Since Jeanne and I have been in Sydney, we’ve had numerous opportunities to attend Hillsong Church. I have listened to Hillsong music and worship CDs and DVDs since at least middle school, and my appreciation for their music was renewed in the past few years thanks to Hillsong United. I’m grateful for not only experience the atmosphere of worship at this church, but also meeting people and joining the community here, which has been so pivotal to our transition to life in Sydney.
A few weeks ago, Jeanne and I attended a prayer event at Hillsong Church. The entire Hills Campus was packed out, filled with thousands of people who simply came to pray and worship together. As usual, the music and worship was incredible, energetic and passionate, as I’ve come to accept as norm from this church, as they are known all over the world as a church that worships God with passion and excellence.
Coming from Status at Discovery Church, my experience at Hillsong often seems worlds apart. This prayer event event made me contemplate the differences I’ve noticed in all the different Christian churches and organizations I’ve been a part of over the years. On the bus ride home in the evening rain, I pulled out my trusty moleskine notebook and began to jot down all the observations I’ve made about these organizations and my experiences within them: Status, Hillsong, the Restoration Movement, Campus Crusade for Christ, Desire Street Ministries, Reformed churches. As I began to write and brainstorm, rather than emphasize all of the weaknesses and flaws which I have often been so quick to point out and pick apart, I began to recognize how important each of these strengths were. And each group has them.
Here is a sampling:
As I began to write these lists, I became aware of the differences. I love how the Christian Church/Restoration movement is so passionate about learning Scripture. I appreciate Campus Crusade’s emphasis on training people for evangelism. I am grateful for Status for allowing me to be part of a community that is open-minded and filled with creative, intellectual types. I love the tradition, liturgy and intellectual challenge that Reformed theology has taught me. I value how Desire Street Ministries/Rebirth International have taught me how social justice and care for the poor are not merely peripheral issues to the kingdom of God. And I love how passionate and emotional and honest people are about faith here at Hillsong, and how this church has had a global influence.
I also began to realize how many of the strengths also become weaknesses when pushed to the extreme. I realize how an emphasis solely on doctrine can become legalistic. How cultural relevance and open-mindedness can often foster jadedness, cynicism and doubt. How an emphasis on the blessings of God can turn into prosperity gospel. How evangelism alone can neglect a life of true discipleship and social justice. How an emphasis strictly on social justice and care for the poor can replace rather than be the manifestation of truth. I recognize all of the potential pitfalls and actual flaws.
But I’m at the point where I am weary of criticizing and constantly evaluating what I think is lacking in churches, and I am more or less concerned with my own attitude. I am extremely humbled by my own inability to proclaim truth, to be joyful, to be emotionally honest about God and am slowly realizing that I am in a place where I want to learn from the community here at Hillsong. For all of these potential pitfalls and actual flaws, I’m just grateful for the community that is so welcoming, emotionally honest and incredibly fixed on simply proclaiming truth, living it out, and serving.
I am weary of exclusivity and doubt and legalism and permissiveness and fear and pride and everything in between that I see being lived out in churches and communities. But I am far more concerned at this point with my own heart, attitude and place within this marred, beautiful, flawed mess known as the Church. I want to be open to hope, to actually proclaiming truth, to serving and simply being sensitive and obedient to the Spirit in the day-to-day.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a]have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:1-5