Hillsong – Australia’s most powerful brand

Hillsong is a multi-million dollar global brand with a massive following, particularly among the young. What can marketers learn from this fast-growing faith factory as it turns 30, asks Robin Hicks.

Say what you like about Hillsong. The happy-clappy megachurch does not enjoy a Godly reputation in all quarters, and gets a kicking in the comment thread on Mumbrella whenever we write a story about Gloria Jean’s, the coffee chain it supposedly has ties with.

It’s also been on the receiving end of some bad press for a lack of transparency over its finances, sordid goings-on that led founder Brian Houston’s father to depart, a book by a former Hillsonger that called it ‘toxic Christianity’, and allegations of vote stacking in Australian Idol.

But Hillsong is one of Australia’s few global brands. It is one of the most powerful Australian youth brands. And it is the fastest growing church in a country where religion is in decline.

The ‘city on a hill’ has grown from a congregation of 45 in a school hall in Baulkham Hills in Western Sydney in 1983, to a rapidly expanding network that packs 20,000 people into stadium-sized arenas all over Sydney every Sunday, and in Melbourne, Brisbane, the UK, the US, Germany, France, Ukraine, Russia, the Netherlands, Sweden and South Africa.

Next month, Hillsong turns 30. Pastor Brian would probably be able to deliver an interesting sermon on 30 years of marketing to young people, but is overseas and declined to be interviewed.

So what’s the secret to Hillsong’s appeal? And how does the church – which doesn’t use an ad agency – market itself?

Music

Hillsong is as famous for album sales as it is for spreading the word of Jesus, and owes much to ‘worship resources’ for its youth appeal.

“Music is what helps make Hillsong relevant and accessible to young people,” says Richard Sauerman, strategy director at Shift. “It is the main thing that lifts Hillsong above other older, dustier religions.”

Produced through its own record label, Hillsong Music Australia, 40 albums have been released in two decades. The music brand Hillsong United has its own YouTube channel, which has amassed almost 30m views.

The album People Just Like Us went platinum, while For All You’ve Done reached number one in the mainstream charts. As of December last year, Hillsong had sold 12m albums worldwide. Hillsong Music albums regularly feature in the top 10 charts on iTunes in Australia and the US.

When Hillsong changed from Hills Christian Life Centre to Hillsong in 1999, so its associations with the group’s most high-profile asset became stronger. Even the Hillsong logo has the look of an album cover.

Each service begins and ends with music, performed by young, hiply-dressed ‘worship teams’. Here is a clip from a service on Sunday. I promised myself I wouldn’t sing along, but as you may hear, I couldn’t help it. I felt like I was in a very big karaoke lounge.

The advantage Hillsong music has over, say, Christian music in the US is that it crosses a range of genres, from soft to hard rock, to gospel, soul and dance (about the only stuff they don’t do is death metal). This gives Hillsong appeal beyond non-believers, which is an effective way of softly infiltrating new markets.

Here is the soft rock track Search My Heart:

And the harder rock track Yours Forever:

Though Hillsong has not been immune to falling CD sales as digital downloads take their place, the church expects much growth to come from the US, where it has inked a deal with EMI Christian Music Group.

Customer acquisition

After I attended my first service on Sunday, I went to the welcome booth. This is positioned directly outside the exit to the auditorium, laid out like a coffee shop.

Welcome to Hillsong…

I was greeted by an attractive, smiley young woman who exploded with excitement when I told her it was my first service. Within roughly 45 seconds, I had a free cup of coffee in my hand and my contact details had been entered into one of a number of computers to register newcomers. I was told I would receive a call in the week from the leader of a ‘connect group’ in my area. Connect groups are gatherings of 10 to 20 people, split into age groups, who meet every fortnight to “hang out, chat, eat, have fun” and talk about the Bible.

The one thing holding Hillsong back is securing new space for its expanding follower base. In its annual report for 2010 (2011 has not been published yet), the church states, “Growth in our congregation and college has resulted in an acute need for additional facilities.”

Hillsong Television

“I wasn’t watching movies or dramas,” a Russian Hillsong worshipper says in an interview on its Facebook page discussing the church’s leader and his wife. “I was watching Hillsong Television. I couldn’t stop watching it. When I was watching Bobbie and Brian, they lifted my heart and I wanted to run to church.”

Not a bad call to action. Hillsong TV has helped the brand globalise, and is watched in 180 countries worldwide.

A comment beneath this video reads: “Sitting here, crying at 3 in the morning watching this video, and thanking God.” The narrator has a grave God-like voice, church leaders discuss growth strategy like any business consultants, and the video has the look of a Terence Malick film.

“If we’re not in the media, we’re not where the conversation is,” says Geoff Bentley of the Australian Christian Channel. “So as Christians, if we’re not part of the picture, we’re missing out.”

HillsongTV.com has a section called ‘Partner with us’ where viewers can make a donation towards the channel. Give any amount, and you’ll be sent a CD. Donations of more than $70 get a DVD box set.

Messaging and language

Critics of Hillsong, and other Pentecostal churches, do not like the ‘health and wealth gospel’ that it preaches – the idea that wealth and success are signs of God’s favour. Al Crawford, planning director of Clemenger BBDO Sydney, reckons that Hillsong is simply working with rather than against the modern, materialistic world in which we live.

Unlike other churches, Pentecostalism is about enjoying life now. If you buy into this brand of God, your finances and health will be taken care of in this life, and the next. This is packaged into dramatic, theatrical services. And served up by passionate, articulate pastors who deliver their sermons with the sort of persuasive gesticulation that any charismatic demagogue would have been proud of. The Bible is read in simple terms with key phrases repeated often, with the congregation repeating these words with the pastor. Pastors use the word ‘cool’ a lot.

Old Spice does a Hillsong

“There are similarities between Hillsong and Old Spice,” says Crawford. “Old Spice took masculinity and re-framed it for the younger generation. Hillsong did a similar thing with Christianity. It does not deny its heritage. But it re-imagines it in a younger, contemporary context.”

“Hillsong has worked out that it’s difficult to sell something to anyone if they’re not listening. If you can enthrall the audience with music and theatrics, then what you tell them after is on fertile ground,” says Crawford.

A Hillsong spokesperson responded with the following: “Pastor Brian Houston has always said, “The message is the same, but our methods have to change” when referencing the way that we have approached the culture and style of our church services.”

“There are many, many great churches across this country – from all denominations, and each one has a unique ‘style’ to their service. We recognize that the ‘style’ of Hillsong Church services doesn’t appeal to everyone, but each aspect of our services is designed to enhance the message of the Gospel – the very same Gospel of Jesus Christ that is being preached from pulpits all across the country.”

“We believe that the message of Jesus Christ is timeless – but our communication of it must change. Churches can no longer JUST preach to peoples’ Sundays. They must be relevant to their Mondays too.”

The service (brand experience)

My experience of Hillsong is just a single service, which lasted for one ‘hour of power’.

First, a song. This seemed to go on for an eternity, but probably lasted no longer than 15 minutes.

Next, a pastor reads out some prayers from the congregation. These ranged from finding a job and healing a baby with flu, to release from court conviction and a visa extension. These were followed by thanking God for prayers answered, which included someone passing their driver’s test.

The congregation was asked to raise their hands if they had “sickness in their body”. Those who raised their hands were touched by those around them and a communal prayer said for their recovery.

The pastor gives a free Hillsong CD to a member of the congregation. He then gives another to someone else, on the condition that the recipient gives it to someone “outside the church”.

Donation buckets were passed around.

During a warm-up speech, the pastor says: “If you give to God, He will meet your every need.”

He invited the congregation to sign up for evening classes to “be a light in the darkness” and help spread the word.

A commercial break. On large screens, a slickly produced episode of Church News. This promoted Hillsong College for ‘the future leaders of the global church’, Hillsong Live and Sunday Night Live, ‘Church like you’ve never known it before’. The pastor urges the congregation to “bring along someone who wouldn’t usually go to church”.

Pastor Grant Thompson takes to the stage to deliver the sermon. He asks who has a paper Bible and who has an e-Bible. Most of the congregation have either iPhones or iPads. To make a point about being true to yourself, pastor Grant uses an analogy of a poor man who musters enough money to buy a Sharp calculator. But the calculator, he discovered, was a fake (a ‘Shrap’) and doesn’t work.

The service closes with a (very lengthy) song called Our God with the lyrics ‘Our God is greater, Our God is stronger’.

Culture

The culture of the Hillsong brand is based on ‘leaning in’ and ‘giving yourself’ to the church – a powerful antidote to loneliness. “Personal accountability defines culture in any church, any business, any family,” says Houston in a video on culture. “What do you lean into? What do you give your heart to? That is what will frame the culture of your world.”

“When we started out, we never thought about the culture we wanted to build. We just did what we believed God called us to do. We are not trying to build a culture, we’re trying to be a culture. And the more you give to it, the more others will give too,” Houstons says.

Star leadership

Brian Houston, the senior pastor at Hillsong, is a religious celebrity, as is his wife Bobbie. The Auckland-born 57-year-old is a talented orator, which provides Hillsong with another lucrative revenue stream from his appearances on the international speaker circuit. An Australian marketer I know, who isn’t a Christian, used to go to Hillsong services just to study Houston’s presentation technique.

Houston is also an author of 12 books (including the titles You Need More Money, How To Live In Health & Wholeness and Get a life), executive producer of Hillsong Music and fronts Brian Houston @ Hillsong TV. He owns a number of houses, including a waterfront property in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and rides a Harley. He is never seen wearing a clerical collar.

Targeting children

Hillsong Kids has five brands for children of different ages, including Voltage for five and six year olds, Fun House for kindergarten age, Cubby House for those aged 12 months old to two. Branded play areas are located in Churches, and extensions of the conferences (including Kidsong) cater for youngsters.

Hillsong Kids has released five albums.

Hillsong markets effectively to young people of all ages, and is active in universities recruiting new blood. Which doesn’t always prove popular. A former student told me: “When I was studying at university, a group of people from Hillsong visited to ‘make friends’ with students. I found it intimidating. Anyway, some of my uni mates joined them. Why? Either because they were worried they wouldn’t pass their finals, or they thought their music was awesome. They bought into it like it was a product, not because they really believed in Jesus.”

Though Hillsong may seem to have a young following, the church insists that its consumers are not predominantly young.

A Hillsong spokesperson told Mumbrella: “Contrary to what has been reported in the past, our largest ‘demographic’ is not ‘young people’ – but instead is aged 35-45. I think the ‘young people’ of our church are more visible than other churches because Hillsong places great value on and believes in raising up the next generation of youth to be functional, contributing, healthy members of society…and we have a lot of fun and passionate young people in our church!”

Brand story

The story of Brian Houston has an aspirational rags to riches appeal. A kiwi, who some time after arriving from New Zealand and joining his father’s church, began riding around Parramatta in a red Datsun 180 B as he started his own following, is well featured in Houston’s sermons, and in the video Only for a while.

Events

The biggest event (and probably biggest money spinner) in the Hillsong calendar is the annual Hillsong Conference. Tickets for the event in July 2013, to be held at the Allphones Arena in Sydney, are already on sale and the event features prominently on the home page of Hillsong.com.

The conference is being marketed under the banner ‘This is revival’ with streams on ‘empowering leadership’ and ‘creative worship’. Guest speakers and artists featured on the event website are displayed with their own Twitter hashtags. Prices range from $199 to $299 for a single adult, depending on how long you attend for.

Here’s a promo video for this year’s conference.

There are also spin off events catering for men (Men’s 2012 Conference), women (The Colour Sisterhood, which carries the slogan: ‘Heat it up baby, heat is up’) and children (Kidsong and Jam).

Events are marketed through email, social media, direct mail, online video – with the production values of a music video – and word of mouth through services and connect groups.

Marketing marriage with Gloria Jean’s?

Gloria Jean’s products at Hillsong

Contrary to often-repeated claims, Hillsong denies that it owns Gloria Jean’s Coffee, or runs any co-marketing programs that could be mutually beneficial.

In a statement to Mumbrella, Hillsong said: “Hillsong Church does not own or operate Gloria Jean’s and has no legal or financial ties to the company. Gloria Jean’s is a privately owned business and the owners of Gloria Jean’s have publically acknowledged that they attend Hillsong Church. It is also a well known fact that Gloria Jean’s coffee is sold at Hillsong Church. Church is all about community and anytime Australians gather, they love to socialise around a good cup of coffee – and we have chosen to sell Gloria Jean’s coffee at our church on the weekend, an iconic Australian brand.”

Merchandising

One of the busiest areas of Hillsong Church is the gift shop (known as the Resource Centre), where you can buy books, CDs, DVDs, USBs, Bibles, T-shirts, tote bags, coffee (branded ‘The Home Blend’ – not Gloria Jean’s), which are all available online too.

The shop made me think of the one bit of the Bible I can remember. When Jesus gets angry at people who’ve turned a temple into a market (Matthew 21:12). “He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.” But then Hillsong would argue that the proceeds go back into the church (and good causes).

Multicultural marketing

I would guess that 80% of the congregation in the city service in Sydney on Sunday was of ethnic origin. Hillsong’s marketing material – from direct mail collateral to video content – reflects Hillsong’s ‘inclusive’ appeal.

A Hillsong spokesperson says: “Hillsong Church continues to grow with average, everyday Australians looking for a place of worship to call home. There are no criteria for joining our church. It is a ‘come as you are’ congregation. Hillsong Church is made up of people from all ages, cultures, and backgrounds.”

Social media

Hillsong has a strong presence on Facebook (music pages Hillsong United and Hillsong Live have 4.9m fans, Hillsong Church has 119,000) and YouTube (126,000 subscribers and 41m views from four channels). Less so on Twitter (Hillsong Church has 217,000 followers, Hillsong United has 388,000). It also runs a popular blog site, Hillsong Collected.

Hillsong on iPhone and iTunes

Podcasts of Brian Houston’s sermons are available on iTunes. In the last two months, Hillsong reports an average of 185,000 downloads per month.

The copy on the landing page for the iPhone app, reads:

Be a tap away from Hillsong Church where ever you are.

Connect with Senior Pastors Brian & Bobbie Houston, Joel Houston, Joel & Julia A’Bell, Reuben Morgan, Gary Clarke, Carl Lentz, Phil Dooley and that’s not all.

Be the first to get content from Hillsong UNITED, Hillsong LIVE, Hillsong TV including blogs, photos, music videos and so much more.

All this presented in a convenient magazine-style layout designed to inspire you and fill you with faith for what God can do in your life & your local church.

Ambient media

Ranges from floor stickers and flyers to writing ‘Jesus is love’ in text-speak in the sky on Easter Day, the same slogan that’s written on the side of Hillsong public shuttle buses.

So why is Hillsong so powerful?

I’ve heard a bunch of theories on this. It’s not just, of course, because of slick marketing and music. Some say Hillsong has tapped into something that is ‘missing’ in young people’s lives. A sense of purpose and belonging. A relevance in a cold, apathetic world.

And yes, everyone needs to believe in something. Some scientists think (and I agree) that there is a gene that codes for the need to believe – as powerful as the instinct to reproduce, eat or breathe. Hillsong has packaged its beliefs better than anyone I can think of. Even Coca-Cola.

The reasons people join Hillsong that I’ve heard are varied too. To make friends. Find a girlfriend. To give up smoking. To be a better person. Be part of something that is ‘young, fun and growing’. But mostly because a friend has taken them along to a service, and they’ve ‘found God’.

And let’s be clear. The Hillsongers I have met, or who know through other people, are not brainwashed members of some cult. They are normal, intelligent people who have bought into a way of living. A brand. The difference between the Hillsong brand and others is that it is not just part of their life, like a Qantas flight or a Tim Tam. It is their life.

I am an atheist. I do not believe in God. And I certainly do not believe in some of things that Hillsong supposedly stands for (such as homosexuality being ‘unnatural’ or the theory of intelligent design). Although it cannot be denied that this church does a lot of good for a lot of people.

But I do believe it just might be Australia’s most powerful brand.

Marketers. Watch and learn.

  • Robin Hicks

Comments


  1. Balls
    26 Jul 12
    10:40 am

  2. Cult.

  3. Jim
    26 Jul 12
    11:31 am

  4. What they can learn is that if you read bed time stories to scared people looking for faith in a world where there really is none to be had, you can make a load of cash by continually keeping adults in a childlike wonder state if you present what is basically the glorification of a Roman Torture technique ie: Jesus strung up on a cross. if you preach that Jesus walked with Dinosaurs and that fossils are put in the ground to “test us” you can keep willing morons in a zombie state whereby they will hand over cash if you put on a ceremony that works more like a rock concert. Anybody thinking that a belief in god will give you the answers and an all access pass to some deranged fluffy infinite wonderland in the afterlife gets everything they deserve..look around the world is an evil place..hell…I’d say we’re already there. 12 years of catholic education taught me one thing. God fearers (believers) are the most evil bunch going around. Children with power…its an ugly thing. The dice is loaded, the game is fixed and nobody gets out alive.

  5. Groucho
    26 Jul 12
    11:39 am

  6. Scientology wasn’t a cult either.

    If it tithes like a cult, if it shuns like a cult, if it has strange rules and practices like a cult then it is a cult.

    It is one with a PR company, but it is still an exploiter of the vulnerable.

  7. EmF85
    26 Jul 12
    11:40 am

  8. Wow!
    Have heard about Hillsong in passing and was vaguely aware it was some sort of musical focused church group but I had no idea it was this huge and influential for so many people. While I don’t agree with alot of what they do or stand for, the strategy behind their brand is incredibly clever – taking something as age-old as religion and the bible’s teachings and bringing it into the 21st Century. Pity the Catholic Church wouldn’t do something similar and admit that to remain relevant, you have to move with the times!

  9. EmF85
    26 Jul 12
    11:52 am

  10. PS – great article Robin, thanks!

  11. Ted Haggard
    26 Jul 12
    11:56 am

  12. If only we could all practise what we preach..

  13. Mat R
    26 Jul 12
    12:11 pm

  14. How great would it be if Satanists could start something like this? The music bit would be genuinely cool, and the conferences – wow, just imagine. Would be heaps fun.

  15. Kevin
    26 Jul 12
    12:27 pm

  16. I am a Christian but that does not mean I am a Hillsong-er. Within the global church, there are many different expressions of faith and belief and how a church service is run, whether it be baptist, presbyterian or charismatic. I appreciate the songs that Hillsong writes as avenues for my personal worship to the God i believe in, because they are just great songs to sing.

    This is a great article examining the business aspects of Hillsong while avoiding the condemning rhetoric that so often accompanies such pieces. While some of the goings-on behind the scenes seem a bit dodgy from the outside in, like you said, the members of Hillsong are by no means a brainwashed cult.

    As for teaching that Jesus walked with dinosaurs Jim, and your assumptions on all believers being evil people, the very same generalisation can be said about atheists or non-believers. The fact is that people everywhere tend towards evil regardless of religious belief (we call that sin). Christianity presents the solution in the man of Jesus Christ. There’s more to our faith than just arguing about evolution and gay marriage (which in reality are only minor issues compared to the main story- the story of the life, death and resurrection Jesus Christ).

  17. Sarah Jamieson
    26 Jul 12
    1:41 pm

  18. I attended the funeral of my friend Jeremy, an avid member of the church, at Hillsong many years ago.

    No word of a lie, there was a large chunk of the sermon dedicated to the “recruitment” of new members of the church, where the pastor said numerous times “you should embrace our church, Jeremy would of wanted it this way. Come to the front and accept Jesus into your life” and then they proceeded to hand out free bibles with information about the church slotted in the front of them.

    I wasn’t there to become part of any church, I was there to mourn the loss of my friend, but they made me feel like I was there to be inducted into Hillsong.

    Will never forget it.

  19. Ash Tag
    26 Jul 12
    1:50 pm

  20. Really nice to see some in-depth feature stuff on Mumbrella… Nice one Robin. As an aside, I find the left hand side-bar too much of a distraction when trying to read this longer-form stuff however…

  21. LEANNE
    26 Jul 12
    1:53 pm

  22. Well written story! Appreciate you attending a service Robin rather than read other media write up’s which quite frankly focus on anything negative to be controversial.

    Yes, they are an incredible brand – their marketing and work is impressive. But their main focus is putting people first – everytime! And I can say this, because they changed my life and I am eternally grateful.

  23. JC
    26 Jul 12
    1:57 pm

  24. Screw the meek and take their money

  25. Doug
    26 Jul 12
    2:00 pm

  26. The complications that come with such a big church is that if you question it, it has the machine to crush you.
    I know you will tell me they put money into the community… But imagine if they didn’t build that new building and instead paid for food in an Indigenous community, or other country… they would wipe out poverty in that region.
    And as for Gloria Jeans not being a part of it… Peter Irvine that owns Gloria Jeans is top 3 in the church. You cant get a franchise unless you are part of the church, and profits are tithed to the church. Be honest people!
    But to the point… they have an amazing job branding (branding based on fear)

  27. B
    26 Jul 12
    2:01 pm

  28. I don’t agree with the gospel according to Hillsong, but my goodness Robin, that was an outstanding article.

  29. Bustin Jeibers
    26 Jul 12
    2:06 pm

  30. Best article i have ever read on Mumbrella bar none. I never knew much about Hillsong outside of them having tons of money and a a big following in certain regions of Sydney … i certainly didn’t realise they were world wide. I am in no way religious but found this although somewhat uncomforting – very informative. Cheers Robin!

  31. Stephen Byrne
    26 Jul 12
    2:07 pm

  32. While this is an interesting article, it’s a long stretch to say Hiilsong is Australia’s most powerful brand. There are plenty of other brands across the board that could lay claim to that, most notably brands like Apple, Google, Coca Cola, GE, McDonalds, the Olympics, Nke et al and even in Australia, The Wiggles which I’d lay claim to have a much more significant brand power both in Australia and internationally than Hillsong. The problem with Hillsong is that is it almost impossible to measure its brand value as its a registered church and so its complete business dealings and accounts are outside tradiitional accounting measures used in valuation models. So the relationship between the directors of HIllsong and Gloria Jean’s, for example, is not as it seems. Robin’s article completely glossed over issues of turnover, particularly from its music division. A quick bit of research would have told him that in 2011, according to its annual report, Hillsong Church Australia last year earned $64 million, with total assets of $28.7m and income from conferences at $6.7m.

  33. Anonymous
    26 Jul 12
    2:13 pm

  34. Really interesting feature. Outstanding work. A lot of thought and work went into this. Keep up the quality journalism.

  35. Emma Morton
    26 Jul 12
    2:24 pm

  36. Well said Kevin. Hillsong are a church who love Jesus passionately and who encourage others to do so also as well as loving all people in all nations. It is a good article explaining the business side of the church which needs to exist like any other organization. It did fail to mention how generous the church is on so many local and global levels and the massive impact it is having in poorer nations of rebuilding communities. But like most media stories, youre looking for the negative rather than showing the positive.

    Hillsong doesn’t preach about getting wealthy or that giving to the church will make you wealthy. They preach what Gods word explains – that all we have is from God and belongs to God. The principle of tithing is to remind us that what we have an what we own is not the most important thing in life. Tithing helps us be detached from the love of money and greed. Sure God blesses us when we give…but this doesn’t just mean giving with money…God blesses us when we love others more than ourselves, when we give away more than what we want to get, when we take the time to listen or care for someone else.

    Hills musical sound does connect with a younger generation and that’s great! The lyrics can connect with all generations. I would rather my child be dancing in the church than dancing on the street and connecting with a generation who still have hope and are empowered to help others and love others.

    Sure Christians don’t get it right all the time…probably not most of the time…they are humans. One thing I can guarantee is that people (even Christians) work, media, love and life will let you down and may even ride you off…but God will never.

    Hillsong is a great Brand because people connect with it, it changes lives for the better, it offers hope, it equips, it resonates with many generations, it’s loyal, it loves people and offers a lifestyle.

    It’s a smart Brand because it runs like any other competitive business would, remembering customer/people relationships matter the most.

  37. paul
    26 Jul 12
    2:31 pm

  38. Doug you are full of shite, you don’t need to be a member of Hillsong to own a Gloria jeans franchise or any church or christian. I have three friends who own a franchise who aren’t members (in fact 2 are atheists)…mate get your facts right

  39. ballsballs
    26 Jul 12
    2:34 pm

  40. it’s a cult, money making cult.

  41. Jacob
    26 Jul 12
    2:34 pm

  42. I agree Jim.
    Hillsong is as much a form of money-spinning brainwashing as it is a faith.
    Brain Houston is nothing but an incredibly savvy businessman.
    Power to him, he get’s what he wants out of people.
    Cash.
    JB

  43. Mark
    26 Jul 12
    2:36 pm

  44. Interesting article.
    As a competitor in the faith market (if you can call it that) it’s main selling point compared to traditional organised religion is that you don’t need to do anything other than turn up and participate in that moment.

    Other religions will highlight your shortcomings, ask you to help the poor, giver up your time to participate in community development activities, acknowledge your sins and it’s difficult.

    Hillsong is definitely Australia’s modern brand sucess story. As an entertainment brand more than anything, they’ve been able to leverage and monetise Christian stories to create the perfect entertainment for young people, without any of the guilt or hassle of having to be held accountable to Christian values.

  45. Dan
    26 Jul 12
    2:38 pm

  46. Marketing geniuses, moral bankrupts.

  47. crimmins
    26 Jul 12
    2:40 pm

  48. Kevin – you lost me at ‘I am Christian’…

  49. Pitch Doctor
    26 Jul 12
    2:42 pm

  50. We must pray that Robin’s visit to Hillsong does not prevent Mumbrella from publishing the criticism that this organisation so richly deserves. That really would affect its credibity. Even more than the spurious logic underpinning this piece about a ‘brand’ praising this money making machine so succinctly described by
    ‘Balls” above.

  51. juzz
    26 Jul 12
    2:48 pm

  52. great read robin, appreciate you actually going to a service to experience it and then to comment. a powerful brand, and i believe they do a lot of good as well. loved the old spice pic. thanks again. very informative and interesting read.

  53. JK
    26 Jul 12
    2:53 pm

  54. I need to start a cult… there’s money to be made!

  55. nineteeneightythree
    26 Jul 12
    2:58 pm

  56. If it was founded in 1983, doesn’t it turn 29 next month?

  57. Mich
    26 Jul 12
    3:04 pm

  58. Always surprises me when people approach stuff like this with such pessimism and mistrust. Fair play to Robin for going in and actually checking it out before forming an opinion. I have no real opinion about this – because I haven’t been to an event or done any research. For those of you commenting on this – all high and mighty – and oh so cool – giving out shit about stuff you have no true knowledge of, shame on you all – do some research, open your minds an inch maybe, and then have an opinion. Or even better, live and let live. This seems like a positive thing in a lot of people’s lives. If it’s not for you simply don’t go – and shut the hell up with your small minded, arrogant and judgemental views. You bore me.

  59. Rodge
    26 Jul 12
    3:12 pm

  60. @Doug, how do you suppose GJ franchisees get selected in states and towns where Hillsong doesn’t have a presence?

    @Sarah, I too was a friend of Jeremy’s and I’m sorry you experienced his funeral that way. It probably WAS seen as an opportunity to share the Christian message with many people who normally wouldn’t step foot inside a church, but it probably could have been done more subtly. The challenge for us Christians is always how to share a message we believe to be the most important message ever in sensitive, appropriate ways. As you know, we often get it wrong.

  61. Annalise
    26 Jul 12
    3:13 pm

  62. Wow, what an incredibly awesome piece about a super strong Australian brand. I am also an atheist but I think Hillsong have some serious marketing skills, they’ve developed from a little dinky-die backyard church to a mega church known all around the world. While I question their beliefs, they certainly know how to get a buck or two from their followers, which is essentially what it’s all about.

  63. Jasmine
    26 Jul 12
    3:14 pm

  64. I am a Christian too and attend a church similar to Hillsong in my local area. I love that it is relevant and modern and after growing up in a more traditional faith environment, found it so refreshing to listen to music that I liked that was positve and faith filled. I am eternally grateful for the work of Hillsong and the Christian Church in Australia as a whole. If you ask Hillsong “what is your core strategy/message?” I can guess fairly well it would be to “Love Jesus and love people”. They do so much for the community by means of charity work and have be instrumental in many lives changing for the better – mine included. Have a look at their missions and mercy ministries, joint work with Compassion etc. This is a great article and althought I don’t agree that Hillsong “Target children” rather “Cater for children” it is refeshing to read a story in the media that examines the amazing and relevant way Hillsong has presented themselves over the years.

  65. Jenna
    26 Jul 12
    3:16 pm

  66. Great article and it confirmed by belief that Hillsong is more or less a money making machine that preys on the gullible.

    I find the idea of using the name of Jesus Christ to make money disgusting. Promising wealth is even worse. I have had a poor experience in business with someone who was a Hillsong-er. The reason they do gain wealth is because they don’t pay their bills but they do manage to get a product or service out of you.

    I am not a regular church goer and question the existence of God but I do find this “brand” of religion appalling and the teachings unrealistic.

    Thank you Robin for this well thought, well researched article.

  67. Sill Hong
    26 Jul 12
    3:28 pm

  68. Shouldn’t the opening paragraph read:
    “Hillsong is a multi-million dollar global brand with a massive following, particularly among the NAIVE young.” ?

    I have met and worked with two Christian’s over the last few years (real ones who go to church and all that.) One was a serial womaniser, who would probably sell his own grandmother to make a buck. The other a repulsive liar and not only would he also probably sell a family member to make some coin, he would adamantly say he was right, even when proved wrong. I swear both of them only went to church try to cleanse himself of their sins. Must of in fact?

    All practicing Christians are hopefully not like these two above. Admittedly though these are the only two I have came into contact with in the workplace (I do not ask people randomly if they go to church…)

    There are some great values spurted out by the religious lot, yet also vast displays of awfulness (covering up pedophilia in the Catholic church, as an example). I do agree though, for our fast growing non religious society, we need parents, teachers and institutions to step up on ethics from a young age. Values and morals are important. They do not have to be delivered with the fear of God, however they do need to be delivered.

  69. Steve
    26 Jul 12
    3:34 pm

  70. Robin,

    I’m on staff at another church here in Melbourne and I want to thank you on your balanced coverage.

    I manage our ‘brand communications’ and we are in fact a typical non-profit who lives and breathes very small budgets compared to my experience in the corporate sector.

    Hillsong is a great church, with a great team who presents what they are all about really well.

  71. I am young, but not naive.
    26 Jul 12
    3:59 pm

  72. I am young, I am a Christian and I attend Hillsong. I am not naive and I am not ‘brainwashed’.

    This article raises many interesting points however, the article and the many comments that follow fail to mention all the great work Hillsong does, including their Citycare services, work with the Watoto children’s home, A21 Campaign, Vision Rescue etc etc… The list could go on.

    Just because we market our faith in the way that we does”t mean its bad or not genuine. The Gospel that is taught is completely Bible based, so if you have issues with it, then most likely you have issues with the bible. Everyone celebrates their faith in different ways, our church has decided to do it this way. It works for us, it is interactive for the youth and engaging for adults. Hillsong has merely taken the message of the gospel and made it relevant for today.

    I’m not saying that everyone who has expressed their opinion are wrong (we are all entitled to them) but just saying perhaps look a bit deeper into the situation and not just selected aspects to the church.

  73. Jem Reis
    26 Jul 12
    4:04 pm

  74. Great article, thanks for the insights

  75. Truth
    26 Jul 12
    4:04 pm

  76. I’m a christian and Hillsong just happens to be my church because it speaks my language. I’ve gone to many churches in my life but I’ve settled in Hillsong because it is amazing.. church on a Sunday does consist of a live band of amazing and talented musicians singing radio worthy christian songs (obviously top-chart worthy), outstanding graphics on big screens, loads of very good looking, young and happy people, and most importantly, dynamic speakers who speak the truth of JC which helps me and everyone there be a better person.

    I must say Robin, this is a fantastic read and it is great that you did go there yourself as part of your research. Thank you for sharing their state-of-the art clips and media with this community. Being in media I often marvel at the work Hillsong puts out. Remember in this modern age, ministering has had to change forms and today it does look like iTunes, TV and the rest.

    What hasn’t come as a surprise is all the negativity and ignorance from commenters. So much to say without even stepping foot into a Hillsong church. I challenge you all, as long as it’s with an open heart.

  77. Carol
    26 Jul 12
    4:06 pm

  78. Robin, great article and kudos to you to actually visit the church and check it out.

    Kevin, Emma, well said.

    Doug, mixing some truth with lies = deception. Hope that’s not how you are with your friends and at work.

    Sil Hong – Its really lovely to know that being in the age group 25-64 is considered Naive and Young. :D

    Mark – Jesus didnt stop Mary for sitting at His feet just because Martha was upset. In fact I believe He told her not to worry so much about things. :D
    Something for us all to learn from?

    To the rest:-
    CHRISTIANITY & HUMANITY – Being a christian really is about the relationship we have with Jesus. And it is a journey of becoming more like Him, so in the process, as we all do, we make mistakes and do/say things that we shouldn’t. But in time we learn (some take a REALLY long time, so forgive them).

    We are by no means different from you just because we believe in Jesus. We still eat, breathe, love, feel pain, joy and many other human things. We are not aliens just because we believe in Jesus.
    For those of you who do not have a relationship with Christ, you will not understand what that means and why it is so important or why your friend would want you to have that too.

    CULT – If being Christian is a cult, then I think parents would be happy having their kids in that cult. At least it is better than turning to alcohol and drugs. Church should be a home, a place where you can receive encouragement and support.

    MONEY – Contrary to belief, you do not need to give money to the church. You will still receive help and support even if you are not giving money.

    Those who do, do it WILLINGLY and the communities locally & globally have received much of it.

    The financial statements are open for all to examine.

    OPENNESS – If any of you have the courage to explore beyond what you already know, perhaps you will come to understand fully what church is, and what a relationship with Jesus means.

    Qn – What are you afraid of? REALLY… What are you afraid of?

  79. Carol
    26 Jul 12
    4:11 pm

  80. Oh btw, Robin, forgot to add… When you have a personal encounter with Jesus… you will no long see God as a Brand. :D
    GBU

  81. Dec
    26 Jul 12
    4:18 pm

  82. @17
    My cat does the same thing for me and I don’t worship him or pay him money.

    “Sure people don’t get it right all the time…probably not most of the time…they are people. One thing I can guarantee is that CATS (even BURMESE) work, media, love and life will let you down and may even ride you off…but MY CAT will never.
    MY CAT is a great CAT because I connect with it, it changes MY LIFE for the better, it offers hope, it equips, it resonates with many generations, it’s loyal, it loves people and offers a lifestyle. He loves me unconditionally and I love him back.”

    Thing is, I know my cat exists. It’s the strong belief in talking snakes and unexplainable ignorance of Darwinism that I can’t get past.

    Good article, thanks Mumbrella.

  83. Cee
    26 Jul 12
    4:19 pm

  84. I work as film/TV makeup/hair professional and was once asked to donate my time to a Hillsong “giving back to the community event”. They could come into a tent free of charge and have their makeup done. I’ve never belonged to Hillsong but thought I’d do my own bit of charity. I found out half way through that the Supervising Hillsong church member was CHARGING the locals to have the experience!!. When I questioned her she curtly told me that “we are not for profit”. I packed up my stuff and took my free service out of there!

  85. feeonar
    26 Jul 12
    4:52 pm

  86. I have no problem with anyone’s beliefs, however they should be your own, based on your own education, experiences, thoughts and ideas, not through the influence of others opinions.
    I have always had an issue with Hillsong as with any other religious or belief focussed group that try to influence others in times of need, through their weaknesses or peer pressure. The ‘bring someone who has never been to church’ idea that has been discussed in this article is reflective of this sort of influence.
    In times of need, humans like to feel like there is something they can believe in, but any group that uses this as a focus for recruitment of new members is wrong, manipulative and their intentions should be questioned.

  87. L for marketing
    26 Jul 12
    5:28 pm

  88. What a brilliant article! Definitely the most enjoyable one I’ve experienced so far on Mumbrella. Well done!

    It’s refreshing to see an article about Hillsong that doesn’t try to spin a negative story but simply to tell the facts. I think Hillsong is a very clever brand and what’s wrong with delivering the word of Jesus in a modern way? People are so cynical – they complain when there’s crime and war and same goes for peace and love. Hillsong is about God and love and making the world a better place – why is this a bad thing? Would you not prefer to live in a world where there’s peace, not war?

  89. Rodge
    26 Jul 12
    5:33 pm

  90. Interesting how an article that includes phrases such as:

    “The Hillsongers I have met, or who know through other people, are not brainwashed members of some cult.”
    “…it cannot be denied that this church does a lot of good for a lot of people.”

    gets responses that seem to indicate the responders had their mind made up as soon as they saw “Hillsong” in the headline. I thought the media, marketing and entertainment sectors were full of humanities graduates: open-minded people with the ability to critique objectively.

  91. The message
    26 Jul 12
    5:34 pm

  92. When a church seeks to flow with the culture to reach it, the message will also change or be watered down. Listen to a churches sermon, and then go read the Bible, see if it is the same. Jesus said things like “Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish”. He didnt use any slick marketing, he preached his message in uncompromising boldness and was so counterculture that it got Him crucified. Today churches need to put away the marketing return to the Jesus way!!

  93. Barfly
    26 Jul 12
    6:09 pm

  94. How do I know when I’m brainwashed? Is it when my bank account is empty? How? Tell me lord.

  95. B.Hart
    26 Jul 12
    7:24 pm

  96. Interesting article. It was nice to read one that wasn’t heavily biased for or against the church. I attend Hillsong but I wouldn’t say that I am brainwashed. I question things about Christianity as well as how things are run in the church. I also do not hold onto the belief that God wants to make me wealthy especially if I give to the church.

  97. Matt Godfrey
    26 Jul 12
    8:10 pm

  98. I have my reservations about Hillsong but I will say this. I am in ministry in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in Sydney and I know a few Hillsongers now who have ditched the Dark blue jeans only Bella Vista scene and actually moved into our neighbourhood. They are actually coping a bit of flack from other Hillsongers for moving out here – apparently they can’t see the connection between following Jesus and loving people on the margins – and they have had a bit of pressure not to leave Hillsong, but hey some Hillsongers actually decided to come and meet Jesus in a tough neighbourhood an not just for a Saturday with a Fluro orange vest on but full time as meighbours. I thank God for them cause they can show other Hillsongers how to do what Jesus did – namely walk towards those people that everyone else ignores.

  99. Sill Hong
    26 Jul 12
    9:43 pm

  100. @ I am young, but not naive.

    I respect your comments and salute your acknowledgments.

    Why do you have to do good in the name of the lord though? Why cant you just do good? I am personally agnostic (if God jumped down from the clouds, said “hi”, PROVED to me that he existed, I might believe. however at the moment there is not proof? If I were a kick ar53 scientist, I would probably be an atheist (because most kick ar53 scientists are atheists…)

    I do loads of good. I have never had a fight. I look out for others. I donate to charities. I always try to empathise with others. The list goes on and it is all in the name of respect for my fellow beings, the land, animals etc It is not and does not have to be in the name of a fictitious being?!!!!

    Jesus would truly turn in his grave (if that is possible..?) if he knew what was going on “in the name of the Lord”, he would, he would be disgusted!!

    Many say that true religion / worship is paganism. Belief in the elements (real stuff.) This was religion until imperialists invented stories to keep the herds in line.

    Harvest festivals an example of a pagan ritual to celebrate being able to produce food, which feeds the flock and so course…

  101. darren
    26 Jul 12
    11:24 pm

  102. I think it’s funny how the article seemed happy that the church in Australia is in decline with a faithful handful of seniors as members…and that’s fine. BUT if a church is large, has great influence & has lots of young people, they must be thieves & robbers. Listen to yourselves. As an elite sportsman said on talkback radio yesterday, ‘Australians are the greatest sufferers of tall poppy syndrome. They love to cut down anyone doing anything good”. Well said mate. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Kicking the Chrustian faith is obviously ok…write the same article about the Jewish faith!!! No you wouldn’t…cos they own most of the media!!!

  103. Rich
    26 Jul 12
    11:37 pm

  104. Why do people assume that those with a faith are naive or gullible?

    A significant study by one of the original Surf Life Saving Ironmen into the elite mindset has found that one of the 4 critical commonalities among elite performers is “belief without proof”. Elite people from all walks of life – doctors, scientists, politicians, artists, actors, athletes, business people etc. invariably pursue their dreams believing in them without first seeing the proof of them. People climbed Mt Everest because they believed they could – even though no-one ever had before. There was no proof it could be done, just the dream that it could be. Thomas Edison kept found 10,000 ways not to make a light globe work, but he kept following the dream until he found the 1 way that did.

    Belief without proof is simply faith. Faith is not belief without evidence, because everyone gathers evidence about what works in their lives and what does not. Faith that lasts is always based on evidence, because humanity has a way of ditching things that do not work long term. To use a Dr. Phillism, people only do what works for them.

    So for some, it seems that faith in God has not worked for you. Ok – that’s your experience, but why rain on everybody else’s parade? Why stop people from pursuing their dreams? Especially when “belief without proof” is one of the keys to success? Is it possible that the success of the brand of Hillsong is because it communicates: “you are a work of art, in whom God placed an extraordinary capability, to make a specific contribution to the world so that together, we can have a better tomorrow”, and that people are drawn to that? Is that so bad? As far as world views go, I would rather people believe this than some of the others available…

  105. mary
    27 Jul 12
    1:40 am

  106. @41 no thats totally correct! the pampering was completely free for members of the conference. its called colour conference and sure, people pay money to come to the conference because its an insanely expensive conference to put on, but they do NOT pay for the pampering. that is completely FREE OF CHARGE and its just meant to bless the women during the free time.

  107. Ryot
    27 Jul 12
    7:36 am

  108. It’s scary how effective they are, it’s the inclusion in a community that people are looking for and then the fear of being ostracised from that community that keeps them there.

  109. Circling Sharks
    27 Jul 12
    7:49 am

  110. Let me take a moment to remind all of the Christians in this discussion. You are all just as much atheists as I am simply for the fact that you are one god away from not believing in any gods.

  111. Puzzled
    27 Jul 12
    8:07 am

  112. So, if God created all people, and homosexuality is a sin … why did God create homosexuals?

    Count me out.

  113. Urban
    27 Jul 12
    9:10 am

  114. Regardless of your views on religion (hell, I’m an athiest myself), the fact is that Hillsong IS a very powerful brand (although not as big as Coca Cola – but then, how many people actually worship Coke fanatically?

    But then, religion has always been about marketing. Whether it’s a speech by Jesus, the call to crusade at Clermont, the fear of the inquisition, the spread of religion shares a lot in common with marketing soft drinks or computer products (Apple, anyone?).

    Buy, believe and promote…

  115. bob
    27 Jul 12
    9:22 am

  116. great article, shame the comments have turned into a religious debate, with talks of athiest, christian, homosexuality etc.
    the article is about marketing and how hillsong are good at it. just like apple, and coke, hillsong have been able to present their product “christianity” to a new generation in a relavant way that has allowed a generation to jump on board.
    good on them i say.

  117. Emma Morton
    27 Jul 12
    9:32 am

  118. Is that your attempt at humor @17? Oh I’m sorry…I forgot to laugh. Your poor cat.

  119. Bri
    27 Jul 12
    9:40 am

  120. Imagine how much they could really help the poor if they didn’t spend millions on flashy venues, state of the art technology, producing TV shows and music and all the other crap they go on with.

    If they were really about helping people all this wasted money would be diverted to the truly needy and they could just sit on blankets at an oval with a megaphone if they really wanted to talk about the bible and other god stories.

    I like nice things as much as the next person but I don’t lie about helping people and trick the stupid out of their money so I can buy designer clothes and jet overseas.

  121. Bitter and Twisted
    27 Jul 12
    10:15 am

  122. Absolute cult.

  123. Tony Mc
    27 Jul 12
    10:56 am

  124. I think you’ve presented a great piece of journailsm here – thanks Robin. If Hillsong is a brand, a product then I guess it’s the consumers who get to choose it or leave it on the shelf. It appears to me that thousands are buying in and they seem to be pretty happy. Hardly anything to get all Hillsophobic about.

  125. Darren
    27 Jul 12
    11:03 am

  126. Yeah Apple do the same thing with their marketing – cheat stupid people to give up their money!!! Gullible people?? Steve Jobs was worth $gazillions$ at his death and I never saw all you Apple fan boys posting defamatory messages at his uber slick marketing campaigns…! And you call Hillsong hypocrites!
    But if you like Apple…then giving them your money is your business – right?
    The same applies to Hillsong or World Vision or Oxfam – whomever someone wishes to support is their choice. I choose to support three kids in Africa through Compassion – Are they manipulating me or brainwashing me?
    For goodness sake, some of these comments are rehashed dusty old opinions that have had no thought or research put into them. Ignorant fluff I say. This article is different however. Thought & research applied.
    Now, as Bob said, back to the topic of discussion…good marketing…!!

  127. nick williams
    27 Jul 12
    11:22 am

  128. I’m with Mich #28.

    I have never been to Hillsong and don’t have a strong opinion about it. There’s a similar type of Church close to where I live which is also very successful and I know a lot of people from my community who go there. They are all really nice people. Friendly, genuine, community focused. Have never tried to convert me (maybe I’m a lost cause) despite clearly believing in what they do and what their Church does. But they are all good people.

    Seriously, if they want to give 10% of their income, along with their time to this Church, good on them. If Hillsong makes money and most of it goes to good causes in the community but some of it goes to running their organisation and their founders then all good. That’s nothing different to any other charitable organisation – how much of the $$ you donate to World Vision etc do you think actually goes to the cause?

    I’m sure some of the people running these Churches can be political, single minded and ruthless sometimes. Same as people running any other organisation where they believe in their vision and are committed to their goals.

    let them do this. they’re not doing any harm to people, they are doing more good than harm in the community. There are far more deserving targets of our ire.

  129. Greg M
    27 Jul 12
    12:46 pm

  130. I wish Orwell were alive to witness Hillsong. He’d be telling us ‘I told you so’…

  131. Hmmmm...
    27 Jul 12
    1:14 pm

  132. To any Hillsonger’s on here, may I ask you this:

    How do you think Jesus would feel about the leader of your church using church funds to live large in a waterfront property, riding an expensive status symbol built by Harley Davidson?

    I’ve read the Bible. And I’m fairly sure that no reasonable person can take from Jesus’ teachings that amassing possessions and status symbols is a tenet of Christianity.

    You may believe in Jesus Christ, but I reckon He wouldn’t believe in half the crap your church gets up to.

  133. Friend in the Sky
    27 Jul 12
    4:42 pm

  134. Weirdos!!!!

  135. Adam
    27 Jul 12
    8:36 pm

  136. Last time I checked, Church organizations like the Catholic Church (same message different brand) are some of the richest organizations in the world housing their people and certainly owning significant properties and very expensive educational facilities in Australia and around the world. Is this not the same thing as many of you are being critical of? Just saying….

  137. Conch
    28 Jul 12
    6:06 am

  138. Australia’s most powerful brand? Really? Come on…

  139. Barfly
    28 Jul 12
    10:33 am

  140. Huge tax avoidance scheme, huge. Bigger than Bernie Madoff.

  141. Tim
    28 Jul 12
    10:59 am

  142. In response to “Hmmmm…” 27 Jul 12 1:14 pm

    1. I think Jesus would probably feel like ” Yeah he earns a wage just like you and spends it however he wants, just like you spend yours. Except he’s the CEO of a large organisation that contributes millions to third world development & charity organisations every year, as well as heading up Australia’s largest contemporary christian church. Maybe if you do the same, you could buy a harley too & get your spending habits scrutinised.

    2: I’ve ready the bible too. It says you reap what you sow.

    3: I believe in Jesus too.. in fact I know Him, & he’s’ pretty ok with me helping out people in need, either financially or otherwise. I can’t give if my pockets are empty.

  143. Agno
    28 Jul 12
    1:22 pm

  144. @ Tim. You know him?

    Can you pass me his email or mobile number? I wouldn’t mind getting to know him! It might change my view on things.

    I agree with your points though. Whilst I do not agree with a lot of the things Hillsong does and preaches etc I do agree that if somebody is smart and does a hell of a lot of good (pardon the use of the word ‘hell’) why shouldn’t they afford a few luxuries?

    I wonder in comparison who does the most for society v Hillsong (a global religion / cult) and lets say HSBC (a global bank)?

    Now that would be a feature I would read. Can anyone on Mumbrella go to town and research, to see which of these two global powerhouses actually has the most positive impact on society.

    Hey, can we rank the top 100 brands in the world in terms of the good they do for society?

  145. Darren
    28 Jul 12
    3:11 pm

  146. To #59 Hmmm…
    So what kind of house should he live in? What kind of transport should he ride? I hope you are contributing comments on other articles how Bikie Gangs also ride Harleys? Or is it only Christian leaders who should be banned from riding Harleys? You want a law passed or something??

    FYI – obviously you remember from your reading of the Bible when the Romans came to nail Jesus to the cross, they found his robe to be incredibly good quality…”seamless”…and thus chose not to tear it off, but to remove it and play a gambling game to win it…such was its value!! Maybe you would prefer Jesus to wear rags?

    NOTE: In Australia all charitable organisations must be independently audited annually and are under constant scrutiny of the ATO…as well as the scrutiny of the organisation’s own members & donors.

    How much more scrutiny would you like?

    Admit it – you are biased! And you suffer from the Australian disease known as “tall poppy syndrome” – you can’t stand it when others succeed.

    Give up cynicism for a day and celebrate stuff for a change.

    PS. I am not a “Hillsonger”.

  147. Trevor Trevorsen
    28 Jul 12
    3:49 pm

  148. Interesting article Robin. Here’s another rather amusing take: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/religion. Ricky Gervais is a believer.

  149. John
    28 Jul 12
    10:11 pm

  150. Hillsong is not just a “for the moment” church with no view to commitment.
    In fact high levels of commitment are normal there – but unlike a cult they are not commanded, manipulated or negatively imposed. Commitment is understood to be voluntary at Hillsong.

    But they have a strong commitment “policy” (for want of a better word, and programme – with small groups for pastoral care (as mentioned in the article) A bible school, bible training courses and personal growth and healing courses and many other such things – all of which are voluntary. They show they are not a cult by this voluntariness and the freedom members have to be involved or not involved or to leave the church altogether. Cults always put negative pressure on people and this is totally absent from Hillsong.

    The breadth of opportunities for involvement and commitment to something greater than the individual found at Hillsong is part of its appeal – people want to belong to something worthwhile where they can find a significant role. Hills gives this chance to many – but that does not make it a cult. Rather it shows it is a healthy sociological group that understands the needs of people and so caters for them.

    As for the preaching – one might get a particular sermon that may emphasis health and wealth promises – there is nothing wrong with that in itself as the Bible does have teaching on those subjects. One individual sermon on a topic is no guide to what Hills teaches on any subject. Hills tends to provide – over time – balanced scriptural approach to subjects. It is simply impossible to cover everything about any topic in one sermon – as I quickly found when I was a pastor. I also found that the tendency of complainers was to pick at things said in one sermon in isolation to other sermons on the same subject and paint a bad impression of things I said taken out of context of where and when I said them. Most of the complaints I have heard of Hills teaching fall into this category. If a person wants to find fault they will find fault – the Pharisees found fault with Jesus!

  151. John2
    29 Jul 12
    10:34 am

  152. Jim Jones’ compound in Georgetown and David Koresh’s in Waco were also voluntary. Being voluntary doesn’t mean it can’t be a cult. Conversely, being a ‘highly committed’ religion doesn’t equate to definitively being a cult.

  153. darren
    29 Jul 12
    11:08 am

  154. Or like being a paid-up member of a sports team…you give money & are encouraged to attend every game AND promote your team. Watch out for the Kool Aid at your local club people…if the above commentator’s comment is to be taken seriously!!!

  155. AdGrunt
    29 Jul 12
    11:27 am

  156. Nice work, Robin.

    Religion is the world’s oldest marketing campaign.

    Maybe a follow-up comparing and contrasting with the Catholic church?

  157. Agno
    29 Jul 12
    11:31 am

  158. A good friend of mine attends his local church (small, local community church.) He was asked by a friend to attend Hillsong. He went along and afterwards he felt sick to the stomach.

    Firstly he felt that there was no local community whatsoever at the church (with people travelling from miles round to get there, in cars, with no interest in the local community.)

    Secondly, he was appalled at how blatant the church was trying to get you to sign up to make payments to the church.

    He has never gone back and continues to attend his local church, which looks after the local community.

    He described Hillsong as the Westfield of churches. Enormous, greedy, faceless and interested in money over service.

    His opinion not mine and he is a practicing Christian.

  159. darren
    29 Jul 12
    5:01 pm

  160. Dear Agno #73. Obviously your friend’s opinion is valuable, as are all here. But he is like the local hardware store owner being “sickened” when he first walked into Bunnings. Do you go to Bunnings? Thousands upon thousands do. But Bunnings does EXACTLY the same as the small hardware store…just magnified a thousand times.

  161. nhet
    29 Jul 12
    11:04 pm

  162. I’m part of Hillsong and proud of it!

    I don’t care that some people think it’s a money-making business because for me, it’s Home.. It’s where I found a sense of family, love and acceptance.. It’s where the gospel is being preached, where Jesus’ name is lifted up and glorified.

  163. Agno
    30 Jul 12
    8:24 am

  164. @darren 73

    Bunning’s does not do what the local hardware store does.

    Generally your small, local hardware store offers service, real advice and usually high quality products. Tradies do not shop in Bunnings because they sell cheap rubbish in Bunnings at huge mark up’s.

    Have you ever purchased anything to do with plumbing from Bunnings? Have you bought a a BBQ from Bunnings? – absolute bin fodder is the quality. Who buys timber from Bunnings? You don’t. You go to a timber merchant. (Sheep will buy that stuff from Bunnings.)

    Bunnings is certainly not the same as a small hardware store. Bunnings is enormous, doesn’t know it’s local customers very well and is all about MONEY!!!!

    After all Wesfarmers own Bunnings, the same monopolising company who squeezes the crap out of manufacturers and farmers to fuel it’s Cole’s business.

    I wont even get onto their pokies ownership.

    Thankfully at least Hillsong do not invest in gambling – that is correct isn’t it?

  165. darren
    30 Jul 12
    11:19 am

  166. Agno…are you serious when you say “tradies do not shop in Bunnings”? Maybe you’re just kidding…or kidding yourself? You don’t have dozens of massive stores in every city simply by selling washers to the old bloke fixing a dripping tap. My background is in construction & I have many “tradie” friends & former colleagues in the business…every single one uses Bunnings. Your argument is for argument’s sake & incorrect. The local store (hardware or deli) services local streets. Your larger store or supermarket services a region. The same applies to churches I assume. J guess you’re going to tell me no one uses supermarkets now?

  167. Agno
    30 Jul 12
    12:04 pm

  168. @ darren.

    I don’t think you are being serious. Are you?!!!!

    If I employed a builder, a chippy, or a plumber and they were buying products from Bunnings I would let them go.

    80% f the goods in their warehouses are shite, designed to sell to the diy and home improvement weekend warrior…

  169. The Mob
    30 Jul 12
    1:25 pm

  170. Trust an article on religion to stir up the pundits – good to see.

    Organised religion albeit, the Catholic Church or modern day; Hillsong have tapped a well of the human psyche that is inherit in everyone – ‘what if..?’. Faith is a personal journey and can’t be proven to someone – you choose to believe or don’t. I believe Hillsong inherently wants to do good work, be a place for people to gather to worship and commune buts it’s underpinnings of prosperity theory, branding, expansionism and entertainment aren’t inherently what a church fundamentally is about.

    A church isn’t a brand or a corporation it’s a place to worship with others and importantly with God. Its about reverence, sincerity, humility and connection.

    People need to resist tampering with holy places and let them be as they were designed, vessels for worship.

  171. kia
    30 Jul 12
    5:19 pm

  172. Agno, clearly you have no idea about either Bunnings or tradespeople, because plenty of very good ones definitely buy supplies from Bunnings. Bunnings maintains good relationships with local tradies. I’m not personally a tradie, and I don’t work at Bunnings, but I do know a lot of tradies, and they all buy supplies from Bunnings. You’d be hard up trying to actually employ any builder, chippy, or plumber pretty much anywhere that hasn’t bought Bunnings products.

    /had nothing to do with religion… probably wise.

  173. Hmmmm...
    30 Jul 12
    5:33 pm

  174. Thanks to the Hillsongers for answering, especially to Tim who knows Jesus personally.

    So the general feeling is that Jesus would be OK about someone starting a church, asking for sizeable donations from followers, and keeping enough of the donations to fund the lifestyle of a multi-millionaire… as long as he also donated some money to charity too.

    Jesus has certainly got a lot more chilled about this kind of thing since he was back in the day.

  175. Agno
    30 Jul 12
    6:12 pm

  176. @ Kia,

    So if you were renovating your bathroom or kitchen and your builder went to Bunnings to purchase all the gear for your new reno, you would be happy with it?

    Would you buy your outdoor furniture from Bunnings and expect it to last 10 years?

    Are you kidding me?

  177. Agno
    30 Jul 12
    6:17 pm

  178. We have steered this from Hillsong to Bunnings. I guess the similarities point to the large corporate world wiping out the smaller player.

    Hillsong is a corporate church and I guess, with the likes of Woolies, Wesfarmers, Westfield etc all pillaging, why shouldn’t they as well?

  179. Tom
    31 Jul 12
    7:45 am

  180. Bunch of cults

  181. Tiki Godzilla
    31 Jul 12
    1:14 pm

  182. Excellent article.

    Funny isnt it, people who would generally describe themselves as intelligent, tolerant people are ready to jump on Hillsong and say its a “cult” or they are “weirdos” without ever setting foot in the place or attending a service. I’m no parishioner or believer of their doctrine but they seem to make a lot of people very happy and are having a mostly postive impact on their community. Not many organisations who are reviled can say that.

    The only thing in life that I have found to be more insufferable than a born again Christian, is a smug, self satisfied, condescending, evangelical atheist.

  183. RatsRepus
    31 Jul 12
    1:29 pm

  184. And rap is in competition to Hip hop, rock jazz and blues. Lots of different types of music. Lots of different types of Christians. Why does religion have make this bigger than it is. Hillsong is an organisation that spends a large part of the profits from their records doing great things. If bono does the same he is a saint. If hillsong do they are driving a manifesto. Enough brand envy.

  185. anon1
    31 Jul 12
    1:51 pm

  186. >The only thing in life that I have found to be more insufferable than a born again Christian, is a smug, self satisfied, condescending, evangelical atheist.

    I’ll take a “smug” atheist any day over some zealous deluded bigot who supports restricting the rights of other Australian citizens.

    Hillsong has given hefty donations to the homophobic Australian Christian Lobby, which politically lobbies to deny gay people the right to marriage. And Gloria Jeans apart, let’s not forget Mercy Ministries.

  187. BalmainBoy
    31 Jul 12
    5:15 pm

  188. I heard the Finance Manager at Hillsong break down an annual report’s outgoings to 11% on salaries; 25% property maintenance/electricity/building work/property acquisitions, and over 60% spent in community work (ie giving money to people/orgs/causes outside Hillsong). So a large revenue figure is only part of the story.

    The properties owned by Hillsong are held in trust for the church’s denomination – the Assemblies of God in Australia (1100 curches with a total congregation of 250,000). If Hillsong disbanded, all property would revert back to the denomination.

    Oh, and the annual conference makes a loss. Hiring out the Allphones Arena (previously the Acer Arena, previously the Sydney Superdome) and other halls in the Olympic precinct is pricy.

  189. Tone
    31 Jul 12
    8:22 pm

  190. Overpriced merch, passionate followers willing to stand around for hours to get their latest product, exceptionally strong branding … this could have been an article about Apple.

  191. Agnon
    1 Aug 12
    11:16 am

  192. @Tone

    Do Apple lobby against gay marriage and donate to ‘Mercy Ministries’?

    Steve Jobs did actually have cancer (he didn’t make it public knowledge until it had really developed) v Michael Guglielmucci who didn’t have cancer, yet told people he did and encouraged donations on the back of it.

    Wasn’t there an Apple in the Garden of Eden?

    If Jesus was around now I am 100% sure he would campaign for same sex marriage to be legalised. I am certain he would.

  193. fitter
    1 Aug 12
    3:54 pm

  194. Great article, very well balanced. An exceptional study in the power of branding, and the gullibility of most people that attend. Reinforced what I already know about Hillsong however, and christianity in general. Mystified is all I can say when conversing with these people, completley mystified.

  195. Adman
    1 Aug 12
    5:03 pm

  196. after a bit of research…Matthew 4:19. Jesus says to a bunch of guys in a boat catching nothing “follow Me. I will make you fishers of men”

    I don’t think Jesus himself, by making this statement, is under any illusions that its marketing. Its the same as any other message – believe it don’t.

  197. KiwiJ
    1 Aug 12
    10:36 pm

  198. He knows the book cover to back stands on stage telling those who go to listen parts out of that book, he tells those words well…. He is a good story teller, which is why so many go….. If ya ask me it’s good to see so many people there…. All there is to it is be good to others, all walks of live…..

  199. Wild Oscar
    2 Aug 12
    9:35 am

  200. Brilliant article. It’s inspired me immensely. Any one else out there want to start up a religious pseudo-Christian cult with me? I’m eager to live a life of intense wealth made from tricking my followers. Who’s in??

  201. Glenn Mabbott
    2 Aug 12
    11:03 pm

  202. Waiting for mumbrella’s expose of The Church of Scientology

  203. mumbrella
    3 Aug 12
    9:19 am

  204. Hi Glenn,

    It is a topic we’ve occasionally explored

    http://mumbrella.com.au/underc.....gists-8622

    Cheers,

    Tim – Mumbrella

  205. Groucho
    3 Aug 12
    10:04 am

  206. Perhaps Glenn is noting some similarities?

    Mumbrella could ask Hillsong about the exit rate being so high, necessitating constant recruitment. Or about the tithing of 10% of pre tax (ie total package) income. Or about cutting off dissenters. Or about how much of the charitable donation figure is to charities controlled by the church.

  207. Mac
    3 Aug 12
    6:43 pm

  208. I agree with the Christians here who exhort you to visit a Hillsong church for yourself before making a decision about what they are about. Please do.

    Jesus’s teachings were all about accumulating wealth and living in luxury. He lead by example – just like the leaders at Hillsong do.

    It isn’t as if Jesus wants his followers to die in poverty – not even having enough assets to cover funeral expenses! After all, Jesus lead by example and always made sure he accumulated money and possessions. If he lived today I’m sure he’d have an expensive home, thick carpets and luxury vehicles.

    That stuff about “Whoever has two shirts must give one to the man who has none” is just bad advice .. you should purchase a thick red pen so you can cross out those kinds of references in the Bible. Obviously there was a mistake in translation. He would never actually say that.

    The best bit is that some Bibles have already done this – the ‘Red Letter’ edition of the Bible already has the bits written in red that you should ignore. Invest in one. It saves the effort in crossing things out.

    Mac
    (PS: In all seriousness – I have met Christians who honestly follow Jesus’s teachings in their entirety .. even the difficult teachings like never defending yourself from violence. They have almost nothing and live in apparent poverty because they follow Jesus’s teachings to the letter .. they give away anything they might have that is absolutely not needed. After all – the Bible doesn’t say “If you have 2 cars and no longer need the second one then sell it.” Jesus didn’t talk about selling your second coat and tithing the money received – he talked about giving it away.

    There are some followers of Jesus who honestly do that. Despite my personal beliefs as an atheist – those Christians are truly the most impressive human beings that I have ever met.

    I could never live my life in that exact way.. but they opened my eyes to things.

    And when I attended Hillsong I was sickened by what I saw.)

  209. Tone
    4 Aug 12
    7:40 am

  210. @Wild Oscar: If you’re planning on floating your cult on the ASX, let us know. I’ve always wanted to buy shares in a megachurch.

  211. Catherine
    5 Aug 12
    7:48 pm

  212. I feel like I need a wash after reading all the comments that start with “I am a Christian” and that end with something unsurprisingly preachy. Shudder.

  213. Spagoni
    6 Aug 12
    10:35 am

  214. As the late George Carlin once said, “Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money.”

  215. taste of reality
    6 Aug 12
    2:03 pm

  216. Carol I found you a touch on the patronising side, you mention when you say “OPENNESS – If any of you have the courage to explore beyond what you already know, perhaps you will come to understand fully what church is, and what a relationship with Jesus means.”

    I have had the courage to explore Hillsong and other similar outlets and found their was a true lack of depth and sincerity. Thats just my opinion and I am entitled to it.

    Witnessing statements such as “if you dont take Jesus into your heart you will burn in hell’, frankly does not wash with me.

    I am deeply spiritual and have my own personal faith and believe that God/Buddha/Krisna is a kind god that allows each of us to have our own experience – God is not about threats and punsihments. You mention Openess and I feel that this is just where you are lacking patronising us with our ‘lack of courage’. Bit rude for a christian.

    In terms of Money – I have heard about several people who committed large weekly chunks of money and upon retrenchment received absolutely no help at all.

    Hillsong has been tremendously succesful but it reminds me of McDonalds – awesome marketing but little substance.

    If it floats your boat well that is super but everyone is entitled to their opinion without being chastised (not the christian way)

  217. Woosers!!
    8 Aug 12
    2:17 am

  218. I don’t do the God thing but all you haters are making me wanna check it out lol…

    Might have to tee up a visit to see what all the hate-o-rade is about!!

  219. DM77
    8 Aug 12
    11:58 am

  220. Prosperity theology was invented to allow people to lead a materialistic existence yet still sleep at night safe in the knowledge they have attained salvation regardless. It is a self serving modification of faith that resonates strongly with those who feel entitled to rewards without making any sacrifice.

    ‘And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’ Matthew 19:24

  221. Glenn Mabbott
    8 Aug 12
    12:48 pm

  222. I was waiting for someone to mention my favourite ad for KY gel, thanks DM77, that should be the last word, I’m off for a smoke.

  223. DM77
    8 Aug 12
    12:54 pm

  224. Glenn try and use the water based variety, a smooth glide and far more natural

  225. John Cavallaro
    9 Aug 12
    9:39 am

  226. Hi

    I attend hillsong and I find it great. I think people are naive to believe the attenders of hillsong are gullible or naive. I work in advertising I am probably more cynical then most. I think the media in australia has to wake up to itself and actually relate to the average australian. According to the last census 61% of Australians profess to be Christian. I applaud the author of this article as she actually did her reasearch. How she describes hillsong is relatively accurate. To take time to attend something find a park wait in line on a weekly basis it must be more then good branding. If it was I would be the first to stop as I am acutely aware of manipulation by brands. It is simply I have a faith and Hillsong is the least boring full of great people who genuinely care.

  227. Informed Christian
    9 Aug 12
    11:13 am

  228. I also attend Hillsong Church. To me churches are like restaurants… You don’t like it – you move on to another church… No one is tied down and forced to do anything they don’t want to do. The church is full of smart, educated, professional people who are there because they want to follow God and Gods ways. To say the church is full of mindless drones is insulting.

    The amount of work Hillsong does in communities that you will never hear about is massive. The amount of people that go out of their way with “random acts of kindness” or coffees & chats ‘just to see how you are’ are continuous.

    There are hundreds of business owners who attend Hillsong. But all the Critics focus on is GJ’s. To be honest Hillsong is FULL of coffee snobs. Most don’t drink GJ’s coffee.
    These business owners often volunteer their time to sit with others wanting to start businesses. Their currency is kindness and I think this is what the critics have a problem with….

    There are hundreds of professionals lots who I know personally. They are savvy with their finances and won’t be tricked out of a cent. Yet when they do give they give from their hearts to those in need. They volunteer to cut the grass of a less-fortunate families and never speak of their riches nor are they condescending.

    When I moved away from my local Hillsong Church I didn’t have Pastors calling me every week to see where I had gone. If I was insecure this might have been an issue, but I’m not. My friends that I’d made came to see me. They visited me & my family, they messaged us and called us. They Facebook me and instagram me – why? Because we are friends and friends for life!

    People need hope. This world is self destructing. And if we choose to find that hope at Hillsong Church – a church that truly loves Jesus – they why should we be insulted?

    I have Christian friends, straight friends, gay friends, atheist friends, friends who are Muslem, Hindu, Budists, etc etc. We all think of God & religion is different ways but we are still friends. Hillsong has only ever taught Love, Kindness, Tolerance & Peace. So I really don’t see what the issue is.

    You all have choices of who to be and what God to serve and where to outlive your faith or lack thereof. Why can’t Hillsonger’s?

    In saying all that Hillsong is full of People! Imperfect, stupid, unwise, smart-arsed, judgemental, crazy – just like you’ll find in any other community. But it’s also full of intelligent, kind, educated, giving, funny, sweet, generous, professional, talented & loving people also.

    And that’s just my 2 cents! ;op

  229. Informed Christian
    9 Aug 12
    11:17 am

  230. ps: great article Robin. Very objective ;)

  231. Agno
    9 Aug 12
    11:48 am

  232. @ Informed Christian

    So based on a book, which was written by others, many years ago, edited over time and changed to suit yet another persons agenda, you believe?

    I was always taught (just like journalists are taught) to relish primary evidence (the stuff you actually witness) v secondary evidence (the stuff you hear from somebody else).

    Unless the source is credible do not preach that it happened, unless you witnessed it yourself!

    I have friends, in many different circles like you. Admittedly I will always pull them up if they get talking factually about something that they have only ever read about, with no proof whatsoever.

    A naked flame burns paper – fact

    God created the earth in 7 days………..????????

    I don’t mean any harm, but I guess as technology advances and science keeps changing the record books, how can Christianity uphold any credibility? (Apart, of course, from it’s great social teachings – such as ethics and morals etc e.g. “love thy neighbour”)

    Good piece penned I also agree and the brand of Hillsong is living proof that marketing can be influential. You could argue that Coke is a religion and it’s followers are obese I guess?

  233. Informed Christian
    9 Aug 12
    12:49 pm

  234. @ Agno.

    I would choose to believe if it was solely based on Ethics and Morals. It’s really all about choice/free will :) this is my choice. I’m friends with Scientists who want to disprove everything I believe. I’m ok with their choice to do that. But I have had what I consider real encounters with Jesus (the creator

  235. Mac
    9 Aug 12
    12:49 pm

  236. @Agno: No! The creation didn’t happen in 7 days – check the Bible.

    In the book of Genesis the gods ‘Elohim’ created the earth in 6 days – not 7. (On the seventh there was rest – the job had already been completed)

    And in the creation story it talks about the creators as plural – not singular. The reasons why are fascinating .. the later chapters of Genesis come from Jahwist sources – which is why you have a single anthropomorphic God walking around and a talking animal – but the Elohist sources are quite different.

    The history of these historical documents really is fascinating .. it’s a thing of beauty to see how a single theology is moulded out of quite disparate sources. The New Testament casts the net even wider – you can see the introduction of Greek mythology and storytelling into the mix.

    Mac

  237. Informed Christian
    9 Aug 12
    12:59 pm

  238. Cont….

    The universe) whatever you want to call it :) ) I make a choice because of what I’m taught day in and day out at church. I’m a better wife. I’m a better mum!! I started my own business. I’m winning :)

    If that is all church could be about then it would be a great thing. Unfortunately the church at large has put shame on Christianity. That is unfortunate but I do feel that I’m a part of something that is making a positive difference.

    I’m a better person as a Christian than I am without. Trust me – I’d know ;)

    If everyone could be that with or without God the more power to them….

    I’ve been around church my whole life. I’ve seen the worst of the worst. I’ve seen the dirt that call themselves clean and that sucks. Ive been a part of a cult. I’m glad though that there is a church that demands more.

    Hillsong is FAR from perfect! But they are doing their best With what they have and I can’t fault them for that…

    I drink, I swear, I club. I’m far from perfect. But I’m not taught not to do those things. I’m taught freedom and responsibility. Those things matter more than a bunch of rules of what I can’t do. It’s my experience with Hillsong and I think it deserves to be stated…. :)

  239. Agno
    9 Aug 12
    2:21 pm

  240. @ informed Christian

    You do sound pretty down to earth I must admit.

    “I’m a better person as a Christian than I am without. Trust me – I’d know ;)”
    – I have experienced people who con, trick and steal, yet attend church, (I am guessing) to make it all better again, have a clean and carry on pillaging the next week and the next? This probably isn’t you, however why do you need a church to keep you focussed? What about joining a sporting club, or a business association? Social support doesn’t have to come in the name of God does it?

    “I drink, I swear, I club.”
    – Are you Canadian? Do you sell the fur?

    @Mac Are my mistake. A speaking animal you say? I have heard parrots mimic and dogs obey, however I have never actually conversed with an animal to date?

  241. Informed Christian
    9 Aug 12
    3:05 pm

  242. @ Argo

    Hahha yes I’m Canadian!! No not really ;)

    Christians are imperfect. Unfortunately I haven’t always done the right things either. But I admit to my mistakes, I correct them of I can and I try not to do them again. Is it always so good? Oh hell no!! Lol but I’m learning and trying as we go ;) I may never be perfect but I’ll die trying to always do the right thing… :)

    I play sport, belong to a mums group – have my non-Christian friends and attended church. This gives me great balance but I’ve seen my life without it and know its a mess. I guess the church keeps the moral guideline at the forefront. I’m not currently attending church with any frequency but I know my faith is strong and
    I’m doing all I can to maintain my level of commitment to God and this to my personal moral standards. I guess it does sound odd to some but it works for me. And that’s all I really need. Who I was without this is very destructive and self serving. This reminds me that others matter too…. ;)

    As for other dodgy Christians – they’re everywhere. But I believe God gives us convictions and they are personal & applicable to me. Some of my friends do drugs – thats their choice. I don’t push my beliefs or convictions on anyone. The only reason I posted was to point out that it’s choices – everyone has them and it’s up to them what they do with them…. I don’t judge – its not worth it! No one wins when we’re all pointing the finger….

  243. Ash London
    9 Aug 12
    3:12 pm

  244. Good singing, mate!

  245. Agno
    9 Aug 12
    4:35 pm

  246. @ Informed Christian

    H’mmm?

    Ethics and morals are very important. I just don’t see why we need religion to implement them?

    Admittedly adland could do with some ethics and morals. Makes me laugh how some agencies have a nice feel good ‘pro bono’ charity and then help to sell millions of litres of high sugar soda to the masses for their cash cow client, which sockens society with obesity, heart disease, diabetes and the like. Some would argue without soda we would be invaded by China though!

    Hey ho, change is a coming me finks.

    Have a good one, from a non religious person who cherishes good morals and values however is puzzled why so many people believe unsubstantiated secondary evidence? :)

  247. Nick
    9 Aug 12
    5:32 pm

  248. It’s positive to see that even Robin Hicks a self proclaiming atheist acknowledges that Hill Song church does a lot of good for a lot of people.

    So long as Hill Song church remains focused on their people and preaching the true message of the bible being hope and love, then I don’t see an issue. I’ve been to religious stagnant churches that aren’t helping anyone by preaching a depressing message of subsistence and condemnation. It’s also no coincidence that these churches are barely staying afloat financially.

    As a side note, I find it interesting that in a developed world that revolves around finances, educated people still point the finger at the church as if to say you shouldn’t be prosperous, I mean what poor person ever met someone else’s financial need, it just doesn’t work. The more you have, the more you have to give right?

    Whether you are a Christian or not, speaking positivity over your situation generally results in positive outcomes. Evidently witnessed in the Hill Song movement who constantly preach from a place of victory and prosperity. Personally I find it refreshing to see Hill Song church, take an age-old message and make it relevant to today’s generation through awesome presentation and cutting edge media.

  249. DM
    9 Aug 12
    5:59 pm

  250. Nick – it isn’t educated people pointing the finger and saying ‘you shouldn’t be prosperous’, it is the Bible which says that – in fact it states it explicitly! Look up Matthew 19:24. How do you respond to this verse?
    Helping people isn’t all about giving financially.

  251. Granville Roberts
    9 Aug 12
    6:00 pm

  252. Informed Christian, I admire that you don’t push your beliefs and convictions on anyone – very admirable.

    Just after lunch today I had a ring on the doorbell and two lovely old ladies asked if I had heard the word of God lately. I resisted all sorts of jokes about no batteries in my hearing aid. or that my Aramaic or Hebrew was rusty (I assume he spoke the same language as his son), and politely told them I wasn’t interested which they very pleasantly accepted. But it struck me that I’ve never been door-knocked by an atheist or an agnostic. For interest’s sake, does anyone know of anyone who has? I’ll even accept devil-worshipper door-knocks (though I suspect they would be a lot louder accompanied by some form of chilling noise).

  253. Groucho
    9 Aug 12
    6:17 pm

  254. So few brains, so much washing.

  255. Agno
    9 Aug 12
    6:19 pm

  256. @Nick

    Re “The more you have, the more you have to give right?”

    I guess it can depend on how you made your fortunes though?

    If by amassing large sums many thousands have paid a price and worked themselves into the ground for nothing to make the person / organisation rich, then it could be deemed a little contradicting don’t you think?

    Ronald McDonald House is a great example: The bread basket of the McDonald’s business has aided the obesity epidemic that we see today amongst our children, yet McDonalds also help to care for sick kids? It is a little like tempting kids to play with a flame thrower and after they have 3rd degree burns, placing them in their burns unit!

    It would be good to see a true hard, lengthy study into the real social impact certain brands have in a positive and negative way.

  257. Nick
    9 Aug 12
    7:00 pm

  258. Hey DM, I think Matthew 19:24 needs to be read in context from verse 16 onwards. I feel Jesus is drawing attention to the fact that the young man he is talking to has placed higher value on his possessions than Jesus. Jesus clearly states in the bible that you shall have no other idols and put him first. For many people money is an idol, which they place the highest value on in their life. I don’t think Jesus has an issue with people being wealthy or prosperous, so long as Jesus remains their number one love and they continue to bless others as commanded.

    Jesus does in fact preach prosperity in a number of sources. As a Christian I believe in tithing 10% of my earnings, I should also point out that tithes are not tax deductible in Australia, so I’m purely doing it out of obedience. Yes it hurts like hell sometimes because it’s a sacrifice but more often than not I find blessing come into my life from unexpected sources, so I continue to live by faith and put my trust in the big man upstairs.

    There are also many scriptures about prosperity in the bible, here are two of my favourites:

    Proverbs 3:9-10
    Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.

    Personally I have no problem with my vats overflowing with new wine :) Bring it on!! Even Jesus didn’t mind a good drop, evident by his first recorded miracle turning water into wine. That’s the God I serve :) Always up for a good time.

    Malachi 3:10 
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

  259. DM
    9 Aug 12
    7:18 pm

  260. Thanks for taking the time to respond Nick. I do understand that people are prosperous and indeed give significant amounts in tithe – I know of a guy at my local church who has made and given away millions over the years, most of the congregation don’t know as he leads a very humble existence with his family. Top man!
    Cheers

  261. Social Observer
    10 Aug 12
    3:49 pm

  262. On a slightly different slant:

    This article is currently the most popular on Mumbrella (in terms of comments received). It has received 123 to date.

    Looking at the social sharing buttons this article has been shared:

    Facebook
    – 195

    Twitter
    – 146

    LinkedIN
    – 36

    Google+
    – 2

    What is the go? Is it a similar trend for all articles on Mumbrella? Over all walks of media too?

    It would be great if Mumbrella could pen a piece around Google+ and whether it is gaining any traction, or whether it owns a certain area in social media / networking, which by the looks of it does not involve sharing media articles..?

    As you were ;)

  263. Rachel
    11 Aug 12
    2:12 pm

  264. I am a Christian and I hate hill song. Yup. I hate it.

    Every single one of those members will eventually come out the other side of the hillsong “church” emotionally and spiritually hurt, gutted and lost.

    It’s a very well run brand and it was in the right place, at the right time when it started.
    I will study it for the marketing and hate it for what it does to strong, committed and intelligent Christians.

  265. Brenton
    13 Aug 12
    3:17 pm

  266. Sorry no article about the ‘happy clappies’ is going to change my opinion about one of the largest homophobic organistions in Australia! Secular laws for all citizens not ‘Theocratic’ stealth through the federal Parliament’s back doors!

  267. On Da Fence
    13 Aug 12
    11:25 pm

  268. Does Hillsong have any affiliation with the Exclusive Brethren?

  269. Luke S
    14 Aug 12
    9:48 am

  270. Wow. I’m not at all partial to Hillsong but nonetheless this ‘article’ is extremely one-sided, one-note, one point-of-view.

    Couldn’t you have just presented the facts both in favour of AND against them, and be confident enough in your original point that Hillsong is Australia’s most powerful brand to expect people will agree? You seem to have extracted the very worst from a lot of quotes, named three of old mate Houston’s most shockingly-titled books, quoted the most petty thing they ‘thanked God for’ in the service, and left the rest in the scrapheap lest it get in the way of a shocking, gripping article about Australia’s scariest modern-day phenomenon.

    I remember Sunday Night doing a ‘Hillsong exclusive’ once, they gave a fair and honest look at both the good that Hillsong does (they do support and even run a whole lot of causes; human trafficking prevention, building schools in Africa, etc etc) and the eyebrow-raisers (she confronted Brian personally about his salary, the ‘You Need More Money’ book, all that) and let people make up their own minds. I still came out not wanting a bar of them but at least I wasn’t left with no other opinion to form from the points they laid out.

    I do commend you for actually attending a service and doing original research however, too many articles like this are written from Today Tonight and Wikipedia clippings and earmarked as ‘exposés’.

  271. Paige
    15 Aug 12
    9:30 am

  272. This is a very interesting article. However, this sort of church is extremely dangerous on so many levels. What’s even more worrying is there move into Politics ie. the clap happys. They can believe in what they want and they have my support to flog themselves every Sunday if that’s what they want. However, as soon as they start to tell me or anyone else what to do I draw the line and there move into politics via Family First is terrifying to me. People might say they are small now but if they keep growing we could end up like the USA where these right wing religious freaks actually wield some power. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. These clap happy religions need to be exposed for the shams they are and the 10 per cent of each congregants annual income they also demand. If there is a God, I don’t think she wanted religion to be like this!!

  273. mzd
    15 Aug 12
    2:47 pm

  274. Really interesting article Robyn – never have seen anything on how religion is marketed. You have to give kudos for Hillsong’s successful mar-comms strategy. Almost in a way like peddling it as a drug of faith – getting a ‘natural high’ from religion. But certainly very attractive to those who aren’t partial to traditional services.

    Fascinating to hear some of the responses from Hillsong members too. I honestly don’t think anyone wants to class people who have faith as naive or stupid etc. I had a relatively relaxed Christian upbringing (but would consider myself agnostic now), but I’ve been involved in productions etc with members of Hillsong and other similar religious groups. What intrigued me was the amount of influence the church had on their personal lives and beliefs – to the point they were telling members who to vote for in the federal elections. A real blending between church and state. I am also very wary of any leader of any organised religion who appears to use the Church’s coffers to boost their own wealth.

  275. wombat
    20 Aug 12
    1:28 am

  276. I say good on Hillsong. It’s not perfect and it will never be, especially in a world full of free speech

    It saved my life, so I will put a good word for it.

    If it is saving me life on a weekly basis and perhaps others, then I say – let it be, man!… or better still, I challenge all to take part in warming its seats! :0)

    Warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate warms your tummy while God’s words warms your heart and soul for the week to come. There’s hardly anything cult about it at all actually.

    Free bus shuttle can then extend your weekend social… Hey church is for everyone to enjoy! :0)

    Come and be encouraged, everyone :0)

  277. Todd
    20 Aug 12
    4:29 pm

  278. Yeh sorry Wombat, I can’t get into a church whose pastor is a rich man

  279. Informed Christian
    20 Aug 12
    5:59 pm

  280. And I WON’T go to a church where my pastor is a poor man… I grew up
    In the church my whole life. My parents were pastors and were poor as church mice. Couldn’t afford nice stuff, ever! Even Christmas presents were scarce. Nothing to eat on occasion… God always provided but we lived the skin of our teeth… It was a horrible state of affairs that almost caused all us kids to hate God & the church.

    Now at Hillsong I’m taught responsibility. To look after my family first. To then take of others. Brian earns every dollar he has. He speaks worldwide, he leaves his wife, kids & grand kids for weeks at a time to speak LIFE into others lives. And still manages to look out for his church family in Australia. He is the “CEO” of the Hillsong brand and earns NOTHING compared to most CEO’s. He started off poor and is
    Smart with what he gets so why shouldn’t he? Just cause its not
    Something that you agree with doesn’t mean it’s wrong… Just sayin!!

  281. Matthew
    20 Aug 12
    6:16 pm

  282. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth … and Hillsong will then be able to inherit what the meek have.

  283. LeMule
    21 Aug 12
    8:45 am

  284. I’d rather have Hillsong than Islamic extremists anyday

  285. Doug
    21 Aug 12
    1:45 pm

  286. Wow… what is the opposite of Troll? Me thinks that the Hillsong machine has started and positive messages are miraculously appearing from people (who Im sure are brand new to Mumbrella). Another example of how the church markets itself… drive its fans/consumers to “like” itself and therefore drive organic SEO… If you have the fans/followers, make them work for you… a similar example is how the guys behind the TV show Housos (www.facebook.com/housostv) are driving fans to the upcoming big-screen movie release… [Housos and Hillsong... just as passionate fans, just with different language.]

  287. Informed Christian
    21 Aug 12
    2:19 pm

  288. Granted that some organizations do that, we are never encouraged to do so…. In fact we are definitely discouraged from this. In saying that I’m an opinionated cow so I can’t help myself ;)

    I googled Hillsong and found this article. Dont know how others have found it tho…

    Then I saw a guy from Mumbrella on the Morning Show on Channel 7 so I read more article on this site. I did read this article and liked it a lot. Then I read the comments. It’s almost like people would rather believe a lie about Hillsong, than the truth. So yeah – I decided to comment so I could share my point of view. Just like I do on lots of sites about lots of things…

  289. Brian
    22 Aug 12
    10:30 pm

  290. I think it was “Blessed are the cheesemakers”.

    Aha, what’s so special about the cheesemakers?

    Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.