The Hillsong Church Cult

Hillsong Service in London

While paying a friend a visit in London, I came along the so-called „Hillsong Church“ to one of their regular services at the Dominion Theatre. Though I don’t believe in the supernatural, I thought it to be a good idea to please the person who invited me. However, I was not ready for what awaited me beyond the door of the big musical theatre, as it closed behind me and behind hundreds of others. To make a long story short: I think this „church“ is more like a cult and may be extremely dangerous for simple-minded people.

Service, Concert or Brainwashing deluxe? - source: wikipedia
Service, Concert or Brainwashing deluxe? – source: wikipedia

Attending the hillsong church service in London 2009

The hall was pitch black when suddenly the lights and a projector with lyrics went on and 12 people came on stage and sang for about 20 minutes. They sang songs like „Arms Open Wide“, with lyric passages like: „My whole life is Yours, I give it all, surrendered to Your name and forever I will pray. „It was more like a concert than aservice, and everybody stood up and cheered. You get the idea if you have a look at the image above. Until this point I was shocked because of the whole topic and the message which the lyrics transported but it was OK. The real shock awaited me after that.

The Hillsong Church Cult has its own Steve Jobs

Some guy who looked a bit like a plump version of Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs entered the stage and told the thrilled audience of his visions and that everything positive that happened in their lives was the will of God. It was rhetorically impressive because he used the word „imagine“ at the beginning of every sentence he spoke and a piano and an electric guitar were playing silently in the background to give his speech even more power. „Imagine we could fill the O2 arena next year. Imagine every one of us (Hillsong members) could get five more people into Hillsong. Imagine we would visit the schools and talk to the children“ At that moment I really became angry. They want to go to the schools and to teach their opinions to helpless children? I hope this is not permitted by the law and hopefully I will have the chance to send my children to a school where they only have education in ethics and philosophy rather than religion.

It was a hard time for me up this point because every time the audience was urged to stand up and pray, I sat down. This sounds easier than it actually is because if hundreds of people are standing and you are the only one in the crowd who doesn’t follow the rest of the group, it is an unpleasant feeling to say the least. Then after a prayer the collection bags were handed out. I even saw some people who gave away their credit card number and the permission for a certain amount of money to be withdrawn from the bank.

A regular weekly Hillsong Church service in Sydney - source:
A regular weekly Hillsong Church service in Sydney – source:

The Hillsong Church Cult is not charity

After that, I started to take pictures and a video in order to have proof of what I had seen and experienced. After the „service“, many people asked me what I thought about the event. At first I tried to avoid unpleasant questions with answers like „It was interesting but I don’t believe in things like that.“ Later we went to a pub where we were met up with some guys from the Hillsong Church and some people who only were visitors like myself.

After a few glasses of Guinness I had to ask: „Where is the difference between Hillsong, Jehovas Witnesses and Scientology and Christianity in general? Haven’t you watched movies about indoctrination? “ The answer was that „Hillsong does help the poor in the third world and that the money is used to make services like the one I saw possible and to get more and more people even closer to the love of Jesus and God“. In my opinion this is also true for the Jehovas Witnesses. They claim to support the third world with their money and everyone knows that they collect money from their members to make their church bigger and even more powerful in order to „save“ people. In fact, there is no real difference when it comes to the concept of a sect or cult.

This Hillsong Church is a huge empire with over 21.000 members worldwide and is criticized from many different directions including the media and politicians. Their methods are similar and other groups like TEN SING are even more popular here in Germany and may be considered equally dangerous. As far as I know at least they do not try to collect money.

I chose Science over Beliefs

I am an atheist and believe in nothing but the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge which is, in my opinion, the task of science. For me, religion is the cessation of thinking. I wrote a quite complete article in german language called Forschen VS Glauben (engl. research vs. faith) and made the „steep thesis“ (ger. steile These ;-) ) that everyone who visited a university should be clever enough to not believe in mystic tales like the creation myth or the concept of god. Before I went to the Hillsong service, I thought that things like that exist only in music videos like Genesis – Jesus he knows me.

What bothers me the most is that I had not founded a cult by myself. I mean, it should be easy to get some followers and to make people believe in something like the Flying Spaghetti Monster with simple answers to the complex questions of life. Everything good that is happing to my church members would be because of healthly living and everything bad comes from the Spaghetti Monster. Piece of cake. But to be honest I would be satisfied if busses like this would be driving around more often.

Last but not least I would like to thank Liron. She was so kind to help me out with grammar and spell checking!

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72 Antworten zu „The Hillsong Church Cult“

  1. Avatar von brenobe

    money money money, thats all it seems to be about now days. I know for a fact that both jws and christian congregations tithe, its no secret, you have a organisation that has no real means of income so thats means one of two things, either they continue and go bankrupt(yes these places still have to pay water,gas & electricity bills), or ask the regulars or like minded people to make small donations. there is no benchmark(ei 10%) like a lot of people claim, merly this is an indication that neither god or the church need say a fourth of your earnings, if you can only afford 3% of your income im sure god understands your situation.
    and then theres the big bang vs intelligent design, you know you cant prove or disprove either. both have dare I say devine theorys(as in both declare that everything came from nothing), so the question remains, would you believe that everything came from nothing as a result of one of the most destructive forces known to man, an explosion, im sorry but from a logical point of view thats ludercris. you must really have a blind belief in evolution to accept that im sorry.
    and to anyone out there that has undisputed evidence of the existance of macro-evolution please let me know as it will blow my mind, and by that I mean by the addition of new information in dna(not by taking away information as this is not evolution) that has possitivly affected the vessel, and no not like a horse or whatever it was with 5 legs, that horse did not look like it possitivly affected by this at all

  2. Avatar von Jim Gent
    Jim Gent

    Watch youtube:
    The Mystery of Life
    The Privileged Planet
    A Glimpse of Eternity
    To Hell and Back
    Learn to think sceptically and critically beyond your programming.
    Suspend your disbelief long enough to ask God to show you the truth.

  3. Avatar von Carlitta

    I feel sorry for you. If a person is kind enough to bring you to a „cult“, it’s not because he wants you to join it, it’s just because he wants to open your mind to something bigger than what you are right now. How can a person live without a belief. Everyone has one. Religion isn’t a concept. It is a relationship between you and something you believe in. People think that christianity is merely a religion. You’re awfully wrong about that sir. Religion is a relationship. Something you believe, something you do, something you act like. You believe you don’t have a religion? In fact you do. You believe that there is no god. Then that makes your religion because you believe it and you actually act like there is no god because you don’t pray or read the bible. You don’t have a right to call someone a cult. They practise what they believe in and so do you. But they don’t call atheists cults do they? It is your choice to stay or go. Loads of people stay and like you, they go and just talk crap behind their group. My point is, you have no right to take pictures and videos and post it online without opening your mind and actually realise that these people believe in something. You have no right to exploit their belief in order to „warn“ others to not be brain washed by them. Each person has a brain, heart and spirit. It’s their choice. It’s your choice. And you chose to walk away. Go and rage about it to yourself but don’t go talking crap about them. Because they don’t do it to you. God bless you.

  4. Avatar von Pepper

    It is funny to see an uninformed look at the picture of church. 1. They aren’t recruiting kids, sneaking in schools, and making new generations of cult followers. They are encouraging morality and giving the option of the hope we have. 2. We all stand and sing in worship because it isn’t a concert. It is worship. We all participate, not because other people do it, but because individually we are worshiping. 3. His imagine thing was simple, dream bigger, do greater things. As Christians we are to share gospel, and sometimes Christians don’t that’s all. And according to an identification checklist of a cult it doesn’t have ONE single, powerful leader declaring themselves as such. They don’t twist the source of what they believe to fit their agenda (it is all in the Bible, you can look it up yourself and they encourage you to). There is no show of force that presses people into submission (you were allowed to sit when you wanted to, you felt uncomfortable on the inside but nobody was staring at you). They do not teach people that they must work to earn their spot in heaven, they teach that salvation leads you to heaven, and your actions that seal that must simply display obedience to GOD, NOT THEIR CHURCH. And they do not promote isolation, in fact they encourage the opposite. They encourage socialization. So I don’t know, maybe it was strange and foreign to you, but I encourage you to do an unbiased study on cults.

  5. Avatar von Never-me

    They are recruiting kids! they recruit young people all the time! Their goal is to build a empire in South East London and recruit all the young folks living in this area by building a football pitch and other things the short bold dude mentioned on stage! that is in their own words. They dont pressure people for money but they do leave envelopes on every seat for you to set up a standing order lol and walk around with buckets to collect cash Ha. Must of the time the dude was talking about his vision of building this and building that and how big it will be!

  6. Avatar von Salt

    Dear MarcTV,

    That’s an interesting experience and I’m glad you shared. I just went to probably my first hillsong service today and I had a very similar reaction. It was „Vision week“ where the pastor of the chain of churches talked via webstream about the „pilgrimage“, or …growth of his church. The entire time I had a strong sense that I was listening to a „wolf“… I felt that there was an extreme love of money involved in this church… and I had this strange sense that their appearances were similar to the flowery perfumes that you smell at a funeral service – in other words that something looked great but something was quite dead. I was quite skeptical the entire time and didn’t get a strong impression of Jesus – which is the most important thing I think a church should give.

    I’m a Christian and was discipled by a big church similar to Hillsong and left very disillusioned and misled… and yet I still value many things that grew in my spirituality. I realized just as many things after leaving. Many of these huge mega church movements (some of them I refer to as American neomonasticism) have similar problems. First of all, Christianity is reduced to a myopic vison, principles, and/or self-help, as opposed to a more fellowship, Gospel-living, and Christocentric/historical spirituality. Often this is compromising of the Gospel in order to get bigger numbers, more money, and more influence. I can’t imagine this is the way of the Sermon on the Mount, but it is something I’m thinking of… Afterall, many people who would otherwise be drawn to the influences of star celebrities such as Lady Gaga, may give such a church a chance and later find out a deeper spirituality that is healthy. Nonetheless, after reading The Wind Is Howling: Ayako Miura, I highly favor a poor Gospel living lifestyle and expression of Christianity… wherein, if money comes in all excess should go directly out to the poor, orphans, and widows, as well as the spreading of the Gospel to the nations – but is this what they are accomplishing with their money? and are these church changes having to do with this new generation? Secondly, they are too focused on one man’s (prideful?) movement… where he becomes the head chief (where is the body here?). Cult is a strong word, but seriously speaking… these cult tendencies are very real and present, and are definitely discreet to undiscerning, young, or immature minds. Finally, the theology is so watered down, or twisted into such a multitude of teachings, it is insulting… basically these movements are hyper spiritual and emotional as opposed to historically routed and deeply theological. This seems to have its pros and cons; for example, at least they are seeking to know Christ truly and personally. However their spirituality becomes highly individualistic and idioscentric, where they understand everything as „me and Jesus“ which is extremely off course from the early church and biblical Christianity. None of it really agrees with me… but I do enjoy some music that comes from these people and I recognize that not all of it is strictly bad. What worries me is „the great falling away“ to come, that perhaps these movements may be involved in, as well as the amount of deception that is involved. It’s a puzzle to me, but I am content for the time being in the Catholic church (who supposedly have money and numbers, though they aren’t so boastful and flashy… I enjoy their theological spirituality and safety from various church movements, despite my disagreements… basically I don’t think any Church is right on at the moment, but maybe some are more off than others… these things are something I really look into because unity and truth in the Church is important to me and I value the different sincere expressions…

  7. Avatar von Lia

    I found this page after attending a service at Hillsong last Sunday. Like you, the author, I was asked to go by friends and although I insisted that I am a lifelong (and largely non-practicing) Catholic, peer pressure won out and I was whisked off to the Dominion Theatre. Let me admit that I was initially impressed by the sheer volume of the attendees; I’d never seen that many worshippers gathered anywhere outside of Christmas time at the Vatican. Everyone seemed friendly enough, although it should have been a sign when everyone I spoke with asked, „Are you a new member?“ And when I responded, „No, I’m Catholic.“ They all became crestfallen and replied, „Oh. Well, enjoy the service, it may be a bit strange for you.“

    If only they’d told me that the service would be 90 minutes of brainwashing propaganda, I would’ve turned tail then.

    After enduring 35 minutes of a One Direction concert–I’m sorry, the worship band–a man named Gary came on stage and began talking about people in the church stealing from others in the congregation. That was odd, but what was odder was Gary immediately followed that with, „If you’re coming to this church to recruit members to another house of worship, you are not welcome. We have a church and you need to go find members on your own.“

    Well, that’s not very Christian-like, I thought. In fact, I remember going to church as a kid and hearing the priests say, „If this congregation isn’t for you, go find one that is.“

    That was the first major red flag. The next came mid-sermon when I realized that nothing the man had been on about was related to religion. He started with a Bible verse and then immediately began discussing Hillsong’s new locations and how they need the „resources“ (i.e., money) to continue reaching new members. They need lots of resources, according to Gary, and those resources can only come from the people already in the church. Fast forward a bit and that’s when things got really weird. Gary started talking about how he suffers from racial profiling at airport checkpoints. I laughed, I couldn’t help myself. A bald, caucasian, bespectacled man in his early 50s suffers from… racial profiling? He went on to say that after being recognized by a screener, he decided he had to start being nicer to the people at the airport.

    Well, I assumed you’d be nice to them anyway because you’re a pastor but I suppose if you can hide behind the comfort of anonymity to mask your true feelings, so can I, right?

    I spent the last 30 minutes on my phone and although I would’ve felt guilty doing so in a church, that was not a house of God in any way, shape, or form. That was a cult meeting, filled with sad, pitiful little sheep who have given in to the call for cash and are too blind to see this sham for what it is. Hillsong needs to be called what it is and stop hiding behind the strobe lights and drum sets because anyone with a brain will walk out saying, „Dear God, thank you for not letting me be indoctrinated.“

  8. Avatar von Sonicnaan

    It’s taken me 13 years to deprogramme myself from christian thinking although i will live with the negative consequences of this for a while longer; PTSD, Fibromyalgia/ chronic pain and an arrested normal sexual and relationship development.

    I am an ex professional worship musician and have toured several countries leading worship in many churches such as; Hsongs, CLC, AoG, NewVine, Encounter, CCC… Etc

    As I learned how to think and grow „normally“ and tried to re-programme through study and CBT (it was the most painful death-filled time of my life: friends were lost to death and some simply cut me off) I stayed on for years, noticing and noting down same negative patterns repeated in believers worldwide.

    With friends still very much involved with Hillsongs and similar churches, I cant quite come out fully yet but unfortunately those friends are running out of time, with a few in my life approaching 40 and becoming barren, angry, lonely and everyone left wondering why their life’s dreams, goals and healings (requiring more than placaebo effect of prayer) never magically happened.

    Its a serious problem and a very complex one as there are good sides to church life but the negative are overwhelmingly complex, effectively play on basic human drives and provide solutions for problems that fundamental christianity itself creates.

    This will be the first time I can write such a thing but, Yes, Hillsongs is a cult but its fairly normal as far as middle class churches go, it’s one of many similar. Within christian churches there has always been squabbling and Hsongs has already had a large share of name calling from other churches, which is standard christian behaviour; „if it’s not for you, then you’re the wrong type of christian“, „what’s okay for me is different for you“, just like atrology, there are as many different christian religions as there are christians, specially when it comes to defending against reasonable thinking. At he least, in the UK it’s far less violent to finger point than be a part of the torturous, murderous churches of the middle ages during christianity’s exhuberant „youth“ or the more recent wars between catholics, christians, orthodox, protestants etc… in Serbia, Ireland, Africa, Iraq…

    I must sign off. Don’t write off christians; just be there for them if they ever need help. They will usually be fine if they never leave the church. However if they do leave; Identity suicide is an extremely painful process they will face, very much like opening eyes that have been glued shut; some of my friends didnt survive it very well and are in and out of institutions, some battle with suicide and PTSD and have re-learn how to live their own life and are doing this with little support as Agnostics and Atheists dont yet have the wealth of a worldwide christian community that long ago was spread upon pain of death by that dastardly Roman Empire!

    1. Avatar von Marc

      Thank you for sharing this with us Sonicnaan. Comments like this keep me going on to write articles like this.

      … with a few in my life approaching 40 and becoming barren, angry, lonely and everyone left wondering why their life’s dreams, goals and healings (requiring more than placaebo effect of prayer) never magically happened.

      Searching for the meaning of life is difficult. Using the church or spiritual sources like cults for this task sounds like the worst idea to me. For me personally my current state of mind regarding this matter is that there is simply no external superior meaning of life outside of your own being. Being is life and that’s all. At least to me.

    2. Avatar von JTRch

      Searching for the meaning of life is difficult.

      No is very simple, but hard to hear: there is none. Life and his civilization isn’t as important as we think to know.

      As a child I was also raised in an evangelical free church. But I have solved it myself as an adult without any problems and now I’m convinced atheist.

      If you get told by astronomers how the universe was created, with the many stages of processes, then it is to believe blasphemy for me any higher being would have created just in 7 days.

  9. Avatar von tee

    Im not surprised by some comments, i often ask my self this question to whom do you become a christian for, well the answer is one of these.
    1. for the peers i.e peer pressure
    2. because the church is hip and young
    3. because I need help in my life
    4. because i love the worship music etc

    well there are loads more i can add….no what is missing ???
    if you become a christian and dont have a relationship with your maker then it is and will be short lived. if you are with christ then you won’t worry about a church , you won’t need discipling either as God will lead you , you will be free to go anywhere without guilt and most of all you will be secure in his Love.

  10. Avatar von Ma.Lourdes Bernadette Cabilin
    Ma.Lourdes Bernadette Cabilin

    Hi There! I fell in Love with Jesus and when it comes to songs it’s still between you and God.It doesn’t matter what kind of songs you sing, as long as you know your motives.You can sing „I love you“ to God and you really meant it.When I say it to Him, I feel His presence and I feel good..

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