Hillsong Blues – Word&Way
The story was familiar. A conflict with the priest sends the parishioner in search of a new church. What made this circumstance unusual was the identity of the disgruntled member: Justin Bieber. The famous singer went public with his complaints.
“I think so many pastors have put themselves on that pedestal,” Bieber said. QG Last year. “And it’s basically, the church can be surrounded around the man, the pastor, the guy, and it’s like, ‘This the guy has that ultimate relationship with God that we all want but can’t have because we’re not this guy.’ This is not the reality, however. The reality is that every human being has the same access to God.
Bieber could have been SEO his former pastor, Carl Lentz. The singer had a very public breaking up with Hillsong Church NYC following pastor scandals. While Lentz’s extramarital affair made headlines, her departure also brought reports of serial lies, narcissistic behavior and a toxic religious culture that revered celebrities and abused volunteers.
The temptation to write about Hillsong is to tell the story of a church that has conformed to the pattern of this world. The witness of the gospel got lost in the middle of the clothing designerappearances of celebrities (like Selena Gomez, Nick Jonas and others), and above all brilliant media coverage. By trying to be “seeker sensitive”, Hillsong has compromised the substance of the Christian message. He was successful in attracting people, but he offered them something that didn’t look or sound like Jesus.
Regardless of the truth of this account, there is a key element missing from the narrative that makes the latest Hillsong revelations different from the fall of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill and other significant Christian implosions. The Hillsong saga isn’t just another verse in the same old song. HIllsong is set apart as it appears every Sunday in churches around the world, impacting the theology of countless worshippers.
Hillsong’s global reach is largely due to the accomplishments of its music ministry. After the smash hit of “Shout to the Lord”, Hillsong became a juggernaut of praise and worship. any list of the best contemporary worship songs will include their hits like “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”, “Hosanna” or “The Stand”. You can’t turn on Christian radio, open Spotify, or attend contemporary worship without encountering Hillsong.
As a marketing expert Noted, Hillsong has used its musical success to “create a dynamic and relevant worship experience that meets the needs of its target audience” and enabled the church to “build its global brand”. This led to a rapid multiplication of churches, growth from a few dozen people meeting in Australia to churches around the world.
They also exported this culture to shrines around the world, which now raises some uncomfortable questions. As growing scandals rock the Hillsong movement, what is the relationship between the church and its music? Can Christians praise God with songs from such a corrupt source?
In this edition of A public witness, we go deeper than our feet could ever wander into the outrageous happenings surrounding Hillsong. We look to our comfort, our shelter to ask if other churches should sing the fruits produced by this movement. Then we stand with arms uplifted and hearts surrendered to consider the role worship plays in Christian formation.
NOTE: The rest of this article is only available to paid subscribers of the word and manner electronic newsletter A public witness. Subscribe today to read this essay and all previous issues, and receive future ones in your inbox.