Interview with HILLSONG Founder Brian Houston
The Hillsong Church, which was founded in Sydney in 1983, has experienced huge growth in Australia and in London, but also has set up churches in the Ukraine and France. The Church is well-known for its passionate and heart-felt praising, but more than this, it has led thousands of young people from all different cultures and backgrounds back to the Bible and to God.
Christian Today was able to speak exclusively to the Hillsong founder and the man behind the vision of Hillsong, Brian Houston:
How did you get the idea of establishing Hillsong Church? Were there any revelations or specific meanings behind the name “Hillsong”?
My father planted a church in Sydney in 1977, and my wife and I came over from New Zealand not long after that. We really were only supposed to be there for a while to work in Sydney, but I quickly became part of the team, and became an assistant pastor. From there I went out and planted churches from that city church, which is now our city congregation. I planted the church in a suburb called Liverpool in New South Wales, and today they are both very strong churches.
The third one that I started is in the ‘Hills’ area in 1983. That’s when I went out, and we actually started out in a school hall. We were full of visions and dreams; we really did have a big plan for our lives. But we never set out and said specifically that we wanted to start a church called ‘Hillsong Church’ and it would have the music that would reach out to the world. A lot of it has emerged as time has gone on.
We started it as ‘Hills Christian Life Centre’, and we started with just two conferences. There were three of us in the swimming pool on a Sunday afternoon. There was Jeff Bullock, Mark Zschech and myself. We were thinking of a name for the conference, and somewhere between the three of us we came up with that name. Hills is the name of the area!
Then we started the praise and worship, and rather than just having “Hills Christian Life Centre Live”, I thought it would be good to produce the music under the name ‘Hillsong’ so that people wouldn’t box it as just another churches’ music. Then we were travelling, and people didn’t even know the name of the church. They kept getting the name wrong.
In 1999, after my father resigned, we took over the city congregation, the Hillsong city has merged under one church, and that time is when we thought if we can’t beat them join them. So everyone knew us as Hillsong Church, so that’s when we started officially calling ourselves ‘Hillsong Church’ – just at the end of 1999.
Is there any reason why in Australia, you have only built the Hillsong Church in Sydney and have not expanded to other major cities in the country?
We have a lot of relationships with other churches in Australia and around the world. Possibly one of the reasons why we don’t do that is because of those relationships. I don’t want to just build a Hillsong Church; I want to be a builder of “The Church”. So I definitely want a Church that is impacting, and we will certainly from time to time spread our wings and start a new initiative. But I see our mandate as not just starting millions of Hillsong churches everywhere; it’s really about championing the cause and the local churches. In other words, I would like to think we can be an example to help smaller churches grow.
I was intrigued by Brian’s statement here:
“But I see our mandate as not just starting millions of Hillsong churches everywhere; it’s really about championing the cause and the local churches. In other words, I would like to think we can be an example to help smaller churches grow.”
Has this has changed? What is this ‘championing the cause’? How is Hillsong even associated with local churches these days? How have they been an example to help smaller churches grow?