(RNS) — Sam Collier remembers meeting Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer.
People were marching in the streets, some rioting, and Collier said Houston told him it was time. Hillsong wanted to be part of changing the narrative and changing the world.
And, Houston said, he wanted Collier to be part of that work.
Since then, the global megachurch has announced Sam Collier and his wife, Toni Collier, as the church’s first African American lead pastors.
“Together, I think something special is going to happen by the grace of God,” Sam Collier told Religion News Service.
The Colliers are launching Hillsong Atlanta, the church’s first location in the Southeastern United States. Other U.S. locations include Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, several California campuses and Hillsong East Coast, which encompasses New York, New Jersey, Boston and Connecticut.
Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston founded Hillsong Church in 1983 in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. It now has locations in 28 countries around the world and, pre-pandemic, saw an average 150,000 attenders each week, according to its website.
Hillsong is also known for its popular worship music and conferences.
In a video introducing the new church on Hillsong’s website, Sam Collier pointed out the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church that King pastored, both in Atlanta.
“It’s interesting that we’re planting a church in the birthplace of civil rights,” he said.
Collier, founder of A Greater Story Ministries, grew up in Atlanta, where his dad was a pastor. He got his start in ministry at Ebenezer and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, both predominantly Black churches in the city.