Australia

The difference between living rich and living blessed

Hillsong’s Brian Houston suggests the prosperity gospel is not in his vocabulary

Brian Houston has never believed in a “prosperity gospel”, he told Eternity at a press conference marking the start of this year’s Hillsong Conference.

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The leader of the family of Hillsong Churches that stretches across the globe says, “There’s a huge difference between living rich and living blessed” – using the Laodicean Church of Revelation 3 as an example of a church that was rich but not receiving God’s Blessing.

“The prosperity gospel is… not a term I’ve ever heard used in our church in any context whatsoever,” he says, referring to Hillsong Church, suggesting the term has been invented by critics.

“There’s really only one gospel: it’s the gospel of Jesus, the gospel of grace.”

“The prosperity gospel is… not a term I’ve ever heard used in our church.” – Brian Houston

Tens of thousands of Christians from around the country swamped Olympic Park in Sydney’s west last night for the beginning of Hillsong Conference. They met under huge banners bearing the slogan “No Other Name”.

“Do I believe God wants to bless his people? 100 per cent. Do I believe he’s come to give us life and give it to us in abundance? 100 per cent. Do I believe he wants us to just get really, really, really rich and spend all and whatever blessing comes our way on ourselves? Absolutely not,” Houston told the press conference.

“… I believe that Abraham, when he was given the covenant in Genesis 12:1, and the Lord said I’ll bless you and make your name great, that you could be a blessing – I 100 per cent believe that the idea of blessing is to be blessed.”

“There’s really only one gospel: it’s the gospel of Jesus, the gospel of grace.” – Brian Houston

According to Houston, there’s no denying that Hillsong is a blessed church, though he says that’s relates to more than just finances.

“Financially, we’ll always have more vision than resource.” But he says the church, just like individual Christians, have a choice with what to do with the many blessings of God: use them for ourselves, or use them for others.

“Do we spend all that blessing on ourselves and become introspective and introverted with it? Because I think that’s the way to lose the blessing on your life. And so, when it comes to personal blessing, I see it the same way.”

So, if a successful business person walked into Hillsong, clearly blessed by God, and they understand that God blesses them to be a blessing to others, then Houston says, that’s what it’s all about.

“God blesses you to be a blessing… that’s the essence of what we are all about.”

Here Hillsong resembles the Methodist revival of the 18th century, (another movement with a rich musical tradition). Marxist historian E.P. Thompson famously criticised Methodism for giving the working classes the values (industry, utility, discipline) that caused them to rise under capitalism. Or as John Wesley, sounding rather like a 17th-century Brian Houston, put it: “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can away” (Sermon number 50).

God blesses you to be a blessing… that’s the essence of what we are all about.” – Brian Houston

Like Methodism, Hillsong has moved into the Christian mainstream. In the press conference, Houston described how music has led to barriers between Hillsong and other church denominations being broken down. He described how earlier in their ministry, Darlene Zschech’s music ministry saw Hillsong invited to places where Houston may not have been invited on his own.

“Worship breaks down barriers. And those people – Bill Hybel’s Willow Creek and [Rick Warren’s] Saddleback Church, for example – have become our close friends.”

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