Monday, January 25, 2010

The False Gospel Of Hillsong (Part 1) - Houston We Have A Problem

Hillsong church in Australia is one of the largest, if not the largest, distributor of "worship music" in the world and have multiple "worship conferences" each year with tens of thousands in attendance. Pastored by Brian Houston, their message is far reaching. And as I found by reading their message - it is no cause for celebration.

In my previous post, I discussed the content of the "CD liner notes" found in a Hillsong CD. As an Australian, I am sorry for the scale and scope of the gospel according to Hillsong - for it is a gospel with no saving power.

I have attempted to engage in a private dialogue with the "powers that be" in Hillsong church but to no avail. One of their main preachers did write back to me (you will hear more about that on Wednesday), but suffice to say that his e-mails were full of diplomacy and lacking in theology.

This post is not about grinding an axe or discussing the scandals of moral failures. Nor is it a discussion on the financial activities of Hillsong church, though there are those who contend that the economics are a by-product of a false gospel. What follows is my inititial correspondence with Hillsong in the attempt and hope that maybe we could engage in a productive discussion on the purity of the Gospel. So please read on with a heart for those who are lost and deceived, and a desire for the Gospel to thunder once more in pulpits around Australia.

To whom it may concern at Hillsong church,

I recently read through the CD liner notes of your "Hillsong Live - Mighty To Save" CD. In it I found an explanation on how to become a Christian.

Here is what it said:

Our prayer is that you would discover the Author of Love . . . Jesus. His life and death represent the greatest gift of love the world will ever see . . . a gift for you. All you need to do is accept it . . . a brand new start to a life lived in relationship with God. Meeting God is as simple as praying a prayer . . . asking Jesus to meet you right where you are. If you are not sure that you know God, and that you are going to heaven, then make this your prayer today . . .

Dear Lord Jesus

I need You . . . I need Your grace to forgive me and I need your love to change me. Thank You for your amazing love. Thank You for giving me life and eternity. But above all, thank you for dying on the cross for me.

I accept You as my Lord and Saviour. Now I'm a Christian, which means You live in me.

I belong to You. I will live my life for You and I will love You forever . . . Amen.


Now I am concerned about several things lacking in this presentation including Who God is, defining what sin is, that we must all be judged, and why Christ needed to die on the cross. These all give me great cause for concern with the gospel you are proclaiming. But I want to zero in on one particular issue. On your website you have a statement of "what we believe" which says this:

We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives. (http://myhillsong.com/what-we-believe)

Can you please explain to me why repentance is never mentioned in the gospel presentation in the CDs you sell but your website says that "in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins"? Can you tell me which one version is the correct one?

Adding to this I noticed on the back cover of the CD liner notes a quotation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

By checking in my Bible I found this verse to be incomplete and is missing the words in bold print:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Can you explain to me why you deleted the line from that verse that speaks specifically about repentance? I hope you agree that it is very serious indeed to add to or delete information from sacred Scripture.

I am very concerned about this. I'm sure you would agree that the stakes are high and it is imperative that we get the Gospel right. Eternal destinies hang in the balance. The Apostle Paul said:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

I would appreciate your response as to where Hillsong church actually stands on repentance, and that you would promptly ammend your website or the CD liner notes that you publish. I am writing to you first to give you opportunity to clarify your position before I discuss this publicly on my blog.

Sincerely
Cameron Buettel

They did write back, and so did I, and you'll hear all about that on Wednesday in Part 2.

Go On To Part 2

23 comments:

Kyle in Finland said...

Cameron, must we wait until Wesnesday? That's a kind of "cliff-hanger" effect. What happens next? :-)

I must say, this really is good stuff.

To those of us, that have long voiced concerns over Hillsongs passive gospel message and yet aggressive ways and means leadership style, this comes as confirmation to our suspicion.

Even here in Finland, Hillsong's influence has been and is still felt and seen.

In 2003 they tried to "start" a church plant here by encouraging a number of leaders within a local State church to break away and join them.
Many prophetic promises were made assuring success and a great future. With the pointing out of those who were called to be Prophets and Apostles from amongst them.

They did break away and it all collasped around them, within weeks in-house fighting and power struggles, coupled with the teaching of errors and over emphasize of spiritual gifts tore them apart.

It was a very public and very messy.
One of my closest friends was one of the core leader group.
Looking back, he has said it was like a maddness took over them, like a runaway train, that could have only ended one way, as it did.

When everything was a success the Hillsong people where all over them. Yet, at the first sign collaspe they were gone. Many involved have not recovered from it.


Is this the real face of Hillsong?

Heath The Blogless said...

I love the Title Cam.
With cliff-hangers like that you could write for "lost". I know you use to love that show.

Thanks for the extra input Kyle that is good information to know.

Brian Johnson said...

Hi Cameron,

it's a sign of the times, I'm afraid!

The old gospel that caused offence to man has been replaced with the feel-good inoffensive one that saves no-one.

See my British website which addresses this in detail:
http://www.whatisthegospel.org.uk

ReformedRlin said...

I'm not a bit surprised at this. A lot of their songs are man-centered and emotional. And don't forget to throw in their prosperity teachings!

Anonymous said...

You have to express more your opinion to attract more readers, because just a video or plain text without any personal approach is not that valuable. But it is just form my point of view

Anonymous said...

I would appreciate more visual materials, to make your blog more attractive, but your writing style really compensates it. But there is always place for improvement

Anonymous said...

ummm, have any of yous ever been to Hillsong church in Sydney?!?
I am from Australia and have recently moved to Finland. I am rather concerned about all of the churches that I have attended here...

Anonymous said...

For those us who have sensory issues and cannot stand a lot of visual input I think your blogg is great and there is not a lot of stuff on it to distract or overwhelm me. Please do not add much visual material. And thank you for keep the colors nice and not bright.

Keep exposing the false teachers and proclaiming the Truth.

Anonymous said...

I used to go to a church in Glasgow, Scotland named C7 Church - which has 2 campuses: Glasgow and Edinburgh. Its Senior Pastors are Jason and Jodi Cask from Hillsong Sydney. It is connected to the Hillsong Network of churches. I'll admit that I was in awe at first but then little things started eating away at me. They became more evident when I volunteered on a ministry team there and the cracks got bigger and wider. I'd be more than happy to discuss all this with you at length, via email, keep proclaiming the Truth of God's Word! Blessings

Cameron Buettel said...

Anonymous from Scotland. I would love to get in touch with you. On my website (www.onceuponacross.com) you can find out more about me and also my e-mail address (just click on the "Cameron Info" tab).

Glen Richards said...

I asked a friend who had the Mighty to Save CD to verify the verse issue you rasie for me. He said:

'They have on the insert "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face then will I hear from heaven... forgive their sin and heal their land."'

So there is an ellipses on my friends copy, but the ellipses is in the wrong place(!).

Anonymous said...

Ummm...I just wanted to state these verses...Acts 2:38; John 3:5, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:20-21, Acts 22:16...From what I have read neither parties have said a word about Baptism....All of these verses say that you must be baptized...1 peter 3:20-21 actually says "Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ"--I'll have you notice BATISM DOTH NOW ALSO SAVE US...in order to receive salvation we must die out to self and be buried with Jesus (Baptism) and then also be ressurected just like Jesus (Receieving the gift of the Holy Ghost)...Repentence is just 1 part of salvation, you must Repent, Be baptized (in the name of Jesus {Acts 4:11-12}), Receive the Holy Ghost, and persevere to the end (AKA Sanctification)...I just wanted to make this known

Cameron Buettel said...

Anonymous, salvation is by grace through faith, it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, so that no man can boast (Eph 2:8). And when I say faith alone I am talking about biblical faith that is repentant - turning away from sin in order to turn to Christ - it is all a work of God - Ezekiel 36:25-32

When forming doctrine an idea must harmonize with ALL of Scripture. Your idea simply doesn't do that - that baptism is NECESSARY for salvation runs counter to the entire weight of Scripture. Should we be baptized? Yes - upon conversion in obedience to the command - as an outward sign of the inner saving work.

Have a look at Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology Chapter 49 where he rebuts your argument more extensively. We cannot add anything to the finished work of Christ or we end up in heresy land. Please have a read of that chapter as it should clear up the matter for you.

Anonymous said...

Cameron,

So, if I understand correctly you would rather have Hillsong sing more about sin and hell?

Jesus talked about the Kingdom. Not hell. The only time he talked about sin was to forgive it. (A byproduct of love.)

Now, I'm not trying to do any form of teaching--as if I could even do that personally. Rather, I'm simply clarifying that you want the brunt force of today's message (which is going out to a 3% church attendance in today's generation) to be more about sin, hell, and how bad the person is rather than God's love?

I think if it were possible to comprehend an immeasurable fraction of the potential of God's love that I would not be focused on anything else other than the eclipsing love over-shadowing the all the other wrong. It is indeed the goodness of God that leads to repentance. Not the singing of sin and hell that leads to repentance. I applaud hill song for being a living example rather than selling out to an orthodox old and dying paradigm of belief surrounding and revolving around the central idea of sin, hell, fear, and death being the epitome. The whole "woe is me," "sinner saved by grace," "Worthless wretch," does NOT change a single thing.

The Kingdom is taken by the aggressive children of God who have a confident understanding of their identity. That identity is only enforced and reinforced by God's voice.

Hillsong is impacting more for Christ in a good way than we are doing typing and discussing why they are the potential "Antichrist spirit" and blah dee dah. The mindset of end time and the Earth is passing is getting old.

Let's quit pointing fingers and sowing discourse. Let's be the optimistic people we are, and agree that hill song is a God sent in today's rapidly changing society and culture. We need more people that hear God the way they do.

The beautiful thing about it all is--the lyrics they write touch millions for God, the words we write about their influence touch hundreds, may be thousands.

God is bigger than all of our disagreements. And ultimately His love makes everything else irrelevant in relation to His love. So let's stop arguing and nitpicking the already small things.

Cameron Buettel said...

Anonymous, can you please tell me which of these verses is where Jesus never talks about hell?
Matthew 5:22, 5:29, 5:30, 10:28, 16:18, 18:9, 23:15, 23:33, Mark 9:43, 9:45, 9:47, Luke 12:5. I can give you more if you like?

May I suggest that you need to spend a lot less time talking and a lot more reading your New Testament. Get back to me after you've done that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Cameron for your insightful essay. Please keep writing and expose the false teachers, especially that of Hillsong / Hillsong United. Did you know that they have now expanded their plantation in the USA? Please keep going at this. I appreciate your work. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

The faith that was once & for all delivered unto the Saints & to this the faith is called as the Apostolic faith, meaning come through the Apostles & anything that Contradicts the words of the Apostles,is not of the Christian Faith, including additions or Subtractions, Like Joshua of old said "Add nor Subtract, neither Left nor Right to another Gospel to another Christ.

Anonymous said...

Jesus said that in order to have eternal life, we had to believe in Him (John 6:47). I know the arguments against "easy believism" and "cheap grace". I believe we're, by nature, legalists who would like nothing more than to offer something for our salvation. Our repentance. Our sorrow for our sin. Our baptism. I believe our repentance will come by the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit, but it's not a requirement for eternal life. Belief is the only requirement.

Cameron Buettel said...

Anonymous,

Jesus death for sins was an act of salvation. To receive God's gracious gift Scripture explicitly teaches that:

Truly, then, God overlooking the times of ignorance, now He strictly commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He appointed, having given proof to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).

Repentance is necessary in order to receive salvation - therefore it is a necessary component of the Gospel we proclaim. This repentance from sin and turning away from it is also a turning to Christ in saving faith in order to receive salvation:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

And how I kept back nothing that was profitable, but have shown you and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).

Some people claim that "faith alone" in Ephesians 2:8 negates the need to repent. But we must remember this hermeneutical rule: Scripture cannot contradict itself - therefore in understanding it rightly, it must harmonize with the rest of Scripture. As we harmonize all of Scripture we can clearly see that sometimes only faith or belief is mentioned, sometimes only repentance is mentioned, and sometimes both are mentioned (see the verses quoted in this post).

By harmonizing all of these (rather than focussing on a single verse) we can see that the salvation call is a call to turn away from sin in repentance and a turning to Christ in faith – trusting Him alone to save us. The turning to Christ (faith) necessitates a turning away from our carnal affections (repentance). Man cannot serve two masters. As Todd Friel says; "Repentance and faith are two wings of the same bird that fly us to the Savior".

This salvation is ultimately a work of God. Both repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith (Ephesians 2:8) are works of God. We cannot come to God unless the Spirit draws us (John 6:44). We are not saved by praying a prayer or walking down to the front of a church. It is God who saves. It is God who gives us a love for His law and a desire to live in holiness. It does not mean we stop sinning but it does mean we have a new relationship with sin manifest in a love for God's law and a desire to obey it:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Repentance is necessary. It is a work of God. Saving faith is a repentant faith.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to get into any argument or teaching but just wanted to say that I agree with Anonymous on 2/6/11. I really don't understand why you feel it productive in your duty to see God's love known to all to spend so much of your knowledge and time bringing down another church. As a part of a church which is a branch of Hillsong I just want to clarify that repentance is not just ignored all together and never mentioned. We do believe that when we are in Christ we become a new creation, the old goes and the new comes. However we also believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and when Jesus called us he said Come as you are and it is through our relationship with him (through Bible reading, prayer, worship etc) that the old falls away. As the most widely known verse says "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE". As humans, all we have to do is believe and decide to follow Jesus and he will direct our paths and transform our hearts away from our sinful nature. My point is that this is discussed in Hillsong. Yes, it's not preached in old school hell and fire and brimstone language but who actually cares? Because of that old language society today have a tainted view of Christianity and the church as a place of judgement where they can't be accepted because they are flawed. All Hillsong preach is that everyone is flawed but that debt has already been paid. We are free because Jesus died for us. Yes, the bible does say to turn from your wicked ways but you know what, Hillsong agrees with this but understand that it's a GRADUAL process and preach that, if we screw up, it doesn't mean God loves us any less.
As a child and teenager, I was brought up in a church which preached that God died for our sins but, when he did this, you have to try and be perfect all the time otherwise you disappoint him. Would you like to know what the pressure of always failing to be perfect got me? An eating disorder which lasted 5 years. I had no idea how to be as perfect as I thought God wanted me to be so I tried to become perfect in the world's eyes. You can imagine how successful that mission was. It's only in my own branch of Hillsong that I've discovered that God loved me enough to die for me when I was a sinner and so it's ok that I'm not perfect straight away. That's not to say I don't strive to better myself, to become more like Jesus, but I do this through meditating on his word and letting his word change my heart and then my actions. I seek Jesus first and foremost, my faith is in him and so my actions will follow. Without this church of grace, I would never be where I am. I think it's naive for you to think that Hillsong has no place in today's world. You said in a few other posts that you had visited twice. Hillsong is based on building a community, a family, a support network built on God's foundtion which has a lot more than Sunday services, you cannot understand that from 2 visits.
Personally, I am eternally grateful for the work of Hillsong's message. The people of this world need a message of grace and unconditional love in order to engage them with Christianity. You don't set people's hearts on fire telling them they are going to be tortured eternally. Then they only act in fear and fear is what caused me to break. In May this year, 64 people new to my church made a decision to follow Jesus. 64 people in one month alone became interested enough in the message of Jesus and God's grace that they understood he was what was missing from their lives. If nothing else, Hillsong is engaging people with God and Jesus in a world that just doesn't care. I wonder how many people you are reaching through condemning other churches? I would also urge you to consider how criticising and poking imaginary holes a church you have never been actively involved in aids spreading the Gospel message in an already cynical world.

Bubbles said...

I'd rather listen to Hill song a lot of the trash on secular radio

toko-bandung said...

Cameron, can I share your article?

Anonymous said...

So what?

Th good thing about Hillsong is that they are spreading the Gospel.

I think you need to re-examine your faith. I believe that faith is not based on what is WRITTEN, or what is HEARD, but by the acknowledgment of the TRUTH, Jesus Christ.

Everyone commits mistake, for your own information.