you're beating up another denomination. You're probably a Southern baptist who sees Pentecostal as sinful. Look, I am not arguing against the Bible. That's playing with galaxies of starfire and supernovas. Does Jesus Culture have problems? Yes. Does Louie Goglio have problems? Yes. Just like me. Just like you. That problem is SIN. And we will NEVER be immune to it. But at some point, we have to ask ourselves what is more important. Correct Christian doctrine (which is molded solely by the beliefs of denomination and not strictly on the Bible as it should be) or the love of Jesus? The rescue of our Savior for those enslaved by darkness? I'm sorry but, Jesus Culture has pointed thousands to JESUS. And any mistakes they make, if they are diligently seeking Jesus, He will show them Truth. Rescue first, then restore.


  8. MP says:

    It is so sad to see John Piper participating in this kind of ecumenism and contemplative prayer, etc…..

    Every day seems that the real children of God, those who did born again; are pushing to be at home just with the Lord Jesus, reading the scriptures, praying, meditating in His word, worshiping and letting Him to accomplish His work trough His Holy Spirit in us, because we don't find preacher with a heart according to God's heart.

    It is so sad, but seems that we are more safe having our intimate relationship with God and going out to the world to preach the gospel trusting that people will see Jesus in us because the life's style that He has being giving us as result of our communion with Him, more than if we go to the congregations, because I can't call them "church" because is true that there is only one church and is conformed with people that have being safe trough Jesus Christ.

    Congregations are full of unbelievers and the world has came to them in a massive way, and a few believers …trying to resist the darkness in the congregations and being light in.

    To see all this videos of Jesus Culture, bring to my mind how Salomon end his life, we are not better than him; that should say something to us, be aware and keep connected with Jesus Christ and studding the scriptures closely to be protected with the Holy Spirit that is in us from all false doctrine.

    The Holy Spirit is the one that can teach us the truth, who is children of God will know if the Doctrine comes from men or from God. My sheep listen my voice and I know them and they follow me 🙂

    Another though that comes to my mind is that the Devil knows very well the bible too; when is used it without the Holy Spirit, is just to destroy.

    Don't trust in any man, please, Curse be the one that trust in men say the Lord.
    All our trust must be in Jesus Christ our only personal Saviour, the only one worthy to be followed, to trust in, to worship Him, to be summit to; to Him the Glory and the Honor for ever and ever.

    May the Lord send us pastors according to His Heart that really want to feed the flock and love the sheep.

    God's grace be with you.


  9. Kitt says:

    This all goes back to whether or not you believe the Holy Spirit speaks to us individually(lining up with God's Word). If the Spirit quit speaking to us after the New Testament is complete, then you can call this heresy I suppose. But if God still speaks to us, and we are to test the spirit against God's Word, then there is no heresy. This is an argument that has went on for a while now, and now that respected ministers are embracing teaching that the Holy Spirit still speaks to us, it's getting a very aggressive response from the other side. As far as Jesus Culture, I think we're confusing Disorder with Demonic. They do need to be called out on singing in tongues in corporate worship, but I wouldn't go as far as say that they're ushering in thousands into hell. That's going from what extreme to the other.


  10. Martin Williams says:

    I like Jesus Culture, but the Word of God is the authority of my life. If and When there is a conflict, the Word of God takes authority.


  11. B says:

    I can appreciate some wariness in today's world, but if people like you put passion into proclaiming Jesus to the lost like you do with hunting down and excoriating other Christians, think about how His name would be championed.


  12. jacob garrett says:

    so have any of you actually been to a conference? or to bethel? obviously not or you would hear teaching on repentance and sanctification. its sad that your entire ministry is based on what you believe others are doing wrong. the word of God is not meant to tear one another down. to say encounters with God are unbiblical really disturbs me. ever read Revelation? these people are doing a great work, yet they are critiqued and ripped apart by the very ones who should be building them up. if you are convinced they are misled or misleading others, shouldn't you ask for the body to pray for them? guess not, since that is what Jesus would do. there is no difference between encountering God and His word. what do you tell all those who have no access to the bible? "sorry about your luck." please reconsider this avenue that you have to connect with people and use it responsibly and with love.


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