2/08/2010 11:21:00 pm

Hillsong

Posted by Tom French |

Blurred Band sml.jpg

I went to Hillsong on Sunday with Jo, Victor, Dad and Hannah. We went because heaps of Victor's friends in Guatemala had been asking him when they heard he was going to Sydney if he was visiting Hillsong. So we took him to Sydney's greatest Christian tourist attraction.

I was pretty excited to be going. Partly because I'm a church nerd, partly because I was going to one of the most famous churches in the world and I love seeing famous things.

I was impressed.

Hillsong over the years has copped a lot of flack in the media and from other Christians over the years and it's not as if I haven't also said a thing or two against them (till I gave it up in favour of church unity). It's copped flack for a lot of things but especially because it's attitude to money.

That said, they seem to have taken the criticism to heart.

Sunday was Vision Sunday so we got to see the churches vision, and it was all about changing lives and helping the poor and marginalised in the world. They did an offering talk but as far as I could tell it was all about just sowing into the Kingdom so kingdom could be a blessing, but I wasn't really paying attention.

It's been so good to see a church change so radically. These days they have such a huge push for social justice. I think that sort of change is impressive because it shows a humble heart that's open to correction. That's important in a church.

I also enjoyed seeing a church that was so ethnically diverse. It's rare that you find churches in Sydney that are as diverse as the city they inhabit. But Hillsong seems to be demographically representative of our city. It would be interesting to see if they had stats on that.

If I had any encouragement for my friends at Hillsong it would be that I thought they needed to mention Jesus more, especially the cross. The closest they come to mentioning the cross in the video below is when they talk about reconciling humanity to God. Usually in the video and throughout the service they'd just talk about God. But it's not as if they don't believe in the cross or are ashamed of Jesus. It's in their statement of belief. Their logo for the vision is a heart shaped tree with the word JESUS in the place of the root system. It's a pretty clear symbol of where they see their life coming from. I just think it needs to be said more. In face it probably can't be said too much.

I mentioned this thought to my mother, that I thought they should have mentioned the cross. Mum asked me if I thought the cross should be mentioned every time the church meets, to which I said "Yes". It made me consider if it's just a cultural hang up or if it really is an important principle. I decided that I'd happy to say it's an important principle.

If I went to a church that didn't mention the cross one week I wouldn't say that it's a failure. However I do think that the death and resurrection is central to our identity as Christians and our identity as the church. The cross keeps us humble, it keeps us thankful, it reminds us that we are not our own, we were bought at a price, it shows us that new life is only found through Jesus, it focuses of God's greatest demonstration of his love, and his most glorious act to which all of redemption history and future points.

With that in mind, I think we should make it a discipline to always come back to the cross, and to talk about it whenever we get together as Christians. It is so vital to who we are, we cannot afford to forget it. And while forgetting the cross may seem like an impossibility for the church, it's exactly what much of the church has done. Or if they have not forgotten it, they have sought to change its meaning, and in doing so have emptied the cross of its power.

I know Hillsong haven't forgotten the cross, I'd just encourage those up the front to talk about it more.

As far as the rest of the service went, I enjoyed myself. The music was excellent, as you'd expect. I liked the fact that it felt like a show, and within its context I don't think there's anything wrong with that.*

After the vision video they did a new song called "Awakening" or perhaps "Awake My Soul" or something along those lines. It was written by Chris Tomlin and Reuben Morgan. The worship leader started off on a darkened stage playing to a darkened auditorium with just 5 low, bright white lights shining out into the congregation, through the smoke, back lighting him. As the song built, and people in the church started to stand up to join in, the lights came up till we were all singing. It was good theatre and it was a good song.

And check out the video. I'd love to be able to do video stuff like they do, it was good work. Maybe I should get a video department going at my church. I'm sure we'd be at Hillsong production levels in no time.



So there you go. That was our visit to Hillsong. I'll do it again one day. But for now I'll just love my own church.



*I'd justify that but I can't be bothered.

Photo by: alliance1911

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