We've recently had some American friends staying with us. They sing Hillsong music in their church back home, and so they wanted to check out the church.
So what did we make of the night? If you ignore the issue of whether it's an appropriate expression of coming together in church to listen to an excellent (and I mean excellent!) rock gig, then much of the night was fine. Although, it was a bit disturbing when the ‘altar call’ was given before the talk in response to the music.
It's been a while since I visited Hillsong Church, and I've got to say the song lyrics are far more Christ-centred than I recall. The other big thing that has changed is that Hillsong now shows virtually no signs of its Pentecostal heritage. There is no tongue speaking, slaying, healings or ‘holy laughter’. In fact, in stark contrast to a typical Pentecostal church where you really don't know what's going to happen from one minute to the next, my strong impression was that someone was sitting up in a control box with a detailed running sheet down to the second! Anything that looked improvised seemed to me to be feigned.
At the end of the night, following the calls from the mosh pit for encores and some good old early-90s-style crowd surfing (I'm serious), one of the song leaders declared that “This was the best weekend we've ever had at Hillsong”.
So what was the message from God's word on this greatest ever weekend? Let me try to summarize Brian Houston's talk:
- The theme was given: “God's heart for your house”.
- He began with the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:25-31 whose “job it was to put people in the hold.”
- We then focused in on verse 31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
- Household. Hold: limiting, holding back, holding against. “You don't see what the house holds because of what holds the house back.”A house holds potential and opportunity. But that potential (what the house holds) is often not realized because of what holds the house back. “We mustn't live our lives under the power of the past.” Things have happened in the past in your family, but don't let that hold you back. Because, Galatians 6:10, you are now part of the “household of faith”.
- “My father could never see my potential. He always talked about my brother. He didn't see what his house held.”
- “90 years ago Nelson Mandela's mother couldn't see what her house held as that baby was born.”
- What is holding you and your household back from its potential? Rid yourself of the negativity and the past, and walk into what your house holds.
- Households can also be positive things. See Joshua 24:15: “[A]s for me and my household we will serve the Lord.”
My American friend described the sermon as “without a doubt the worst sermon he had ever heard” (read his thoughts ). And that was on a weekend which, we were told, was the best ever at Hillsong.
On top of the atrocious handling of Scripture, and the fact that Houston completely ignored the change agent in the passage (Jesus), the message itself was nothing more than Oprah/Robbins dressed up in (barely) Christian language. In fact, given a choice, I would rather listen to Oprah or Robbins. At least they are up-front about what they're doing.
In the week afterwards, I had two questions
- Why do believers stay at a church that doesn't teach the Bible? If the sheep know Jesus' voice, does the fact they stay show that they are not sheep?
- Why do believers at good Bible teaching churches often defend Hillsong so strongly? Is that just the pseudo-charitable tolerance fad, otherwise known as lack of discernment?
Can someone please help me with these questions?