The Dangerous Teachings of the Jesus Culture Movement
Jesus Culture began in 1999 as a conference, called the Jesus Culture Conference, led by Banning Liebscher, the youth pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California. The music at these conferences were led by Kim Walker-Smith and the others who would become known as the Jesus Culture band. While many are aware only of their music, Jesus Culture is more than a band; it “is a movement with the purpose to ignite revival in the nations of the earth!” While Jesus Culture is more than a band, it is their music that has grown in popularity. They even performed at the Louie Giglio’s Passion Conference in January of 2013 at which John Piper was a speaker. Many young Christians are familiar with the music of Jesus Culture, and many churches, Bible camps, and other ministries sing their songs in worship. However, Jesus Culture is not just a band; it is a movement that promotes false teaching and teachers, is built not on the Bible but on the supposed visions and prophecies of its leaders, teaches a false view of physical healing and prosperity, and has a tragically low view of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Before looking at Jesus Culture’s teachings in-depth, a brief look at the people who influence them is necessary. While who they associate with may not alone make the movement heretical, the people Jesus Culture support and have speak at their conferences gives reason for one to worry. First, the movement is heavily influenced by Bill Johnson, senior pastor at Bethel Church. He has been heavily influenced by the charismatic Toronto Blessing and its leaders. Since Jesus Culture sprang from Bethel Church, much of their teachings come from Johnson and will be looked at in detail later. Who else influences Jesus Culture? Banning Liebscher writes, “The level of anointing that many of the fathers and mothers of the faith [emphasis added] operated in like John G. Lake, Oral Roberts, and Kathryn Kuhlman is available to all who are hungry for it.” Liebscher makes an interesting choice when he claims who Jesus Culture’s fathers and mothers of the faith are. First, Lake, Roberts, and Kuhlman all lived not too long ago—in the late 19th to the late 20th century. Liebscher does not appeal to church fathers of centuries past but to those who were born barely a century ago. All three were champions of healing ministries and are generally rejected as unorthodox by many evangelicals. They also taught many false doctrines, especially about physical healing and material prosperity. Thus, the mere fact that Jesus Culture is influenced heavily by these men and women should make one wary of following them and listening to their music.
A Low View of Scripture
A Low View of Scripture
The first danger of the Jesus Culture movement is the way their leaders deal with Scripture. They handle God’s Word in a way that suits their own purposes. The leaders of the Jesus Culture movement have a tendency to allegorize biblical narratives, especially in the Old Testament, to make the text about the contemporary Christian, rather than seeing what a passage is saying about God—His power, purpose, and salvific plan. This is especially evident in the “manifesto” of the movement, Banning Liebscher’s book Jesus Culture. For example, Liebscher takes 2 Kings 2:19-22 and allegorizes a command Elisha gave to his servants. The servants were to take a new bowl filled with salt and pour the salt into the water source near the city of Jericho. Liebscher uses this passage as an allegory, writing, “God is releasing a new strategy (new bowl) as He is throwing believers (salt) into the sources of water into society.” This narrative in 2 Kings does not give Liebscher warrant to use this passage as an allegory to legitimate his claims. Rather, it is a narrative that shows that Elisha is a true prophet and that the Lord is with Elisha as He was with Elijah. This allegorical use of Scripture is sadly prevalent throughout all of Jesus Culture.
Another error that the leaders of Jesus Culture often make is using Scripture in a dishonest way, using it out context to make whatever verse they quote mean whatever suits their purposes. In Jesus Culture, Banning Liebscher quotes Acts 10:38, which is part of Peter’s speech to the Gentiles in Cornelius’s home. Then he claims that the new breed of revivalists that is rising up “will be marked with an Acts 10:38 anointing.” However, Liebscher gives no evidence from Acts 10 or anywhere else in Scripture for his claim that Christians should operate under an “Acts 10:38 anointing” which, in context, is speaking of Jesus’ anointing and the signs and wonders that He did. Rather, Liebscher merely quotes this verse, claiming that all Christians should operate under this anointing. This use of Scripture is dubious at best.
Other examples of flawed uses of Scripture in Jesus Culture, the sermons of the movement’s leaders, and their blogs abound. However, the most tragic and dangerous treatment of Scripture comes in their elevation of visions and dreams to the same level or above Scripture. They never explicitly say this, but it is evident in their writings and sermons. For example, when writing about prayer Liebscher gives several keys to sustained prayer. One of the keys to prayer demonstrates just how much faith Jesus Culture puts in their visions and dreams: “The fourth key to sustained prayer is prophetic revelation. This has been a huge influence in our ministry [emphasis added]. When the Lord speaks to us through dreams, prophetic words, Scriptures, and other prophetic experiences, He’s providing fuel for our fires of prayer.” In this quote, Scripture is just one source of divine revelation among others. In the Jesus Culture movement, Scripture is not the only place where Christians should chiefly go to hear God speak. Rather, they also seek visions and dreams. Sadly, Jesus Culture bases just as much of their theology on these visions as they do on the Bible. Their ministry, as Liebscher even acknowledges, has been hugely influenced by prophetic revelation. Most of the testimonies and many personal stories given by the leaders of the Jesus Culture movement demonstrate this influence. Tragically, these visions and prophecies are often read into Scripture as they exhort their followers to follow their various dreams.
This exaltation of visions to a Scriptural level is one of Jesus Culture’s most dangerous teachings. Though they claim that Scripture is “the only infallible and authoritative Word of God,” in their practice and core beliefs, visions and prophecies are given just as much authority. Even if these visions were legitimate, Jesus Culture would still be guilty of focusing on them over Scripture. This is a tragic elevation of visions—that may or may not be from God—over Scripture which is God’s inspired word to man.
An Unbiblical View of Miraculous Healing
An Unbiblical View of Miraculous Healing
Jesus Culture promotes the practice of signs and wonders in the life of every believer. Liebscher writes, “We were born to live in the realm of the supernatural—the realm of healings, the prophetic, angelic encounters, and the gifts of the Spirit. It is the most natural thing for a Christian to live a supernatural lifestyle. . . . This new breed of revivalist who is emerging in the earth will be a generation that has embraced the realm of the supernatural.” But what is their theology behind these miracles, especially behind healing? The answer demonstrates another danger in Jesus Culture’s theology.
The leaders of the Jesus Culture movement believe and teach that Christ purchased physical healing on the cross so that Christians should not be sick but should be healed of all diseases. Bill Johnson writes on the Jesus Culture website, “How can God choose not to heal someone when He already purchased their healing? . . . When He bore stripes in His body He made a payment for our miracle. He already decided to heal. You can’t decide not to buy something after you’ve already bought it.”  He also says in a sermon at Bethel Church, “I refuse to create a theology that allows for sickness.”
The leaders of the Jesus Culture movement claim that as long as true Christians have enough faith, God will heal them because He already paid for their healing. So, Christians should never be sick. If they are sick or have some debilitating disease, it must be because they or the person trying to heal them does not have enough faith, the healer lacks a powerful healing anointing, or there is some unforeseen factor involved in healing that the healer missed because he is not educated enough in the art of healing. According to Jesus Culture, God does not allow sickness to help a Christian build his character or grow in faith. Romans 5:3-5 and passages like it are ignored. This is their basic theology of healing: Jesus already purchased His people’s healing so the reason people are not healed is because they have missed something key in the process of healing, and when they find what it is, the healing will be successful.
This theology of healing is dangerous and unbiblical. Physical healing is not provided in the atonement in the way Jesus Culture claims. Their claim is based on Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows . . . . and with his wounds we are healed.” The words griefs and sorrows can be translated sickness and pain. Furthermore, when Matthew quotes Isaiah 53:4 (Matt 8:17) he renders these words “illnesses” and “diseases.” So, the leaders of Jesus Culture would claim, Jesus bore our sickness and pain when He died on the cross. Now, those who propound this view would seem to have a biblical basis for it, but they overlook several points.
First, if Jesus bore His people’s sicknesses on the cross, it does not necessarily follow that they will always be healthy and always healed when they are sick. Christians still live in the flesh—their earthly bodies—and have not received heavenly bodies free from the curse of sin. Sickness is a result of the curse of sin that came about when Adam fell. Sickness has to do with the body while sin has to do with the soul. The Christian’s soul has been made clean; he has been given a new heart. However, his body is still an earthly one, not the glorified one that he will receive at the resurrection. Therefore, he is still affected by the curse and will get sick at times. Douglas Moo writes, “The atoning death of Christ provides for the healing of all our diseases—but nothing in Matthew or in the NT implies that this healing will take place in this life. . . . The NT gives reason to think that triumph over physical disease, like triumph over physical death, will not come for most believers until the future ‘redemption of the body.’”
Other problems with the claim that physical healing is provided in the atonement are the other NT use of Isaiah 53:4-5 and the context of the passage itself. Peter quotes the latter part of Isaiah 53:5 in 1 Peter 2:24 in the context, not of physical healing, but of spiritual healing—Christ bearing His people’s sins. The context of Isaiah 53:4-5 also shows that sin and spiritual depravity is what the Holy Spirit has in mind when inspiring Isaiah to write about the atonement. Synonyms for sin (like iniquities) are mentioned over seven times in the chapter when referring to Christ bearing anything. Thus, the context of Isaiah 53:4-5 is the sinfulness of God’s people and their need to have these iniquities carried away by another, not that they need to be healed physically and live a life free of sickness. Therefore, to put physical healing in this life on par with the forgiveness of sins as results of the atonement is to neglect the meaning of Isaiah 53 and its New Testament context. Peter Masters eloquently writes, “Forgiveness is the great atonement benefit which we preach to all; healing is principally a benefit for the future, although kindly tokens are given now to believers who humbly pray for them.”
Jesus Culture’s theology of healing is flawed. Their belief that since healing is provided in the atonement every Christian should be healed on this earth is unfounded. Healing is not provided in the atonement, but is an effect of the atonement. Christians still live in a cursed world and have not yet received their glorified bodies. As a result, people still get sick, and God does not always heal them but graciously uses sickness and other suffering to build their character. Even the leaders of Jesus Culture recognize that people are not always healed. Liebscher writes, “For all the testimonies of people being healed on the streets in our city, there are many stories of people not being healed.” How can the leaders of Jesus Culture claim that God already bought every Christian’s healing, that it can be realized this side of heaven, and yet still hold the claim that people still do not always get healed? How can God decide to heal and not yet heal? To answer these conundrums, Jesus Culture must put the fault in man. The healer or the person seeking to be healed must be doing something wrong. This brings up Jesus Culture’s most dangerous teachings: a low view of God and a man-centered gospel.
An Exalted View of Man and a Crippled View of God
An Exalted View of Man and a Crippled View of God
A. W. Tozer once wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . .Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts about God. . . . Always the most revealing thing about a Church is her idea of God. . .” The Jesus Culture movement has a low view of God and a high view man. Since the most important thing about a church, movement, and individual is their views of God, this teaching in the movement makes them dangerous to follow.
Jesus Culture’s views on God and man are their most dangerous quality. Sadly, they place man’s will above God’s will and say that God can only act as Christians call on Him to act. They view God in heaven waiting for His Church to act so He can do something in their lives. According to Jesus Culture, God has great plans for His Church if only she would listen and act. Banning Liebscher writes,
You my friend have been set up for success! Your life is crucial to the plans of God.
God is eager to answer when we call. He loves to respond to our genuine and honest prayers, and He longs for His Church to catch the vision of His eagerness and willingness to come. Again, I can see Him in Heaven on the edge of His seat eagerly waiting for us to declare, “God, come on down!” He’s sporting His shirt that says, “I Love My Church,” and when the Church calls Him, He leaps out of His seat cheering for joy. He looks at the angels gathered around His throne and says, “They called Me, and I’m going down!” Perhaps He even high-fives some of the angels on His way down.
As part of the new breed, you must pay attention to the dreams and desires in your heart, because they will help you get in touch with the invitation God is extending to you to partner with Heaven and bring healing to the land. As Bill Johnson preaches, “Most of the
Church is waiting for the next command from God, but God is waiting for the dream of His Church.”
Theological errors in these quotes abound. God is not waiting up in heaven for His Church to act on her dreams. God has given His Church a commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). He is not waiting to get involved; He has always been involved in the affairs of this earth that He created, and His purpose stands and comes to be. Psalm 33 gives a portrayal of God’s involvement in the earth: “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Ps 33:10-11). Furthermore, God does not wait on His Church; His Church is to wait on Him. This is evident throughout the entirety of Scripture, especially in the Psalms. In Psalm 33, after the psalmist tells of God’s sovereignty, he writes, “Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield” (Ps 33:20). Yes, there is a tension in Scripture of God acting as a result of prayer, but His sovereignty is always upheld. Scripture must interpret Scripture. Jesus Culture’s view of God waiting on His Church is a low view of God, a God who is helpless unless man acts.
This low view of God and high view of man affects the gospel Jesus Culture preaches. Sadly, it is hard to find a full teaching on the gospel in Jesus Culture or in their online resources. They mention the gospel but rarely explain what it is, and when they do, they usually claim that signs and wonders must accompany the gospel message. The gospel of the Jesus Culture movement is man-centered. Liebscher writes, “But the truth is that we are not Chevettes. We are Lamborghinis. The way we determine the value of an item is to find out how much someone will pay for it. . . . The cross should send us a glorious message about how highly God values us. He cherished you enough to pay the ultimate price—His Son’s life.” Essentially, Liebscher is claiming that God sent His Son to pay the price because people are worth it—mankind was so valuable to God that He had to redeem as many as He could. However, Liebscher ignores the very paradox of the gospel that is spelled out in Romans 5. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom 5:6-8). The fact that Christ died for His Church does not demonstrate that she was worthy or valuable, but that He showed infinite mercy and grace to weak sinners. God loves humans not because they are so lovely but because He is Love (1 John 4:8).
To use Liebscher’s term, Christians are “Chevettes” before they are shown mercy and forgiven, but God is the one who transforms them from ugly and dead to beautiful and alive. He makes them into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). This is the epitome of grace and mercy, for it is incomprehensible that a holy God would save sinners. It is surprising that God would stoop down to save His creatures that are under the curse of sin. Charles Spurgeon when addressing this surprising doctrine wrote, “I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it.” Sadly, Jesus Culture does not seem to stand in wonder at God’s grace, rather, according to them, man is doing God a favor by being saved because he is enabling God to accomplish His purposes through man.
The gospel of Jesus Culture is a man-centered gospel. It sometimes looks biblically sound on the outside, but in all actuality, it is another gospel. The gospel preached in their testimonies and elsewhere is a gospel focused on physical healing, God’s wonderful purpose for the Christian’s life that lines up with the desires of his heart, and success in life because all things are possible with God. Faith and repentance are minor things that get one saved so he can experience healing, prosperity, and success. Since a church, movement, and individual’s view of God is the most important thing about them, this low view of God that affects their gospel makes them a dangerous movement.
Even after exploring the false teachings of the Jesus Culture movement, some may claim that these issues are overblown and that Christians can still listen to Jesus Culture’s music. However, these false teachings are dangerous, for they undermine the gospel and character of God. These teachings loom even behind their music. Thus, Christians should be very careful before listening to Jesus Culture’s music or letting their children listen to it. In all things, Christians should be discerning, seeking to be faithful to the Bible and rejecting any movement, music, or teaching that undermines the gospel and character of God. Sadly, Jesus Culture falls into this category of false teachers, handling Scripture in a way that suits their own purposes, teaching a theology of healing that is misleading, and undermining the gospel and character of God.
March 12, 2014, http://new.jesusculture.com/posts/1592-release-the-supernatural.
Banning Liebscher, Jesus Culture: Living a Life that Transforms the World (Shippensburg, PA:
Destiny Image Publishers, 2009), 61.
Ibid., 72-74, 136-37, 148, 171.
Ken Silva, “Jesus Culture’s Kim Walker-Smith’s Alleged Encounter with God the Father and Jesus
Christ,” Apprising Ministries, January 24, 2013, accessed March 20, 2014, http://apprising.org/2013/01/24/jesus-cultures-kim-walker-smiths-alleged-encounter-with-god-the-father-and-jesus-christ; Liebscher, Jesus Culture, 58-59, 124, 160; Bill Johnson, “Bill Johnson – What is the Spirit of Prophecy?? Prophetic Ministry” (video: sermon excerpt), posted February 21, 2012, accessed March 24, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsWW6iM0-ao.
 Liebscher, Jesus Culture, 58-59. Liebscher here tells of two visions and then bases the Christian’s
interaction with specific areas of culture on from these visions. Then he uses several Scriptures out of context to go along with these visions.
 Bill Johnson, “Bill Johnson False Teacher” (video: sermon excerpt), posted August 19, 2010,
accessed March 24, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzAwFYKe3h0.
Justin Peters, “A Call for Discernment Session 3 – The Hurt of Healing” (video of lecture), posted
January 8, 2011, accessed March 22, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIE-rtV9Qu4.
 Douglas Moo, “Divine Healing in the Health and Wealth Gospel,” Trinity Journal 9 (Fall 1998): 204,accessed March 22, 2014, http://www.djmoo.com/articles/divinehealing.pdf.
Peter Masters, The Healing Epidemic (London: The Wakeman Trust, 1988), 67.
Moo, “Divine Healing in the Health and wealth Gospel,” 204.
Liebscher, Jesus Culture, 207.
A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Bernardino, CA: CreateSpace, 2013), 8.
Liebscher, Jesus Culture, 25.
Bill Johnson, “Bill Johnson Sermons - The Gospel - December 18 2011” (video: sermon), posted
January 10, 2012, accessed March 24, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS87UpG8J8w; Liebscher, Jesus Culture, 29.
Liebscher, Jesus Culture, 130.
 Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace: An Earnest Word with Those Who Are Seeking Salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ in The Charles Spurgeon Collection: 60 Classic Works (N.p.: Waxkeep Publishing, 2013), loc. 1405, Kindle.
Liebscher, Jesus Culture, 182, 62-64.
[This is a paper I wrote for a class, hence the academic format, etc.]
[This is a paper I wrote for a class, hence the academic format, etc.]