On Easter Sunday (April 17), Story Church in Atlanta, Ga., held its first service. The church has taken the place of Hillsong Atlanta after that congregation disbanded in the wake of the resignation of its lead pastor, Sam Collier. Collier cited scandals within the Hillsong global church as the reason for his departure.
Collier, who had been Hillsong Church’s first African American pastor to lead a congregation, announced on March 27 that Hillsong Atlanta would dissolve. The announcement came less than a week after the resignation not only of Collier, but also Hillsong Church’s global senior pastor Brian Houston. Houston resigned the church he planted nearly four decades ago after it was revealed that he had acted inappropriately toward two women in separate incidents.
During the announcement regarding Hillsong Atlanta’s dissolution, Collier announced the launch of Story Church, which has retained much of Hillsong Atlanta’s leadership team with Collier as the lead pastor.
The launch of Story Church in place of Hillsong Atlanta came with the blessing of Hillsong Church’s leadership, as interim global senior pastor Phil Dooley expressed his hope that Story Church would flourish via video message to Hillsong Atlanta on its final Sunday gathering.
“We want to be a Spirit-filled environment,” Collier said as he invited Story Church into a time of worship through music on Sunday. “Which just simply means this: we believe that God is still alive, and He’s still moving throughout our midst.”
“We are praying for revival in this city and in this nation: an outpouring of God’s Spirit on every person. That every person that walks the earth that doesn’t know Christ would experience him in a transcendent moment,” Collier went on to say. “And in that moment, past all of the confusion and past all of the doubts and past all of the worries, the revelation of who God is would push through. That it would cut through and all would know that God is real. That Jesus is real. That we have access to Him that gives us the ability to overcome.”
Later in the service, Collier brought some members of the Story Church staff onto the stage to introduce them. He also invited those in attendance to a “family meeting” that will take place next week. During that meeting, Collier said that all the staff and board members will be introduced and congregants will be able to ask questions about the church.
“One of the things I want to point out is you’ll notice that we have women in leadership here,” Collier said as the church cheered and applauded. “Which, at some churches, is not a thing. But it will be true here. Women will find freedom and be empowered in this church.”
“Obviously, the men will as well,” Collier added, “but that really hasn’t been the issue, has it?” After some laughter from the congregation, Collier went on to reiterate that diversity is a core pillar for Story Church and that he hopes the church will be a place that “uplifts both women and men.”