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  Hillsong London

from the newsletter, 06/06:

When was the last time people lined up to get into your
worship service?

I've been in England the past two weeks for the wedding of Tim Light [he wrote the now popular "Our God Reigns" which you can download for free at] Since I was on that side of the planet I thought I'd pop over to Hillsong London for their Sunday service.

Hillsong Church, as you might know, started in Sydney, Australia and is the home to a herd of popular worship leaders like Darlene Zschech, Reuben Morgan and Hillsong United. Now they're starting to plant churches in Europe. The plant in London, seven years old, is booming.

They have a Saturday night service, plus three Sunday services in the Dominion Theater in the heart of London. The theater shows the hit musical "We Will Rock You" during the week but is off Sundays, giving Hillsong a sliver of time to set up their stage, worship, and tear down.

The head pastor from Sydney, Brian Houston, was in London and preached. Services went overtime and I waited in a "que" [UK term for waiting in line] of over 500 people. I got a lump in my throat seeing all those people curving around the corner, and another corner, and another corner, waiting to get into a worship service in secularized, unchurched London! Each packed service holds roughly 2,000 people, so I guess they're running over 6,000 every Sunday.

As I waited "in que" I spoke to a Hillsong worker who helped keep the line moving. He said he lived over an hour outside London, but travels in each week to be a part of Hillsong.

I didn't know much about Hillsong apart from their music, but I must say I'm extremely impressed. Somehow I've managed to visit some of the top churches in the world in the past 6 months, and I'm here to say that churches that do things right grow. It's that simple.

A mood of anticipation is set before the service with ambient music and a cool video loop. The praise team then appeared on stage and kicked off one of the most exciting worship sets I've experienced in some time. It was professional and heartfelt - God showed up. A single worship leader led from guitar with a full band. To his left and right were four vocalists who basically hopped up and down like "the kids" do these days. For us older folks were three vocalists to the side who stood still with mic stands.

No announcements! The two-hour service was simply worship and preaching. Each person was handed a booklet/bulletin containing the goings-on of the church.

They're a passionate group. And that's what it's really about, anyway - passion - and Hillsong has so much you can't help but be sucked in. Worship continued for about 40 minutes. Then they showed a short video about Hillsong Sydney - evidently they've just purchased a patch of land downtown and are planning a brand new, state-of-the-art worship center. Another video honored people who serve in various ministries of the church - setup, music, greeting team, etc. Pastor Brian then spoke a relevant message.

I've heard criticism that Hillsong preaches a get-rich type Gospel. I can understand where people would get that, but from what I heard and saw their thrust is helping people live a Biblically based better life, not necessarily a rich life. For instance, a Hillsong magazine I picked up at the church had an article with tips for getting out of debt. The theme of the article was basically this: think of what could be done to build the Kingdom with the interest alone from our credit cards! So let's get out of debt so we can help fund God's work.

Another Hillsong hallmark is the constant reminder to reach out. Not the old-time guilt-trip soulwinning tactics, but a real concern for people. At the end of the service, the London pastor encouraged everyone to make a connection with an unbeliever during the coming week.

A final, upbeat song closed the service. Claps and cheers, nobody was leaving. The worship leader laughed and said "Guys... we only have time for one song!" More claps and cheers. So the band launched into "One Way" and I will never forget the thrill of 2,000 people roaring that song.

When was the last time people refused to leave your worship service?

Copyright (c) 2007