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Churches Continue to Sing Hillsong and Bethel Despite Controversies

Study: Worship leaders say they don’t care what music tops the charts, but trust peer recommendations and what they have heard at conferences.

For the past decade, a handful of megachurches have dominated worship music, churning out hits such as “Goodness of God,” “What a Beautiful Name,” “King of Kings” and “Graves Into Gardens.”

And though churches like Australia-based Hillsong and Bethel Church in California have met with scandal and controversy, worship leaders still keep singing their songs.

A new study released Tuesday found that few worship leaders avoid songs from Hillsong and Bethel, two of the so-called Big Four megachurches that dominate modern worship music.

The study found that most worship leaders connect with songs because they’ve experienced them firsthand at a conference or by listening to them online, or because a friend or church member recommended them—rather than seeing the song at the top of the charts or on a list of new songs.

Elias Dummer, a Christian musician turned marketer who is part of the research team behind the study, said most worship leaders think they have good reasons for picking the songs they use in worship. But they may not be aware of how social forces—like the popularity of certain churches—affect their choices.

“While people say that that they care about the songs—they pick the same four churches over and over again,” said Dummer.

The new study is based on a survey of more than 400 church worship leaders in the U.S. and Canada that was conducted in the fall of 2022—drawn from both social media groups of worship leaders and an email list from a major music publisher.

Worship leaders were asked what they thought about the pace of new music being produced, how they picked new songs, what they thought the motivations were behind new songs …

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