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16-05-2010 06:30 PM



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16-05-2010 06:30 PM


A wave of home-grown Christianity is sweeping Australia and the world turning worship on its head. As traditional churches struggle for numbers, at Hillsong, the pews are packed with rock music pumping away and thousands jumping for Jesus.


16-05-2010 06:55 PM

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2010-05-16 18:30:08

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BATH, Chris




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(generated from captions) But first tonight, is sweeping Australia and the world a wave of home-grown Christianity turning worship on its head. struggle for numbers, As traditional churches at Hillsong, the pews are packed and thousands jumping for Jesus. with rock music pumping away wealth is nothing to be ashamed of. Hillsong preaches prosperity that celebrities It's been courted by politicians, police commissioner. and at least one But controversy has dogged it. has been wary of the media For years, Hillsong's leader reluctant to answer questions. Until now. Here's Monique Wright. giving glory to God. It's just a church gives us the keys of the kingdom. We want to be people where God with a sense I think I always grew up bigger than just myself. I was alive for something out in the north-west of Sydney. We started at a suburban church just let's conquer the world We never really set out to say we are the extreme fundamentalist, and I don't think that religious mean people by some people about us. that perhaps is portrayed has revealed little about himself For years, the leader of Hillsong

and his controversial church. about the money, the methods Now Brian Houston breaks his silence and the mania.

it's success and Christianity. If there is an oxymoron, in Buenos Aries. This is Velez Stadium and Michael Jackson Huge names like Madonna, U2 have all played here. And tonight it's Hillsong. Aussie church group What started as a little is now a global phenomenon. enjoyed and not to be endured. I believe that church is to be

on the Holy Ghost. We just want to get drunk # Everything we need... # that you don't like? yeah, the pastor. Is there anything about Hillsong - Oh, no, that's me, that's right. Are you nervous? Talking to you? Yeah, about how this will work out? really. I guess I'm fatalistic about it, from the glittering Harbour 38 kilometres north-western suburbs in the sprawling is Sydney's Bible belt. on 25 acres, And at its heart, headquarters of Hillsong. is the towering $25 million Some call it a cult money-making machine. and a tax-free prayer for profit millions of others, But, for others, religion back from the dead. Brian and Bobby Houston are bringing when we started this church. I was 29, my wife was 26 out of the north-west of Sydney We started as a suburban church in a place called Baulkham Hills. about Baulkham Hills, And all I knew out there there was a Holden car dealership and shout and the guy used to get on TV from Baulkham Hills "Just up the road "and let me do it right for you." what I knew about it. That's pretty well you sort of went through That was the last place before you hit the countryside. So when we came out here, grandiose plans. we never had these huge, for something like that. How can you ever be prepared I also had the sense But, you know, my life than just being ordinary. that there was something more to

sort of person. Even though I am a pretty ordinary

in this little gate here, We used to come drive in and park our car and the church right there. Yes.

began Hillsong Brian and wife, Bobby, on this site in August 1983. every week for a month. When we started the church shrunk 70 people. The first week we actually had and 53 and the next week, 45 Then the next week it was 65 4.5 more weeks and I worked out there was only until there were no more people. But gradually Hillsong caught on, unfamiliar to many Australians. offering a brand of religion a life without you. # # I can't imagine Young faces. Rock music. Packed pews. is not a service. And this, by the way, This is the staff meeting. Father we thank you for the staff for their commitment. and I thank you Stand by - one... with Brian? Have we got someone standing by This is the service. to be in your house today. What a joy, Lord, to homes in 180 countries. Beamed around the world Amen. Amen, amen, amen, amen. Come on, let's worship together. and clearly filling a need. Loud, entertaining Sing it church! We are a contemporary church. The message itself is timeless. have to change But I feel like the methods with 21st century. if we are going to connect people endure a very long one hour Sadly, I think there are times when

that's the way it should be and I just don't believe when people come to church. a rock concert. It seems to be more like for Jesus. It is, but it's for Jesus, What does this do for your faith? and makes it stronger It builds it up

the community. so you can do more to help the love tonight. # (ALL SING) # Can you feel It's the Hillsong annual conference. Inside you could feel the love... # I don't want to fall asleep... # the cash registers. ..outside you could hear used Hillsong as a successful brand. Advertising executives have Are you proud of that? It just makes me smile. It just makes me laugh. about marketing. Ah, I don't know anything No, come on? you tell me? What do I know, I went to high school, I went to school, I went to Bible college. master plan in terms of a brand. There has never been any it turned over $65 million, In Hillsong's last annual report, much of it going to charity. This church preaches prosperity. there's no shame in wealth. So long as you are helping others, Why do you think that people have such a big problem with Hillsong's wealth? Well, because, you know, people have a concept of the church that it should be poor. Does God want us all to be rich and successful? No, I don't think God cares how much money you have, so much. I think he cares about what we do with whatever resource we have. Money is a corrupting thing and the love of money destroys families, it destroys homes. It's not a positive thing. Brian, it sounds incredibly hypocritical coming from a man who wrote, 'You Need More Money Discovering God's Amazing Financial Plan For Your Life'. I wrote that book and there's no getting away from it. You know, sometimes I feel like I might as well have painted

a great big bull's eye in the middle of my forehead and said to my critics, "Here, take a good shot". But, you know, I still actually believe about the content of the book and what it's about, which is being positioned to make a bigger difference and I certainly wouldn't call it that title. Your personal income has been the subject of intense speculation.

Are you prepared to say now what you earn?

You are only the second person to ever ask me that directly. The first one was a newspaper journalist. I know that you said to him that you weren't prepared to answer that.

I'm just wondering, do you want to answer that now? If it's that important, yeah, I'll talk about it. My combined income from writing books and being an author

and our travelling and doing what we do around the world, speaking and various groups and so on, including Hillsong Church, is just a little over $300,000 for 2009. That's what it was. Half of what Brian's paid comes from Hillsong. Most of what the church earns comes from its followers, many who adhere to tiving - a donation of 10% of their earnings. The main criticisms of Hillsong seems to be

that it makes a huge amount of money which is tax exempt and that you and Brian, as leaders, must be rolling in it. I think people who have those sort of perceptions, haven't come close enough to us. Because Hillsong Church is normal, average, wonderful Australians. That is Hillsong Church. Is Hillsong a cult? No, Hillsong is not a cult. It's not a cult. Cult is controlling, it's manipulative. You know, it separates people from what's important, like family. You know, we are opposite to all of that. Thank you for our family and our friends and Jesus. Amen. (ALL) Amen. In many respects, Hillsong is a family business. Son, Joel, leads the church band. Ben is a pastor and their daughter, Laura, is in Hillsong marketing. Born in New Zealand, Brian's mum and dad were Salvation Army officers. In the early days of Hillsong his father, Frank, preached by his son's side,

until the day Brian learned the truth about his dad.

What did you learn about your father?

Oh, man, talking about this to this day knots my stomach. When I grew up, my dad was my hero really, he was my mentor

and was so, right into my 40s. I had never, ever seen any sign of my dad having some sort of a dark side. You know, one time I had someone come into my office and basically told me straight out that a complaint had been received that 30 or 40 years ago when my father was a pastor in New Zealand, that he had abused their son.

From there, you know, I ended up meeting a second person who said my dad abused them. Sexually abused them? Sexually abused them, yeah. To look into the eyes of someone who's telling you that, ah, I can't even tell you. You couldn't hit me with a lower blow than to hear about that in my own family. Frankly, it was like hell on earth. The worst thing by far that I've had to ever deal with. In 2000 Brian expelled his father from Hillsong. I confronted him and I can just remember him growing incredibly dry in the mouth,

going all dry in the mouth and pretty well admitted straight out these things happened. Is child abuse a sin that you can forgive? Look, you talk about me, you talk about Jesus. Jesus is a forgiver of sin. I think Jesus can forgive an Idi Amin or a Saddam Hussein. What about you? Yeah, there is a huge difference between forgiveness and sweeping it under the carpet.

It's certainly not something that be ignored. To think that it was someone related to you that was the perpetrator is the ugliest thing you could ever be hit with, I think.

Through the crisis, Brian's family stood with him. The church was rocked but continued to grow. Now, his son also rises. We believe tonight's going to be a great night.

We are in Argentina. 22,000 faithful fans have packed Velez Stadium to hear Joel Houston and his band, Hillsong United. A pulsating, pumping mass. Everyone is jumping for Jesus. The band has sold two million CDs and regularly chart in the mainstream top 10. They may be preaching Christianity but they are treated like rock Gods. It's a little bit strange because its kind of - what we do is - you know, it would be nice to not have to deal with all this kind of stuff. a little bit uncomfortable? So, does it feel It definitely feels uncomfortable. and how big is too big? How big can Hillsong get any such thing as too big. I don't think there is What we are about is helping people. you are so forward thinking In some ways in this church and breaking new ground. But then in others, of homosexuality, anti-abortion. you are still not fully accepting and be accepting of everyone? Why not go that final step I think we are excepting of all people, I hope we are. You talk about homosexuality. I mean, I've sat close to young people who are dealing with feelings they never welcomed and attractions that they never expected and, you know, I've literally walked people through things where they were suicidal in a world, the general Christian church world that's not understanding. So to me it's not an easy subject. So is homo sexuality a sin? I think any sex outside of marriage is a sin.

What about abortion? A sin? You know, the Christian message is a pro-life message. Jesus said "I've come so that you might have life". So any thought of snuffing out life, to me, is not something that I would be about. A sin? Abortion - um, yeah. Be blessed Hillsong church. Thank God for every one of you. Amen. with a congregation of 70... What started Pray and one for another.

..is now a million-strong than any church in Australia. and growing faster # We love you, God. # in permanent rapture. And its worshippers seem the life of Brian. Truly God has blessed your own faith? Have you ever questioned that you thought Has there ever been a time "What if I'm wrong, what if there is no God?" Actually, there has. I think that somebody would be living in a bubble if they never, ever questioned their own belief, their own faith. So there definitely have been - if you talk about the big picture in life, after having been beat around the head a little bit and faced some of the real issues of lives ourselves, having to go through the horror of finding out that my father had a dark side, which caused him to abuse people, ah, you know, with all of that I am more convinced than ever that there is a God and that I want to spend my life serving him. And Hillsong has just opened a church in Cape Town, which is where we are off to next. On the eve of the World Cup,

South Africa is now the most violent place in the developed world.