Friday, May 21, 2010

Hillsong Revisited


One of my old evangelism buddies from Australia recently posted my series on Hillsong church based in Australia. I encouraged him to do so because I had uncovered facts concerning several of Hillsong's practices (pertaining directly to the Gospel) that were extremely disturbing and few seemed to be taking up the cause. It also became obvious that the Hillsong publicity machine tends to deal with people who ask these questions by ignoring them, denying the problem, or questioning the person's motives and character.

Two of the disturbing facts that emerged were:
1. That the gospel presentation in Hillsong CDs that are sold by the millions seriously contradicts the Hillsong doctrine statement. To put it another way, the Hillsong doctrine statement pronounces heresy on the gospel presentation you will find in most of Hillsong's current "worship CDs" (at least all the ones I have seen).
2. That Hillsong is willing to deliberately edit Bible verses to suit their own theology as was revealed on the back cover of the "Hillsong Live Mighty to Save" CD (pictured right) which deleted the phrase "turn from their wicked ways" out of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The publishing of these findings in Australia on my friend's facebook account has erupted in furore. He has touched the sacred cow and has totally polarized many of his facebook "friends". Which serves to confirm the necessity of bringing these truths concerning Hillsong and their practices to light. Another of my evangelism team from my Australian days then posted the following article which I thought gives a great overview of the situation for Christians in Australia with regards to the large scale influence Hillsong is exerting on the broader denominational landscape. Take it away Andrew . . .

Is Hillsong Herectical?

No, they are much worse than that.

Since the Australian premiere of Channel 7’s Sunday Night feature on Hillsong. In my neck of the cyberwoods debates on Hillsong is yet again ablaze. My dear friend Pastor Josh posted several good and in-depth articles about the mega-music-ministry and as expected the opinions, judged by the comments, were passionately polarized. Of course Josh had to steal my original invention of the term “Hell$ong” (That’s okay brother, I forgive you) and that does not help things. The video of the Chaser's tribute to Hillsong didn’t serve to foster a calm conversation either.

It was brutal, and I would imagine other groups getting into similar discussion on the matter as well with just as much vigour and passion from both sides of the fence. The discussions going back and forth is not something I particularly enjoy reading, assuming the best intentions from both sides and considering all involved as brothers and sisters in Christ, Hillsong provokes heated debate amongst Australian Christians like no other ministries I am aware of.

There is good reason for that. They are huge, and their influence is much broader than just the music. Hillsong is the Oprah Winfrey of the Australian Christian scene, they are not just a church, the ministry is “THE” power mover of the first order. They have a model of doing church that thousands of churches across a wide spectrum of denominations seek to emulate. They dictate how ministries, from “evangelism” to the youth program are operated in most contemporary churches across the nation. They don’t just have the numbers, they have the money and resources and they dominate the Christian retail market. You are a musician and you want to make it to the top? It is quicker for you to make it if you get a hit with Hillsong than it is if you try to slug it out with the record companies. You are a Christian speaker and want to sell books? Become a guest speaker in the Hillsong conference and you are ENSURED that your book will be on the best seller list across this nation’s Christian bookstores for the months leading to and after the conference. They are the only non-sport organization in Australia that can rally enough people to overflow the Sydney stadium. They are a force to be reckoned with, they are a ministry that enjoys unparalleled success. They are golden. They are diamond. They are… Hillsong.

It makes those of us, who are passionate about the Gospel, very worried about what this mega ministry is doing with the message of the cross.

It is not that we think those who are for or uncritical of the ministry are not passionate about the Gospel. I do question whether when I say the word Gospel does it invoke the same definition from those I contend against.

First and foremost, I do not consider Hillsong heretical. Not in the strict definition of that word. You will find that Hillsong holds to a very conservative view of Christianity. They are not liberals who denounce the authority of Scripture. They hold the Bible in very high esteem. They believe in the Trinity, they believe in the cross. They will not deny the orthodox definition of Justification. You can talk about repentance and they will nod their head along.

Now when I say “they”, I mean the leadership. Those who calls the shots. I don’t mean if you are one of the home group leaders, I mean you have brunch with Brian and you are the custodian of the direction and wellbeing of that Church. They, the one on the very top of the power pyramid.

Now here is my problem with Hillsong, while when you push them enough you will find they have orthodox convictions regarding their faith and the Gospel but THEY do not teach it to their followers.

Hillsong is as big and as influential as it is because of a systematic and strategic effort to hide the offence of the Gospel, and to whittle Christianity down to something that’s more palpable to the world, and a generous amount of prosperity teaching is sprinkled in the process. It is not that they don’t believe in sin, it’s just that they don’t talk about it. It’s not that they don’t believe in justification, it’s just that they don’t talk about it. It’s not that they don’t believe in repentance, it’s just that they don’t talk about. In its place what you get is much boasting about the love of God, but that love is no longer based upon the cross but based upon blessing. You will hear bits and pieces about Jesus dying for you, but the bulk of their time is spent talking about blessing. How you get it, how much is there, if you are not getting it this is why so on and so forth. Are they heretics? No, but they are a lot more dangerous…

Gather all the material you can get your hands on in the past five year or so, all the teachings Brian Houston have made in public, every time, if at all, the word gospel is mentioned; how much of that gospel actually lines up with the Scriptures? Of the thousands upon thousands of people attended Hillsong’s weekly services, how many of them walk away with the clear knowledge what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is? For all the people who have ever responded to an altar call in that church, how many of them know why they went forward? Is it because they are sinners in need of Christ’s perfect righteousness or is it because they wanted some blessing from Jesus? How many followers of Hillsong can give a reason for the hope they process, how may of them can speak of Jesus other than the vacuous emotional sentimentalism that frames Christ more like a heavenly boy friend instead of a Saviour of sinners?

The vague, superficial, shallow, trite and one-size-fits-all approach Hillsong adopted in their treatment of the Gospel message means that they are now peddlers of a gospel that gives people hope without substance, Christ without the cross, faith without reason and self improvement in place of salvation. It may not be the wacky prosperity Gospel of Benny and Kenny but it is just as self-serving in the end. Whatever glimpses of the real Gospel that may appear on occasion is immediately swallowed up by the Hillsong message of blessing and encouragement. No one is exhorted to examine their own sin with any measure of seriousness, so no one is made to feel bad about themselves, that will not be "encouraging". You know whatelse people think is discouraging: Christ and Him crucified.

Hillsong’s approach makes people “think” that they are Christian because they are doing God things and hanging out in God places. Have we forgotten what Paul says about trying to define salvation by what we do? A whitewashed gospel is much worse than no Gospel at all.

I know many would disagree with me. Fair enough. May I address not all of you, but some of you, who disagree with me on the basis that you think that Hillsong IS preaching the Gospel. I just like to raise the possibility that perhaps your definition of the Gospel is really about the effects of it and not the message itself. You see the tens of thousands raising their hands in “worship”. You see those with tears down their face clearly moved by the”presence of God”. My friend, I will admit that is really impressive and it is something that does move my emotions as a Christian. And I will admit that these maybe genuine responses of grateful hearts saved by grace and I understand how you may be convinced that Hillsong is doing something good. I do not want to sound dismissive but I have seem people moved to that kind of emotional response in a U2 concert. How do we as Christians evaluate the validity of a church or ministry? Is it by what they can produce in people on the outside or is it their fidelity to the message. There is no one more faithful to the Christian ministry than Christ Himself, yet the Scriptures records for us in John's Gospel chapter 6 that in one short theological speech He reduced His followers from thousands to just twelve. Would you call that an abysmal failure because it neither produce the crowed and it definitely didn’t produce the kind of desirable emotional effect Hillsong produces, not even with the twelve who remained. Could it be to God it is more important to get the message right than it is to get the maximum BIP (Bums in Pew)?

I am not writing this ultimately to seek the demise of a ministry, but seek to awaken the love of truth amongst the people of God. After all, we serve the one who calls himself the Truth. The truth, however offensive it maybe is the only thing that can set us free.

Soli Deo Gloria

61 comments:

Matthias said...

Cameron after reading this,talking with a colleague who worked in the HQ for the then AOG,and after seeing last Sunday Night's interview, i have to come to the conclusion that the most apt word is ICHABOD -The Glory has Departed.

Heath The Blogless said...

Hillsong is such a frustrating church they do some really great stuff. They have a great core doctrine statement I just wish they would stick to it and stop with all this seeker sensitive pragmatism stuff as well. Stop trying to be relevant at the cost of the message, and be relevant because of the message. The Gospel and the Bible is the message that will be relevant for now and for all time.

Cameron Buettel said...

Hey Heath, I would contend that Hillsong has a severely lacking doctrine statement (compare it to Paul Washer's Heart Cry site) that gets it right with regards to the necessity of repentance, which in turn pronounces heresy on every gospel presentation I have seem them present in print, audio, or video.

Mark said...

Hillsong preaches the Gospel. I've heard it with my own ears. I've seen people get saved there. If you have a problem with that, then that is a more important discussion. Now I know what some will say next, so I will be more specific.

They talk about Jesus dying for your sin, and raising from the dead, and talk about repenting from your sin and asking him to come into your life. Also during the alter call they display Romans 10:9 on the screens...

Hillsong are out in the communities helping people every single week. They have an incredible presence locally meeting many different needs. They are also involved with numerous initiatives around the world helping the poor, the orphans and widows, which is what James 1:27 says God accepts as pure religion.

They always say they are about two things, Loving God and Loving People. And from what I've seen, they are true to their word.

Cameron Buettel said...

Mark, please respond to the facts that were exposed in my earlier series. Even if they sometimes do preach the Gospel (and I am yet to hear of one instance - I would welcome any audio or video) any time the preach a false gospel needs to be brought to light. I factually revealed in my earlier series (there is a link early on in this post) that the gospel presented on their mass produced CDs is blatantly contradictory of the Hillsong doctrine statement - concerning repentance (the difference is so stark that the gospel presentation found in the Mighty to Save CD is heretical according to the Hillsong doctrine statement). This problem is then further compunded by their disgraceful editing of 2 Chronicles 7:14 where they delete the line of the verse that talks about repentance.

Mark, you need to be willing to discuss these issues if you want to engage in this debate/forum.

newtaste said...

“I do not want to sound dismissive but I have seem people moved to that kind of emotional response in a U2 concert.”

I’ve seen people in awe and crying at a Catholic service led by pretend monk who says he has the stigmata and says he can heal people. It all looked fake to me. I can’t dismiss all Catholics as non-genuine as there are a lot of genuine loving Catholics who would see through this fake monk.

I’d rather see someone raising their hands to God than someone slobbering all over a statue of the Virgin Mary, or lighting candles for and praying to a dead relative. What would you prefer? Or would you prefer people to just sit there, bow their heads and show no emotion at all.

Your obvious hate for Brian Houston comes through load and clear. Next time you want to get stuck into him, don’t make up stuff. It makes your posts look shoddy.

I always read your blog as I like to read about Hillsong. Some of Brian Houston’s actions have concerned me. But the guy is not the anti-christ you seem to want to brand him as.

newtaste said...

"They are the only non-sport organization in Australia that can rally enough people to overflow the Sydney stadium." The Sydney stadium was demolished in the early 1970s. If you mean Acer Arena, it has been sold out many times for concerts, which are clearly non-sport. The Sydney Football Stadium has sold out opera events.

"You are a Christian speaker and want to sell books? Become a guest speaker in the Hillsong conference and you are ENSURED that your book will be on the best seller list across this nation’s Christian bookstores for the months leading to and after the conference."

So Judah Smith speaking at Hillsong conference in Sydney this year means he will sell more books in Adelaide, Perth and Cairns? How do you know this?? You don't - you made it up. 7 weeks out from Hillsong conference and the bestsellers in all categories at Koorong include NO Hillsong conference speakers. The best selling Koorong CDs and DVDs include NO Hillsong music.

“Of course Josh had to steal my original invention of the term “Hell$ong” ”. When did you invent that?? “Hell$ong” has been on the side of the City campus shuttle buses for ages. Someone changed the I to an E and the S to $.

“Hillsong provokes heated debate amongst Australian Christians like no other ministries I am aware of.” Catholic paedophile priests? Pretty big talking point.

“You are a musician and you want to make it to the top? It is quicker for you to make it if you get a hit with Hillsong than it is if you try to slug it out with the record companies.”

Exactly who has done this?? Name one person who thought this was a better way? Hillsong music doesn’t get played on commercial radio, so how would having a hit Hillsong Christian song take you to the top?

“For all the people who have ever responded to an altar call in that church, how many of them know why they went forward? Is it because they are sinners in need of Christ’s perfect righteousness or is it because they wanted some blessing from Jesus?”

Do you want a priest up the front to hear confessions?

“How many followers of Hillsong can give a reason for the hope they process, how may of them can speak of Jesus other than the vacuous emotional sentimentalism that frames Christ more like a heavenly boy friend instead of a Saviour of sinners?”

Jesus saved me when I truly believed. I now try and avoid sinning and lying rather than going out of my way to do both. I ask God for forgiveness for my sins through Jesus. At the Catholic church I would ask the priest for forgiveness then walk outside and sin

“Followers of Hillsong”? How about followers of Jesus Christ.

“No one is exhorted to examine their own sin with any measure of seriousness, so no one is made to feel bad about themselves, that will not be "encouraging" “.

So you want people to follow the Catholic model of continuing to feel sorry and bad even AFTER the priest has forgiven them their sins on Jesus’ behalf and AFTER they have repented? They should flog themselves like John Paul II did every day for his sins so he PAYED for his sins?? God forgives you for your sins, if you ask and repent and try not to sin again. Jesus died for our sins. No one else has to pay the price.

Cameron Buettel said...

Dear Newtaste. You've had a few things to say here. There is another post you sent which I cannot find that criticizes Paul Washer (I accepted the comment but cannot find it on my blog). Re Paul Washer you said that he preaches that people have to stop sinning in order to be Christians. I would suggest you listen carefully again to his teaching on the atonement, conversion, regeneration, and sanctification. Washer does not, and has never taught that you have to stop sinning to be a Christian. He teaches what the Bible and the Reformers taught - that conversion is supernatural and produces a change in us. Genuine conversion causes us to hate the sin we once loved. It doesn't mean that you stop sinning, but it does mean that you no longer live in wilful habitual sin as taught in 1 John.

Apples don't make a tree an apple tree. The apples merely reveal the true nature of the tree. Repentance is a fruit of conversion and often reveals that it is genuine. It is not that you have to stop sinning. It is that when God saves you, you turn away from the sin you once loved.

Paul Washer is a personal friend and I have personally talked to him at length on these subjects. His presentation of the Gospel is biblical and faithful. I thank God for the faithful Gospel preaching of Paul Washer.

I do sympathize with your confusion on this as (based on your comments) you have come out of the works righteous system known as Catholicism. I rejoice that you have walked away from that and, from what I've read, for many of the right reasons. If you look around on this blog under "Catholicism" or "Catholic" you will find strong words spoken against the many heresies of Rome.

Hillsong may seem like a step up from Rome and I can understand that. But what Hillsong currently preaches, in spoken and written form, is not the biblical Gospel for many reasons (some of which I have highlighted in other posts).

You are going too far in saying that I have obvious hatred for Brian Houston and that I have made up things about him. I don't know Brian Houston and have only commented on his theology because that is what I do know. This article wasn't actually posted by me - it was written by a friend called Andrew in Australia and I wanted to post it as a perspective from someone currently living in Australia. It is a lot more subjective in nature than the articles I post and as such you can question pastor Josh over on the Operation 513 website to find out more. But please read through my earlier posts regarding Hillsong and I would also like you to check out my TROOMA video series in the right hand column of this blog which is a five part series presenting the Gospel.

Thanks
Cameron

Cameron Buettel said...

Dear Newtaste, please check today's post 24th May 2010.

newtaste said...

Cameron, you can't let someone post something on your blog then you deny all responsibility and tell me to go and discuss the topic at the other person's blog. operation513.blogspot.com contains nothing about Hillsong. http://operation513.blogspot.com/search/label/hillsong

You responded to me about that parts of the post were made up, and the hate of Brian Houston. You took both accusations personally. Why - If you didn't write post?

newtaste said...

My last comment didn't match up with what I previously wrote. Sorry. The comments were directed at you.

I will try to be more constructive in future and probably contemplate before I write.

But that post about Hillsong just contains so many assumptions based on fairy tales I just had to refute the rubbish.

Cameron Buettel said...

Newtaste, I posted Andrew's article because I think it is excellent and I trust his observations. Having spent more than a decade in the AOG movement myself, I can say that Andrew's commentary is a good representation of the trends that have gained traction in the Australian Pentecostal movement especially since Hillsong became the mothership. His article is an excellent overview of the problems at hand. I merely encourage you to discuss your specific grievances with Andrew. If you e-mail me I will try and get you in touch with him. I haven't given out his full name or e-mail only because I don't know what his privacy requirements are. You can e-mail me at talkingdonkeys@hotmail.com

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

“The Sydney stadium was demolished in the early 1970s. If you mean Acer Arena, it has been sold out many times for concerts, which are clearly non-sport. The Sydney Football Stadium has sold out opera events.”

Fair comment, perhaps in trying to get the gist across I have taken way too many shortcuts. I did meant Acer Arena, but since I do not live in Sydney and my original audience were Queenslanders I chose what I thought was I thought was more indicative. I am not a sports fan, so the nuance of Stadium name is lost on me. Now that you mentioned it sticking with Acer Arena is much better. And Yes if you count concerts the Acer Arena obviously have also sold out on big acts, but are you not missing my point? Hillsong is that big that it can consistently pack out the Acer Arena year after year, apart from the number one religious institution of sports, and the international acts like ACDC (which I don’t believe visiting Australia on a yearly basis), they are the only organization that have that kind of clout, and it is in a deeply irreligious country like Australia that Hillsong is pulling this off.

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

To Newtaste,

This is Andrew, the original author of the article. First of all I would just like to clear up the confusion. I am still in the proccess of setting up my own blogspot page and it should be coming online very shortly. This article was originally posted as a note on facebook, and I wrote it because of the fierce controversies Hillsong has sparked recently due to the Brian Houston interview. The article has nothing to do with my friend Pastor Josh neither does it have anything to do with Operation513. I am a part of that ministry but this post deals with issues that falls outside of what Operation513 is about (Street Evangelism) and I fully intend to repost this article on my own blog when it’s up and running, which will cover topics such as Hillsong and the Australian Evangelical Scene in general.

The article is not meant to be an objective investigative piece on the theology of Hillsong. There are plenty of that already and fine works such as what has been found here on Cam’s blog. My article was meant to be a subjective appeal to the warring parties to keep in mind what’s really at stake in this debate. I do not claim to be neutral in this and I made that abundantly clear upfront in what I wrote. Nevertheless my appeal is based upon known facts, much more generalized yes, but I would still be willing to defend.

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

The rest of your second post is again stuck on this Catholic thing. I am not sure where in my article gives you the idea that I am on their side, but I can assure you I am not. You would label what I have to say as fairy tale yet you have trouble really deal with what I have said, so apart from your quibble about details which really does not negate the points I raised, the rest of your complaints is really based upon your fixation on the Catholics. I hope you understand the people you are refuting enough to know that we are speaking about things in more than just the Evangelical/Catholic categories, and just because I disagree with Hillsong it doesn’t mean I am for the Pope.

I stand by my contention for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.

Andrew

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

“Do you want a priest up the front to hear confessions?”

Nope, I am not Catholic.

“Jesus saved me when I truly believed. I now try and avoid sinning and lying rather than going out of my way to do both. I ask God for forgiveness for my sins through Jesus. At the Catholic church I would ask the priest for forgiveness then walk outside and sin”

And you have completely missed my point. Again, loud and clear, I am not a Roman Catholic, so I am not arguing for the Catholic’s view on salvation. What I said was the fact the people respond to an altar call without knowing what they are responding to.
“Followers of Hillsong”? How about followers of Jesus Christ.

I think that is my point exactly, Hillsong produces not followers Jesus of the Bible, but followers of a Santa Clause figure in the sky, wanting to bless you if you’ve been good enough.

“So you want people to follow the Catholic model of continuing to feel sorry and bad even AFTER the priest has forgiven them their sins on Jesus’ behalf and AFTER they have repented? They should flog themselves like John Paul II did every day for his sins so he PAYED for his sins?? God forgives you for your sins, if you ask and repent and try not to sin again. Jesus died for our sins. No one else has to pay the price.”

No, again, I am not Catholic. I am a Reformed Protestant and I believe in what the Bible teaches about the right relationship between Law and Gospel. This is way too big of a subject to be comprehensive, so I can only touch on it quickly, in short I believe that the Bible teaches that the Gospel makes no sense without the Law. Without seeing ourselves as sinners worthy of God’s rightful judgement and completely unable to save ourselves by our own righteousness (The Law of God informs us of both that fact) we will see no need of God’s free offer of Salvation by grace. I do agree Jesus pay for my sins as a believer, but I would have no real comprehension of what that is without the Law of God showing me of my true pitiful state. That’s what’s missing in Hillsong, and that’s what makes Hillsongs’ Gospel a pale imitation of the real thing.

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

“So Judah Smith speaking at Hillsong conference in Sydney this year means he will sell more books in Adelaide, Perth and Cairns? How do you know this?? You don't - you made it up. 7 weeks out from Hillsong conference and the bestsellers in all categories at Koorong include NO Hillsong conference speakers. The best selling Koorong CDs and DVDs include NO Hillsong music.”

No Sir I have not made that up. Here in Brisbane we receive every year for at least two years that I am aware of now around Hillsong conference month we receive in the mail the special Koorong Catalogue which contains sections dedicated to Hillsong speakers. And it is around the same time inside the book store dedicated physical display shelfs for books by Hillsong conference speakers. Now I am sure Koorong just like to spend money on promotional material out of the goodness of their Christian heart, or perhaps it is because Hillsong conference DOES sell books. I am confident their June catalogue will vindicate me.

“When did you invent that?? “Hell$ong” has been on the side of the City campus shuttle buses for ages. Someone changed the I to an E and the S to $.”

It’s an inside joke. Around our circle I was the first one to use that. Pastor Josh got into trouble for using that on his original facebook post. I regret I never got around trademarking that. Again... it’s a joke.

“Exactly who has done this?? Name one person who thought this was a better way? Hillsong music doesn’t get played on commercial radio, so how would having a hit Hillsong Christian song take you to the top?”

Two words: Michael Guglimucci.

newtaste said...

I don't want to have a private discussion about a published post. I live in Sydney and know that some of what he wrote is factually wrong. If someone gets the facts wrong, I find it difficult to believe the rest.

And i'll leave it at that ...

newtaste said...

Two last comments. What 'hit' song did Michael Guglimucci have outside of Hillsong? (if you in any way can call Healer a 'hit'). None. So he didn't go to the top.

You said that months before Hillsong Conference the speakers books are best sellers. The Koorong website shows that less than 2 months out none are best sellers. They may well be best sellers as the conference is about to start and is on. But that is not what you wrote.

God Bless. And as Hillsong pastor Grant Thomson says in his altar call preamble "Friend, God loves you".

PS, last Sunday Brian Houston made what seemed almost like a desperate plea for people to go to the conference and to volunteer. It seems that the day sessions will not be full. Also, the night sessions are to be free to anyone who wants to turn up - there will be no tickets which means they should be full.

PPS, Brian Houston's continual claim that Hillsong is a fast growing church is not accurate. In Sydney it is stagnant. The numbers are not increasing at the Hills campus and a campaign trying to drum up people for Saturday night church at Hills has not worked. Sunday night church is always full, and on the very odd Sunday mornings the two services can be close to full. When the Hillsong College students are on holidays there is a noticeable drop-off in attendance which shows how much the students boost the numbers.

PPPS, so there you go ...

Heath The Blogless said...

Well i guess that is at least some good news.

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

To Newtaste

I hope you have not taken Cam's offer to contact me via email as his attempt to shift this conversation private. Cam received permission to post my article through a mutual friend of ours and before last night that was the only way Cam could get a hold of me. He is unaware of my intention to blog soon on blogspot and as far as he know I don't even follow his blog. (But I do, Cam, but I do...) It would be unfair for him to defend what I have written, though I trust he is quite capable of doing that, and hence he offered to put you in contact with me. Never mind that now, I am here and quite happy to discuss this publicly.

As far as the "facts" goes, I quite happily concede the Sydney Stadium phopar and your correction is received well to be sure. I have done that in my reply to you and I do thank you for pointing that out. I believe the rest of your objections however, are simply bogging down in semantics and have quite missed my point.

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

This brings us to the book sales problem. First of all I would admit that English is not my first language so perhaps my phrasing is misleading, any suggestion to make this clearer is much appreciated.
"Become a guest speaker in the Hillsong conference and you are ENSURED that your book will be on the best seller list across this nation’s Christian bookstores for the months leading to and after the conference.”

So lets be really stingy, say give it a month when the conference is on and lets give it one more for the afterglow, that will be two months of promotions from Christian book stores. So that will be "months" "leading to" and "after" the conference. I can see how you would take that as being months leading to and then months after, but I would leave it to the reader to see which one is the more reasonable reading based upon how conference promotion works.

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

I must make something clear; I am not simply saying that Hillsong is wrong just because it is big and influential. There is nothing inheritably wrong with being successful and good at what you do, and I will be rejoicing if a faithful Gospel ministry is prospering and God is being glorified. As it stands Hillsong have not stayed faithful to the Gospel message. They have gained influence by hiding the offence of the Gospel and this is what makes myself and many others asking where is this Juggernaut going with the Good News of Christ Crucified. In fact I said as much in my article: "It makes those of us, who are passionate about the Gospel, very worried about what this mega ministry is doing with the message of the cross.” My assertions about the Acer Arena, their music and their ability to sell books are not condemnations, but illustrative of the kind of influence they have, and therefore what they choose to do with the Gospel have lasting impact in the Australian church scene.

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

As I have explained, my article is never meant to be in-depth. The music issue in and of itself is probably a three part series if we do get into it. The Australian music industry is doing it tough and there is no secret about that. There isn't enough venues, there isn't a big enough market and there are many budding musos who are very talented but reality dictates that they will very unlikely get the "big break" they are working for. At Hillsong, as you would know there is a complete, self-sustaining mini-structure, completely detached from the secular music ministry and has a huge market that is faithful and loyal to the ministry. I am not implying that the Hillsong musos do not work hard, but making it to the top is an easier and safer proposition for many when compared to the secular world. You meant to tell me you can not seen actual differences between being a muso in the secular realm and playing in pubs and clubs to miniscule crowds that are more interested in picking up than listening to your original creation, and a member of the worship team at Hillsong where you get to "perform" in front of thousands of people regularly. We do not have time to get into song royalty, yet. Neither have I got into the sticky issue of worship music being a business model. The issue of blurring the boundaries in the Hillsong model that at best borderlining merchandising what is Godly and at worst is turning believers into consumers. Hillsong is not unique in this, but it does it in such a scale that it is literally driving the market.

Mike Guglielmucci is a prime example of being a product of such an environment. No I am not blaming Hillsong for his deceit, but can anyone imagine Mike being as successful as he has been musically if not for Hillsong? Just being fair, "healer" is not the best song, lyrically or musically. Michael can sing, but he is unlikely to win Australian Idols with his vocal prowess. The greatest promoter in this nation has trouble selling talented idol contestants (Sorry, Young Divas) yet Hillsong propelled Michael into the charts. You don't think that's a testament to the kind of influence Hillsongs has in the Christian music retail industry?

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

Then finally I address those with who I disagree to see what we are really about. It is not about Hillsong's apparent success, it is not about we having a grudge against Brain Houston and it is definitely not a smear campaign trying to cut down the tall puppy. The Gospel is at stake, so if you want to defend Hillsong, do so on that ground, over the issue that matters. You see, if we are wrong in our argument that Hillsong compromises the Gospel then it ought to be very easy to refute us. Show us that Hillsong is really faithful to the Gospel and people can walk away from a Hillsong Conference knowing exactly what the Gospel is all about and why Christ has to die on the cross. Show us that we are really missing the point when we cry foul when Hillsong invite a Modalist like T. D. Jakes and a complete sellout like Joel Osteen, how that really strengthens the Gospel message instead of weakening it. Shows us how we are wrong when we accuse your altar calls being frothy emotionalism without substance by demonstrating that there were enough content there being passed on so that people knew exactly what and who their are responding to. If we are wrong, then I don't imagine this being a difficult task.

However, if we are right, then thousands of people are cuddled and pampered right into the pits of hell. According to Jesus Himself, being in the vicinity of God things means very little to your salvation.

Luke 13:24-27
"Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'


I don’t know about you, I think that’s more important than whether Andrew have any clue about which Stadium is in Sydney and for how many months people‘s books will be on sale.

Soli Deo Gloria

Andrew

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

But Newtaste, you have really missed the point of my article if you only want to prove me wrong when it comes to my assertions. I am not saying that they are not important but the reason I wrote my article is what I saw in the discussions surrounding Hillsong. The side against Hillsong (I suppose that is my side) will raise a set of objections and then the side for Hillsong ( I assume that is your position) tries to shoot it down over minutia such as the size of the crowd and how accurate was the facts etc. Outside will show correspondences with Hillsong leadership showing that they are rank heretics, and the other side will show their own correspondences that shows Hillsong is really the hero and not the villain. My appeal is for BOTH sides to step back and see the big picture. Before I ever addressed those who disagree with me I addressed those who are on my side of the arguement. We need to stop calling them heretics and be fair and square about this. By trying to nail Hillsong down theologically we have missed the point. As I said Hillsong is orthodox at least on paper, and there is an honorable commitment on their part to preach the Gospel, and we need to acknowledge that. I believe to really see this issue through our side needs to focus on what is really the problem, that the practices of Hillsong and their "evangelism" is doing great harm to the message of the cross. I exhort those who are indifferent to the issue to take notice not because I said so, but because this has to do with the very central message of what Christianity is all about.

newtaste said...

"Shows us how we are wrong when we accuse your altar calls being frothy emotionalism without substance by demonstrating that there were enough content there being passed on so that people knew exactly what and who their are responding to."

Last Sunday night i kept my eyes open when Brian Houston asked people to raise their hands if they wanted to know Jesus. While it is hard to spot hands amongst 3,000 odd people, I could only see 2 hands go up. When he then asked people to go down the front, about 60 people went down. If you assume that everyone took a friend with them then 25-30 people went down rather than only 2 i could see. This always baffles me.

The only altar call i ever went down for was before i was saved and so i could check out Hillsong's Christine Caine as I thought she looked pretty hot.

You are right, it lacks substance and is just as useless as handing a tract to someone in the street, getting them to read a prayer and telling them they are now saved and will go to Heaven. I didn't think i was saved when this Baptist got me to read a prayer, nor when i was checking out Chris Caine.

But I did the Hillsong Discovering Christianity course, which leads on from the altar call, and that is how I was saved and really found Jesus. And have since done the Search for Life, and am now doing part-time Bible College at Hillsong. So I have got past the superficial Hillsong face and found real depth.

So there is content passed on.

And ...

When i was homeless two years, Hillsong invited me to Sunday night church and drove me there. I went and kept going back. The Baptists also invited me and drove me there - i went three times, but didn't like it. The guys in the mall preaching out loud on their soap box in the hope someone will hear invited me nowhere. Hillsong and the Baptists offered me (and others) food, companionship and exposed me to Jesus in a welcoming environment. The guys preaching on their soap box in the mall after everyone had ignored them just went home.

And i'm pretty much done with this discussion.

Cameron Buettel said...

Newtaste, thank you for your comments. They have made for very interesting reading. As we have discussed the Gospel here I would be very grateful if you would check out my five part video series that is a Gospel presentation and give me feedback. You will see it in the right hand column of this blog Christianity Part 1, Christianity Part 2 etc . . .
Thanks
Cameron

newtaste said...

"Yet, the Reformed faith is perhaps best known for its understanding that God is sovereign in the matter of man’s salvation. This is to say that God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen or elected certain sinners for salvation. He has done so sovereignly and according to His own good pleasure."
http://sgbaptist.org.au/about-us/what-is-a-reformed-baptist

So some sinners no matter what they do, will not go to Heaven because God has already predetermined before they were born that they are going to Hell. I cannot accept that some peoples lives are a waste. God loves everyone ... well, not according to this belief.

God has a plan for peoples lives, but the plan has different paths - like in the movie Sliding Doors. Everyone can be saved.

Heath The Blogless said...

@ Newtaste

I would correct you on one thing you last said ALL sinners no matter what they do will go to not go to heaven. Our salvation is not based on anything that we can do at all. It all comes down to what Jesus did. We can not even repent with out God granting us that gift, and God draws us to Him.(John 6:44 Acts 5:31 and 11:18.

We all run away from God but God calls many to himself, not all but some. Romans 8:28-30

There are none that seek after God.
None deserved to be saved and all deserved to go to Hell, but in his kindness he has chosen to save those who will repent and have faith in Jesus Christ. But there is nothing in us that would cause us to do this it all comes from God. He gets all the glory we get none of it.

So you can get your theology from Movies or you can get it from God's word, your choice.

newtaste said...

"I would correct you on one thing you last said ALL sinners no matter what they do will go to not go to heaven."

I didn't write that. Read again what i wrote.

"Our salvation is not based on anything that we can do at all."

No. I had to make a decision to stop sinning to extreme, not to keep pushing people away who were helping me, not to try and commit suicide again, not to want to be homeless again. A revelation, belief in God, and with Jesus help I have done this. But unless I wanted to change, and truly believe in God, it would not have happened.

"We can not even repent with out God granting us that gift, and God draws us to Him."

"but in his kindness he has chosen to save those who will repent and have faith in Jesus Christ.

Yes. I agree. That's why Jesus came. But that is not the same as:

"chosen or elected certain sinners for salvation"

One says that if you repent God will choose to save you. The other says that God has already chosen those who will be saved.

"So you can get your theology from Movies or you can get it from God's word, your choice."

I don't get it from the movies ... Nor from some doctrine that, from what you have written, contradicts it's self. I read the Bible.

I also feel the Holy Spirit, talk in tongues, and clap and dance in church. Amen.

Cameron Buettel said...

Great closing comment Heath! Captured my thoughts as well.

newtaste said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cameron Buettel said...

Nice strawmen newtaste! Who said they were smarter than you? Who said reformed Baptists know everything? Who said Paul Washer is the greatest preacher ever? (I merely defended Paul Washer's orthodoxy).

Nice caricature of Calvinism as well!

Poor effort dude!

newtaste said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cameron Buettel said...

Newtaste, this is where we differ so much. You continually make subjective judgment calls concerning people's motives and personal character. Whereas I make objective statements dealing with facts that I verify.

Where did I say I dislike Robert Fergusson? How do you know that Paul Washer stages his crying and other emotions.

And again here is where Paul Washer differs from Robert Fergusson. Fergusson's orthodoxy lives on the pages of the Hillsong faith statement - he is unwilling to apply his theology and correct the perverted gospel so often preached at Hillsong. Even if he preaches it correctly (and based on our correspondence it doesn't look good), he doesn't correct others who don't nor is he willing to concede that the gospel presentation found in Hillsong CDs (particularly Mighty to Save which I discussed) is heretical based upon the theology declared in their faith statement.

Paul Washer on the other hand has an orthodoxy that manifests in orthopraxy. He also makes statements (like the one you mocked) that reflect a firm grasp of the whole scope of Scripture, the atonement, and the attributes of God.

I know Paul Washer. He is but a man and would be the first to tell you that. But the aspersions you are casting on him are dead wrong which is what Jesus was warning against when spoke against being judgmental at the start of Matthew 7. On the other hand Jesus was not against testing teachers to see if they are false based upon their theology and practice - as he discussed that in Matthew 7 as well.

newtaste said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cameron Buettel said...

Dear newtaste, I don't think you need to remove so much. I have found a lot of your information to be fascinating. Also, we welcome healthy debate and appreciate you even if you take an opposing view. But when you make comments like the one about Paul Washer faking his tears and emotions then you are crossing a line that I warn you about for the sake of your own conscience before God. None of us can really know these things for certain . . . perhaps occasionally if we know them up close and personal but even then it is a risky call that we may have to answer for.

I know I have been critical of things as well, but if you read me carefully you will see that I have stayed out of the realm of subjectivism and dealt only with content that I can know and document . . . such as the Hillsong faith statement, directly quoting Robert Ferguson, quoting the gospel presentation found in the "Mighty to Save" CD etc. You will notice I have never made factual claims about people's personal lives or motives as I cannot judge their hearts.

So have a look through what you have written and retract what you think needs to be retracted.

newtaste said...

Joel A'Bell is the executive pastor at Hillsong, and so in charge in Australia. Thought this discussion on his blog about 'critics' would interest you. Joel seems to avoid answering questions, similar to what you said about Robert Fergusson.

Unlike me, you Cameron, or Andrew, Joel A'Bell says he doesn't criticise any churches.

http://joelabell.posterous.com/critics-92

newtaste said...

Sorry, rather Joel A'Bell just ignores questions.

Heath The Blogless said...

Seems from the article the one person it is OK to criticize is the critic. Wonder if he sees the irony.

newtaste said...

Cameron, as someone has pointed out, most of the comments on Joel A'Bell's blog are coming from posters from http://groupsects.wordpress.com/
who are professional Hillsong bashers. But, plainly your question stood out to Joel as he made it into a post. http://joelabell.posterous.com/the-gospel-155

newtaste said...

Two and a half weeks out and still no Hillsong Conference speakers on the best seller lists at Koorong. So much for Andrew's claim that Hillsong is all powerful and "they dominate the Christian retail market" and "Become a guest speaker in the Hillsong conference and you are ENSURED that your book will be on the best seller list across this nation’s Christian bookstores for the months leading to and after the conference".

Hillsong has influence, but not the dominating influence that Andrew has conjured up and invented in his mind.

I'll check again on the Wednesday in the middle of the conference and see who is on the list then.

The Token Reformed Chinese Guy said...

Don't worry newtaste, I have a feeling that chart will have Jakes and Young all over it very soon...

Just checked out who is coming to HillCon 2010, is it just me or is this year's line up a little lean... This is not a criticism, just an observation. 2007 was a big year from memory. Ahh... good times. The only speakers I am familiar with this year is Jakes and Young, maybe I am just getting old and and irrelevant.

While I am meandering, the top five books in the general category at Koorong can not be anymore polar opposites:

The Shack (Out and out heresey),
The love dare (Conservative Evangelical),
The Prodigal God (Reformed),
The Five Love Lanquages (Pop-Psych) and The Purpose Driven Life (Seeker friendly megachurch builder)

... I guess I should count my blessings that a reformed guy made it in... Go Keller!

newtaste said...

Something for you to read ...

Sunday Telegraph article about Hillsong, that includes some made up rubbish:
http://signposts02.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/hillsong-and-mr-10s-exflux/

Letter from George Aghajanian, the Hillsong general manager in response:
http://signposts02.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/hillsongs-snailing-love-for-brian-houston/

Open letter from Brian Houston explaining his finances:
http://hillsong.com/bobbies-and-my-finances-letter-brian-houston

Anonymous said...

Can I just say.. I think "mark" is the principle of the hillsong college. He would want to keep his job. All the hillsong pastors always reference what he wrote in their answer of what hillsong is "all about". It is like putting on "play" on a cassette; automatically they all know what to say. I´ve been a member of hillsong for many years. I wont go back. Their "truth" makes them high and mighty, and in the times of financial crisis around and about, they NEED to stay there to be able to make a living. I usually say that hillsong is the christian answer for Hollywood. Really.

James S said...

This newtaste character is really disconcerting. I only read his first several posts and couldn't bear to read any more of his foolishness.
Cameron, I don't why you even respond to someone who doesn't bother reading the posts that they are commenting on.
First he shows that he never read the post in the first place by replying and saying that he didn't know that Cameron was posting something by Pastor Josh. It is prefaced right there in the post, that it is by Pastor Josh and not Cameron. How can you not see that?

You are being too kind in letting him reply any further since newtaste either has a problem with reading comprehension or is deliberately lying and disregarding things.

As I read further his replies I am struck by the shear amount of illogic he spews forth. Is this really someone who thinks he is reading and understanding the scriptures?
Here in America we have many like him. It is sad to see that Ausralia has it's share too.

I'm with you Cameron. You have done a fine job exposing false teaching and pretend christianity.
We need more christians like you in this world.
God Bless your ministry!

Carl said...

Cameron.

So do you think we should take into consideration all that is wrong with Hillsong when deciding if we should use their songs in a worship service? Could we be causing our brother to stumble if, even indirectly, we lead them to Hillsong and possibly a false Gospel?

Your Thoughts?

Cameron Buettel said...

Carl, why not use something that is musically excellent and biblically sound instead - like Sovereign Grace music or Stuart Townend and Keith Getty.

Hillsong has some ok songs and a lot of bad man centered ones as well. I think what has transpired in this series (and please click on the "Hillsong Saga" label at the bottom of this post if you haven't) has only confirmed the need for people to protest and boycott Hillsong for their willingness to edit Scripture and the blatant contradictions between the gospel presentations on their CD liner notes and their own doctrine statement.

There's my 10 cents

Lee said...

Cameron,

Brother, you hit it right on with "The Hillsong". This creature is dangerous and moving youth worldwide into an unbiblical confusion about God, His nature, His Glory, His perfect and relevant wrath and how he saves. I was at the concert in Atlanta USA March 2011 and experienced the movement personally. The repetition of music works just like hypnotism. The worst part of the night was the ½ told gospel presentation and the dreaded call for people to “accept Jesus” so that they won’t feel alone, just like the star of Hillsong testified. Hundreds of people raised their hand and said a prayer and will go home and continue proactively sinning and looking and living like the world yet believing that this show was a work of God. Can God save in a concert? Well, yes, we know he can. But is a work of man (or work of Hillsong) going to save someone? No. But as they leave they have the false assurance that will not only bring a bad testimony to Christ but will send the “new convert” into a world of despair as they start to believe that even Christ was not enough for them when in fact they really never knew Christ.
To Hillsong: If you must, come and sing a few songs and then leave. Leave the presentation of the gospel to someone who understands that the one who cry’s out to God in biblical repentance and faith in the saving work of Christ for our hell deserved wretched works, will be saved by God and him alone. Not by a Hillsong led ½ gospel presentation.

garwin4j said...

james s I think you should leave newtaste along. I think he is genuine (granted I don't know what he said that he removed later) and even thou I am on Cameron "side", I greatly appreciate what newtaste has said.
To me the song are okay (I guess I will have to check out your Hillsong Saga link), so the question is: What (if any) effect is this music having if it isn't on the up and up?


God Bless!

Anonymous said...

WOW! I feel sorry to be reading this. i couldn't even fish it and obviously there lots of links to so many other pages. WOW!
You are taking not just a jab or two but developing a whole series against these folks. How many have you led to Christ lately? And how many, by your publications, have you prevented from coming to Jesus because they perceive the church as a house divided against itself. Have you tried to reach the Hillsong Church leaders with your observations? If you haven't, then you are far worse than you're trying to portray them to be. If you are right, they might be wrong in some or even many of their actions but you are definitely wrong in your heart. You are a hypocrite by all the definitions of Jesus. Of course I don't expect my comment to be posted; it wasn't meant for anyone else but you. Repent and be saved before sudden destruction comes on you.

Cameron Buettel said...

Anonymous, I offered a biblical critique without pretending to know the motivations in the heart of anybody. It would have been nice if you had extended me the same courtesy. My research involved lengthy investigation of the facts and detailed correspondence over a lengthy period of time before I published anything. Again, it would have been nice if you had extended me the same courtesy. Is it just possible that maybe I love Jesus and His Gospel enough to contend for it . . . like the Bible commands!

Heath The Blogless said...

Hi Anonymous
I am a little troubled that you would make so many accusations against Cameron, and state that you did not even read his whole post. Isn't it is very hypocritical to make accusations without corresponding with that person first. Especially when your claims are baseless and you would know this if you have read Cameron's previous posts about this subject, where he posted all his correspondence with the leadership from hill song.
And then to have a personal attack saying how many people have you lead to Christ lately. For one thing I disagree with this kind of language we are not commanded to lead people to Christ, but to share the Gospel and to make disciples. It is God who draws people to him and ultimately changes peoples hearts and minds. Second I know from personal experience that this is something Cameron does on a regular basis, In fact Cameron was the one who first shared the Gospel with me and God used him greatly in my conversion and early discipleship. So Mr or Mrs or Miss Anonymous please have the courage to give at least your first name when criticizing and attacking someone and second make sure you have biblical support for you position, and Jesus wouldn't do that is not a Biblical argument.

Thanks Cam

Anonymous said...

author, your blog is seriously awful.
you're all about your own "knowledge". did you even ask
God if what you're gonna post is just ok? hah. can't believe this non sense

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that from everything said that Hillsong needs to make some changes. It also seems to me that it is more than a church or denomination, that it is a movement. It also appears that it has now reached a stage where it is being called to mature to have greater impact. Just as David correctly saw Shimei as a critic by God's hand, so should Hillsong see this criticism. I believe Hillsong is doing a good work that can be even better. May the Lord accomplish His will here.

photo said...

Jesus said if you love me,you'll do what i tell you,so at what point do belivers ignore the sin of others because they appear to be preaching the gospel?.Sadley there are few groups who are honest enough to admit that they are corrupted by their traditions,just as there are few individuals who will admit their religion subitutes for their bible belief.Hillsong is another in a long line,it's just that they are better at what they do and are helped by powerful new tecknology.For most it is a mote and beam thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be more severe and say that Yes indeed, Hillsong is a BIG heretical group that is more dangerous than any other. I've seen the bible verse editing in their website, and then it's no longer there, but then again, I guess we can't control the way they do their teachings, as they manipulate sculpture like nothing I've ever seen before. I just fear for the gullible people who do not know anything about Christianity, and will fall for this type of deception. This is a great blog Cameron. Keep it up and keep it coming. We need to expose the truth more than ever.

Russ Hammond said...

It has been interesting to read the comments left here, in response to the article on Hillsong above. All I can do is speak from my own experience of attending a Hillsong Conference in 2012. In short, it was an absolute, unmitigating disgrace. I attended with no pre-composed opinion against Hillsong, Houston or anyone else connected with the organisation. My heart wept as I looked around me to see thousands of souls being led astray by a watered down, ineffectual 'Gospel' that serves only to damn those that think they are 'Christian' enough, within the Hillsong congregation, and to perpetuate a vision of Christianity that is false.
A vision that the world religions are all in a kind of theological horse race with one of those horses getting its neck across the line, the particular horse depending upon which angle you are viewing the race from / where in the world you were born / which religion works best for you. Nowhere near an accurate representation of Christianity; that it serves as a God breathed solution to an eternal problem we have with a Holy and Righteous creator God.
Awful, to the very greatest extremes.

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of inequity'.

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm not a Hillsong member, but I have been to their conferences a few times. As I know that this is probably a late comment, I'll throw it out there anyway.

Whilst I have seen many comments for and against Hillsong, I have had opinions for both sides. I used to think Hillsong was a heretical cult, but now I think otherwise. Whilst I don't visit Hillsong church every week, I do watch it on ACC on Foxtel.

Anyway, from the conferences, here are a couple of quotes I wrote down in my diary:

"What is good is the armour of God if there is no warrior on the inside?" - Phil Dooley, lead pastor of Hillsong SA

"Worship is not worship when there is no justice involved" - Joel Houston, Co-lead pastor of Hillsong NYC

"We are the donkey that Jesus rode on- we are just the vessel in which Christ is delivered" - Brian Houston, Senior pastor of Hillsong

Well, I have plenty more quotes. I also find it quite amazing that Brian Houston can memorize so many bible verses. There was one night where he probably quoted a whole chapter for memory.

Well, I think the message is not as watered down as we think it is. I certainly thought it was, but maybe we might need to do more than just research about the church. I would probably sit down, watch their sermons for a whole year or two, and if we still come to the same conclusion, then fair enough :)

FYI, I'm from a church that is not affiliated with Hillsong or ACC, so this is nor an endorsement for them.

Cameron Buettel said...

Anonymous, your quotes don't refute a single objection raised here. Were any of those guys preaching repentance? A right understanding of the atonement?