Hillsong Theology?

kinnon —  March 12, 2008 — 26 Comments

UPDATE: Please note that I have apologized to Steve for my over-the-top response to his post. I obviously have some very strongly held opinions on Hillsong – which I still hold – but I allowed my overreaction to Steve's post to negatively impact our relationship – which was simply stupid. I asked for Steve's forgiveness and he graciously granted it. (Mar-03-10)

Though it would seem I don't have time to blog substantively, I apparently do have the time to pick a fight with a Kiwi blogging friend, Steve Taylor. I reacted to the original title of Steve's post, The Theology of Hillsong. And the conversation "progressed" from there.

Apparently I should find time for counseling and detox to deal with my anger.

Thanks, Steve. I'll get to that as soon as I can.

UPDATE: Apparently the rather large Canadian Fir in my eye disqualifies me from commenting on the Theology of Hillsongs. Who knew?



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

26 responses to Hillsong Theology?

  1. bill,

    this blog post has no emoticons. i don’t know where your tongue is and if you are pissed with me or not? until i know, i’m left feeling pretty exposed,


  2. Steve: You’d be surprised at how many Canuck Kinnon readers have to figure out when Bill’s tongue is in his cheek.:^)

    I read your post, I understand you are pleased with a Hillsong song enough to blog about it, it’s your job.

    I was given two Hillsong CD’s, they’ve sat on my desk for a week and I put them away yesterday without listening to them.
    Musical taste is subjective, and the CD’s wouldn’t be on my desk in the first place if I’d learn to say no thank you.

    For many of us Hillsong’s me and Jesus ditties lite lost luster years ago.
    Musical taste is subjective.
    You are asking us not to reject one of their songs because of their reputation.

    Some of us just don’t have the energy, time or inclination to theologically dissect or discuss product Hillsong churns out anymore. I see that was well discussed under your post.

    If their company actually put out a Christ centred song that surprised you, and one you are tickled with as a worship leader, enjoy.

    Hint: Fir is one of the most common family of trees in the Boreal regions of Canada, and are huge. I think it was a joke.;^)

  3. Daniel Macdonald March 13, 2008 at 9:57 am


    Feel exposed no more. That was a real Canadian mea culpa.

  4. Bill, I read the exchange you linked to. And, while I agree with the comments that we should acknowledge pro-biblical truth wherever it appears, I also side more with the perspective of those like you who raise the alarm when warranted. (And I do think it was legitimate in that post. If there were no critique of the theological context in which the one song appeared, it leaves a signpost that potentially misleads the naive. The brilliant flash of a diamond dropped into a sewer does not remove the stench of everything else there. But how many would dive right in for the diamond …?)

    Good, sincere people constantly get sucked into toxic systems; at least we can plant the seeds of doubt and discernment, and leave the decisions (and potentially traumatic consequences) to them. I know whereof I speak. I’ll be blogging in the near future about my survival of four toxic situations that ate up 15 of my 35 years of institutional church participation.

    Til then …

  5. I think that all of you as commenters, while pleading for context, have in fact ignored the context in which I wrote the post. In italics at the top of my post I wrote “We’ve started a series looking for the real Jesus. As part of it, I am leading into worship by taking a song and asking “what are we thinking when we sing this.” Here is the Hillsong number “for all you’ve done.””

    Hillsong simply happened to be the first. Next is power in the blood. Are you all then going to rant about the stench from that sewer then, or not having the time to theological dissect then?

    I was not using the metaphor of splinters and logs to stop people looking for stench. All I was doing in that post was chosing a song. A random song. It simply happened to be what it was.

    The series last for 5 weeks. I am simply chosing 5 songs about Jesus and saying “what is this song thinking.”

    I think it’s good practice to be encouraging people to think about everything they sing – whether it’s pop tunes or national anthems. IMHO , asking people to do that is much more likely to future proof them against toxic systems and encourage their stench detectors to work.

    the stinking kiwi

  6. Steve, I’ve read the post on your blog (with the comments) and I’ve read everything here. I have to admit … I’m really at a loss. Why are you personalizing this so much? It’s just a song and not even one that you wrote. You asked for commentary and critique (by your own admission). Now you’ve gotten some that you don’t particularly care for or agree with and from what I can tell, it seems that you’re upset, but I’m not sure why. Does this song carry some personal attachment for you? Does it have special meaning in your life? It seems that there is something else going on here. Perhaps it’s time to let go … and let God, or something.

  7. sonja,

    appreciate you taking the time to read all this.

    you end by suggesting i let go and let God? just wondering if you are willing to apply the same advice to bill and brad, all het up about hillsong?

    enjoying to and fro

  8. LOL … very clever, Steve, but you haven’t answered my question.

    Bill and Brad do not appear to be as emotionally invested in all of this as you are. But yes, I’d give them the same advice as I’ve given you … if that were the case.

  9. The third sentence of my first comment at Brother Taylor’s blog was:

    I must have woken up this morning in a parallel universe.

    The trajectory of this conversation would seem to suggest that sentence was accurate. Perhaps when I wake up in the morning I’ll return to my own. Universe that is.


    Perhaps I’ll be back here to chat with you all.

  10. Oh well. Apparently I’m still in the parallel universe.

    Let me add this partially in response to Steve’s first comment question above.

    I was taken aback by the response to my first comment on Steve’s post which I refer to above. (The other two sentences consisted of “Hillsong? Theology?”) I would consider Steve’s response to my comment “playing the man and not the ball” in the language of my Kiwi friends.

    My rather feeble attempt at humour in my first comment was meant to elicit a response to my question of Hillsong Theology. Instead, it was cited as a cheap and continuous shot at Hillsong. Really? When I consulted the great google-god, it seems I’ve mentioned Hillsong two other times on this blog – after writing 1,661 posts in three years. So, yes, I admit it, I’m a part of the great multitude taking continuous shots at poor Hillsong.

    But, I did state my position on Hillsong rather clearly on Steve’s blog.

    Let me state it here. I believe Hillsong’s theology to be at best, aberrant and at worst, heterodox. An English Bishop of Steve’s and my acquaintance recently called the theology they preach “another gospel.” (He was not directly referring to Hillsong.) And it’s another gospel that has had devastating effects on those caught up in it.

    As some of you may know, I’ve spent more than six months in Africa (in total) in the last ten years. Much of that in Kenya.

    In 2006, I sat with a Kenyan friend who is a successful business leader and a Christian. He told me of a conversation amongst his former college mates (all believers) as to what would be the best business to be in if they were looking for personal comfort and aggrandizement. They all agreed it would be a prosperity-preaching church – because in Kenya, the pastors of these churches all live in the nicest homes and are chauffeured around in the nicest vehicles. (Luxurious Toyota Land Cruisers for the most part.) Sadly the prosperity never trickles down to the parishioners. This is the gospel of Hillsong – one they joyfully hold in common with the likes of Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyers. It is another gospel.

    I won’t bother to go into the leadership style of this movement that cites Kings and Chronicles to support their “management-style”. The abridged versions of their bibles must have edited out 1 Samuel 8.

    Hillsong music is one of the prime ways they spread their influence. (The church began in Sydney’s Hills District – and began as Hills Christian Life Centre – changing their name to align their brand more obviously to the increasingly popular music of Geoff Bullock and then, Darlene Zchech.)

    I found it incongruous that Steve, a leader in the missional church movement, would seem to promote Hillsong theology via the unpacking of a song that could be read as orthodox. A valued friend of mine said this, after reading the conversation at Steve’s blog,

    …what I see there is a lack of integrated thinking. What I mean is that the song is treated separately from the church. It is like treating a philandering pastor as okay because he preaches the Gospel.

    PLEASE NOTE: I used an incredibly inappropriate and hurtful analogy here to express my profound disagreement with Hillsong Theology- and what I saw as Steve’s promotion of it. It was simply wrong and I apologize. The rest of the comment I wrote appears below this:

    I look forward to the day that those people who lead Hillsong repent of this “other gospel” they preach. Until that time I will neither promote nor sing a Hillsong tune – no matter how beautiful one might be.

    I do not despise Hillsong people – whether those in the comfortable seating or on the stage. I do despise the “theology” that permeates their culture.

    One final comment relating to the young man on Steve’s blog who sees Hillsong theology as incarnational. If Hillsong theology is incarnational, then I am a tutu-wearing blue turtle decked out in aviator shades.

  11. The issue seems to be on what basis do Christians make critical judgments about other Christians. It would appear that the Bible is not a sufficient basis because of our human tendency to proof-text the Bible to rationalize our point of view. I find this a sad state of affairs, and makes it more likely that lowest common denominator Christianity is the result. By that I mean, what ever I say is true, based on my interpretation, is true.
    So on what ground should we accept or reject the prosperity gospel as true gospel?

  12. I find it incredibly painful for a post on my blog to be linked to apartheid promotion and evil.

    I need to take some space,


  13. There is obviously a lot of heat and hurt in this conversation, and I’m really not sure that Blog posts and comments are the best way to resolve it… I appreciate that things have been said that have a deeper meaning to the hearer than they perhaps had to the poster… and I accept that Hillsongs have a big pile of stuff to answer for (I don’t know a huge amount about them, here in the UK they are generally just thought of as mass producers of worship CD’s and tbh I have never listened to any of them!), I do not share Bills history and experience but I respect it and you Bill, however I do find likening Steve to someone who knowingly promoted alcohol whilst turning a blind eye to mass torture and murder including infanticide deeply unhelpful. I also have a huge respect for Steve and read Steve’s original post in the way it sounds he intended it as a simple exploration of a text. I accept he, as we should when we reflect on any text, needed to make far stronger reference to the context of that text and the post could easily be interpreted as him speaking in support of Hillsongs, particularly before he changed the title. All that said, perhaps there is a time for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation… soon?

  14. I appreciate your response Mark and you are right. Metaphorically, I used a nuclear option where a hand grenade would have been more appropriate. I in know way believe that Steve would promote the evil of apartheid. It was unthinking on my part and for that I do apologize. I’m going to remove the offensive example but leave the comments around it standing – and will note that it was inappropriate on my part.

  15. hi. thanks to those who gave me the space to breathe on this one.

    apology accepted bill.

    if i have caused offense to you, i apologise.

    my post was not about hillsong in general, nor how they manifest themselves in kenya. it was simply a post about a song, a textual analysis of lyrics.

    sonja, i have wracked by brain in terms of your question re is it personal. can’t think of anything. sorry.

    i’m happy to let go and let God. anyone else?


  16. after worshipping with many others at hiilsong church while on holliday recently – i can assure the bloggers here – that is where you will really learn to ‘let go and let God’. i dont understand all the critism of their so called gospel – there are many thousands who love God who worship with the assistance of this music. To be quite honest there is much more of value to be found there than reading this spiteful blog post

  17. Debby,
    Thanks for dropping by. I would humbly suggest your response has more to do with a consumeristic approach to the church (“worship with the assistance of this music”) than it does with dealing with the aberrant theology that undergirds the writers of these songs. While you may feel good after singing the songs (and I sang them as both a worship leader and congregational member myself) – your feelings are not pertinent to the discussion.

    Might I ask you? Do you agree with the Prosperity Gospel? If you do, why? If you don’t, don’t you think promoting a “ministry” (it’s really more a business) that is one of the leaders in the promotion of this other gospel is dangerous? No matter how “good” the music is. (Musically, it’s not very good and I am embarrassed for having used it.)

    I’m sorry that I sound so hard line here. My experience in both the West, as well as the developing world has been that the Prosperity Gospel is not innocuous. Its insidious tentacles are ultimately life-destroying for the church.

    Let me end this comment by saying that one of my favourite Christian bands has been Delirious. They now do tours with Joyce Meyers. And I no longer listen to them, nor will I buy their music – no matter how much I like it. And I’ve asked my kids (21, 19 and 17) to also consider removing this band from their playlist. With their involvement in the ministry of Joyce Meyers, Delirious is actively promoting another gospel – no matter how gospo-centric their music may sound.

  18. A few days ago my nephew decided to write a song(true story). He is 7. First line went God is good, then he drew a blank & asked for help.some discussion then, God is Holy was his response so i left him writing and strumming, 3 minutes later he had finsihed his quite long song which he sang for me, the 1st 2 lines were special but the hymn quickly deteriated till it sound very odd indeed(in a 7 yr old kind of way).Allthough enthusiastic & talented his understanding of hymns and limited understanding of God failed him. However if i had decided to share this song with the world – to market it, my nephew could have been seen as evil too, so i see the marketing as a big part of the problem, some hymns which should remain at home for refining are shared. A question of mine is – has anyone who is so concerned about hillsong contacted them to share concern or correct them? isnt that what is suppose to happen? What do you think about marketing in the church, do you connect marketing with the blog culture where you find promotion of books etc and on some, personal self promotion? To answer your question – i think we are all consumers in some ways but the context for the comment ‘with the assistance of music’ is more about me not being musical but loving to sing so the cd’s i put on are backround music. I dont agree with the prosperity gospel and think there does need to be dialogue and appropriate correction.

  19. Debby,
    Thank you for your gracious response. I have struggled in this conversation with being grace-filled for which I do need to apologize.

    I would say that a consumeristic mindset is what has enabled the growth of the Prosperity Gospel. (And, yes, we are all consumers – to a degree that it is almost the water that we, the fish, swim in – we are not conscious of it.) This mindset is one that focuses on me and my needs – rather than Christ’s focus on the other.

    There are many folk who have attempted to confront Hillsongs and its clones. From the inside, they’ve attempted to speak and been fired. (I have personal experience of this.) From the outside, there is a huge network of people who have tried to speak into this organization. They have had little to no success – because the response from the inside is to say, “look at our success – surely God is with us and not you.”

    I it is time for us to name the prosperity gospel for what it is – and that is Not the Gospel.

  20. Bill,

    Thanks for being so candid about the theology of Hillsongs, which you know better than I do, and it pains me to hear that they have embraced prosperity theology. I had heard that before from several others, but did not want to believe it.

    I am just curious though, about one thing. On many occasions you have gone after people like Johnny Mac and others for being quite un-civil in their remarks about parts of the Christian world they are concerned with, particularly the emerging church. On this occasion you went with at least the same ferocity, at Hillsongs. You leave yourself exposed to the charge of being fairly…inconsistent.

    I am venturing to guess, however, that the difference lies in this: that as you see it, Hillsongs is heretical, while the emerging conversation is not. Therefore, while the former is poisonous to the christian faith, the latter is both inside the Christian faith and possibly a healthy remedy for what ails Christendom as we are experiencing it.

    I would agree that if Hillsongs preaches and tries to practice prosperity theology (for no one has quantifiably enriched themselves from practicing propserity theology except its pastors and leaders) it teaches heresy.

    I would also want to say that there are parts of the emerging church, particularly the emergent village folk, who are pretty close to the same border line. Some of what they teach is on the way to, or arriving at, clearly heretical destinations.

    Yet you never seem to go after them with anything like the candor and energy that you reserve for either the prosperity people, or the TR- types. I am curious why that is.

  21. Danny boy,
    There just aren’t enough hours in the day, I guess.

    My lack of civility came out of responding to someone who I felt should have known better theologically, writing a blog post that suggested the theology of Hillsong was revealed in one of their songs. And when I expressed my dismay (humourously I might add), I found myself ‘needing to detox and get counseling’ – which, perhaps I do, but that really wasn’t appropriate or pertinent to the question of Hillsong theology – or the lack there of.

    The nuclear option I eventually used was an inappropriate attempt to suggest that promoting one of Hillsong’s tunes (and its supposed theological underpinnings) is effectively giving approval to an organization promoting another gospel. It would be like promoting the theological underpinnings of a Mormon tune as appropriate for Christians to sing.

    That being said, perhaps if the theologically divergent arms of the emerging church “conversation” were having the world-wide negative impact of the prosperity gospel, I might find the time to train my sights on them.

    The difference with Johnny Mac and the TRs is that I see them as orthodox in the faith – not preaching another gospel – just being waaaaaaayyyyyy to sure of their own understanding of scriptures.

    I will state categorically that the prosperity gospel is another gospel.

    BTW. This isn’t new with Hillsong. It’s been there for most of the life of that church. Where they may have been orthodox pentecostal with a prosperity bent when they began – they’ve fully embraced the bent…and left orthodoxy behind. It’s all about money – and the “fact” that Jesus wants you to have “more of it.” They are quite happy to be in the world of Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers and Benny Hinn. The Jesus-life is what they’re selling – though it has little to do with the Life of Jesus and the life He’s called us to. In my not humble but accurate opinion. 🙂

  22. Thanks, Bill.

  23. Think Jeremy Shum and Brooke Fraser and you get the idea. Hillsong Church has purchased two bright good looking media personalities who have tertiary education in Theology and used them to make their Church seem “Theological” so it doesn’t seem like a cult.

    Enough said.

  24. Gosh you know a lot about Hillsong for someone who lives in Canada. Do they do anything good?

  25. Ted,
    Thanks. I think.

    Paul McCartney would like his nickname back, please.

    I know it’s hard to believe but we actually have the interwebs in Canada, and books, and even people who worked with Hillsongers and even CCC folk. Go figure. What’s your definition of good? Mercy Ministries Inc.?

  26. I know this is coming four months after the discussion and I by no means want to spark a flame. However, I do appreciate the discussion. I live in the U.S. and all we get here are Hillsong CDs, DVDs, Concerts and tours. This is my first time hearing about Hillsong in this manner although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since they share TBN Television with Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and Joel Osteen.

    The music of Hillsong, especially from United, are the songs of our generation here. They have blessed our youth group and have helped us bless others. I know people who have recommitted themselves after hearing “From the Inside Out”. “Mighty to Save” encourages so many. On the DVDs, they talk about the mission of loving Christ and loving His church then serving the world. That’s the binding factor of our faith.

    Those who choose the prosperity gospel, I do not know where to place them. After reading the blog(s) and the comments, I guess the verse i turn to is Mark 9:38 – 41 when the man was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but was not of his 12 disciples.

    I don’t know if the Prosperity Gospel is heresy but I can agree that if people are wrongly profiting from it then they will be judged but The Church hasn’t been “perfect” in the last couple of centuries has it? Not to say we shouldn’t strive for change…

    I don’t know. There are some common people who benefit from the prosperity gospel and are getting fed about being humble, taking up the cross, and boasting in the Lord.

    But back to the music; I cannot bring myself to say that it is not God-inspired. I stop short in saying that it is not blessed. During Israel’s disobedience in the desert, didn’t God tell Moses that He would not go w/ them because of their behavior BUT would send forth angels? I cannot take the blessing away from that church or their music.

    So what if they “bought” Brooke Fraser? “Lead Me to the Cross” got me through one of the hardest seasons of my life. A song on her latest album “Shadowfeet” is presently touching me. I would never have bought a United album or known who Brooke Fraser was W/o Hillsong. Yes, God could have presented other songs to help me through, to encourage my walk, but for some reason he allowed the songs of the bands from Hillsong Church to do it.

    We should all pray now that if God is not pleased that with them and other churches like them that he will stir hearts and open up blind eyes. But let us not touch God’s anointed; they are for Him to deal with. He holds their hearts in His hand and does what he pleases with them.

    If we lived in a world where we didn’t patronize sinners, or to some of the commentators, blatant sinners I don’t think we would be living. Again, we should do what we can about it, but “Letting go and Letting God” through prayer seems like all the “do” that can and should be done.


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