The New York Times recently featured an article on the Hillsong Church movement and its current focus on planting large churches aimed at millennials in big cities such as New York and Los Angeles. Senior pastor Brian Houston, based in Sydney, Australia, described these major cities as “tough, hard, dry towns for contemporary churches” and said they plant there strategically to impact “cities of influence, so that the influence can reach far beyond.” The ministry is driven by a huge recording label that has sold more than 16 million albums in the Contemporary Christian Music market. The NYT article described Hillsong worship services as a “magnet” to young Christians, “combining the production values of a rock concert, the energy of a nightclub and the community of a megachurch.”
But not everyone sees this as a good thing. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sharply criticized the Hillsong movement in the NYT article, calling the church a “prosperity movement for the millennials.”
“…The polyester and middle-class associations of Oral Roberts have given way to ripped jeans and sophisticated rock music,” Mohler said. “What has made Hillsong distinctive is a minimization of the actual content of the Gospel, and a far more diffuse presentation of spirituality.”
“We believe a basic charismatic/Pentecostal theology, but we don’t build strong on theology,” Houston said in an interview last year. “We make it about Jesus, about the grace of God, and we try to have a net so it’s broad, not narrow.”
Founded in the mid-80s, Hillsong Church has branches in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Kiev, London, New York, Paris and Stockholm, as well as multiple campuses in Australia and, now, a new congregation in Los Angeles. By some estimates, 100,000 people attend one of their churches each weekend, 10 million follow on social media and they have sold 16 million albums.