Well I got my megachurch fix for the month.
Last night I decided to drive down the road and finally check out Hillsong at the new facilities. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while but, you know, life crowds out my nomadic wanderings sometimes.
I didn’t contact my sister-in-law immediately as I wanted to approach it as a visitor. I visited their bookshop (later I was advised they have several) and was immediately struck by their fixation on Joyce Meyer. It was like half of their books were authored by her. I suppose that’s something I’ll have to figure out later. After that I grabbed a Gloria Jeans coffee where I was warmly greeted by the staff. In fact the place was very friendly despite its size so I well can understand the attraction for those who gel with more commercial versions of church. I gave my sister-in-law a buzz on the mobile phone after I finished downing my coffee and followed them up to the ‘nose-bleeds’ as they call the upper levels of the auditorium.
The music was entertaining. Much grungier than the wimpy stuff I hear elsewhere in the Hills. Nobody does Hillsong like Hillsong I suppose. A nice change from all their imitators. Nevertheless my pre-existing qualms about their emphasis on music remained. It seems to me that revivalist churches treat music as more important than communion and alter calls as more important than baptism. I am not entirely comfortable with that. It would be nice to see equivalent creativity being applied to the ancient traditions. My emergent leanings betray me.
All the speakers were new to me. Apparently Brian Heuson and Darlene and many of the leading lights are off overseas so we got to sample the teaching of some of their other staff. They started with a ‘three minutes of power’ presentation by a junior pastor. A LOUD buzzer bumped him off when the three minutes where up. Not sure how to take that – highly amusing but not sure if that takes the variety show format just a ‘little’ too far.
After that the main speaker came on – she spoke powerfully at points but like many Hillsong speakers I have heard before her talk was saturated in prosperity language. On the positive side Hillsong do seem to have toned it down from my past experiences and the primary blessing they pushed was forgiveness not healing and fashion makeovers so I must give credit where it was due. Half way through the talk there was a disturbance – a guy having either a demonic attack or an epileptic fit – not sure what. But it brought back my first experience of Hillsong back in the 80s when they operated out of a warehouse and I came as a headbanging occultist. I saw lots more fits on the floor occured back then and even had to endure some youth leaders triying to exorcise my drunk friend whos only spirit was Jim Beam. Anyway, enough of reminiscances. Overall the positive points outweighed the negative and I was moved with some of the stories. Gave me a lot to think about. Now, where to visit next?
PS. For those not aware I am on a bit on an oddessy lately to survey alternate forms of church around Sydney as the opportunities come up. I am a firm believer in primary source research and wish face-to-face experience to inform my writings.