I first attended Hillsong church and Hillsong conference in 1995. It was transformative. My eyes were opened to a different way of doing church. It was faith building. I came home ready to crush giants, storm the battlements and take territory. Hillsong has had a similar impact on many people.

When Hillsong announced in February via social media that they were launching in Perth I began thinking about the type of people who would check out Hillsong Perth.

Who Will Check Out Hillsong Perth?

The Curious

People will be curious to see what the fuss is all about. Especially those who have never experienced a Hillsong service or conference. Some pastors will go to a service to learn, observe and see how Hillsong operates.

The Fatigued

Church volunteers are human. They get worn out and fatigued. It comes through various means. Hard work. Discouragement. Setbacks. Failed endeavours. Lack of support. Boring routine and rituals. The thought of taking a back seat in a vibrant church is tempting.

The Ultra Consumer

Let’s face it. We are all consumers. I am a consumer whenever I step into a Westfield shopping centre. I know what I want. I find someone to give it to me, with as little fuss as possible. The consumer mindset is embedded in us all.

However, some people bring this into their church. They see church as a place to be served rather than a place to serve. People with this mindset are far more prone to hopping from one church to another looking for the best ‘service’ in town.

The Change Seeker

When I was pastoring, people would occasionally come and tell me they were leaving. I always appreciated their courage compared to others who slinked off into the night without a word of thanks or explanation. Anyway, I digress.

Hillsong will reach Millennials and younger Gen X in Perth that many other churches won’t reach. – John Finkelde

When long standing members told me they were moving onto another church I could empathise with them. There’s was not so much a consumer mindset, they just needed a change. Ruts are demolished by a significant break in routine. And there are times when church members need a change for change’s sake.

The Battle Weary

People run from wars. If conflict is high in their church, then people will be looking for a refuge. Hillsong Perth will attract ‘refugees’ from church battlegrounds.

Chasers of the New

Some people just can’t help themselves. They must line up at Apple stores. They press refresh multiple times on Ticketek.com to get THOSE tickets for THAT show. They must be sporting the latest gear. Always hankering for the new they jump from hot spot to hot spot, craving the latest and greatest. Hillsong Perth will attract this crowd, as does any new vibrant church in the city.

Dechurched

People who have stopped going to church for one reason or another will see Hillsong Perth as their opportunity to press reset and start their connection to church all over.

Unchurched

People who have no connection to church will wend their way into a Hillsong service and discover Christ and the contemporary Australian church.

A lot of pastors will be discouraged by Hillsong’s rapid growth. – John Finkelde

Where’s the Upside?

  1. Hillsong will reach Millennials and younger Gen X in Perth that many other churches won’t reach. This will include people who have never been to church or who have dropped out completely.
  2. Believers needing a fresh start in church life will have that opportunity.
  3. Churches lift their game when a church like Hillsong comes to town.
  4. We need more churches in Perth not less so any new church plant is always a move in the right direction.
  5. You won’t have to go to Sydney to experience the Hillsong culture.
  6. We beat Adelaide!

Any Downside?

  1. Some churches will suffer from a loss of members which can lead to a commensurate drop in resources.
  2. A lot of pastors will be discouraged by Hillsong’s rapid growth. They know how to rapidly establish a church and will do so in Perth. Pastors who have been struggling to grow their church will wrestle with unanswered questions. Small church pastors will especially feel this pain.
  3. Some pastors will face a heightened level of anxiety especially if they are near Hillsong’s location.
  4. Asking for Expressions of Interest on their Hillsong Perth Facebook Page may be seen as aggressively targeting active church members.

How Will Pastors Respond to Hillsong Perth?

I think in their heart of hearts pastors will have one of these 3 responses or maybe a mix of them all.

Naïve Idealism

“Wow, it’s so good to have Hillsong coming to Perth. They will help me build my church and be a blessing to the whole body of Christ. I know that this will be the start of a whole new move of God in Perth.

This will really bless the city and we’ll see things we haven’t seen before in sleepy old Perth. I wonder if they’re hiring?”

Bitter Cynicism

“Oh, no not another shallow, superficial mega-church franchise setting up in my back yard. They don’t care one iota about my church and about the impact on me.

Anyway, they don’t produce real disciples of Christ, everyone knows it’s all performance, celebrity and compromise. Mile wide, inch deep. That’s Hillsong.”

Pragmatic Realism

“Hillsong were always going to come to Perth. It’s not a surprise really. And yes, I will lose some of my people to them. I won’t enjoy that but it’ll probably help me sharpen my shepherding. Let’s face it, people come and go all the time and not just in church but in the workplace and my street. It’s the nature of modern mobility. I tend to bless them as they go.

I won’t fall for the trap of the extremes so I’m not about to promote what they’re doing or get fretful. Both would be a waste of energy. I rather focus on what Jesus has called me to do in my neck of the woods. That’ll work.”

What Would Paul Do?

While under 24-hour guard and house arrest in Rome, Paul writes to the Philippian church and tells them that some pastors believe his hour of misery is their hour of opportunity.

They’re seizing the day by boosting their ministry on the back of Paul’s suffering as he languishes in jail.

It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry … (they) do not have pure motives. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. (Phil 1:15-18)

Paul brazenly calls out their unethical and unloving behaviour but doesn’t stop there. Remarkably, he saw how Jesus could be honoured in this rather bizarre situation.

The truth is we need all types of churches in Perth. – John Finkelde

His focus on Jesus is exemplary. I’d be calling in an airstrike!

Now hear me correctly here. I’m certainly not saying Hillsong is engaging in any untoward behaviour here. You could hardly call planting a church inappropriate!

What I want pastors to note is that when other leaders do things that can cause you collateral damage (whether intended or not) you must find your solace in Christ.

You must find the assurance of our call in Him. You cannot chase your anxieties, despair or rage down the feral tracks of your darkest thoughts. Turn to Christ. Get happy in Him.

John, Do You Have a Thing Against Large Churches?

Hardly!

I pastored in a large church in our city for decades, so I’m not about to start railing against them. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking this is large church bashing.

No, I love my city.

I wanted to air the things pastors and leaders will say in private. Plus I wanted to again raise the value of all size churches and discard unhealthy notions of big being the answer. That’s not the Kingdom of Christ. The truth is we need all types of churches in Perth.

[Hillsong’s] reputation in our city was built on the back of Perth pastors, leaders and believers flying (and driving!) to Hillsong Conference in Sydney. – John Finkelde

Large, medium and yes, small.

Why?

The data tells us that people in large cities prefer small and medium size churches. More people attend small or medium size churches even when they have an opportunity to belong to a large church.

Imagine if we had this choice in Perth: A church of 10,500 or 15 churches of 300 PLUS 20 churches of 200 PLUS 20 churches of 100. Both represent 10,500 people but I think the community connection and impact of those 55 smaller churches would be different and possibly more grassroots in its connection to the community.

You’re Welcome Hillsong, But Stay Classy

I welcome you to Perth, Hillsong.

But please remember that your reputation in our city was built on the back of Perth pastors, leaders and believers flying (and driving!) to Hillsong Conference in Sydney, liking your social media, buying your resources and singing your songs.

Stay classy and please honour our support over the years with kindness and courtesy.

John Finkelde served, together with his wife, as the pastor of C3 Church Hepburn Heights, in Western Australia from 1982-2012. This post was first published at https://www.growahealthychurch.com/hillsong-perth/. It is republished with permission. 

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