"Well it has been just over a week now since the news dropped that Lucille and I will be moving to plant Hillsong LA. I must admit the response has been completely overwhelming."
Ben Houston (son of Hillsong founders)
In the fall of 2012 rumors began circulating that Hillsong Church (based in Sydney, Australia) planned to establish a new church in Los Angeles. It already has locations in London, New York City, Paris, Stockholm, Amsterdam and other cities around the world.
Four months ago those rumors were confirmed when the following announcement was made by Charisma News:
Hillsong Church founding pastor Brian Houston announced that the megachurch, which already has 11 congregations worldwide, will be starting a new church in Los Angeles.
“God is good and His timing is perfect!” Houston wrote Tuesday in a blog post explaining the new venture. “Los Angeles is a city of millions of people—people chasing broken dreams, people desperate for hope in a higher cause, people longing for meaningful relationships with one another. Hillsong Church is about all those things. It is about ‘welcoming home’ the lost, the broken, the hurting, and the lonely. It’s about connecting families; building purpose and value into everyONE and it is about seeing the Good News of Jesus Christ proclaimed everywhere—including the bright lights of big cities like LA.”
As you might imagine, this announcement is being met with mixed emotions, as described in these opposing viewpoints.
This is great news! Praying for Ben and his family as they make this big move and that God will use them in amazing ways in a city that so clearly needs Jesus.
No, this is horrible news! This is one of the last things that L.A. needs – yet another hip, glossy, "fresh" and "relevant" mega-chain church that thinks it needs to reach the SoCal sinners. Ben Houston's "explanation" about God calling him to Los Angeles seems less like the Lord speaking than it seems to be simply one's own desire to market a global church brand. While L.A. has some excellent churches, it also has too much of its share of "pastors", "apostles", etc. in stadiums entertaining ad nauseum and leading too many sheeple to the slaughterhouse. Planting another church is not the solution.
Then JoshFX chimed in with this:
Look out LA…..!!
Mega ERROR is on its way…which given the current heart of humanity, will no doubt be embraced, and become for 'Hillsong', another milestone in their attempt to present 'another gospel' to a spiritually starved world….hungry for Truth, and yet, open and prepared to embrace this counterfeit Gospel.
I rejoice not.
And Aaron countered with this affirmation regarding Hillsong:
You obviously aren't familiar with the hillsong movement. Tens of thousands are returning to the church, repenting from their sins and getting baptized. I know countless stories of this happening. People will always take shots that the people in the spotlight. I honor Brian Houston and the movement he has started. The global church is better because of Hillsong. Most of the time it is our envy that keeps us from celebrating the victories of other ministries.
When Hillsong made its announcement last fall, The Christian Post published this article Will Los Angeles-Area Churches Be 'Swallowed Whole' When Hillsong Arrives? which states:
Despite assurances from Ben Houston that the Hillsong LA church he feels called to plant a church in Southern California will "not build on anyone else's foundation," some observers are concerned that the popular megachurch's expansion to the Golden State could mean a substantial loss of members for already-established churches in the area.
The CP article concludes as follows:
Hillsong LA, apparently set to become the megachurch's 11th non-Australian congregation, would join several other well-known churches already in Southern California, such as Pastor Greg Laurie's Harvest Orange County, Pastor Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. Despite not yet having a physical location, the soon-to-be congregation has already attracted more than 7,000 followers and supporters across its social networks.
Hillsong Church was founded by Brian and Bobbie Houston in 1983 as Sunday night outreach meetings that initially attracted a few dozen people. Now, the Sydney megachurch, affiliated with Australian Christian Churches (the Assemblies of God in Australia) is the country's largest and hosts over 30,000 worshippers every weekend.
Four years ago we wrote extensively on the prosperity preachers, primarily the ones in the United States. During those five weeks or so, I remember coming across a YouTube video featuring a man with an accent whom I did not recognize. He was on stage promoting
a book on MONEY. It was comical because he was teaching people how to be a Money Magnet. That man was Brian Houston, and he was promoting his book tape series on money entitled You Need More Money (published in 2000).
The video has since disappeared from YouTube, and Houston's book is no longer in print; however, there are three one-star reviews on Amazon that provide some indication of the book's focus.
UPDATE (1/7/14 @ 10:00 p.m.)
The video I tried to embed was in the post Ed Young Jr: A (w)hole Nutha Level. Unfortunately, it can no longer be accessed. However, I just remembered that I embedded a different version in our post How Pastors Get Rich, which I have added below. The phrase that unfortunately got cut off at the end of the clip is: "as you become a money magnet".
In the time that has passed since You Need More Money was published, Hillsong has had tremendous financial $UCCE$$. There are those in Australia who are starting to investigate this lucrative organization that enjoys tax-free status. It is indeed a money magnet!
For those who may consider getting involved with Hillsong LA, we believe caution is in order. More and more people are questioning the finances and leadership of this international megachurch. Please do your homework and pray for discernment.
We believe Hillsong is just another religious franchise that is putting its particular 'brand' in the Christian marketplace – this time in the 'Golden State'. It is happening all over the country and world with other church franchises (called church plants), and we can't help but wonder what Christendom will look like after these franchise wars play out. We will have much more on this topic in upcoming posts.
We leave you with a preview of what Hillsong LA will likely be hearing in the months and years to come from Brian Houston and his son Ben.
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 45:11-48:11 Ephesians 4:1-16 Psalm 68:19-35 Proverbs 24:3-4