Tag Archives: prosperity gospel

What’s Wrong With Hillsong?

Hillsong is one of Australia’s most well-known exports.  They’re known not only for their praise and worship music brand, but also for attracting celebrities like Justin Bieber.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently spoke at a Hillsong Conference.  He’s a member of a church that belongs to the Australian Christian Churches, to which Hillsong also belongs.

Hillsong is not just a church – it’s a global phenomenon.  Around the world, over 130,000 people attend Hillsong each week.  That could be a great thing if Hillsong was faithful to the Scriptures.  If they were faithfully preaching the gospel and following the Word of God, Hillsong could have a powerful impact.  But are they?

Last week, the ABC featured a piece on modern Pentecostalism in Australia.  This is how it opens:

It is Sunday morning at Hillsong’s megachurch in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria, and Pastor Natalie Pingel pauses mid-sermon to conduct an impromptu Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson look-a-like contest.

She selects a group of buff parishioners and members of the band to line up on stage. Each takes turns flashing the crowd the actor’s signature raised eyebrow, to approval and gushing laughter.

Pastor Pingel then leads the congregation in prayer, the band plays anthemic rock music and the big screens either side of the stage light up with suggestions for what people can pray for.

The suggestions include financial stability, luck with job applications and visa approvals.

In these few words, there’s plenty indication that things are seriously wrong with Hillsong.  Even though they’re Pentecostal and, as such, claim to give more attention to the Holy Spirit, in reality they’re missing some key things the Spirit says.

Let’s start with the pastor.  The Holy Spirit says in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”  Yet Hillsong flouts the Holy Spirit’s teaching and has a woman delivering a sermon.

What about the “look-a-like” contest?  Search the Spirit’s book to see if any such thing was ever done by the apostles.  In the Bible, did the apostles pursue “approval and gushing laughter”?  Surely not.  Instead, the apostles preached the Word of God and left these sorts of comedic antics for the theatre.  They followed the leading of the Holy Spirit who said, simply, “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2) – they didn’t add or take away from that.  They simply preached the Scriptures.

Next, notice the stage and “anthemic rock music.”  What associations do we commonly make with such things?  Entertainment.  Together with the comedy act, this doesn’t portray serious Christian worship in the presence of the Holy God, but an entertainment event.  What is this but “the itching ears” described by the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 4:3?

But most concerning of all in the ABC article is the portrayal of Hillsong as a purveyor of prosperity gospel teaching.  This is well-known.  Hillsong teaches that God wants believers to experience prosperity in this life.  This can manifest itself in different ways:  financial, health, relationships.  Becoming a Christian opens up access to all these blessings.  Christ died and rose again victorious to give Christians these blessings.  From time to time, they may still talk about the cross and give something of the true biblical gospel.  However, the emphasis falls on prosperity and success as the good news.

Even though the Spirit says it (Isa. 45:7, Lam. 3:38, Ps. 60:1-4, Ps. 66:10-12, Ps. 119:71), the idea that God would send adversity into the lives of believers because he loves them and wants to shape them is foreign to prosperity gospel churches. The Holy Spirit made most of the Psalms laments, but the prosperity gospel doesn’t know what to do with them.  In the New Testament, the Spirit-filled Jesus told his disciples that they would have to take up their cross and follow him (Matt. 10:38).  In Acts 14:22, Paul and Barnabas told the early Christians, “…through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”  But the idea of bearing the cross before wearing the crown doesn’t register in the prosperity gospel message.  Instead, it’s all about glory here and now.

Moreover, what’s missing is the biblical gospel message which the Spirit gave through Paul:  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).  And what did he come to save us from?  According to Romans 5:9, we are saved by Christ “from the wrath of God.”  That note is rarely, if ever, heard in prosperity gospel churches.

Let me conclude with a question someone is sure to raise:  could someone be genuinely saved at or through Hillsong?  Perhaps.  God can do amazing things despite people.  He does amazing things despite me.  So he could save people through Hillsong too and I sincerely hope he does.  But that’s beside the point.  If a Christian is looking for a more consistently biblical, gospel-preaching church, I’m afraid Hillsong just doesn’t fit the bill.  If a Christian is looking for a church aiming to follow what the Holy Spirit teaches about worship and the offices of the church, one can do far better than Hillsong.


Dr. B.’s Book Buying Guide

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I love books!  One of the best things about the world of books is the sheer variety.  That’s also one of the greatest problems.  If you’re not familiar with the world of Christian writing and publishing, a foray into your local vanilla Christian bookstore could put poison in your soul or, at the very least, theological marshmallows (sweet, but no nourishment).  The same thing can happen as you browse various online retailers.  Therefore, I want to offer some guidance in purchasing good quality Christian books, books that will nourish your faith and walk with the Lord.  Note:  this is not meant as an “approved” list — simply suggestions and certainly not comprehensive.

Bookstores and Online Retailers

The best place to find wholesome Christian books is with retailers who care about more than the bottom line.  There are certain bookstores where, because the owners/operators have a godly zeal for Christian truth, almost anything you find for sale is going to be dependable and worthwhile.  These bookstores are a rare find.  The best Christian bookstore in Canada (that I’m aware of) is located in the little Ontario city of Brantford:  Reformed Book Services.  You can find their website here.  If you’re in the area, check them out.  If not, you can still use their website to order online.  Even if you don’t live in Canada, browse through their website to look for good Christian books and then order them from a retailer in your country.

As far as Australia goes, in WA there is the Pro Ecclesia Bookshop in Armadale.

Publishers

As with bookstores, there are Christian publishers who only publish what they will stand behind theologically.  Other publishers are far less scrupulous  — they may be more interested in what sells than in what is true, good, and genuinely helpful.  When you browse for books, and especially if you don’t know the author, the publisher’s name can help determine whether the book may be worthwhile.  Let me give three categories:

Generally Dependable Publishers

Almost everything from these publishers can be recommended — the odd time they might publish a dud, but they’re usually pretty careful.

  • Reformation Heritage Books
  • P & R (Presbyterian & Reformed)
  • Banner of Truth
  • Reformation Trust
  • Reformed Fellowship Inc.
  • Crossway
  • Christian Focus Publications
  • Evangelical Press

Hit and Miss Publishers

These guys publish some good stuff, but also some that belongs in the recycling bin.  Be extra-discerning with these.

  • Zondervan
  • Baker Book House
  • Eerdmans
  • Inter-Varsity Press
  • Navpress
  • Canon Press

Steer Clear of these Publishers

  • FaithWords (main publisher of prosperity gospel false teachers)
  • HarperCollins (avoid their “Christian” books anyway)

Authors

There are also authors that you can usually count on to put out good material.  These are authors who have a track record of writing orthodox books.  You can watch for their names and, if you see one of their books, normally you won’t go wrong by picking it up.  Here are some authors that I can generally recommend, ones that you might run across in any Christian bookstore.  They still need to be read with discernment, but you should be able gain some benefit from them regardless of whatever their flaws.

  • Sinclair Ferguson
  • D. A. Carson
  • Kevin DeYoung
  • R. C. Sproul
  • Michael Horton
  • D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • J. I. Packer

There are also a few authors that I need to warn against in the strongest possible terms.  These men and women are false teachers peddling theological poison.  Some of them are prosperity gospel proponents — preachers of “another gospel” — and very popular.  These are some of the best-sellers.  Buy and read at your own risk — but if you want my opinion:  don’t waste your time.

  • Sarah Young
  • Joel Osteen
  • Creflo Dollar
  • Joyce Meyer
  • T.D. Jakes
  • Joseph Prince
  • Beth Moore
  • Brian Houston (and his wife, “Pastor” Bobbie Houston)
  • Rob Bell