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15 Sep. 2016

In Conversation—Hillsong Band transforms through worship

The world is pleading for harmony in mass proportion–GOD is answering that prayer through the transformative power of a group of friends, teenagers who met at their church’s youth group a number of years ago, now heralded around the globe.

The music of Hillsong UNITED, born out of Sydney Australia’s Hillsong Church takes center stage in the new musical documentary, “Let Hope Rise.” Today, millions of souls have been touched and inspired to live a life led by Christ Jesus as a result of their music ministry.

This insider’s look–at the history of the band, the church ministry, sold out concert performances and personal reflections–is a balm for the weary soul and a celebration of salvation. The lyrics are a triumphant reminder of the redemptive power of a loving savior whose ultimate sacrifice made way for our deliverance and emancipation from sinful snares.

The musical journey of “Let Hope Rise” ushers the mind and soul into the throne room of praise; it frees worry and lifts anxiety; it is peaceful and enlightening—it elevates through celebration–a delight for all to experience.

The band members are: Joel Houston, Jonathan Douglass, Taya Smith, Jad Gillies, Matt Crocker, Dylan Thomas, Michael Guy Chislett, Simon Kobler, Timon Klein and Benjamin Tennikoff.

These friends are no less committed, grateful, humble and modest given the worldwide popularity that surrounds them. During our conversation in New York to discuss the movie version of their ministry, they spoke from the heart along with the film’s director, Michael John Warren (of Jay Z’s Fade To Black video and Nicki Minaj’s My Time Now video) joined by Hillsong Church founders Brian and Bobbie Houston.

Sandra Varner (Talk2SV): What one word captures the experience of making this film?

Hillsong band members: Surreal. Unexpected. Interesting. Indescribable.

Talk2SV: How does it make you feel that your music has influenced, inspired and transformed a generation, further has led many to accept Christ Jesus?

Hillsong: It’s humbling, that’s for sure and there is a responsibility that you realize people are encouraged by what you get to be a part of. I think that’s massively humbling. But we think it’s important to keep in mind that this opportunity we find ourselves in right now was afforded to us because we are part of a local church. We were involved in a local church and we all grew up in youth ministry.

We wrote songs for our youth ministry because they needed songs to sing and we wanted them to be able to identify with God and with their culture, the culture of the day. So, early on, that’s what we did and to be honest, that’s what we still do. We would rather be a positive influence on somebody and have them look to us to take the lead than not have that positive influence that may not help them out as much.

The message of the gospel is strong, it’s relevant, and it doesn’t need dressing up. When you carry the message of the gospel, it’s powerful. You don’t need to make it special because it is special; it’s the most relevant truth that exists. When you understand that, you don’t have to dress it up; you just let it speak for itself.

Talk2SV: Universally, it is said often that comedy, sports and music are the great unifiers of humanity; however, when it comes to faith one can go in different directions when talking to people from disparate places about their moral and spiritual beliefs. This movie has a powerful faith chord throughout. What do you say about the unifying message that you deliver in LET HOPE RISE?

Hillsong: There’s nothing exclusive about the message of the Gospel, it’s not for the rich, it’s not exclusively for the poor, and it’s not just for the hurting and the broken: it’s for everybody. I think that’s one of the greatest things about what the church is. Once we break it down to the very core message it is an inclusive message–Jesus came for everybody.

You don’t have to be the best educated or the best spoken or the best athlete or the greatest or the richest or whatever…the Gospel is for everybody and that is the greatest thing about the kingdom of God.

I think that’s the best message and the best approach for the church. Sometimes we can get caught up in the exclusivity of life and of this world–everything has a degree of exclusivity to it–I think what the world needs is an inclusive message and that’s what the Gospel is.

Hillsong Church history:
The Hillsong movement started as a one-room church service in a borrowed building in the suburbs of Sydney (Australia). Since its founding by pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston in 1983, Hillsong Church has expanded to 17 global locations (including London, Paris, Stockholm, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Cape Town and Moscow), with more than 100,000 weekly attendees, including thriving congregations in New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The church sponsors and partners with others in worldwide ministry work— feeding and educating children in the slums of India, building houses for those living with AIDS in Africa and rescuing victims of human trafficking around the globe.

Church founders Brian and Bobbie Houston describe themselves and their worldwide ministry in basic terms stating, “We’re quite simplistic in how we actually love the Lord; we love the power of the church, we love what the church does, we love being in tune with the heart of the church. We’ve actually given our lives and our hearts to that mission and purpose.

“Our son Joel describes it this way, ‘It’s been an adventure that is unfolding and it’s not diminishing in strength, by the grace of God.’”

On one accord they stated, “We don’t necessarily see ourselves any different than we always did; hopefully. that’s one of the great things about Hillsong United and so on, at the base, they haven’t changed. They still go to church, they still get involved in church, and they’ve still got families. I don’t know if it’s just the Australian way or whatever. We don’t look at ourselves as being huge personalities…never really thought about it like that. I think we just don’t see ourselves in that way.”

About the author

Sandra Varner has had her hands on the pulse of the entertainment industry and lifestyles coverage for decades, staying current, always.


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