Catholic Coup for Hillsong

An interesting article appeared in the SMH today describing how the young woman who played the role of Mary on Catholic World Youth Day has joined Hillsong Church.

Things I found notable were the appeal of Hillsong to her, and the acceptance of her change by members of the Catholic faith, who despite her leaving, did not write her off as no longer Christian for leaving Catholicism.

In the article, Ms Dickson is quoted as saying that she finds a greater hunger for God satisfied at Hillsong, where her faith is about a lifestyle, rather than just attending church on a Sunday. Giving comments on her decision, both Catholic Archbishop George Pell, and her friend who played Judas, comment that she is not leaving Jesus Christ – Hillsong still believes in Jesus and his teachings.

I speculate that Hillsong has probably been very welcoming to Ms Dickson, and that the initial experience there has been wonderful and exciting for her. I guess I relate it to my own first couple of years in a megachurch – the worship alone was better than anything I’d experienced previously, and it was a pretty heady experience. In particular the belief that God would be such a tangible part of daily life – and was interested in your real day to day issues – and that you could expect to really see Him move and make a difference – was new to me at that time.

Is this the experience of most people when they join a megachurch, and when does it start to change? There was an innocence to my experience of it all initially, when I look back, which seems to have been lost over time. There are some key concepts in there which I still think are valuable – the way that we can relate to God so daily and so intimately and tangibly, is one of the good things that I believe the Pente churches have re-emphasised. (Regardless of other developments.)

Another question this story raises with me is, how similar is Hillsong now to the Catholic faith in part? Perhaps that has also helped the transition in this case – but then maybe it is the same regardless of what church people have initially come from.

The acceptance of Hillsong’s faith in Christ by members of the Catholic church, including it would seem (at some level at least) by Archbishop George Pell, is also interesting. Hillsong did support Catholic World Youth Day, when some other local evangelical churches would have nothing to do with it, denouncing Catholics as not Christian at all. Hillsong appears to be inclusive, regarding Catholics as part of the body of Christ, even though they’d disagree on many issues. CCC had varied responses at different churches – some supported it (my local one did), and some were against it. The Sydney Anglicans of course, had their own event in direct competition. Perhaps Hillsong is reaping some reward for its more inclusive approach.


28 thoughts on “Catholic Coup for Hillsong

  1. I can see how a young catholic would become enamored with Hillsong. It would seem like Catholic Mass on steroids. People feel uplifted and in touch with God and everyone seems happy and fulfilled. I don’t know how much of it is real, It’s not my thing anymore, at all, I’m cynical about “mega-church” big productions and their perhaps confused motives and slightly skewed Gospel, and the rest, but I can understand it’s appeal.

    “Perhaps Hillsong is reaping some reward for its more inclusive approach.”

    Possibly. Dropping the hateful rhetoric of the past is bound to make it a more comfortable place for people of different streams of Christian thought. I think the message there is a bit shallow though and I wonder how many move through the revolving door and back to their original churches or out into the world again. There’s probably stats for that kind of thing.

  2. rotationmethod,

    It is a shame that you hold such a view of Pentecostal megachurches. However, I do understand the cynical tone in your speech. Such large churches and their large productions can be very daunting to one unused to this church culture that has only recently emerged.

    I am 17 and I have been going to Hillsong Church now for almost eight years and, though I love it and have made it my home, I have certainly had doubts. However, I have come to realise that such doubts can often be misfounded and judgemental (I am very over-analytical and often critical at times). I have also come to realise that every church, as a human institution is certainly fallible and flawed. However, one must be careful not to let us think that such flaws immediately disqualify a church as remaining authentic.

    For me, church is not the image that you see; it is not big selling albums, world famous rockstars, huge crowds and lots of emotion. For me, church is community. Church is people bound by love. The soul of any church is not the event, but the personal relationships and close friends that are developed.

    I must say, the heart of Hillsong Church is in loving people and loving God, despite all of its oh so very human flaws.



  3. Hi Nathan,

    A shame? For who? It’s not really a shame for me because mega-churches have nothing to offer me and I have nothing to offer them. I really wouldn’t want to be at one and they wouldn’t want me there. So it’s all good on that point.

    Unfortunately you’ve misunderstood my cynical tone. I’m not intimidated or daunted by the big production, I’ve experienced it and used to love it.

    Now, if church is not big selling albums, world famous rockstars, huge crowds and lots of emotion then what is the point of those things?

    You say you’re very over-analytical and often critical. Be careful not to sell yourself short, you have those faculties for a reason and sometimes it’s best not to ignore that niggling from within. So often we can blame ourselves for being judgemental when our heart is trying to show us something that is hidden in plain view.

    You said: “one must be careful not to let us think that such flaws immediately disqualify a church as remaining authentic.”

    God forbid! I’m not the immediate disqualification type.

    So tell me about the flaws you see at hillsong?

    Peace to you too.

  4. No offence to either of you, I hope!

    Nathan – I hope you answer RM’s questions – it would be interesting.

  5. There’s actually a lot of similarities between Hillsong and Catholicism so I’m not surprised to see this happen. Hillsong was very involved in World Youth Day and even sent all their youth along to the event to hear the catholic preacher

    Welcome to the blog Nathan. Stick around and I think you might start to notice some of your doubts are very well founded. I went to Hillsong for 6 years before finally leaving. I always had a problem with their teaching but like you I preferred to focus on the community. But once you start to openly question Hillsong you’ll see how quickly the community will desert you.

    Can I ask you Nathan to tell us what your doubts are?

  6. There is a great safety in being part of a community. All your friends are there, your important relationships with parents, siblings, other people your age.

    However, what is important is how the church, through its foundational doctrine, relates to the world.

    How does it do evangelism? How does it do discipleship? How does it generate income? What is it’s focus? How does it teach salvation? What is it’s concept of salvation? Who does it say Jesus is? Does it believe in the trinity? Does it encourage repentance to the Father? Does it promote believers baptism? Does it promote receiving/baptism in the Holy Spirit.

    Huge, deep questions.

    The main thing is does the church help an individual believer maintain and extend a relationship with Almighty God?

    Let me put it this way: David Pawson has often said that he wants to write a book titled “The Problems of answered prayer.”

    Not prayer that gets a result but prayer that gets a reply. Read Habakkuk for an example of someone who received answers from God when he asked God a series of questions.

    Habakkuk was basically having an argument with God. It’s quite a good thing to do, as long as you remember that you will always lose the argument.


  7. Ravingpente, you’re the least offensive blogger I think I’ve ever read. Your warmth and respect come across clearly with your desire to be fair. No suck-up intended.

    I was thinking how Nathan reminds me of me from 20 something years ago, except I think he’s a bit brighter than I was. At least he knows the important from the unimportant. I had my head in the clouds.

    Didn’t really start commenting to engage in hillsong arguments, just wanted to encourage you all to keep up your discussions and pull the blog back in the direction you’re all happy with.

    For the record, I’ve never been to hillsong. My comments are based on knowledge and experience of mega-churches and the “big production” generally, Brian’s sermons and his dad’s anti-catholic sentiments.

  8. I don’t know why that comment was moderated, RM. Very strange. Thanks for your kind words, too, and for your encouragement re the blog direction.

    Its a shame Nathan hasn’t enlightened us further, but I can understand why he’d hold back.

  9. hmm, maybe you scared him off last Feb – haha.

    I think the more important question is who constitutes the ‘we’ in a church. Can an athiest walk in off the streets and start praising God?

    Also, do you not need to go to smaller church for a greater period of time to be annointed with the holy spirit? – how can the bombardment of messages on unification (on its own) be able to heal the afflictions/suffering of individuals within the church? (and that goes for any church).

  10. Eu acho que vocês tem que ver tudo de uma forma mais global.Toda igreja tem defeitos,seja ela grande ou pequena,pois é cuidada por homens,que é fadado ao erro.Apesar dos erros,as igrejas são usadas por Deus para tocar nas partes mais inimagináveis no mundo.A Hillsong por exemplo é bem conhecida no Brasil e tem causado grandes(bons) impactos em várias pessoas daqui.Então, parem de criticar e orem por eles e para que o mover de Deus se aplie cada vez mais.

  11. This is what makes out of Bruno’s comment:

    “I find that you should see everything of a more global form all church has defects, be she big or small, therefore is take care by men, that is fated to the spite of the errors, the churches are used by God for touch in the most unimaginable part in the world it Hillsong by example is well acquaintance in Brazil and has caused big (good) impacts in several persons from here.then, pairs of criticize and pray for them and for that the Move from God itself aplie more and more. ”

    makes things a bit clearer.

  12. I’d agree with Bruno and disagree.

    If a church is transparent on their human fragilities – than that is the perfect church. If a pastor is open enough to share his sin in front of a congregation and the congregation are transparent with one another and those in the community – they are living a biblical truth – Jesus is greater in their weakness. It’s in this state that keeps it remain erronous.

    I think it is good to see Hillsong express good works to those who need it. But if that Hillsong is like the Hillsong Church in Australia, then I will say they would do more damage in South America than good – the spreading of divisive and money centered gospels and doctrines.

    What makes it worse is when they pretend or are ignorant, seeing people hurt by such doctrines in their own church. There is no transparency – only plastic praise and appearances in Hillsong back here in Sydney.

    I pray that Hillsong Brazil is nothing like Hillsong, Sydney.

  13. Hillsong is cool, the catholic church and hillsong believe in the same God, however Hillsong doesn’t Worship Mary, Only Jesus.I used to attend hillsong before moving to Melbourne.

  14. Hey specksandplanks if you know so much about hillsong church Australia then you would know that they have City care and they give heaps to Project compassion, and that they don’t actually say that you have to put money in the offering, As christians you should also know that giving to God is important, all through the Bible People gave to God as an act of worship,As for Prosperity Gospel before you criticise it you should read About Jesus when he said Give what is given to you, You don’t know what you are talking about your like the pharisees ‘killing the truth’ about Jesus.

  15. Hillsong church become popular because of the beautiful songs embraced by different churches, even Catholics. Singing is one way of praying but it does not mean I have done my responsibility as follower of Christ. So, I just stick to Catholic teaching and make use of the songs…

  16. Dazza: “Hillsong is cool, the catholic church and hillsong believe in the same God.”

    I’d have to agree with you their. Both worship their own pope as their ‘Word of God’.

    I actually separate the music ministry from the actual Hillsong church. They are two different ministries.

    One glorifies God, the other glorifies man. The man-centered ministry likes to use the god-centered ministry for it’s own gain though. I’d like them to be more separate, even though I know they wont be.

    I’ve often found through the music ministry people like Darlene really do focus on Compassion projects. I think she is a great woman IN the body of Christ but also plays a sad religious role on behalf of the man-centered ministry.

    If those musicians weren’t attending Hillsong church, they would still have gotten those songs to write, perform and praise. I don’t like the brand of Hillsong being attached to their music.

  17. Dazza-Catholics do not worship Mary. Period.

    Great blog by the way, keep up the great work. God Bless.

  18. Specks – Catholics do not worship the Pope, nor do Hillsong (or any other Protestants for that matter) worship the Bible, as both would amount to idolatry.

    Veneration is different from Worship, which is due to God alone.

    God Bless you all.

  19. I remember when late Bishop in Australia spoke about the World Youth Day in Sydney he said despite the division it was wonderful to have Hillsongs at the day;s celebrations which included mass, worship, etc. He said a church united is a church fortified. In Christ we were all one.
    Anything negative said or done does not build the Church so I’m wondering what the purpose of the article was?
    Im Catholic, I experience Christ everyday, miracles happen, my relationship is growing and I feel the love in the community and when I dont feel the love, I re-examine myself. Have I done enough to build a community of love? Maybe not.
    So wherever you are whichever Church you belong to dont condemn others, rather work on building the kingdom even if its unrecognised brick by brick. Ask not what the Church is doing for me, ask yourself what am I doing for this Church.
    Stay blessed people.

  20. Wow, this is fascinating. I am a catholic school teacher who has just recently started attending Hillsong. Yes I love the music but I am excited to listen to the Pastor each week as well. I had no idea how many everyday situations can be explained, supported and counseled through the Bible. Some weeks I find myself in tears at the messages, it is just so overwhelming.
    What is sad is that I am being ‘bagged’ by a selectfew in high positions within my school and being told ” the parish priest hates Hillsong” ( I have no idea how much of the hearsay is true) he calls them Hillband. A comment by a member of Staff after our weekly school mass lead by my grade 2 children was ” that was absolutely beautiful…………even if it was Hillsong”. When I had selected a beautiful song from the Cornerstone CD to teach my class. We played the song at musical prayer 2 days before Mass and the children loved it and sang their hearts out. I was then told by another male teacher that he had recently found out more about Hillsong and something to do with how they claim taxes and are all about making more profit. I find these comments hurtful, especially from people within a CATHOLIC COMMUNITY. Perhaps they have forotten what community means?

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