Hillsong Conference Quote

From the Hillsong Conference in Europe, as quoted by Christianity Today earlier this week:

“The church is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body in which he speaks and acts and fills everything with his presence.”

I don’t know about you but I have real problems with squaring that with John 3:16:


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But I can understand how the world could come to seem peripheral to a church as huge as Hillsong. Surface area to volume ratio is significantly less there. It’s a world unto itself. So, what are your thoughts:

  • Is the world peripheral?
  • How biblical is it to assert the centrality of the church?
  • Shouldn’t the church move to the periphery?

For more on the Hillsong Conference and the Hillsong church phenomenon in general see “Taking Revival to the World

15 Comments

  1. Mmm. My first reaction is to remember Olivier Clement says (in “The Roots of Christian Mysticism”) “..the Church is nothing other than the world in the course of transfiguration”. The world, offered to God, and – using Sacramental language – transformed into the Body of Christ.
    Just as wheat and yeast and dough and ovens and pans are connected to bread that is offered in communion so is the world to the Church.

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  2. And I think we must be in tune at the moment. I just finished writing a post on propaganda techniques, which I’ve pre-programmed to launch in a few weeks time when I’m busy doing my exams, and now I see that you’ve been blogging on the same subject.

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  3. The AOG churches up to the 80s were very much against the world (a kind of separatism of the old fundie circle-the-wagons sort). It’s good to see them moving on from that.
    There are a few ways to go. The opposite extreme is to say the church and the world are much the same — especially the world — as liberal Protestantism did, and faded into indistinctness. Between these extremes, you can think of the church as the superintendent or shepherd of the world, in the high middle ages view. Or see the two existing in irreconcilable paradox as Lutherans did. Or see the church transforming the world incidentally, by virtue of its nature.
    I think a combination of the last three is required, with recourse to separatism when opposed by institutional structures, but also with serious thought to what Christian stewardship would entail for the entire world if everyone were reconciled to God.
    History suggests that opposition generates the strongest faith, but separatism easily slides into obscurantism because it means we produce fewer epochal thinkers like Aquinas or Erasmus or the Cambridge Triumvirate.
    The critical engagement of the transformation model seems the best and most challenging framework for our thinking, but the unilateral suspicion of the church and the world in the Lutheran view seems to best encapsulate the big lessons of history.
    Note: Except for the last three paragraphs, my statements here are essentially a thin gloss on the classic ‘Christ and Culture’ by Richard H. Niebuhr.

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  4. That’s actually a bible verse, from the Message:
    Ephesians 1:20 (The Message)
    The Message (MSG)
    Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
    20-23All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence
    so…if you look at the original context the church is a reference point to Christ, Jesus Christ here on earth. We, as Christians, The church, represent Christ here on earth…We’re all that others have to see representing Christ.
    The church shouldn’t move to the periphery, then we as the church become influenced by the world, when we’re to influence the world…

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  5. I think this merely confirms my less than stellar opinion of The Message translation. The NIV translation places the emphasis on Christ, not the church; mentioning the church only once, not four times.
    That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:20-23 NIV
    And when you read this talk of “power” against the background of Jesus’ empowering servant-style leadership, a somewhat less triumphalistic call for the church emerges. Yes we are to represent Christ, yes we are to influence the world, but not in the manner of CEOs.

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  6. This gloss Kalessin, naaaah, not at all 🙂
    And yes I agree, syncretism is just as problematic as seperatism. In fact I would say the primary error of that medieval church-state system we call Christendom was precisely their devaluation of church-world distinctions. We need to sit with the tension of being in the world but not of the world.

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  7. http://www.btinternet.com/~smallritual/section4/settheory.html
    I’ve only recently come across the idea of “set theory” – specifically, closed or open sets. In the first instance, closed generally means things like a definite boundary, membership, conversion, an us’n’them mentality, and so on.
    In an open set, everyone is one the same playing field, ALL are within the boundary (as all are in God’s world) – yet the difference is the *direction* that one is travelling within that world. Are we moving closer to or further away from God?
    As it says in the above link, in the open set, it’s all about the relationship with the centre (Christ): some are moving towards Him (within/ without church membership), and some are moving away from Him (again, within/ without church membership).
    what do you reckon?

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  8. thots on the apparently neoplationistic declaration of the centrality over the world of the Church as the Bride of Christ:
    since when has the Bride had permission to shift from worship to her-ship?
    since when have we been given leave to leave the world, and, ironically, in so doing, remove the paradoxically stance of the Scriptures that we are to be “in the world but not of the world”?
    since when have we finished the job of incarnational ministry so that we can now rule and reign over others in theological triumphalism?
    the regretable winners/we’ve-got-the-goods-and-you-don’t mentality certainly seems consistent with an attractional model of doing church, but that was never the role-model Christ offered …

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  9. I’m very open to open set theory 🙂
    First came across the idea in 1999 when Dave Andrews of Queensland explored it in his book “Christianarchy”. Of course it opens up a whole raft of questions of who is this Christ at the centre, but that’s just part of the fun ain’t it!

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  10. ^Ah! my neighbours/ co-community dwellers have met Mr Andrews and have randomly shared from ‘Christianarchy’ with me. Perhaps it will be my book to read over summer. (Yay for random connections! and greetings from sunny Adelaide!)

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  11. As for your very uneducated and slanderous attack on Hillsong CHURCH, that is part of the very bride of Christ that we all belong to.
    Why don’t you spend some time there, better yet why don’t you spend some time with some of the teen challenge boys that have now been totally free from addiction and have found acceptance and a home at Hillsong church and by the way Salvation.
    Or maybe one of the Hundreds of single mothers who are helped every week by street teams and there kids who now have a meal and tell them that Hillsong cares more about there empire than people.
    Or maybe sit in on a youth night and see thousands of lives being impacted and life times altered for kingdom purpose.
    These statements are reflective of the very real need in this world and the very real need that Hillsong is meeting.
    Maybe you like them should be more focused on the task at hand, and not on bringing those down making a difference around us.
    You know its funny I have had the privilege of meeting many people from that church and I have never heard one negative thing about the large, medium or small church around the corner. But I constantly hear slanderous statements from the press and so called real authentic Christians building real churches. People like you are more interested in a story than the real story.
    By the way how’s your form- taking it way out of context and not even knowing it was a biblical statement whether you agree with the translation or not.

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  12. This is where you show your own ignorance. If you had read this blog further you would see that I have spent time with Hillsong, that I know people that go to Hillsong, that I am not uniformly condemning but give credit to them where it is due. But like all churches they have there problems and should not be consider exempt from prophetic critique. So, why don’t you read more first and get your facts strait.

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  13. The quote is actually taken from ephesians 1:20-23 from the message bible.. If you have a problem with it you should really take it up with Eugene peterson and I’m sure he’ll be happy to enlighten you further! Peace out bro.

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