Monday, April 11, 2011

I Just Visited Hillsong Brisbane

Newtaste just commented on a recent post where I discussed some new information that had come to light regarding Hillsong's removal of a line from a Bible verse. Newtaste said that:

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, I have two things to say in response to your comment:

1. I hope you are right, and

2. If you are right, then that information is taking a long time to filter into Hillsong's Brisbane campus.

A couple of weeks ago, my friends Josh Williamson and Heath from Perth decided it would be interesting to check out a Friday night service at Hillsong's Brisbane campus during my tour down under. It was a kind of surreal experience because it was the same place that I studied twelve years ago back in the day when it was Garden City AOG.

One of the first things I noticed was that they had assembled a very impressive rock band for their worship services (disclaimer - my assessment of musical prowess may only be quoted at the risk of your own personal credibility). The music was deafeningly loud and I am still undecided as to whether that is a revelation of their volume or my age (41 at last count).

The crunchy guitars (just trying to sound relevant ok) certainly did little to bury the lack of theological content in the songs as did the smoke machine (smoke machines were cool on Countdown in the 70's - another worthy nominee for my Lame Attempst At Relevance Series). But that was all par for the course as the night progressed. To my surprise the sermon started out surprisingly good with an excellent word study on the Greek word "Skandalon" (where the English word "scandal" comes from). I braced myself to eat my words. But here's the question - if you were to preach a sermon on scandals surrounding the life of Jesus, where would you finish that sermon? I would have thought it to be a no-brainer that it would have to culminate with the greatest scandal of all:

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:21-23).

Instead, the sermon that night never ventured such lofty highest. In fact it stayed mired in the realm of moralistic stories until it closed with a tragic attempt at a gospel presentation which featured a denial of God's Sovereignty (perhaps unwitting), no mention of sin, no mention of judgment, no mention of the atoning work of Christ, and drumroll please - no mention of repentance. Newtaste, I see no reason to amend my assessment of the Gospel according to Hillsong.

Josh Williamson did try and speak with the preacher after the service but was rapidly brushed aside. Heath went up into the post service follow up room but nobody spoke to him. Like I said - par for the course!


Rene Vester said...

Well Cameron I´m not surprised. I to have been in Hillsong (three times) and i cannot remember hearing the gospel. But what I did hear and see was a lot of manipulating music, that put people in a mood where the preacher could say nearly anything and the crowd would go amen (that actually happenend).
The music was cool, and loud, and I had and expection of Sting or even Liam Gallagher coming up on the scene. Instead Hillsongs own stars came on. But one thing the Hillsong stars has in comon with Liam Gallagher and Sting, is they to aint sharing the gospel.

But I to have had a lot of people telling me they heard the gospel at Hillsong, and it was good. But they have never been able to show me the sermon where it happened. They can only say "they" heard it. I wonder if they really know the gospel those who say they have heard it at hillsong, or if I have selective hearingdamage.
Anyway Hillsong start preaching the gospel instead of saying you are. To say and to do is not the same.
"To do is to be" Socrates
"To be is to do" Jean Paul Sartre
"Do be do be do" Frank Sinatra (or was it Hillsong, because they sing a lot to).

David Ford said...

I have been to another very large Pentecostal church in Brisbane (Approx 1200 regular services) of which a good 25% of attendees are registered in their musical ministry. The interesting thing is that there is not that much small group fellowship. The only non Sunday activities seen to be group worship at the same auditorium where prospective musos perform in front of other prospective musos with all the lights and sound systems.

I conclude therefore that most attracted to these churches are either wannabe rock stars, or like being entertained.

Whilst the musical presentation is mostly of a very high standard, they do not know (that with such a high turnover rate), they are most probably totally lost, and will very likely in 4 years time have back sliden as they were not presented with the real Gospel, which casts salvation as something that is virtually impossible.
One of these days in the near future we will do this the way it was meant to be done.

Cheryl said...

Cameron, thanks very much for sharing this with us. The church that I attended in Glasgow, Scotland, who is connected to the Hillsong Network, seemed to be the exact replica on of Hillsong Brisbane. When I read this, I was reminded of my short time with that church (my sincere apologies for not being in touch lately, will be in contact soon)

The music was far too loud in the church in Glasgow for my liking, everything screamed Hillsong Australia!! The offering even had a mini-"sermon" to emphasise the importance of giving and being so-called good stewards of money. The "sermons" lacked substance and little in the way of true biblical doctrine. However, I intend to share my experiences and more with you, via email, at a later date. This is NOT a put-down towards anyone but the true gospel of Jesus Christ HAS - and I mean has - to be preached nowadays!! Thanks so much once again and speak to you very soon. Blessings brother, keep up the good work!!

Dave said...


That's basically all I delineated from this tirade.

It's easy to hide behind a computer screen and whine, throwing accusations around and being belligerent simply because a church doesn't happen to meet your theological stipend.

If you're so bent out on the doctrinal issues within the church, then stop trying to tear it down and start your own movement. Hillsong is growing and thriving. The name of Jesus is being proclaimed. Who are you to determine whether or not it is done in the right fashion.

How about, instead of moaning about the music being too loud, throwing yourself into the vast chasm of disputable doctrine and causing division, you focus your attentions on building the Church, telling people about Jesus/sin/repentance etc. and loving and caring for the lost and needy. Just let it go.

Writing vindictive blogs about a church that you perceive as inept or dishonourable doesn't mean that you are full of zeal.

It means that you are full of pride. And there lies an issue.

Edwin said...

The reality is that hillsong in its endeavour to attract the masses, had to water down the gospel to the extent that it has denied the full power of the gospel. Hillsong has the form of godliness, but denies God's power. Hillsong stirves to deliver a Gospel that is "non-offensive" to the listeners. But the very purpose of the Gospel is to confront and challenge the listener. That is why masses are attracted to these mega churches, because they have transformed the image of Christ into an image of the world, and therefore the world loves it as its own.

Anonymous said...

Dear Cameron,

If you take a look at a Hillsong album that came out in July 2010 (it's called A Beautiful Exchange) you will find that they have heeded your comment and changed the prayer for salvation even if they did not consider it necessary to enter into a debate on the subject. The prayer on the album goes as follows: "Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for dying on the cross for me, thank you for Your amazing love. I repent of my sins and thank you for Your forgiveness. Please come into my life and give me a fresh start. I believe in You and accept You as my Lord and Saviour. I am now a Christian - a follower of Jesus Christ and You now live in me. Help me to live my life for You from this day forward. Amen"

Also, surely you have considered the possibility that the sentence on "turning from their wicked ways" in 2 Chronicles 7:14 was completely unintentional, a mistake made by a volunteer after a very long day of work trying to get the album cover ready on time or something like that instead of trying to wilfully mislead poor people who sincerely want to find Jesus. Is this not what they told you? I do believe it is ungracious of you to keep insisting on their guilt on this matter.

And btw, surely you believe God is able to make the people who pray the sinners pray that lacks certain words to come to a realization of their sin, God's grace and holiness etc. even if they didn't hear those exact words form the get go. Just a thought.

Cameron Buettel said...

Anonymous, salvation does not hinge on a correctly formulated prayer, it depends solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to preach the Gospel rightly, something Hillsong continually fails to do. They might put the word repent in the "prayer" but that does not mean they preach it or define what it is.

Also, with regards to 2 Chronicles 7:14 we have received four different responses from four different people who are all paid staff within Hillsong. 1. They just ignored the question, 2. They said it was an honest mistake (but they were unwilling to correct it or apologize), 3. They said there was not enough space on the page, 4. The verse was altered to fit within their "parameters". I am a reasonable man and not a nit-picker but this is a very serious issue not only for altering Scripture but also for coming up with a variety of conflicting excuses. Repentance is clearly absent from their leadership culture as well. I suggest you read my other posts on this subject which would have answered your questions.

But I have two questions for you. Why is it that a gospel with no description of God's Holiness, man's sinfulness, judgment and eternity, Christ's atoning work and resurrection, and no call to repentance is something that upsets you less than my criticism of it? And why are you more upset about my love for God's Word than Hillsong's abuse of it?

Anonymous said...

By analyzing whether they preached this gospel or didn't, or did this or that, you are really focusing on the detail but missing the bigger picture. This is the bigger picture - Hillsong is not a church (and in fact no denomination or Christian organization is, according to the Bible), because the church in God's eyes is not a particular group, organization or denomination but all the believers in a particular city/region (Corinth, Ephesus etc). More correctly stated, Hillsong is a ministry, not a church.

If you read the Bible for yourself, you will conclude that the boundary of a church is the city/region in which believers dwell (not their leader, creed, or views eg pentecostal). Furthermore, the notion of "church services" led by a "worship leader" or pastor is entirely unbiblical. Real Biblical church is basically a meeting where everyone participates and uses their gifts, not a service (the idea of a few leaders providing a spiritual service to the majority).