The most important fact about Hillsong

An Obadiah Slope column

In the rubble: Missionaries have come to have a unique role in the earthquake zone. When relief teams from other nations arrive to give aid in the earthquake zone – they can’t speak the language. That’s especially difficult for doctors. But guess who might be able to speak the language of the aid workers and the locals?

In church this week, Obadiah heard from missionaries who found themselves translating for doctors and working with the police to help find food. “Tell us your need, and we’ll trust God to provide it,” they told a policeman in a ruined city.


Subtle reflections on Hillsong: Obadiah sees a remarkable lack of subtlety in some commentary and media coverage about Hillsong.

1. A critical fact occurred to Obadiah as he read through the Wilkie documents. We only know about the high dollar amounts paid to Hillsong Conference guest preachers because of the record-keeping by Hillsong. 

There is an assumption abroad that there was a sneaky secret exchange of gifts between preachers.

The image of preachers making off with unknown amounts of  “love offerings” after an event might apply in the celebrity Christian circuit somewhere, maybe in plenty of places but not Hillsong. There’s even a list of Brian Houston’s speaking fees. And the accounts of the companies that were organised to receive these payments paid expenses and then sent some money recorded as salary.

So while Christians in the main will the critical of the large payments are too high, we need to draw back from conspiracy. The church was keeping records. It was not a matter of cowboys riding off into the night with bags of cash.

2. Obadiah can think of few worse jobs right now than Hillsong global Senior Pastor Phil Dooley’s. He says he and his team want to clean house. We should give him a chance. Obadiah has been told that the release of the report by forensic accountants Grant Thornton has been delayed for legal reasons. Let’s be patient.

3. One commentator credited MP Andrew Wilkes for doing “God’s work.” Obadiah thinks that if you want to give credit for the public release of the thousands of Hillsong documents, you might give it to Natalie Moses, the former Hillsong fundraiser who has brought a case alleging she was unlawfully suspended from her job for providing material about the church to the ACNC the charities regulator.  Or you might credit the parliamentary staffers who took a week to scan all the documents the Wilkie related.

4. Obadiah can’t get out of his mind stories that Brian Houston told in court about the very early days of Hillsong. Of setting off each Sunday afternoon with his just-married wife Bobbie and driving into the country. At least three churches were planted that formed part of the story unfolding in court: Inspire church at Liverpool, Coastline at Gosford, and Hillsong. Obadiah found this story of church planting quite moving.

With these revelations, it is easy to point the finger at Hillsong right now. But the most crucial fact about Hillsong remains that many thousands of people have been saved at that church.


Quote of the week (which just might be relevant to the above and might be misremembered.) “The fact that my bishop is a liar and a thief does not affect the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ”  by poet James McAuley.  And Obadiah is not applying McAuley’s description to anyone BTW. It’s just a reminder than some things are more important than clerisy.

But let’s give space to a poem by McAuley – “One Thing At Least,” on marriage.

One thing at least I understood
Practically from the start,
That loving must be learnt by heart
If it’s to be any good. 

It isn’t in the flash of thunder
But in the silent power to give—
A habit into which we live
Ourselves, and grow to be a wonder. 

Some like me are slow to learn:
What’s plain can be mysterious still.
Feelings alter, fade, return, 

But love stands constant in the will:
It’s not alone the touching, seeing,
It’s how to mean the other’s being.


One Comment

  1. Good comment.
    And if and where repentance is needed, good! Hillsong will be cleaned up, not out, and will grow and be even more useful to the glory of God.

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