Posts Tagged ‘planetshakers music’
An articulate letter was forwarded to me today via email (planetshakersinsider [at] gmail dot com)
It was described as an open letter to the ACC National Executive [AOG Australia’s top leadership], and was attributed to young pentecostal worship leader Ben Manusama (of Manifest Youth) – If someone can find the original source, I’d appreciate it – I couldn’t find it myself.
It clearly articulates some key points that have also been raised about Planetshakers leadership on this blog, as well as the wider pentecostal leadership in Australia and worldwide elsewhere in the light of Mike Guglielmucci’s fall, as well as the fall of Todd Bentley.
To the members of the National Executive,
I’m writing to you in response to the events of the last week regarding the confession of Mike Guglielmucci. I write as a young person directly impacted by his actions and wish to present for discussion a number of issues it has raised within the community of young people in the ACC.
To begin with, my church was quite removed from Mike’s ministry – I had only met him for the first time when he spoke at our youth meeting a few weeks ago. I say this with the hope that you can see the objectivity of my observations as I had no emotional attachment to the man or his ministry.
As I’m sure you’re aware, everyone’s talking, everyone’s speculating, everyone’s processing and trying to come to terms with what has happened and what the consequences are.
I don’t presume to speak on behalf of anyone other than myself but after posting a respectful blog containing some of my initial observations, I’ve had quite an overwhelming response of people who have read it. Some enthusiastically agreeing, some confused, some still undecided. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you there are many profoundly affected young people and they’re not all directly connected to him or his ministry (as you might assume).
I have grown up in the Pentecostal movement with parents whose itinerant ministry saw me and my family visiting churches all over the nation. I’ve been able to observe the changes of culture within our own movement and our observations have always been grounded in our family’s core values and passion for the Body of Christ.
This now is my assessment of these recent events.
What Mike has done is catastrophic not only in the geographical reach of the scandal but also because it has struck at the foundation of much of the methodology of our movement.
The questions being asked are not only about how a man ‘falls from grace’ but people are asking what this says about ministry, the Holy Spirit, human character and the capacity for a regenerated man to commit such wickedness.
The actions and official statements made thus far by the ACC and the Guglielmucci family seem to be dealing with some of these issues although that will need to be an ongoing process (certainly in a church-by-church fashion).
My concern is that the conversation will only go so far – that the issues surrounding ‘the man’ (which must certainly be addressed) will be resolved but that there will be no engagement with the broader problem.
Is it too simplistic to view this as just another case of a man ‘falling from grace’? I think to leave it at that is not only simplistic but negligent.
A person like Mike Guglielmucci is not born but created.
I say this not to negate Mike’s responsibility or guilt for his actions but to draw our attention to how the culture of the contemporary Pentecostal church has allowed and accommodated for somebody like Mike to thrive.
WHAT IS THIS CULTURE?
One of the strengths of Pentecostalism has always been its ability to become culturally relevant to all peoples – and particularly young people. This is seen in our ever evolving forms of communication, media, music and the content and delivery of our message. These things are important when they are the natural side effect of being creative human beings in a changing world, however when they become the mechanism by which we build the church there are dangerous consequences.
What began as a move to bring the church out of the dark ages and into the realm of popular culture has had devastating side effects: Praise and worship has become a music industry (complete with it’s very own rock stars), preaching has become motivational speaking (with little expectation to know or engage with the text) and ministry has become a desirable and lucrative career choice.
Against this background, the value system of church seems to have changed.
I came across an article by an American minister named Dutch Sheets. I am unfamiliar with his ministry but his response to the events surrounding Todd Bentley seem all too appropriate to our situation.
The following is a quote from him:
“We, the leaders of the charismatic church, have built on hype, sensation, innovation, programs, personality and charisma. This has produced: shallowness; false movements; novice leaders— gifted but immature and untested; a deficient understanding of God’s word; the building of man-centered rather than kingdom- centered churches and ministries; competition rather than cooperation; humanistic, self-centered Christians who don’t understand sacrifice and commitment; Christians without discernment; superstar leaders; a perverted and powerless gospel; prayerless and anemic Christians; a replacement of the fear of the Lord with the fear of man; and a young generation that is cynical of it all.”
As a young person in our movement I honestly believe that this almost summarizes the state of our predicament.
I look around and see so many insecure church leaders who are too eager to jump on trends and exploit new talent and ideas as a way to keep up with the Joneses/Houstons.
It is within this environment that a talented, charismatic, gifted, articulate, charming, yet-untested, son of a well respected preacher managed to not only slip through the process of accountability but then exploited the system to get to the top.
Our movement that seems to have become so obsessed with a man’s talent, gifting and ability to draw a crowd was the perfect environment for such a man to exploit. No matter what Mike’s motivations, regardless of the driving force behind his actions (whether he was psychologically sound or not), he has demonstrated that there is a ladder to be climbed and it can be done apparently with no help from the Holy Spirit.
Worse still, not only did he make a complete mockery of Pentecostal rhetoric but he was ultimately endorsed by the leaders of our denomination – which is you guys.
Even at the end there were churches (including my own) who were unsure about his ministry but finally accepted based on the endorsement from the national executive.
In closing there are some burning questions and challenges I would like to put forward.
1) For a denomination that is supposed to be led by the Holy Spirit instantly one asks where was the discernment of our leaders? Is it too much to expect that our spiritual fathers and shepherds will be led by the Spirit to protect their flock? Granted everyone’s saying that he hid this from his own wife and family but surely God would try to forewarn and thus prevent such a catastrophic deception that has ruined so many lives.
2) What system of accountability allows such a man to get so far? Amidst the excitement over his ministry and his ability to draw a crowd – was there anybody in his life to challenge his behaviour? And if so, if someone actually knew even in part about his struggles, why were measures not taken to limit his reach of influence until those struggles were resolved? Surely some of the reports coming out about his methods as youth pastor at Planetshakers City Church should have raised a red flag. Was everyone too quick to celebrate his role in growing the church, and too hesitant to question or check a rising star?
3) Who takes responsibility? In the official statements released so far – no one has taken ownership. Words like ‘illness’ and ‘professional help’ deflect attention from the real underlying cultural problems and the role played by leadership in allowing this to happen. What’s to prevent another Mike Guglielmucci from happening?
It just seems like it would be too easy for somebody else to come through and exploit it all over again.
I don’t think it’s enough for our leaders to say they don’t condone what has been done – this whilst separating themselves from ‘the man’ does not acknowledge their role in the greater problem. Nor is it enough for them to say they had no idea what was going on – that they didn’t know. It was your job to know (surely even just on a practical level regardless of your theology).
Just as a father is responsible for what happens to his kids, aren’t you in some way responsible for what happens to our generation?
The statement from Dutch Sheets in regard to the Lakeland scandal is, I feel, an inspiring example of leadership being transparent and taking responsibility (www.dutchsheets.org).
My concern is that the next few weeks will be about damage control and no discussion or admission of the greater underlying issues.
We don’t expect for you guys to be perfect but we expect honesty and openness. Perhaps if our leaders were willing to be transparent about their weaknesses, we would be less inclined to hide ours.
4) What are you going to do to change it?
There’s a multitude of young people looking to you now. We’re hurt, confused, bleeding and angry.
You’ve spoken to us at meetings, conferences, youth alive retreats and through DVDs. Speak now.
You’re always so quick to let us know you’re leading us.
I agree wholeheartedly with Ben Manusama’s sentiments.
While I’ve said previously that I believe Manifest had their heart in the right place, I would encourage Ben Manusama and others at Manifest to also reflect on their actions placing Mike Guglielmucci on stage when they did. Perhaps they were complicit of some of the same failings?
However, I also believe that the questions Ben Manusama asks are apt, and deserve to be answered – by the AOG National Executive, Planetshakers, Hillsong and even Manifest:
1) What happened to the discernment of leaders?
2) How did the lie slip through any accountability, and get so far?
3) Who will stand up and take responsibility?
4) What will happen to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
All reasonable and fair-minded questions.
I had someone who didn’t leave their name, but is apparently a Planetshakers member, ask a question recently:
…do you truly believe that this blog contributes any value to the church? If so how?
By asking questions; by being public and open; by engaging people, and getting people to think deeper; by questioning beliefs so that beliefs that are wrong or mistaken can be shed, and beliefs that are correct and stand up to questioning can be strengthened.
All protestant churches (non-Roman-Catholic churches – including Pentecostal churches like Planetshakers) came out of the Reformation – and began with Martin Luther.
The catalyst for the reformation was Martin Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” – which he nailed to the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Saxony (modern-day Germany).
These were 95 points for debate that criticized the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope.
The “Theses” included points criticizing practice of selling “indulgences” – the Roman Catholic Church at the time was making people PAY MONEY in order to be forgiven of their sins, and be sanctified in order to gain God’s favor and get into heaven.
You know it’s wrong, I know it’s wrong – but the average person at that time knew no better.
At the time, the Bible was written in Greek – (Martin Luther himself was responsible for the first translation into the “common man’s language”, which put the bible in everyone’s reach). So the church was able to get away with practically anything
Martin Luther, because he understood and was able to interpret the bible, and wasn’t willing to accept a bastardized version of God’s message – a version that benefited the Church financially, but was wrong biblically – so he spoke up.
His work began the reformation – and the reformation saw the Bible being translated into common languages worldwide (including the King James Version in England – which we still use today), it saw some of the greatest Christian philosophers in history (including Calvin and Luther himself), eventually led to most non-Roman-Catholic church movements (Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Revivalist, etc), and saw the church come much closer to the ideals described in the Bible.
This was one of the most influential turning points in world history, let alone Christendom.
And it came because someone spoke up when they saw something was wrong.
People accused Martin Luther of bringing about “disunity” and “dissent” – they made him an outlaw, banned his work, and called him a heretic – someone who was “of the devil”.
And in many ways he did create disunity and dissent – but he also spoke the truth.. And as a result, he did God’s work.
You see, God doesn’t call us to blind unity, for the sake of unity in the body of Christ.
Take Jesus’ example – when he came across the money-changers and herders in the temple, he angrily made a whip of cords, drove out the animals, violently turned over the tables strewing the money all over the ground…
“Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Jesus acted when he saw wrong.
Martin Luther did the same.
I’m far from anything that Jesus is, and I’m no Martin Luther either – I’m just a human, and I sin as much as the next one.
But I see things that are wrong – and I speak out too.
Just like every Christian should.
Certainly I don’t act as violently as Jesus acted, and certainly not as loudly or as controversially as Martin Luther – but I speak out and act nonetheless.
Is it wrong that I should speak?
Just as one example – In the Bible, Paul writes (in 1 Cor. 14:27-28):
27If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
So is it wrong if I were to question whether or not we are justified in God when Senior Pastor Sam Evans speaks in tongues at the end of worship at Planetshakers (with no interpretation), and encourages others to join in?
Is it wrong that I question Planetshakers for claiming they had nothing to do with Mike Guglielmucci for the past 18 months, and distancing themselves from him, when it was clear that his cancer lie started while he was at Planetshakers 22 months prior?
Is it wrong that I look around and see hurting people and people with weak faith, and question what pastoral care these people receive when their small-group leaders aren’t skilled enough to help, don’t recognize the problem, or are too busy to do anything?
Is it wrong to wonder why people cheer loudly when a preacher is “on a roll” in his sermon, or when a superstar preacher’s name is flashed on the giant screens – and wonder whether people’s focus is on Jesus or the Church? And similarly, wonder whether the church is focussed more on growth, or building deep relationships between churchgoers and Jesus?
Planetshakers is a good church – but Planetshakers is not the way, the truth and the life – Jesus is.
So when the church falls short (like we all do) – who questions?
Or are we so blindly following Planetshakers that we forget to follow Jesus?
The most frustrating part is how blindly people will follow – without questioning anything at all.
In fact, some people are willing to go to any extreme – just so long as you don’t disagree, have a different opinion, or question a belief.
- I can live with people hating me;
- I can live with people calling me every name they can think of (which is part of the reason why I’m now moderating slanderous posts so heavily);
- I can live with people signing my email address up to spam email services (it’s started happening lately – I got the opt-in messages to prove it);
- I can live with people trying to hack into my email account to stop this blog (it’s happened 8 times so far – I’ve got the password reset messages to prove it);
- I can live with people trying to silence this blog by trying to gain access into the admin panel (it’s happened 5 times so far – again, got the password reset messages…);
But why would a Christian do any of this, instead of just speaking the truth?
I assume that these people are Christians if they are offended by what I might say – but whoever they are, why would they choose to act out of hatred or malice, and want to be slanderous and hurtful and attack me rather than simply disproving me – if I am so obviously wrong in what I might write.
But the surprising (and at times frustrating) part for me is how little some christians seem to want to do anything – just so long as they don’t have to think for themselves.
Even when something is so opposed, so contradictory to what is in the Bible – when the shepherd might be leading them astray – they seem to simply follow.
For unity, perhaps.
- Perhaps I’m dealing with deep-ingrained and evil spiritual forces that are much greater than me and this blog.
- Perhaps I’m just encountering Christian zealots who believe what I’m doing is wrong – but don’t have the biblical knowledge to potentially see where I might be right, or if I’m wrong to disprove me.
- Perhaps they believe that if I’m wrong and evil, acting against me in any way is justified – even if the action they take might be sinful itself.
- Perhaps their faith is weak, and rather than building their faith on the rock (Jesus) they have built it in Planetshakers – so anything that questions Planetshakers also questions (and shakes) their faith.
- Perhaps I’m missing something.
I don’t know.
I don’t know what good this blog will do – but surely any sense of accountability, debate, and questioning beliefs in order to find the truth is a good thing, because it means we’re vigilant – and if we’re vigilant (as the Bible says) we avoid being led astray, and we avoid trouble from our enemies.
Surely our faith is strong enough for us to ask questions.
Surely our faith is strong enough that we’re willing to be vigilant, rather than blindly follow a church because… well, just because.
As I said at the start of this post…
Asking questions; being public and open; engaging people, getting people to think deeper; questioning beliefs so that beliefs that are wrong or mistaken can be shed, and beliefs that are correct and stand up to questioning can be strengthened - surely this is good, and not bad.
Had this song stuck in my head all day:
I think the lyrics are lovely… It doesn’t really tell us much about Jesus, but it’s a pretty song.
Beautiful Savior by Planetshakers - Lyrics
Jesus, Beautiful Saviour,
God of all Majesty,
Lamb of God,
Holy and righteous,
Bright morning star
All the heavens shout your praise,
All creation bow to worship You
How wonderful, how beautiful,
Name above every name, exalted high
How wonderful, how beautiful,
Jesus your name, name above every name, Jesus
The guitar chords are something like…
Beautiful Savior – Planetshakers – Guitar Chords:
A |: E/G# F#m7
A/C# Bm7 E
(Note: The first A chord is only played the first time)
E A/C# D
E A/C# D F#m7 E
E D A/C# Bm7 D/F# E/G#
Repeat progression x2
This song was written by Henry Seeley and appears on “Pick it up” – it’s one of 5 (out of 14) songs not written by Mike Guglielmucci on that album. Majesty and Pick it Up are two other songs I like on this album, both of which were written by Mike Guglielmucci.
You can watch an interview with Henry Seeley here:
If you want to get this song, you can get it on Amazon for $0.99, or on iTunes.
Ethical question for you…
What would you do if you were Planetshakers?
What happens to the Planetshakers music that Mike Guglielmucci wrote, performed and produced?
Some of these are by-far my favorite Planetshakers were written by Mike Guglielmucci – “Healer”, “Pick it Up” and “Majesty” as well as other popular songs like “Evermore” – powerful songs with biblical messages.
- Do you keep selling these CD’s and DVD’s, or do you take them off the shelves?
- Do you offer refunds to people who purchased these albums for Guglielmucci’s song “Healer”?
- Do you continue to credit Michael Guglielmucci for his pivotal role in writing, performing and producing much of the music? Or do you remove references to Michael Guglielmucci to disassociate from him?
I don’t think there are any right or wrong answers here.
However, I thought the response by Planetshakers has been interesting…
“Savior of the World”, the 2007 recording of Planetshakers conference (on DVD and CD) that includes Mike Guglielmucci’s now infamous performance of “Healer” as well as several other songs written by Michael Guglielmucci has been removed from sale from the Planetshakers store.
All other albums where Michael Guglielmucci contributed his songwriting talent (“Never Stop”, “Pick it Up”, “Arise”, and “Always and Forever” to name a few) are still on sale.
But here’s the interesting bit…
Planetshakers has removed references to Michael Guglielmucci, crediting his role on these albums, from their web-site.
For example, the online blurb for Planetshakers 2004 album “Always and Forever” previously read:
Produced by lead songwriter Henry Seeley, with songwriting credits and lead vocals to Mike Guglielmucci and Sam Evans, Always and Forever is an album not to be missed.
Now, the blurb on the Planetshakers discography page reads:
Produced by lead songwriter Henry Seeley, with songwriting credits and lead vocals to Sam Evans, Always and Forever is an album not to be missed.
And the blurb for the 2007 album “Never Stop” previously read:
“Featuring Henry Seeley, Mike Guglielmucci and Sam Evans, this studio album is signature Planetshakers praise and worship for a new generation. Includes CD and bonus DVD of Planetshakers live worship and inspiring messages.”
“Featuring Henry Seeley and Sam Evans, this studio album is signature Planetshakers praise and worship for a new generation. Includes CD and bonus DVD of Planetshakers live worship and inspiring messages.”
(All references to Planetshakers live album “Savior of the World” have also been removed entirely from the Planetshakers Discography page.)
These are conspicuous absenses given Mike Guglielmucci wrote 11 out of 13 of the songs on “Never Stop”, and 7 out of the 10 songs on “Always and Forever”.
It makes me think…
- Should Mike Guglielmucci lose the credit for his hard work?
- Should ANY of Planetshakers’ stars be getting individual credit for their work?
- Should Planetshakers learn to focus all credit on Jesus rather than individuals? – particularly given the flawed nature of humans, which has never been more evident at Planetshakers than in the Michael Guglielmucci cancer fraud
- Should “Always and Forever” be removed from sale, as it was?
- And, given that Michael Guglielmucci wrote the MOST of Planetshakers music over the past few years, should all albums that feature his songs be removed from sale?
Obviously this final point would significantly impact the church…
In a 2006, Melbourne newspaper The Age interviewed Planetshakers Senior Pastor, Russell Evans, for an article titled “The Idol Edge”. The article revealed:
“Russell Evans says 70,000 Planetshakers albums are sold in Australia each year, with 12 albums released so far.”
Although the albums Mike Guglielmucci was involved with are 2 years old or older (meaning they’re “matured” in their product life-cycle), surely taking these albums off shelves would damage the revenue Planetshakers gains from album sales.
But does keeping them on sale damage Planetshakers’ credibility?
And is Planetshakers right to try and avoid negative publicity, by attempting to hide credit for Michael Guglielmucci’s work on Planetshakers’ albums?
I’m not sure what, ethically, is the best outcome; however the current outcome seems a bit luke-warm… To keep selling most albums featuring Mike Guglielmucci’s work, but hide the fact that he worked on them. To me this seems like a “middle of the road” compromise on a touchy ethical subject.
What are your thoughts? – What was the right outcome?