Hillsong Church logo
|Denomination||Australian Christian Churches|
|Senior pastor(s)||Brian and Bobbie Houston|
Hillsong Church is a Pentecostal megachurch affiliated with Australian Christian Churches (the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God) and located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Brian and Bobbie Houston began the church in 1983 as the Hills Christian Life Centre in Baulkham Hills. Hills Christian Life Centre later merged with Sydney Christian Life Centre at Waterloo. According to the church, over 30,000 people attend services each week.
While headquartered at its "Hills" location in Baulkham Hills' Norwest Business Park in the Hills District, Hillsong is a multi-site church with another congregation, designated the "City" location, located in Waterloo, near Sydney's central business district. In 2009, a third Sydney location, "South West", located in Campbelltown and a fourth interstate location, the "Brisbane" location in Mount Gravatt, Queensland were added. In 2012 it was announced that a fifth church, also interstate, was to be opened in late 2012 or early 2013 in Melbourne, Victoria.
Apart from the four main locations, Hillsong Church currently has 12 extension services across Sydney. These extension services are based on either location or culture and rely on Hillsong Church for support and leadership. Hillsong Church's international offshoots include Hillsong Church London, in the United Kingdom, Hillsong Church Kiev in Ukraine, Hillsong Church Cape Town and Hillsong Church Pretoria in South Africa, Hillsong Church Stockholm in Sweden and Hillsong NYC, in New York, US. Hillsong services are also held in Hillsong Church Paris, in Paris, France, Hillsong Connect Group Lyon in Lyon, Hillsong Church Germany in Konstanz and Düsseldorf, Hillsong Church Amsterdam in Amsterdam, Hillsong Barcelona in Barcelona, Hillsong Church Copenhagen in Copenhagen and Hillsong Church Moscow in Moscow. In February 2012, Hillsong Church announced that Pastors Thomas and Katherine Hansen would be sent to Denmark to start Hillsong Church Copenhagen. On 10 August 2013 Pastor Brian Houston announced that Hillsong would be setting up a church in Los Angeles, California.
- 1 History
- 2 Extensions
- 3 Beliefs
- 4 Leadership
- 5 Ministry
- 6 Music
- 7 Conferences
- 8 Hillsong International Leadership College
- 9 Political influence
- 10 Controversies
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Brian and Bobbie Houston moved from New Zealand in 1978 and joined the Sydney Christian Life Centre at Darlinghurst, pastored by Brian Houston's father, Frank Houston. They started Hillsong Church, which was then known as Hills Christian Life Centre, in August 1983 with services held at the Baulkham Hills Public School hall and with an initial congregation of 45. In 1990, the church moved from "the warehouse", which they had occupied since 1984, to hold services at the Hills Centre. In 1986, an annual conference was developed, now called Hillsong Conference.
In the early 1990s, praise and worship recordings from the Hills Christian Life Centre were released in Australia and internationally under the name Hillsong. The name is also used for a television show featuring clips from the videos of the recordings and a message from Brian Houston. In 1997 the church moved into its new building at Baulkham Hills' Norwest Business Park.
In the late 1990s the church realised that the name Hillsong was more well-known than Hills Christian Life Centre due to the branding of its recordings. The church was renamed Hillsong Church in 1999, about the same time its mother church, Sydney Christian Life Centre, was merged into Hillsong Church.
A new convention centre at the church's "Hills" location was opened, on 19 October 2002, by John Howard, the then Prime Minister of Australia. Due to the growth of the "City" location, in 2007 the church announced its intentions to develop a significant area of land on Rothschild Avenue, Rosebery into the new "City" location. In August 2008, Hillsong withdrew the development application they had lodged with the Sydney City Council after an independent report recommended against the council approving the development, and in August 2009 announced that the site was for sale. It has been reported that Hillsong is looking at other options for its City church plans, including buying the former Royal South Sydney Hospital site.
In the 1990s, Kiev Christian life Centre, now Hillsong Kiev, and London Christian Life Centre, now Hillsong London, were planted from the Hillsong Church as independent churches. When Hills Christian Life Centre changed its name to Hillsong Church, the international churches also did so. While these churches are a part of Hillsong Church they are fully independent, unlike extension services.
Hillsong London have planted extension services in Surrey and in Paris. In March 2007, Hillsong Kiev planted an offshoot church in Moscow, which started regular services in July 2007. It was announced in October 2007 that Phil and Lucinda Dooley would plant a Hillsong Church in South Africa in March 2008. Hillsong Stockholm, Sweden, formerly known as Passion Church, was planted in 2008-2009. The senior pastor at Stockholm is Andreas Nielsen,
As Hillsong has grown, other churches have joined and new churches established as extension services. Extension services are also held for cultural groups in other languages. These extension services are run by a team of people but look to Hillsong Church for leadership and support and join the vision of the church. There are currently 15 extension services across Sydney, many of which join with the "Hills" and "City" congregations for Sunday night services. In September 2007, Brian Houston's son Ben planted the 15th extension service in Mona Vale, known as the Northern Beaches service. In August 2008, Hillsong started a Sunday morning service at the Greater Union Cinema at Bondi Junction, this service being part of the City location.
Hillsong is affiliated with Australian Christian Churches (the Assemblies of God in Australia), which belongs within the Pentecostal tradition of Christianity. The church's beliefs are Evangelical and Pentecostal in that it holds the Bible as accurate and authoritative in matters of faith and that Jesus Christ reconciled humanity to God through his death and resurrection. The church believes that in order to live a fruitful Christian life a person should seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit enables the use of spiritual gifts, which include speaking in tongues.
Hillsong's stand on many topical issues in contemporary Christianity is in keeping with mainstream Pentecostalism, teaching that homosexuality is unnatural, opposing embryonic stem cell research and abortion on the basis that human life commences at conception. Hillsong has also declared support for Creationism and Intelligent Design and believes this should be taught in schools.
Hillsong's prosperity teachings have been criticised by Christian leaders Tim Costello and George Pell. Subsequent statements by Tim Costello indicated that he was satisfied with changes made by Brian Houston to Hillsong's teaching in response to criticism, a change which has been noted by the media. Hillsong's teachings have been commented on favourably by Peter Costello, who is Tim's brother, also a Baptist and former Treasurer of Australia, who has defended the church against accusations of unorthodoxy.
Hillsong Church is also governed by a board of elders. The elders lead the church spiritually as well as act as a board of directors. The members of "The Hillsong Eldership" are senior executive staff and business leaders from Hillsong's congregation. Elders are appointed for one year renewable terms. Leadership positions are made by appointment.
Hillsong Church runs many different ministries in addition to weekend services and events. Hillsong, like other churches, runs a small group structure named "connect groups". Groups of approximately 10-20 people meet on a fortnightly basis across Sydney. The main ministries of Hillsong Church include:
Hillsong Kids is the children's ministry of Hillsong Church. The church provides a children's program for all weekend services and for the Hillsong Sisterhood. Hillsong Kids is divided into five age groups for each weekend service, they are:
- Cubby House (12 months and walking to 3 year olds)
- The Ark (Preschoolers; 4 and 5 year olds)
- Fun House (Kindergarten to year 2)
- All Stars (Years 3 and 4)
- Voltage (Years 5 and 6)
Hillsong Kids runs children's programs during major conferences and events. During the Hillsong Conference there is "Kidsong" and during the Colour Your World Women's Conference there is "Colour Kids". Hillsong Kids have adopted two mascots, Max and Melody. The popularity of Hillsong Music has allowed Hillsong Kids to release seven albums to date: Jesus Is My Superhero (2004), Super Strong God (2005), Supernatural (2006), Tell the World (2007), Follow You (2008), Ultimate Kids Collection (2009) and Crazy Noise (Hillsong album) (2011).
Hillsong Youth, previously known as Hillsong United, is a youth ministry of four different age groups that meet separately but have "United" nights when they come together. The different age groups are; Fuel for grade 7 through 9 grade, Wildlife for grades 10 through 12, Powerhouse for ages 18 to 25 and Frontline for ages 25 to 35.
When Hillsong Church started in 1983, known as Hills Christian Life Centre, a youth group was established. The first youth pastor was Darko Culjak who was a Bible college student at the time. Donna Crouch was appointed as an assistant in late 1984 due to the expansion of the youth group. Donna Crouch became the youth leader in 1987. John King was then appointed as an assistant Youth Pastor. Phil and Lucinda Dooley became youth pastors in 1996 when the youth formed two age groups, Wildlife and Powerhouse. After a revival at the 1998 summer camp, the youth ministry began to have "United Nights" when both age groups came together. This is where the name of the youth ministry, Hillsong United, came from. When Sydney Christian Life Centre became the "City Campus" of Hillsong Church, they adopted the Hillsong United youth format, as have all extension services. In 2007, Paul and Andi Andrew became the new youth pastors, as Phil and Lucinda Dooley moved to Cape Town, South Africa to form what is today Hillsong Cape Town. The current Youth Pastors of Hillsong are Nick and Sarah Khiroya. It started with Brian Houston.
Hillsong Church runs a meeting for women entitled the Sisterhood. The service, hosted by Bobbie Houston, is for women of all ages. Hillsong Sisterhood runs on Thursdays at the Hills and City locations. Hillsong Sisterhood initiated the annual Colour Your World Women's Conference, which has become the Australian Christian Churches women's conference and brings together women from many different denominations across the world.
Hillsong City Care
Hillsong City Care (formerly Hillsong Emerge) is a non-profit organisation that aims to bring "social justice" to the people of Sydney. Overseeing Hillsong City Care is Hillsong Church executive pastor Donna Crouch. Around Sydney, there are many Hillsong City Care Centres and Hillsong Health Centres.[clarification needed] These centres are places that people can go to for help, support and also counselling. Hillsong Youth Services and Hillsong Children's Services conduct a range of community based programs and services to encourage and empower young people and children. Hillsong City Care run several courses through the LIFE (Living in Freedom and Excellence) and SAFE (Sexual Abuse, Freedom and Education) programs that aim to help and educate people.
In July 2008, concerns were raised by some teachers, parents and experts about the Hillsong City Care Shine program for girls being run in New South Wales public schools, community groups and the juvenile justice system. The concerns include that the program is "inappropriate for troubled young women, that the under-qualified facilitators are reinforcing gender stereotypes and that some parents have not been properly informed" and that "the program encourages girls to be subservient by teaching them that they need to be attractive to men". Hillsong claims that parents are supportive and that the program breaks down barriers in a group situation. In a media response on 29 July 2008, Hillsong expressed strong support for their program and explicitly denied charges of using the program for evangelism.
Hillsong Church has a well-recognised music ministry with songs such as "Power of Your Love" by Geoff Bullock and "Shout to the Lord" by Darlene Zschech sung in churches worldwide. Originally published as "Hillsongs", Hillsong Church now produces its music through its own label, Hillsong Music Australia. Hillsong Music has released over 40 albums since 1992, many of them achieving gold status in Australia and one of them, People Just Like Us, achieving platinum status. The church's 2004 live praise and worship album For All You've Done reached No. 1 in the mainstream Australian album charts (ARIA).
Hillsong's most successful albums, the Live Album Series, lead by Darlene Zschech and Reuben Morgan, have all achieved gold status in Australia and, since the inception in 1992 of the annual live praise and worship albums, Hillsong has branched out and released other albums including the worship series Hillsong United, Hillsong Kids, Hillsong London, Christmas albums and compilation albums. The Live Album Series are recorded at the Sydney campus(es) and then edited and produced by Hillsong Music Australia. The worship series began as a compilation of songs and developed into studio recorded albums. The Hillsong United series and the Hillsong United band led by Joel Houston, contains songs from the Hillsong United youth ministry. Hillsong Kids has released an annual worship for kids album since 2004. Hillsong Music has released two Christmas albums, several compilation albums as well as recordings from Hillsong London, Hillsong Kiev and Youth Alive. To help take Hillsong Music mainstream an agreement with Warner Music Australia took place in 1999. In 2003 Sony Music Australia also signed with Hillsong Music to take the group even more mainstream.
Geoff Bullock served as Hillsong's first worship pastor. Darlene Zschech led Hillsong's music ministries as worship pastor from 1995 until 2008. Reuben Morgan is currently the worship pastor.
On 24 October 2010, it was announced that Darlene Zschech and her husband, Mark, would be taking over as senior pastors at Church Unlimited in Charmhaven on the central coast region of New South Wales, effective as of 23 January 2011. However, Zschech also continues to be a part of the Hillsong Worship Team for key Hillsong events as well as featuring as lead vocal on all of Hillsong's annual Live Album Series as well as many other Hillsong songs. She also continues to lead tours with the Hillsong Team around the world and remains a part of the executive team for both the Colour Your World Women's Conference and the annual Hillsong Conference, hosting the Creative Worship Stream at the conference.
As of December 2011, Hillsong has sold more than 12 million records across the globe, following its first release in 1991 and a quarter of all contemporary songs heard in Australian churches in 2011 were written by Hillsong.
In September 2012, Hillsong produced The Global Project, a collection of their most popular songs released in nine different languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin, Indonesian, German, French, Swedish and Russian.
Hillsong Church holds three conferences annually.
The Hillsong Conference is an annual conference. Conferences are usually held during the first week of July at Allphones Arena in Sydney Olympic Park and are hosted by Brian and Bobbie Houston with worship led by the Hillsong Team.
The Colour Your World Women's Conference (also known as the Colour Conference) is an annual women's conference. The conferences were started in 1997 by Bobbie Houston, who hosts each conference, including the ones in London and Kiev.
The Hillsong Men's Conference was first held in 2002 and is hosted by Brian Houston at the Hillsong Convention Centre in Baulkham Hills.
Hillsong International Leadership College
Under the banner of Hillsong Church, the training offered by Hillsong International Leadership College includes "leadership" training, "contemporary" praise and worship and specialised youth, children's and "media" ministries. Since January 2006 the college, in association with Alphacrucis (formerly Southern Cross College), has offered the Bachelor of Theology degree of the Sydney College of Divinity (with a major in pastoral theology).
Hillsong Church has attracted support from high profile politicians, especially from the Liberal Party of Australia. In 1998, Brian Houston met with then Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, and most of his Cabinet, at Parliament House in Canberra before sharing prayers. In 2002, John Howard opened the Hillsong Convention Centre at the Baulkham Hills location. In 2004 and 2005, the then Treasurer of Australia, Peter Costello, spoke at its annual conferences. Mark Latham, the former Leader of the Opposition, declined Hillsong's invitation to the 2004 conference, although Bob Carr, the then Premier of New South Wales (from the Australian Labor Party), did attend the 2005 conference.
Liberal MP for Mitchell, Alan Cadman, and two Family First Party senate candidates, Joan Woods and Ivan Herald, who failed to win senate seats, were featured in a Hillsong circular during the election, with members being asked to pray for them.
Hillsong's high profile involvement with political leaders has been questioned in the media, and publicly, the church has distanced itself from advocating certain political groups and parties, including the fledgling Family First party. Brian Houston has replied to these criticisms by stating, "I think people need to understand the difference between the church being very involved in politics and individual Christians being involved in politics."
In 2008 it was claimed by a Sydney inner city newspaper, Central Magazine, that Hillsong had donated A$600 to a Member of Parliament, Kristina Keneally, for the tickets of a fundraising dinner, featuring the New South Wales' Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, as a guest speaker one month before the 2007 state election, despite Hillsong's own statement of corporate governance declaring that 'Hillsong Church does not make financial contributions to or align itself with any political party or candidate'. A Hillsong staff member, Maria Ieroianni, claimed that no donation had been made and that the dinner was not a fundraiser. Hillsong also issued a statement on their website denying that the money was a donation. According to the Central Magazine article, Keneally has described the dinner as a fundraiser and the money from Hillsong as a donation. The article also claims that these descriptions are confirmed by the records of the Electoral Commission.
Hillsong has been criticised at various times for its understanding of the Christian faith and has also been censured for unethical conduct. Concerns have been expressed by politicians, media, community groups, Christian leaders and former members. Criticisms have covered Hillsong's use of finances, its ties to controversial organisations, its treatment of critics and its alleged involvement in vote stacking of the Australian Idol TV show.
Criticism of finances
Pushes for a charity commission in Australia have stemmed from claims that religious organisations like Hillsong pay their staff in fringe benefits. Criticisms have been levelled at Hillsong in regard to its finances, especially its use of government grants when it reportedly made $40 million in 2004 and $50 million in 2010. It was alleged that Hillsong had paid staff members with money given as a government grant for the assistance of the Riverstone Aboriginal community. However, Hillsong Church never received a government grant for the assistance of the Riverstone Aboriginal community, nor did it use funds to pay staff members. This appears to have been confirmed by letters of apology, published on the Hillsong website, from both the Riverstone Aboriginal Community and from the Minister of Justice and Customs.
Frank Houston confession of sexual abuse
Involvement with controversial organisations
Hillsong has been criticised for its involvement with Gloria Jean's Coffees and Mercy Ministries, an evangelical charity with a similar stance on abortion and sexuality issues. Complaints by former residents of Mercy Ministries include "emotionally cruel and medically unproven techniques", such as exorcism and residents being required to sign over social welfare payments to Mercy Ministries. Hillsong responded by praising the work of Mercy Ministries and stating that "we are not involved in the operational aspects of the organization." The church also said: "We have heard many wonderful testimonies about how the work of Mercy has helped the lives of young women facing often debilitating and life-controlling situations. Some would even say that Mercy Ministries has saved their life." 
Criticism from a former member
Hillsong's attitude towards criticism was portrayed negatively by one former member Tanya Levin in her book People in Glass Houses: An Insider's Story of a Life In and Out of Hillsong. Specific criticisms covered authoritarian church governance, lack of financial accountability, resistance to free thought, strict fundamentalist teachings and lack of compassion. In an interview with Andrew Denton, Levin further discussed her experience of Hillsong, which she described as "toxic Christianity".
Alleged vote stacking in Australian Idol
In 2007 Hillsong was alleged to have been involved in vote stacking Australian Idol, a claim the TV show rejected. However, some Hillsong members and former members indicated that some co-ordinated support of church members on Australian Idol has taken place.
Michael Guglielmucci cancer scandal
On 20 August 2008, Michael Guglielmucci, a pastor who composed "Healer" from the album This Is Our God - a song about his experience of cancer - admitted he had lied about ever having cancer. Hillsong leadership told the press they were unaware of this situation and that the suspended pastor was seeking professional help. The ACC promised that all money donated by listeners inspired by the song would either be returned or donated to charity.
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- "He would like to see creationism taught in schools and abortion banned", Sydney Morning Herald, 'The lord's profits', 30 January 2003
- 'At Hillsong Church we believe that God created the world. In other words, the universe is a product of intelligent design. We also believe that science is part of humanity's search for truth, and it is therefore important for science curricula to include all valid viewpoints of the origins of life and the universe, including intelligent design.' Hillsong statement 12 December 2005
- "Hillsong statement 24 January 2006". .hillsong.com. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
- 'The Assemblies of God in Australia stands with other religious leaders across the nation in its grave concerns over the recommendations of the Lockhart Review into stem cell research and human cloning released this week. "We uphold the right for all human life, from fertilisation to death, to be protected and we believe the Committee's recommendations threaten this most basic of human rights," National President of the AOG in Australia, Brian Houston, said.' Hillsong statement 21 December 2005
- 'Homosexuals are, of course, unwelcome, but Houston says he's not a Fred Nile-type fanatic on these matters', Sydney Morning Herald, 'The lord's profits', 30 January 2003
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- 'The general manager, Brian Aghajanian (also an elder), says the elders are nominated "by Brian or the other elders". No elections? "No, we feel that people might stand who don't have a great understanding of the way the church works or have the same vision we have for the church," Aghajanian says', Sydney Morning Herald, "The lord's profits", 30 January 2003.
- 'Hillsong's school grooming talks 'help girls', abc.net.au 28 July 2008
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- 'Shine is a community-based program and is in no way about proselytising in schools. We take allegations of this occurring extremely seriously and are committed to investigating this matter.' Hillsong media statement 29 July 2008
- Integrity Music[dead link]
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|url=missing title (help). Retrieved 2 Nov 2013.
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- "In Hillsong Emerge's budget for the successful grant, $103,584 would go to the project co-ordinator's salary, $20,715 to the project co-ordinator's 'on-costs,' $46,800 to 'contract management, supervision and support,' $31,200 to 'administration, reception, book-keeping,' $8000 to 'evaluation,' and $7800 to 'IT-communications.' That accounts for more than half the grant, and the largest single allocation for actual activities is for 'sporting-recreational events at $18,000."Higgins, Ean (19 November 2005). "No faith in charity". The Australian.
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- 'Today Tonight's been in there right from the beginning with the tough questions. They spoke to two former Hillsong members, "fallen angels in confession mode", about the church's tactics recently; how AOG pastors strongly urged members to watch Idol and vote for church-sanctioned contestants.'Jane Nethercote. "Australian Idol: Where are the singing Buddhists?". Private Media Pty Ltd, Publishers of Crikey.com.au. Retrieved 10 October 2007.
- 'Shirelive pastor Michael Murphy said he had been "unashamedly supporting Matt Corby and Tarisai Vushe as church family".'Garth Montgomery (10 October 2007). "Idol fans angry at vote bloc". News Limited. Retrieved 10 October 2007.
- Lawrence, Elissa (24 August 2008). "Fake illness preacher Michael Guglielmucci told to go to police". news.com.au. Retrieved 24 August 2008.
- "Pop star pastor lied about cancer". National Nine News. 21 August 2008. Retrieved 21 August 2008.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hillsong.|
- Official website
- ABC TV Lateline story about political influence of the Hillsong church
- Hillsong information and discography
- Australian Idol rocked by Hillsong vote-stacking claims
- Taking Revival to the World - an October 2007 article from Christianity Today