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Is Hillsong a biblically solid church?

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Question: "Is Hillsong a biblically solid church?"

Hillsong Church was founded in 1983 in Sydney, Australia, by senior pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston. Hillsong is probably best known for their praise and worship music, having recorded dozens of popular songs since 1992, including the church favorite “Shout to the Lord.” Besides being Australia’s largest church, Hillsong has locations around the world, including campuses in Kiev, London, New York, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Moscow, São Paulo, and other cities. Hillsong Church was originally a part of the Assemblies of God of Australia (now called the Australian Christian Churches), but formed its own denomination in 2018.

Is Hillsong Church a biblical church? Their stated beliefs on their official website include the basic doctrines of the triune God, salvation by grace through faith in Christ, and the reality of heaven and hell. There are a couple of concerns, however. One statement on their “What We Believe” page is curiously lacking: “We believe in the power and significance of the Church and the necessity of believers to meet regularly together for fellowship, prayer and the ‘breaking of bread.’” This statement alludes to Acts 2:42, which says the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” What’s missing in the Hillsong statement is “the apostles’ teaching.” Why is this omitted?

A more obvious concern is Hillsong’s ordination of women as pastors, in contradiction of Scripture’s teaching that men are to be the spiritual leaders of the church (1 Timothy 2:11–12). Bobbie Houston, co-pastor of Hillsong Sydney, told The Christian Post in an October 16, 2014, interview that, when it comes to women in leadership, “the church needs to come of age sometimes and just grow up.”

Probably most troubling is Hillsong’s embrace of the Word of Faith movement. From the Hillsong website: “We believe that God wants to heal and transform us so that we can live healthy and blessed lives in order to help others more effectively.” Going along with the teaching that God always wills to heal and that “blessed” equals “healthy” is the prosperity gospel, which adds that God wills to enrich us financially. In Pastor Brian Houston’s 1999 book You Need More Money, he promotes the prosperity gospel: “We have to become comfortable with wealth, and break the bondage, guilt and condemnation of impoverished thinking. Poverty is definitely not God’s will for His people. In fact, all His promises talk of blessing and prosperity” (page 8). Houston insists that he only promotes seeking wealth for unselfish purposes—such as investing in ministry—but it is hard to reconcile the idea that “poverty is definitely not God’s will” with Paul’s teaching to be “content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12, emphasis added).

The Hillsong Church has been criticized recently for its leaders’ reticence to take a position on homosexuality. Hillsong New York Pastor Carl Lentz, in a televised interview with Katie Couric, declined to comment on gay marriage: “Often people want you to make these big statements about things [e.g., gay marriage] and I don’t believe it’s fair. I don’t think a public forum is always the best place to talk about something that’s so sensitive and important to so many because in a public forum there’s no discussion there.” The fact that any issue is “sensitive” or “important” should not prevent a pastor from clearly communicating God’s Word in a public forum. Can we only answer direct questions about morality privately or when we can “discuss” the matter?

As with many ministries, there are positive and negative facets to Hillsong. Are there people being saved through the Hillsong Church? Yes, and we praise God for that. Can a Christian worship the Lord with Hillsong-produced music? Absolutely. Can a person be carried away by emotion and misled into the false idea that God always wants us to be healthy and rich? Unfortunately, yes. “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21).

Recommended Resource: Complete Guide to Christian Denominations: Understanding the History, Beliefs, and Differences by Ron Rhodes

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