Pastor Kevin DeYoung’s verse-by-verse critique of the viral hit “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” has got many people listening and taking heed – even the spoken word poet himself.
Jefferson Bethke, whose YouTube video now has over 12 million hits, emailed the Michigan pastor thanking him for his words of wisdom and warning, published on The Gospel Coalition website.
“I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man,” the young Washington resident said. “It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%.”
“If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked.”
DeYoung had criticized a few of Bethke’s points, including his overemphasis on grace and forgiveness but not obedience and transformation, harsh judgment of religious people and the church, and what he saw to be an incorrect use of the word “religion.”
Though the preacher found some truth in the poem, there was a lot that was “unhelpful and misleading,” especially for earnest, young Christians like Bethke who might be confused about the Jesus portrayed in the Bible, who contrary to the video, did not hate religion, rules, rituals or commands.
The poet admitted in his email that during the first few years of his walk with Jesus, beginning in 2008, he had a “warped/poor paradigm of the church” which he felt did not “build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride).”
But just recently during the last six months, God was working with him to love Jesus and his church as well.
“My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum,” he expressed.
He also revealed that if he could redo the video again, he’d still keep the overall message but “articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where [his] words and delivery were chosen poorly,” as noted in DeYoung’s article.
Regardless, Bethke was humbled and blessed for the words and the senior pastor’s “fatherly like grace” on him as his elder.
“Thankful for painful growth,” he stated. “Already quickly learning all praise goes to Jesus and same with critique.”
DeYoung, who saw Bethke as a humble, sincere Christian in love with the Gospel, couldn’t “remember ever receiving such a teachable response to criticism.”
He hoped he could be of help to the young believer in clarifying his theology and some of the points made in his original video by publishing his email.
The author of Just Do Something also stated that he had been speaking with Bethke over the phone, getting to know each other better.
“I feel like I’ve made a new friend in this process,” the pastor penned. “We talked about the wonders and trials of the internet and the difficulty in receiving praise and criticism. We both talked about what we could have done differently in retrospect.”
“I hope everyone reading this blog will share Jeff’s heart and mine for getting the Gospel out as far as we can and as right as we can,” he concluded. “I look forward to seeing Jeff’s next video.”
Jefferson Bethke’s poems, as much as they have been criticized, have also been helping people come back to the church.
He recently shared two testimonies on his Facebook page of believers finally accepting Jesus and coming back to the church through the reminder of the Gospel message in his videos.
“Your poem helped me remember that the church is a place for the broken,” one person wrote while another revealed that she was giving herself to God, realizing that He could love her despite her past.
“Let’s never forget to preach the gospel of grace!” Bethke encouraged on his wall. “Get out of the way, make Jesus famous, and watch people be transformed. He is good!”
In addition to the “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” video, Bethke also created “Sexual Healing,” which focuses on sexual sin and the forgiveness and mercy offered by Jesus. The video has more than 2 million hits as well.