One of my old evangelism buddies from Australia recently posted my series on Hillsong church based in Australia. I encouraged him to do so because I had uncovered facts concerning several of Hillsong's practices (pertaining directly to the Gospel) that were extremely disturbing and few seemed to be taking up the cause. It also became obvious that the Hillsong publicity machine tends to deal with people who ask these questions by ignoring them, denying the problem, or questioning the person's motives and character.
Two of the disturbing facts that emerged were: 1. That the gospel presentation in Hillsong CDs that are sold by the millions seriously contradicts the Hillsong doctrine statement. To put it another way, the Hillsong doctrine statement pronounces heresy on the gospel presentation you will find in most of Hillsong's current "worship CDs" (at least all the ones I have seen). 2. That Hillsong is willing to deliberately edit Bible verses to suit their own theology as was revealed on the back cover of the "Hillsong Live Mighty to Save" CD (pictured right) which deleted the phrase "turn from their wicked ways" out of 2 Chronicles 7:14.
The publishing of these findings in Australia on my friend's facebook account has erupted in furore. He has touched the sacred cow and has totally polarized many of his facebook "friends". Which serves to confirm the necessity of bringing these truths concerning Hillsong and their practices to light. Another of my evangelism team from my Australian days then posted the following article which I thought gives a great overview of the situation for Christians in Australia with regards to the large scale influence Hillsong is exerting on the broader denominational landscape. Take it away Andrew . . .
Is Hillsong Herectical?
No, they are much worse than that.
Since the Australian premiere of Channel 7’s Sunday Night feature on Hillsong. In my neck of the cyberwoods debates on Hillsong is yet again ablaze. My dear friend Pastor Josh posted several good and in-depth articles about the mega-music-ministry and as expected the opinions, judged by the comments, were passionately polarized. Of course Josh had to steal my original invention of the term “Hell$ong” (That’s okay brother, I forgive you) and that does not help things. The video of the Chaser's tribute to Hillsong didn’t serve to foster a calm conversation either.
It was brutal, and I would imagine other groups getting into similar discussion on the matter as well with just as much vigour and passion from both sides of the fence. The discussions going back and forth is not something I particularly enjoy reading, assuming the best intentions from both sides and considering all involved as brothers and sisters in Christ, Hillsong provokes heated debate amongst Australian Christians like no other ministries I am aware of.
There is good reason for that. They are huge, and their influence is much broader than just the music. Hillsong is the Oprah Winfrey of the Australian Christian scene, they are not just a church, the ministry is “THE” power mover of the first order. They have a model of doing church that thousands of churches across a wide spectrum of denominations seek to emulate. They dictate how ministries, from “evangelism” to the youth program are operated in most contemporary churches across the nation. They don’t just have the numbers, they have the money and resources and they dominate the Christian retail market. You are a musician and you want to make it to the top? It is quicker for you to make it if you get a hit with Hillsong than it is if you try to slug it out with the record companies. You are a Christian speaker and want to sell books? Become a guest speaker in the Hillsong conference and you are ENSURED that your book will be on the best seller list across this nation’s Christian bookstores for the months leading to and after the conference. They are the only non-sport organization in Australia that can rally enough people to overflow the Sydney stadium. They are a force to be reckoned with, they are a ministry that enjoys unparalleled success. They are golden. They are diamond. They are… Hillsong.
It makes those of us, who are passionate about the Gospel, very worried about what this mega ministry is doing with the message of the cross.
It is not that we think those who are for or uncritical of the ministry are not passionate about the Gospel. I do question whether when I say the word Gospel does it invoke the same definition from those I contend against.
First and foremost, I do not consider Hillsong heretical. Not in the strict definition of that word. You will find that Hillsong holds to a very conservative view of Christianity. They are not liberals who denounce the authority of Scripture. They hold the Bible in very high esteem. They believe in the Trinity, they believe in the cross. They will not deny the orthodox definition of Justification. You can talk about repentance and they will nod their head along.
Now when I say “they”, I mean the leadership. Those who calls the shots. I don’t mean if you are one of the home group leaders, I mean you have brunch with Brian and you are the custodian of the direction and wellbeing of that Church. They, the one on the very top of the power pyramid.
Now here is my problem with Hillsong, while when you push them enough you will find they have orthodox convictions regarding their faith and the Gospel but THEY do not teach it to their followers.
Hillsong is as big and as influential as it is because of a systematic and strategic effort to hide the offence of the Gospel, and to whittle Christianity down to something that’s more palpable to the world, and a generous amount of prosperity teaching is sprinkled in the process. It is not that they don’t believe in sin, it’s just that they don’t talk about it. It’s not that they don’t believe in justification, it’s just that they don’t talk about it. It’s not that they don’t believe in repentance, it’s just that they don’t talk about. In its place what you get is much boasting about the love of God, but that love is no longer based upon the cross but based upon blessing. You will hear bits and pieces about Jesus dying for you, but the bulk of their time is spent talking about blessing. How you get it, how much is there, if you are not getting it this is why so on and so forth. Are they heretics? No, but they are a lot more dangerous…
Gather all the material you can get your hands on in the past five year or so, all the teachings Brian Houston have made in public, every time, if at all, the word gospel is mentioned; how much of that gospel actually lines up with the Scriptures? Of the thousands upon thousands of people attended Hillsong’s weekly services, how many of them walk away with the clear knowledge what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is? For all the people who have ever responded to an altar call in that church, how many of them know why they went forward? Is it because they are sinners in need of Christ’s perfect righteousness or is it because they wanted some blessing from Jesus? How many followers of Hillsong can give a reason for the hope they process, how may of them can speak of Jesus other than the vacuous emotional sentimentalism that frames Christ more like a heavenly boy friend instead of a Saviour of sinners?
The vague, superficial, shallow, trite and one-size-fits-all approach Hillsong adopted in their treatment of the Gospel message means that they are now peddlers of a gospel that gives people hope without substance, Christ without the cross, faith without reason and self improvement in place of salvation. It may not be the wacky prosperity Gospel of Benny and Kenny but it is just as self-serving in the end. Whatever glimpses of the real Gospel that may appear on occasion is immediately swallowed up by the Hillsong message of blessing and encouragement. No one is exhorted to examine their own sin with any measure of seriousness, so no one is made to feel bad about themselves, that will not be "encouraging". You know whatelse people think is discouraging: Christ and Him crucified.
Hillsong’s approach makes people “think” that they are Christian because they are doing God things and hanging out in God places. Have we forgotten what Paul says about trying to define salvation by what we do? A whitewashed gospel is much worse than no Gospel at all.
I know many would disagree with me. Fair enough. May I address not all of you, but some of you, who disagree with me on the basis that you think that Hillsong IS preaching the Gospel. I just like to raise the possibility that perhaps your definition of the Gospel is really about the effects of it and not the message itself. You see the tens of thousands raising their hands in “worship”. You see those with tears down their face clearly moved by the”presence of God”. My friend, I will admit that is really impressive and it is something that does move my emotions as a Christian. And I will admit that these maybe genuine responses of grateful hearts saved by grace and I understand how you may be convinced that Hillsong is doing something good. I do not want to sound dismissive but I have seem people moved to that kind of emotional response in a U2 concert. How do we as Christians evaluate the validity of a church or ministry? Is it by what they can produce in people on the outside or is it their fidelity to the message. There is no one more faithful to the Christian ministry than Christ Himself, yet the Scriptures records for us in John's Gospel chapter 6 that in one short theological speech He reduced His followers from thousands to just twelve. Would you call that an abysmal failure because it neither produce the crowed and it definitely didn’t produce the kind of desirable emotional effect Hillsong produces, not even with the twelve who remained. Could it be to God it is more important to get the message right than it is to get the maximum BIP (Bums in Pew)?
I am not writing this ultimately to seek the demise of a ministry, but seek to awaken the love of truth amongst the people of God. After all, we serve the one who calls himself the Truth. The truth, however offensive it maybe is the only thing that can set us free.