I know I haven’t posted anything recently … I have just not had the inclination to do so… I guess I had what you could call, bloggers block! But I have been doing some research on a lead that Sarah has given me.
Anyway, after I had submitted all of your comments on the Friday Funny post, I did say to Sarah that I would research something that she thought I would be interested in. That something is about Hillsong, which leads me to speak about Pentecostalism and the Prosperity Gospel.
Increasingly the Prosperity Gospel is becoming Dominionist in its doctrines, and the line between separation of Church and State is becoming all the more blurred here in Australia — clearly this has happened in Americal already. With the rise of The Family First party and their affiliation with AoG churches such as Hillsong and Paradise Community Church this line of separation is slowly disappearing. Ironically, the AoG official statment regarding politics says this about the separation of Church and State.
Historically, when the church has become involved in partisan politics, the outcome has been disastrous for both the kingdom of God and the system of government it promoted or attacked. The essence of the church is not earthly and temporal, but spiritual and eternal (John 18:36). The priority of the church is to preach Christ exclusively (1 Corinthians 2:2). The mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel (Matthew 28:19).[…] [p]olitical affiliation, by its very nature, divides people into competing groups. There is no room for such division in the church. Therefore the church must never promote any party or system that would be divisive to the body of Christ, but rather contend for the faith that unites every tribe and tongue and people and nation into one glorious Church.
As I read this statement again, I notice for the first time … the church must never promote any party or system … but rather contend for the faith that unites every tribe and tongue and people and nation into one glorious Church. Into one glorious Church sounds harmless enough at first — but when the main-stream world wide evangelical church has lost the original gospel message by pushing a prosperity gospel instead of a repentant salvation gospel then is that Church glorious by God’s standards, or by mans? A churches doctrine is most important, Paul spoke a lot about correct doctrine, and warned against unsound doctrine. And from people I know personally, the salvific gospel has been sidelined in favour for a watered down non-offensive gospel in these mega-churches.
In a comment Sarah made recently she told me about a very interesting interview on the Andrew Denton Show, Enough Rope. The interview was with a lady called Tanya Levin who recently wrote a book called ‘People in Glass Houses – An insider’s story of a life in and out of Hillsong‘.
She raises some very interesting issues, here is part of the transcript:
ANDREW DENTON: You raise a number of questions about Hillsong Church in it and one of those is about prosperity theology, which is probably best summed up and the title of this book by Brian Houston ‘You Need More Money.’ Can you explain to us what ‘prosperity theology’ is?
TANYA LEVIN: Prosperity theology is the belief, the absolute belief, that according to the bible, according to the verses in the bible, God wants you to be rich. He wants you to have prosperity in every area of your life, particularly your finances. And that to not be that way is actually to be disobedient to the word of God.
ANDREW DENTON: Why would God want you to be rich, what does that achieve?
TANYA LEVIN: You know, if the Christians can have all the wealth then they can redistribute it as they wish to. You know, to the areas of poverty that they want to distribute it to, the areas of need that they see fit.
TANYA LEVIN: It’s very abstract. 60 per cent of their money goes towards helping people directly, that could mean any number of things.
ANDREW DENTON: Do you do you suspect ah that under closer scrutiny, that there is something questionable, ah the way Hillsong operates?
TANYA LEVIN: I can’t argue that there’s anything questionable. What I can argue that is questionable, is the lack of transparency. So, you know, as much as they might say their books are open, everybody that I’ve interviewed who has asked to have a look at the books is told that they’ve got a bad attitude or they’ve got doubts and therefore we get back to the story of sin and doubt so.
According to Cult Information and Family Support Inc. — CIFS — they say the following in regards to the tax free income of Hillsong and the lack of transparency that is definately there:
Traditional congregations are declining, but Hillsong attendance soared by 13% in recent years. Original Hillsong recordings are No 1 sellers on global Christian music charts.
Music royalties and CD sales, and other merchandise made $15.5m for the church in 2005. The flock is encouraged to give 10% of their pre-tax salary to the church. Hillsong accepted more than $17m in tithes and donations in 2005, part of a revenue topping $50m, all tax-free. Church services and programs don’t come cheap. Hillsong spent $20.9m on them and only $3.6m on missions and overseas aid. March 7, 2007
Not only that, but According to Adele Ferguson, Pentecostal Churches are not waiting to inherit the Earth. They are taking it now tax-free. (PDF File)
After the show aired they opened a forum for people to comment on:
As a former Pastor of Hills Christian Life Centre (1988-90) now Hillsong, I totally support the comments and views expressed by Tanya Levin on tonight’s Enough Rope. This church, as I see it, as a former member from early days in 1979 and a Pastor, and dean of the bible college and close confident of Brian Houston and his family, is perhaps a fundamental cult now. I left because any questioning of Brian’s leadership was actioned in the strongest terms. I was personally alienated from the administration and all of its members after the death of both my parents in 2000, 2001. I fell into the worst depression and was told in no uncertain terms unless I was to come back to the church in their terms there was to be no further “fellowship” relationship or avenues of healing and on going support for me. I knew about the fears of Brian’s father (Frank Houston) misdemeanours, as it was widely discussed from those who left the church leadership, it is/was a great cover up. There are no pastors who have ‘failed” Hillsong who marriages and families have survived, some of us have misgivings about the way Brian took care of those partners who remained behind. Those of us who have left Pastors, Leadership and every day people today wonder about cult like behaviour of this organisation, both within and without. This is fundamentalism at it worse. You will see a tidal wave support for hillsong. You will not here about the lives shattered by this man and his quest, a man who in a more transparent society we would see as a risk. They end up being caught out by some tax scandal, (and there are any number I was privy too). I applaud Tanya Levin, her book that has been an Everest to publish, her life has suffered the worse form of outcast and isolation because she dared like Lincoln Hall to stand up when she had no good reason too. I’m honestly sad that I have never had the guts too because I fear the incrimination and hurt it would bring my family. Thanks Enough Rope.
Tanya Levin’s talk on Enough Rope tonight unfortunately appears to be very much discoloured from her own life experiences – which has unfortunately left her sad and confused.
The result of our family’s personal experience from fairly close association with Hillsong and its leaders and aherants over the years has been growth in spiritual maturity, yearning for excellence in all areas of our lives and the excitement of being part of God’s answer to a hurt and dying world. We CAN do it together if united behind the vision of the leadership of the church. If we prefer to worship in another manner or atmosphere, then we should feel free to do that but not make judgments about something we really don’t understand. Hillsong church has a huge vision for global ministry that God is using to reach many parts of the world through the use of modern media like TV plus its many charitable arms of service. One recent example is of the tsunami experienced last year when the church collected very generous offerings and professionals were sent overseas from the church to help medically and in the rebuilding of that area.
It’s no more offensive to us for Hillsong to raise funds to outreach a needy world than for well recognised and supported Christian organisations like World Vision to seek support for their many charities. And to do this you need a strong base.
Furthermore, the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles are taught regularly and the congregation is encouraged to glorify God and be active participants in reaching nations and making disciples of all men in whatever area of life they find themselves working in.
Like in all churches or families or businesses, there will be things we don’t all see eye to eye with, but let’s keep our eyes on the main game, which is bringing the love of Jesus to a needy world.
what a load of rubbish. I have experienced first hand the wrath of Hillsong and its subsidiary the CCC. it is all about money and if you don’t have any you are shunned. The members of this church firmly believe that God will provide (money). You just have to look at the offices, cars and houses that the elders of these churches live in to see where all the money is going. Its a pity we don’t have access to their private bank accounts as that would show alot more I am sure. Jesus taught charity not profit so I think you should start rereading your bible.
michelle 31/07/2007 8:23
sorry but you are obviously totally blinded by this organisation. Why is it that your leaders are personally very wealthy when that money could be going to a very needy charity. I don’t begrudge your church leaders a comfortable lifestyle but take the Pastor of the Christian City Church for example and the money spent on his new office alone could have saved a starving population
michelle 31/07/2007 8:28
I have a strong feeling that Tanya Levin has opened up a huge can of worms, and this is not the last word about what is going on in the pentecostal movement across Australia.
As a side note: Tanya Levin’s book has had a bit of trouble getting a publisher (Allen & Unwin was going to publish it but pulled out) at the beginning of the year because apparently a ‘not- for – profit’ organisation can sue …the defamation laws haven’t changed since Allen & Unwin’s own lawyers gave her manuscript the tick of approval before Christmas. Then she had been advised to target the church as a whole, rather than individuals, because corporations can’t sue. legal advice has revealed a not-for-profit organisation can sue. The cruel irony for Levin is that while Hillsong is not-for-profit in the sense that it doesn’t pay tax, it has annual revenues of about $50m, a good slice of which comes from song royalties and CD sales and is enough to keep a for-profit company in the black. @Cult Information and Family Support Inc.
Note: This post may be edited as I had to write it in a hurry… sorry about that!