Monday, April 4, 2011

When Hillsong Spin Doctors Contradict Each Other

Many readers would be aware of my pursuit of answers and accountability for some of the more disgraceful practices going on within the Fort Knox like environment of Hillsong church in Australia (and their many franchises throughout the world). The two major issues I took up with them last year revolved around their "Mighty to Save" CD and were as follows:

1. Their failure to preach repentance in their gospel presentation which was in direct conflict with their own doctrine statement. (http://myhillsong.com/what-we-believe)

2. The fact that they boldly displayed 2 Chronicles 7:14 on the back sleeve of the CD but deleted the line from the verse that says "and turn from their wicked ways".

In today's post I just want to focus on point 2 here regarding the "Hillsong adjusted Bible verse" and the conflicting excuses that have emanated from the Hillsong mothership because some more contradictory information has just come to light as you will read at the end of this post.

Here is what I said concerning this in my initial correspondence with Hillsong Church (you can read the entire post here):

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.


Robert Fergusson, who is Hillsong's theological top dog, wrote back but would not even give a reason for the deleted line from the Bible verse. He dealt with it by just ignoring that particular issue altogether. As an interesting aside, I was informed just last week by a former Hillsong volunteer worker that Robert Fergusson's academic credential is a degree in Zoology which probably explains a lot, including why Brian Houston deemed him the right man to oversee the theological soundness of the Hillsong empire (my correspondence with Robert Fergusson can be read here).

I then took up the issue of the "Hillsong adjusted Bible verse" with Joel A'Bell who is Hillsong's executive pastor in Sydney. This is what he had to say on the subject (pay particular attention to how alarmed he was by this revelation):

I'm sorry that certain sentences were left off some of the creative liners of that album. I can assure you it was not intentional as it is very obvious what we believe.

(My correspondence with Joel A'Bell can be read here).

Glen from New Zealand decided to write and got this response from Paul Aylett who is the customer service manager at Hillsong Music:

Thank you for your email to Hillsong Music.

We at Hillsong also honour the Word of God. Please see this excerpt from our Statement of Belief,

"We believe that the Bible is God's Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our everyday lives."

The intent was to represent the Scripture within the parameters provided. A close examination of the verse will reveal that the words ‘I will hear’ has also been removed to allow for the verse to meet the allocation available on the jacket.

Please understand our heart in this matter.


When Glen pressed the issue further due to the previous unsatisfactory answer he got this response:

Hi Glen,

Thank you for your reply.

At Hillsong we place the highest importance on Scripture as previously stated, and in no way are we devaluing Scripture.

Once again, thank you for your feedback.

Regards, Paul Aylett


Three questions/comments immediately spring to mind as I read this dialogue:

1. It is true that "The intent was to represent the Scripture within the parameters provided", if by that they mean that they were using an incomplete Bible verse for an incomplete gospel.

2. How exactly does editing Bible verses to meet the requirements of your own "parameters" reflect that "in no way are we devaluing Scripture"? Putting Scripture at the feet of your own agenda is Scripture devaluation of the highest order.

3. Is this correspondence evidence that repentance is not only absent from their gospel presentation, but also absent from the Hillsong culture?

Well, as I am currently visiting Australia, my good friend and open air preacher Josh Williamson informed me that he had also had some correspondence with Hillsong on this very issue after reading my blog. And lo and behold, he received a new excuse that contradicts the other ones thus far. Helen Tam, another customer service manager at Hillsong Music, had this to say:

In regards to the album Insert for Mighty To Save, at the time of print the purpose of the album insert was to emphasize that we need to call out to God, while it was read over and we spent a lot of time making sure details were covered, unfortunately this part was overlooked. The verse  should be complete, however due to this album been widespread it’s become an irreversible error.

So, are there any readers who would like to try and join the dots on this one? One thing I would appreciate is if more people would write to Hillsong and protest their disgraceful behavior.

22 comments:

Troy said...

Sounds like Helen knows what she's talking about. But it also sounds like you don't care if it actually was just a mistake. You would rather continue your tirade for years to come, so you have a reason to continue posting these blogs and have people come to your site. Is this true, or would you actually accept that the people at Hillsong are not perfect, and are capable of making mistakes?

Cameron Buettel said...

Troy, editing Bible verses is actually a damnable practice. Even if it was a genuine mistake it should provoke genuine horror and desperate need to rectify it. Have you read these closing words from the Bible:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19

Not only does the issue not bother them very much (there is a distinct lack of sackcloth and ashes pouring out of the Hillsong mothership). The conflicting reasons only prove that someone is not telling the truth.

Also, when they continually avoid the subject of repentance (in direct violation of their own doctrine statement) it seems more than coincidental which particular line was deleted from the verse.

If you want a smorgasbord then go to Sizzler, not to Scripture. Is this just another case of you defending the indefensible Troy??

Troy said...

This is a case of you never being satisfied, so you have a reason to keep posting these blogs.

A mistake is a mistake. Get over it.

Glen Richards said...

Agree with the post. It wasn't hard to contact Hillsong via email. Please do.

Cameron Buettel said...

Troy, your low view of Scripture really shines through in your comments!

David Ford said...

Cameron,
Unfortunately this is a common theme amongst the AOG movement. Whilst not all elders in the AOG think like this, (and it is dangerous to make generalisations), the top dogs of the large churches with slick stage productions I perceive are all about seeker sensitive presentation, arminian fired growth, and the offering pot. Anything convicting and difficult is avoided from the stage in favor of using the musical presentation to manipulate people into so called surrender and tithing. At worst they believe even in a conjuring / invoking of the so called "Spirit" by the music to facilitate "ministry opportunities" citing some shaky old testament precedent. (I have actually heard this from senior talking heads in front of hundreds of poeple). And all this without any mention of Sin, Righteousness, and Judgement ...which is the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit as we would recall - not music or even healing for that matter!. The problem with this approach is that they are in error in assuming that personal transformation comes from singing songs and conjuring "presence". It does not. "Faith cometh by Hearing, and Hearing by the word of God" as Paul aptly put it, and the full counsel of God at that. It is heartbreaking that the AOGs do what they do, as they give modern church music a bad name in reformed church circles by not preaching the word, and like so many denominations they are either ignorant of the truth and don't present it, or know it and choose not to because it would present a risk to their bottom line by potentially offending people. (Wasn't the gospel supposed to be an offence according to Paul?)
The disappointing thing is that music is such a powerful medium and can be used with such effectiveness if combined with the right words. Keith Green's work is a great example of this - both in the message and worship material he wrote - even though he was a Arminian... So in this vein there is nothing wrong with the devotion that is expressed in AOG style worship - but if the words preached in between songs and the primary sermon do not reflect the Word of truth, and equip the saints for righteousness by the faith of Jesus Christ, they are frauds, and most of their members will go home none the wiser that they will be locked out of the marriage feast - simply because they were actually workers of iniquity and were never challenged. The only solace I take in all this is that financial circumstances world wide are about to put these frauds out of business within the next few years, and the real church will start to emerge - just as it has in countries like China.
Regds Dave Ford

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Cameron, but you are mistaken. I love the bible. I don't know why you would make a comment like that, you don't know my heart.

But what is coming across in your comments is, it doesn't matter what Hillsong's response to you is, you have made up your mind on the matter and you're happy to continue tearing down this ministry on your blog.

Is this true, or am I reading this wrong?

Cameron Buettel said...

Not true Troy. If my sole interest was to tear down Hillsong on this blog then I would not have spent a considerable amount of time pleading with them in private correspondence before going public. Secondly, if my sole interest lay where you say it does then I would have spent a lot of time talking about people like Pat Mesiti, Geoff Bullock, Mike Gugliemucci, Frank Houston and an endless string of financial scandals etc. Give me credit for steering clear of the scandals and staying focussed on the theological issues.

Also, you do not have a high view of Scripture. If you did then you would be outraged at the FACTS I uncovered regarding how Hillsong handles the sacred text.

Cameron Buettel said...

David Ford, are you in Brisbane? Can we catch up while I am down under? I will be at Grace Bible Church in Holland Park on Sunday morning and Queen Street mall on Saturday night (9pm to midnight) doing open air preaching. Email me @ talkingdonkeys@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

The problem I fear with the AOG and Hillsong is that doesn't seem to be in the business of discipleship. We need young people of today to be the leaders of tomorrow who can rightly divide the word of truth. All these churches seem to pump out is hyperactive clones with a headful of cliches and little ability in apologetics and and an articulation for the hope that lives within them. I see a lot of Christians who are not 'apprenticed' in understanding Christianity, God or the Word via wise Eldership. We don't teach people to understand, we moreover teach them to recite clever sayings. I feel sad about this as this does not lead to fulfillment in Christ. Keep up the good work Cameron. I feel it is not the error made by Hillsong, but the attitude after the fact that is most disappointing. Reminds me of your blog about David and Saul recently. Keep strong.
Paul in Adelaide.

David Ford said...

Cameron,

To further illustrate my point of AOG beliefs of conjuring, you can actually see it in the lyrics of their songs. The lyric below come from a really well written song actually...its called "You'll come" (This is our God).

You'll come
Let Your glory fall as You respond to us
Spirit rain
Flood into our thirsty hearts again
You'll come
You'll come

Now before I break this out I must say I really like this song and do not in any way want to take anything away from the musicians and their heart, but the message needs some heavy lifting of qualification.

Firstly, God comes to us initially, giving us faith and repentance so that we can respond to him, not the other way around. (Therefore it is not of him that willeth or runneth, but of God that showeth mercy).

Secondly, the Spirit comes with the literal hearing of the Word of God, not falling out of the sky subject to our conjuring worship in front of a band. This said, this dynamic is partly true, but the problem is that it is portrayed by AOGs as the only means of guaranteeing his presence, and then they don't preach repentance afterwards, which takes the whole thing in a completely different direction.

So let me be clear - I love the Hillsong Songs, Performers, and the worship format (with propper preaching and qualification - and maybe some more work on the lyrics), so my main beef is with the lame theology that the chiefs of these churches operate, because they preach a different gospel to that of the apostles.

What I'd love to do is take their musicians and do the whole thing properly - the way it should be done.

Regds
Dave

Andy said...

A zoologoist for a theologian. Lol. You just can't make this stuff up.

Cameron Buettel said...

And one other thing Troy, it is true that I am determined to discredit Hillsong as much as I possibly can with the facts concerning the gospel that they preach. It is doing a lot of damage. They are not alone in this but neither are they innocent.

newtaste said...

In the past few months, the invitation to accept Jesus and/or the prayer has included saying sorry for sinning, asking Jesus for forgiveness, turning away from sin and the reality of Hell. It is not at every Hillsong service, and it was lacking on Sunday night at Norwest, but the elements were there on Saturday night at Waterloo and have been at Norwest on previous Sunday nights. There has been a noticeable change at Hillsong, noticeable to me anyway.

Cameron, you may well have influenced the change, as it was at the end of a sermon by Joel A'Bell that I first noticed it. Who knows!! But it is probably time for you to move on to another topic.

newtaste said...

Just to add, it has to be pointed out that Robert Fergusson's wife Amanda Fergusson has a Bachelor of Arts in Theology.

Cameron Buettel said...

Newtaste, I would really appreciate if you could send me some links where I can download these messages you are talking about.

Ooh Shalida said...

Hi, a bunch of 20-30 somethings are going to the Hillsongs Concert near our town in two days. I was going to go, but then I decided to do some research.

From their latest album, here are some lyrics:

"scandal of grace"
scandal (1) and action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong (2) outrage or anger caused by such an action or event

I would never call God's grace a scandal. Wouldn't it be scandalous to do so?

another song says:
"your love had me up in arms again"
Up in arms - preparing for a fight, to be very angry about

I won't even bother to list some other things, but I do find countless things very upsetting and others that just don't make any sense

Just wanted to share this

Thank you

Ooh Shalida said...

Hi, I was about to attend a Hillsongs concert until I did research on lyrics from their latest album: Zion

Wow, I can't believe some of the lyrics

One song says:
Scandal of grace
Scandal is 1)an action or event regarded morally or legally wrong 2) outrage or anger caused by such action or event

Another song says:
"your love has me up in arms again"
Up in arms - preparing for a fight, to be very angry about

Another:
Love strung out.....
Strung out is like addicted to a drug

Very upsetting!

Anonymous said...

Talk about preaching the wrong stuff...you guys are crazy if you think Hillsongs heart is to do anything but pave a way for the pure love of The Lord to shine into people's hearts and lives.
How about you just simply walk your walk in the light of God, answering only to Him, stop judging others and let those you condemn answer to the almighty themselves?

Anonymous said...

I am not a member or attendee of any Hillsong church, and yes I have concerns about their theology ( as others may well have with mine) - but Cameron and crowd - get a life please, show some grace and perhaps find ways to deal with it in a more God honouring way. You sound very much like you would have been at home in Calvin's Geneva - which if true perhaps highlights some rose tinted, ill considered theological bias of your own - but what do I know.

Adrian H, UK

Anonymous said...

Noah - A drunkard.
Moses - A murderer.
David - An Adulterer.
The list goes on....

So explain why God can't use a zoologist.

Matt said...

Hi Cameron,

I've been reading through this blog and its comments. I too have an issue with form fitting verses to fit one's needs. A verse out of context loses its meaning and can take on harmful application. I do also agree (as you rebutted in your comments) that changing God's word is a damnable offense. However, I don't believe it's beyond forgiveness. As far as I can tell, we're all believers here - we know we're not perfect. While I certainly don't condone altering scripture to promote your own agenda, I also don't believe we're called to smear our brother's and sister's names through the mud (not that you have, yet).

Matthew 18:15-17 says this, "(15) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (16) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (17) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

You've confronted them yourself, you've had others confront them about it, and now you're sort of presenting it to the Church. I'm certainly not saying that you're out of place by challenging their stance. What I am saying is that there is no reason to be hostile towards a fellow brother who happens to see it differently (that goes for everyone commenting). We, as Christians, should be able to disagree (so long as it's not crucial doctrine) and not go at each others throats verbally. I implore you, don't let your well placed passion for the word of God turn to corrosive anger against your brothers.

God will bring justice whether you're right or wrong.

I apologize if this post seems out of context. It's just that the first thing I noticed was how volatile the responses of nearly all seemed when they were met with rebuttal. That's now how we solve these issues within the Church - it's how they prosper. It's distraction. Let's focus on the real issue at hand and quit quarreling like kids in the school yard. It supports NO ONE'S argument.