Over the past decade, Bethel Church has been making their mark on the global worship stage. Unashamedly charismatic, the band of worshippers are at the forefront of spontaneous outbreaks, spirit-led abandonment and unscheduled sets.
About Bethel Music
‘Bethel Music’ is a ministry of Bethel Church, based in Redding, California. According to their official website, the ministry exists to “create corridors into the heavenly realms through the mystery of music that facilitate deeper dimensions of God’s manifest presence.”
Officially ‘Bethel Music’ is a recording label, who sign home-grown artists birthed from their music schools. And as most music producing mega-churches, they release live worship albums every year with huge branding campaigns and famous names plastered to the front cover.
So why buy their albums? What makes them worth listening too? Why should you and your Church sing their songs?
The charismatic movement is pushing the creative boundaries of worship with their latest creation – Without Words. Here’s how Brian Johnson, who is the senior worship pastor at the church along with his wife Jenn, explains the album:
“Each song on the recording has been deconstructed and rearranged… creating a dynamic, ambient and cinematic atmosphere, free from lyric and discourse.”
So in essence this album is an instrumental experiment. As far as I’m aware, no other mega-church has dared to venture into this unknown territory, stripping away the lyrics and allowing the instruments to take the lead. The result is surprisingly refreshing. The album captures something somewhat different: an openness, a freedom, a sense of humility that’s achieved because the word sheet has been left blank. Plus the practical uses for this album to create worshipful abeyance are untold – from church cafes to healing rooms to ministry times to go-to Christian background music.
So what of their more conventional (if you can call it that) live worship albums.
The latest installment from the mega-church is ‘For The Sake Of The World’, recorded live at the annual conference. For those who bought ‘Be Lifted High’, their previous live album, this recording is much of the same intensely passionate praise mixed in with some calming, reflective songs.
My intensions are not to insinuate they are copying other big names such as Hillsong, but to highlight their developed sound. They’ve certainly settled into a mature and well-worked sound, a kind of charismatic crescendo with a spontaneous flair and this album is their best outworking to date, showcasing their talent for songwriting and showing why they have become a household name.
“Worship God & See What Happens”
It’s all well and good to release live albums year after year, but what everyone really wants to know is what goes on at the live event. What exactly does an evening of Bethel Church Music actually sound like?
One of our writers joined them back in 2012, while they were doing a short tour of the UK. Jeremy Riddle, one the churches worship leaders, introduced the evening and said they’d come “to worship God and see what happens”.
And having just returned from a US tour, Jeremy was documented in a YouTube video saying, “if you’re not uncomfortable you’re probably not worshipping freely.”
Sam’s write up of the evening, including some excellent photo’s, will help you get a better understanding of the movement doing what they are called to do – leading corporate worship.
Eden Interview with Bethel Worship Pastor – Brian Johnson
Finally, if you truly want to know someone’s heart, you ask them. So that’s what we did when we talked with Brian Johnson back in 2012.
It’s important to understand where worship songs and albums are being created, why and for what purpose. Brian was open and honest with us, revealing why they recorded ‘The Loft Sessions’, how the songs ‘Angels’ and ‘One Thing Remains’ were inspired and why he thinks people ‘freak out’ too much about the lyrics in worship songs.
Read the whole interview to discover what makes the leader of Bethel Music tick, and why you should check out their back catalogue.
March 17th, 2013 - Posted & Written by James Warwood