I have written so much, so often and with such passion and force about the megachurch It seems almost obligatory that I write something now, in light of the Hillsong debacle. What irony, the fall of Hillsong’s head pastor. Ironic, but it is not a surprise to anyone that has paid attention. No more surprising than so many other scandals and precipitous downfalls of men that claimed the mantle of teacher and preacher while bearing the fruit of something else entirely. If one watched and listened to Hillsong over the years, with discernment and understanding, there is nothing at all surprising about recent events. The fact that people are outraged only by infidelity and have ignored all of the other signs is the most telling indictment of this entire tragedy.
I almost missed the news of this entirely, I ensconced firmly in the midst of an extended sabbatical on one of South Carolina’s sea islands. I turned on Chris Rosebrough’s YouTube one evening as I sat watching the tide recede from the marsh. Chris has been consistent and persistent in calling out Hillsong along with numerous other heretics, false teachers, and mishandlers of the Word, he has ten years’ worth of archives just on Hillsong. But we did not actually need his diligence to know. One needed only listen to the lyrics to many of the songs that that corporate church behemoth has produced. Ignoring the bubble-gum beat and the repetitious lyrics designed to elicit an emotional response from the hearer we must admit that very often their songs seem to have been written about a god I have never found in the Bible. Much of it was just doctrinally mushy, but some, some of if literally seems to describe something else entirely, not authentic, Biblical Christianity.
The fall of Hillsong, insofar as it is a fall, that corporate money-making machine is probably too big to fail, has much more meaning than just as it relates to one church. Houston's recent hiccup is just one more in a series for the organization. Just as Newspring and others went on after thousands of itchy-eared congregants sat willingly under an obvious false teacher for years, only to rinse off and repeat, so too will Hillsong. Nobody will ever ask what is wrong with all the folks that claim to be discerning Christians that sat under, supported and paid the salary of Houston, no more than was asked of those that supported Perry and so many others. This then is our first and perhaps most pressing question. Why do these charlatans with flashy stages keep getting away with spewing heterodoxical and or heretical errors while packing the house and expanding to numerous also packed satellite locations? Itchy ears, the answer is as simple as that.
But there is more. Since the VHS tape days and “God TV” it was clear that Houston was preaching a false gospel, he being advocate of prosperity theology. When Hillsong began to dominate the “worship” music scene, essentially enshrining the genre in popular culture someone, somewhere ought to have asked about the tree that fruit came from. Good trees can produce bad fruit, but bad trees can never produce good fruit. The tree was diseased early on and it was clear to see, to any that looked. And yet, their music with vapid, silly, and sometimes heterodoxical lyrics found their way into churches across the world, onto the airwaves, and into the visible church, big and small. It found a permanent home in the numerous “independent” megachurches that began to spring up in the late 90s and 2000s.
What does it say of a pastor, someone that is likened to a shepherd that protects a flock, who not only allows fruits from a poisoned tree into his service but builds a brand and a community around it? Obviously and clearly, Hillsong is not the only producer of “worship” music, there is Bethel, that place that believes screaming at a dead girl will bring her back to life. There are others, but they follow the pattern, Hillsong showed them the way.
Words matter, lyrics in music used as part of worship matter. Feel-good, emotion-inspiring, shallow and repetitive music adds nothing, but a feeling. Feelings come from the heart, and our hearts are deceptive, even to us. When the source is irredeemably polluted, one has to wonder how any man that is truly qualified to preach would allow this in his church. And yet…
I have thus far written about the lyrics as if understanding the problem ought to be common knowledge – because it should to any discerning Christian. Listen for yourself and check it against the Word, or check the work of some others that have put in some time to do the discernment work and write about it.
Oddly enough, the day after I heard the news of Houston and Hillsong a relative discussed how jaded her youngest adult daughter is to religious matters. This family took a short journey into experimentation with two megachurches in the upstate of South Carolina, Newspring and Grace. I recall sitting in their living room, talking to the father, and noticing one of Perry Noble’s books on the coffee table. I have offered him unsolicited advice only twice and that occasion was one. I told him Noble was a false teacher and he ought to be wary of having his family involved there. He became defensive, defensive in a way I had seen before when challenging a megachurch attendee. I felt a bit like Gandalf the first time he heard Bilbo call the ring Precious. To challenge someone captured by the program of these places is fruitless and their reaction unnerving.
Choices have consequences and some damages just take time to heal, some never do. Perhaps in time, their daughter will come to see that not everything and everyone that claims the title “Christian” is.
It is the same, but different
When I was a child I observed various adults falling for bad fruit, some of it from otherwise good trees and some from dead wood. PTL, the 700 Club, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, and others, some were just in error, some far worse, and yet, when held out like a shiny, painted in the vestments of “Christian” itchy ears listened. The megachurch movement is different. It was design-built for a purpose, for the objective of changing society and not necessarily for changing the hearts of men. There is a significant difference. The history of this movement and the philosophical worldviews of the initial key players is well documented. They told us upfront and publicly what their goals were. Follow this link and scroll down to a video and a slide presentation that lays the foundation of proof. What we see is not simply the mere failings of individual men that grew too big for their character, we observe instead a system of systems purpose-built for a goal other than the mission of the church.
What Would Jesus Do
I wonder, he certainly was not a “nice” guy. Not the sort to sit by while those around him did stupid things or when people were in error. He was kind and compassionate, but not nice, not the play-along to get along sort. Nice is seldom good, nice is usually cowardice and Jesus was no coward. I suspect he would do something not unlike what he did to the moneychangers in the temple. He would walk right past the goobers in the parking lot telling him where to park, through the fake greeters straight to the first “tithing” kiosk and kick it over, this just before he smashed the fog machine and shoved one of the young dweebs standing at the sound stage out of the way to turn off the abomination of “worship music”. I suspect his last act would be to take a whip to the dufus “pastor” with the ridiculous head mic and skinny jeans and run him off the property. That is precisely what I think Jesus would do if he were still here with us in body. Those that find my description of Jesus unseemly or my prediction of his righteous anger at the farce of these corporate fleece machines operating in his name are simply not reading the room, nor the same Bible as I.
What of it
Here in the waning months of my career as a digital pontificator, prognosticator and pundit, it is fair to ask, what is the big deal with the megachurch? Sure, if what I have written, if what others have written, about the effects, the falling away of many through deception, fraud and error is true it matters, but these things happen, they have always happened. It is true too that if what has been written of the history and formation of the movement, the philosophical underpinnings and goals are true, well that too is interesting, but what of it. Perhaps it is all just that, nothing more.
I, however, cannot help but be amazed at the number of unrelated vectors, circumstances that took decades to maneuver into place that are required to enable all the seemingly (if one reads what conventional thinkers say) unrelated events, all coming together around 2020 to lead to what we see now and what we sense is coming. Too many coincidences, far too perfect of a storm to chalk it all up to random chance and ask no more questions. Philosophical world views matter, these made much of this possible but simply cannot fully explain the synchronicity, not easily. Shadowy and secretive groups with their own agendas surely exist, it would be foolish to think otherwise, but could mere humans, even powerful and dedicated people really work over decades in so many realms on so many vectors of action culminating at one point? It seems hard to swallow. As Yoda might say, ‘help they did, control they did not”. Something else, something beyond mere flawed and fallible men must be involved.
Why did all of my ranting about the megachurch ever matter, beyond my feeble and perhaps misplaced efforts to help save some that I love? I think it mattered because the very program of ideas that Peter Drucker envisioned for the movement is related to what is happening, or more specifically what comes next.
I do not have much more to say about anything that is going on in the world that I have not already written, but the irony of recent developments compelled me to dabble at writing this little bit. The sun is setting across the marsh now, the aroma of pluff mud beguiles me. Be gone thoughts of the world!