HILLSONG, Sydney - Critique Morning Service 3 April 2011
My wife and I attended Hillsong, Sydney, this morning. We wanted to see first hand the hysteria and nonsense that is Hillsong. We weren't disappointed. It is the first and last time that we will visit.
The church is situated in a business complex with surrounding stores all leased from Hillsong. The local housing is two third's owned by Hillsong. This is not a church as much as a multinational business with church as part of that business venture.
One walks through car park to be greeted by coffee and breakfast both for sale just outside the main doors. Gone are the days of free coffee, tea and biscuits supplied by the church for visitors. User pays for everything at Hillsong.
Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston won't be at the church door to greet you. If you want to speak to them you need either a news crew, a large donation or some business proposition. Make an appointment a few months in advance.
You walk into the foyer and you immediately see the main feature - Brian and Bobbie Houston. The world revolves around them. 1001 revolting brain-dead dvds, cds, books and books featuring the pair along with all things Hillsong. It was only a premonition of the horrors that await you inside.
The main auditorium holds 5 000 people. The seats are decorated with glossy advertising brochures of a new seminar on a weekend. Only $150 and a really special discount for pensioners and single mums - $10 to $20 off! Wow! What a bargain! Lots of people on the dole are going to be able to afford that.
The auditorium has comfy theatre seating, three huge screens to televise the crap, and a sound system and light and fog show equal to anything at a rock concert. Unfortunately this is not a rock concert at all. This is a Justin Beiber type pop show with nauseating "Jesus is my boyfriend" Jesus Jingles repeated ad nauseum. The guitar tones are permanently switched to that of U2 in "Streets Have No Name". Hand waving with eyes closed is the in thing. The most popular Hillsong cliche is no longer "Awesome! Awesome! Totally awesome!" but "In Jesus name" which is added to every second sentence like a mantra.
The pop show ceases for a while and then you get Bobbie with "the Lord's Supper". The usual McSupper of a thimble of grape juice and a piece of dried cracker. Then they collect your tithes and offerings for those who have not done electronic banking to get 10% of their gross wage dedcuted and sent to Hillsong weekly. Offerings are expected on top of the tithes.
Brian was in Brisbane so they had a live feed on the three giant TV screens. Brian had been to Bombay where he never met any poor peasants but spoke to thousands who probably paid for the privilege. ( How much did Jesus charge for the sermon on the mount? ) Brian delivered his one point dumbed down sermoan on risk taking. Take a risk and follow what Brian says. Don't use your mind and question as that is of the devil. Brian took half an hour to say that using rather dubious bible verses.
Then came the Altar Call. "Does anyone not know Jesus?" Everyone is supposed to close their eyes as the pastor asks for those who want to invite Jesus into their heart to raise their hand. I kept my eyes open. He pleaded for 5 minutes. He pretended that people were rasing their hand. I saw no-one do so. Obvioulsy a trick by snake-oil salesmen. You then say a prayer and - MAGIC - you are now a Christian. Remember to pay our tithes and offerings to Hillsong and give them your details to add you to their mailing list.
You sing another Jesus Jingle.
Jesus is the focus. Jesus is Lord, God, Saviour and Boyfriend. God the Father was never mentioned.
That's it. The End. See you next week. Buy something on your way out.
My wife and I checked the date. No, it wasn't April Fool's Day, it just felt like it.