Jesus Culture is a movement that began in 1999 as a youth group and has since expanded to have an international influence. The music and conferences of Jesus Culture are aimed at young people, seeking to lead them “to experience the radical love of God” and send them back into their communities “completely impassioned and transformed” (from the official website). The ministry focuses on revival, worship, the power of God, and the “manifest presence” of Christ in the world. The founder of the movement is Banning Liebscher from Bethel Church, a Charismatic church pastored by Bill Johnson in Redding, California.
There has always been and will always be great variety within the body of Christ. One reason for the plethora of church denominations is that human beings are unique and one size does not fit all. With every generation, there has been a revival of passion that expresses itself through different outlets. In the 1940s it was Youth for Christ; in the 1970s it was the Jesus People; since 1997 we have witnessed the 268 Generation, also known as the Passion Movement. The young people of Jesus Culture are passionate about spreading worship over the globe, and they set about to do it the way that seems best to them.
Bethel Church, from which Jesus Culture emerged, teaches salvation by grace through faith. However, the church also teaches that the positions of apostle and prophet are being filled yet today. The “apostles’ teaching” mentioned in Acts 2:42 is not necessarily the doctrine of Peter, James, and John, according to Bethel. It is whatever the modern-day apostles are saying. Obviously, this doctrine can lead to a downplaying of Scripture and opens the door to spurious teaching.
Indeed, Jesus Culture is sometimes criticized for a lack of depth and biblical teaching at their conferences and concerts. The emphasis is on having an undefined “personal encounter with the love of God” rather than on repentance and faith. Such an emphasis appeals to emotion, and as with anything centered primarily on emotion, those participating often miss the mark. Any time we give preeminence to emotional experience over the clear teaching of the Word, we open the door to potentially harmful doctrines.
Another concern is Jesus Culture’s emphasis on signs and wonders, including visions, healings, and speaking in esoteric tongues. Johnson teaches that believers who are sick have “allowed” the sickness into their lives and that those who are not healed should “realize it’s not God’s fault” and pray for a “greater anointing” (from the official Jesus Culture website).
Within Jesus Culture are many committed believers, and their accent on worship and worldwide missions is commendable. We praise the Lord for anyone who is brought to faith in Christ through their efforts. At the same time, Got Questions Ministries disagrees with their stance on the sign gifts and sees a danger in their promotion of modern-day apostles. First Thessalonians 5:21 commands us to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” As believers, we ought to carefully examine every teaching and practice and compare them to the written Word of God.