Can Two Walk Together, Except They Be Agreed? In the May 4, 1936 edition of the Presbyterian Guardian (now on-line), Dr. J. Gresham Machen wrote an article on what constituted schism.

Can Two Walk Together, Except They Be Agreed? In the May 4, 1936 edition of the Presbyterian Guardian (now on-line), Dr. J. Gresham Machen wrote an article on what constituted schism. The times in which he was writing were perilous times for both Reformed ministers and the members of their churches. Already a Mandate had been…

via May 4: What Constitutes Schism? — This Day in Presbyterian History

Lemon Curd Cheesecake Eggs – Recipe by Elise Strachan


225 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tin (400 g) sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
60 ml lemon juice
12 hollow white chocolate Easter eggs (6 cm tall), store-bought or homemade
60 g lemon curd


Beat the cream cheese using an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the condensed milk until smooth. Add the lemon zest and juice and beat again until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Gently knock the top off the Easter eggs to create a small opening, creating a cracked shell effect.

Place the chilled cheesecake mixture into a piping bag, snip off a 1 cm opening and pipe the cheesecake into the eggs to just below the rim (you will have leftover cheesecake filling; this can be frozen for up to a month). Refrigerate the eggs for 1 hour.

Scoop a small well in the centre of each egg with a teaspoon, fill with 1 tsp of lemon curd and tap gently on a work surface to help flatten it (to look like the yolk in the centre of the egg).

Homemade White Chocolate Easter Eggs:

Melt 250 g of white compound chocolate. Paint a layer into an Easter egg chocolate mould about 6 cm tall by 4 cm wide. Set in the fridge, then paint a second coat of melted chocolate. ­Return to the fridge. Remove the eggs from the mould. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Lightly touch the rims of two egg halves onto the hot surface for 3 seconds so they just start to melt, then quickly press the melted edges together. You will need 12 eggs in total.

  • Serves: 12
  • Recipe provided by Images and recipes from Sweet! Celebrations by Elise Strachan (Murdoch Books) RRP $39.99
  • Photo by Images and recipes from Sweet! Celebrations by Elise Strachan (Murdoch Books) RRP $39.99

Chef’s Recipes

  • Appam


    A great Appam recipe.

  • Jack the Pumpkin Lantern and Halloween Cupcakes - Recipe by Candice Clayton

    Jack the Pumpkin Lantern and Halloween Cupcakes – Recipe by Candice Clayton

    I use my favorite packet jelly mix and follow…

  • Alsace Duck Confit

    Alsace Duck Confit

    One piece of advice for this dish – follow the recipe! The result will be rewarding. “Inspired by the…

  • Scampi with Saffron and Olive Butter - Chef Recipe by Nathan Outlaw

    Scampi with Saffron and Olive Butter – Chef Recipe by Nathan Outlaw

    A great Scampi with Saffron and Olive Butter – Chef Recipe by Nathan Outlaw recipe.

Why Hillsong Music is Dangerous For Your Church

Houston, we have a problem!

Brian Houston, that is. Arguably one of the most influential figures of today’s professing church, Houston, is currently the senior pastor of the worldwide multi-site megachurch known as Hillsong. The church, founded by Houston’s paedophile father, Frank Houston, dominates the contemporary worship music scene, with their songs being played in churches of every denomination around the entire world.

Popular songs like Oceans and Forever Reign with lyrics like “Spirit lead me, where my trust is without borders,” and “nothing compares to your embrace” fill the IMAG screens of Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Pentecostal churches, Catholic churches–churches of every kind during Sunday morning worship. From raging electric guitars, drums, and professional soloists to small choirs with nothing more than a keyboard and a few singers, the music is emotionally captivating, bringing many to tears and arms lifted high, as they sing out praises to God.

So what’s not to like?

First, Hillsong is a cult. Particularly, a cult of personality. In a blog post on Hillsong’s website entitled Five Things That Should Matter to a Worship Leader, one of Hillsong’s foremost worship leaders, Jonathan Douglass writes:

2. We are about fulfilling our Senior Pastor’s vision (not our own)

It is so important that as amazing as our creative ideas might be, if they don’t ultimately line up with what our Senior Pastor and leaders want, then we happily put them aside.The church doesn’t exist to build our worship teams… our worship teams exist to build the Church!!

Here’s the problem. Biblical churches don’t exist to fulfill a leader’s “vision,” churches exist to glorify God, preach and teach the Scriptures, and make disciples. Since Brian Houston, who is currently under investigation by the Royal Commission for his involvement in covering up his father’s crimes against children,  is the senior pastor of Hillsong Church, Douglass has made it clear who the Hillsong worship program exists to serve. (Hint: It isn’t Jesus.)

So what exactly is the “vision” of Brian Houston that Hillsong seeks to fulfill? You can read his entire vision statement here. However, to summarize, he “sees” a large, global church centered around worldly culture and music, with the purpose of influencing the world with his watered down, substanceless version of Christianity–and he claims his “vision” is from God.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

Watch the video below to see exactly what Brian Houston believes Christianity and the church is supposed to be.

Video Player


Clearly Houston has no idea what the purpose and function of the church is. While he twists a passage out of Acts 8 in a sorry attempt to prove the church is made up of wicked people, he then states how he loves the fact that his church is full of broken, unrepentant people.

While it’s true that “whosoever will” come to Christ is part of the church, upon conversion, we cease to be these things, and our identity is now in Christ. Repentance is a necessary part of salvation, and you are not part of Christ’s church if you are not saved. Scripture calls us to be separate from the world.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Yet, Houston’s church is not built on repentant believers in Christ with Christ and his Word as the chief cornerstone, it’s centered around the “whosoever wills” that submit to his “vision.” This is evidenced in the fact that one of his campuses had two unrepentant sodomites, with open plans for a homosexual marriage, as active, participating members of the church. As a matter of fact, one of them was a choir leader. Houston’s response to this was to “love them,” and “assist them on their journey,” instead of confronting them about their sin, and calling them to repentance. The Bible calls these people “adulterous” and at enmity with God(James 4:4).

Hillsong Church does not exist to preach the Word of God, and to draw people to Christ, bringing glory to His holy name–it exists to draw people to their music, making them money, and giving them power, and giving glory to their man-centered, man-built pseudo-spiritual empire. Brian Houston clearly preaches a false gospel. Southern Baptist leader, Albert Mohler, stated,

[Hillsong is] a prosperity movement for the millennials, in which the polyester and middle-class associations of Oral Roberts have given way to ripped jeans and sophisticated rock music…What has made Hillsong distinctive is a minimization of the actual content of the Gospel, and a far more diffuse presentation of spirituality.

Brian’s Word of Faith gospel teaches that God wants you to be rich and famous so that you can reach millions of people for Christ. Watch the video below for an excerpt of a sermon he gave teaching this.

Video Player

Further, it exists to convert existing churches, including biblical churches, into churches that conform to their ideology. Hillsong, while having similarities with charismatic and pentecostal churches, was actually founded on Latter Rain ideology, now known as the New Apostolic Reformation, and uses aggressive and unscrupulous tactics to take over churches.

What happens when Hillsong plants a large church in a new area? Many of the smaller churches die, because,

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1:4

Hillsong, through it’s attractive music, that has a form of godliness but denies His power (2 Tim 3:5), creeps it’s way into solid churches, deceptively turning people on to their ideology, drawing people to their “vision”–Brian Houston’s “vision.” A wide-ranging variety of music, some that may seem very solid theologically on the surface (even Satan masquerades as an angel of light, 2 Cor 11:14), and some that’s blatantly shallow and even unbiblical, is the effective method of takeover. It’s deceptive, and it’s evil (Mark 13:22).

The substance and theology of the music is irrelevant to Hillsong. It’s the attractive nature of the music, not the theology, that draws people to it. Hillsong’s music program funds the entire church and every time your church sings one of their praises, you are lining Brian Houston’s pockets, and carrying out his “vision.” See Also: Hillsong: A Breeding Ground of False Converts – And Your Church Pays For It.

Listen to the words of the music. When compared to Scripture, it becomes very clear that Jonathan Douglass and Hillsong Church music industry is fully executing its mission to fulfill the senior pastor’s “vision” of a worldly, theologically shallow church that’s tolerant of sin, and conforms to the lost. The music tends to carry an almost universalist theology, in that in Christ, we’re all free, and free to do as we please without fear of God’s wrath. But in Christ, we aren’t free to continue sinning, we are freed from sin, and practice ongoing repentance. The Bible says that God is not in those who love the things of the world.

If the sappy, emotional music were removed, and only the lyrics of the songs you love were spoken, rather than sung, would you get the same warm, fuzzy feeling, the same emotional high? Would you be “moved” all the same? Would you be able to discern the truth from the “almost truth?” Or is it the music that you worship, rather than God, through his eternal Word? Examine yourself to see that you are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are you led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14), or are you led by the lusts of the world (1 John 2:16)?

Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you… – 2 Corinthians 6:17

Be sure to go here and like our Facebook page.

See Also:

[Contributed by Jeff Maples]

Print Friendly
Follow me

Jeff Maples

Editor at Pulpit & Pen

Did Brian Houston Lie to Ps. Barbara Taylor?


, , , , , , , , , ,

Source material references are listed at the end.

Brian Houston is known for deceiving and abusing the trust so readily given to him by faithful people. It has emerged from the Royal Commision that Mr Houston told one thing to Ps. Barbara Taylor and testified something else to the Royal Commission.

Brian Houston swore on the bible at the Royal Commission.
Do you think he should have done this?

The Royal Commission (RC) proceedings provide a rare glimpse into the way Brian Houston operates behind the scenes as a ‘Christian leader’. A sad, sorry “meeting” at McDonalds between victim AHA (see Report of Case Study No. 18, section 2.2) and Frank with a family friend assisting Frank back in the year 2000, is an example of how Brian can spin the same event two ways to suit himself:

a. Brian insisted to the RC the meeting had “nothing to do with me [Brian] or Hillsong” and the “elder” was only there as a family friend for Frank.  (ie. family business)

b. Yet to Ps Barbara Taylor, that was a proper meeting between AHA and Frank Houston with an elder of Hillsong/CLC present.    (ie. official church business)

So, did Brian Houston lie to Ps. Barbara Taylor?

Barbara Taylor Brian Houston Hillsong Royal Commission AHA Scandal

Brian Houston argued that what he did as a son of Frank Houston was not relevant to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse. Similarly, what Frank did with AHA was Frank’s business and nothing to do with Brian, the AOG executive or Hillsong. Brian gets to decide what is family business so who gets told what.


For Brian, depending on what suited him at the time, the meeting at McDonalds was:

A. A personal, family business (when Brian gave evidence to the Royal Commission).
Frank was trying to get forgiveness with a payment of $10,000 and have AHA
sign a document to say it was final.

  • Brian argued to the RC he did not need to inform the AOGA about this meeting at which a “final” payment was made and prior legal advice was sought.
  • Brian also argued that what he did in the role of a son was not ‘relevant’ to the Royal Commission.
  • It is easy to wonder if this meeting was an attempt to move AHA out of the picture, and help cover it up as they were giving AHA the impression it was “final”.
  • The man who accompanied Frank was a Hillsong/Hills CLC Elder, but Brian testified he was only there in the capacity of a personal friend to Frank.

B. Church business (when Brian spoke to Ps Taylor)
Brian said to Barbara Taylor that a meeting “had taken place between AHA and Frank Houston with an elder of CLC present”. 

  • This sounds like official church business! This sounds as if Brian and his organisation were  dealing with the AHA matter in an official capacity. Brian didn’t give details.
  • The man who accompanied Frank is attending as a “CLC elder” this time, no longer just as Frank’s personal friend as Brian told the Royal Commission.
  • Brian’s response was in defense to a letter written in June 2000 by Ps Taylor, who was wondering if Brian and his church/AOGA were covering it up.


  • Between Frank’s confession to paedophilia in November 1999 and before July, 2000 when the McDonalds meeting occurred…
    – Frank’s credentials had not been permanently removed.
    – Frank was still employed by Sydney CLC.
    – The AOGA executive had decreed on 12/1999 the matter was not to be made public.
  • Later “Hillsong City Church” failed to report Frank’s discipline when
    registering  with for a Working With Children Check (as requested by the department in August 2000).
  • The fresh batch of New Zealand sexual child abuse allegations had not yet surfaced (to the AOGA officialdom) and so AHA was the only victim that had come forward; thus his was the only matter to ‘manage’ or to keep quiet at this stage.
  • Even after Frank confessed to other New Zealand abuses in November 2000, the
    AOGA executive still agreed not to make the matter public.
  • Brian and the Hills CLC elders stopped Frank from signing his admission of guilt prepared by the AOGA executive in Nov 2000 after Frank confessed to NZ child sexual abuses to AOGA members.


On 28/11/1999 Ps Barbara Taylor handed over the AHA abuse case to Brian Houston. In June 2000, Ps Barbara Taylor challenged Brian Houston about the AHA matter because from where she was, it was looking like a cover-up. In his defense, Brian cited a meeting to demonstrate how the church had been dealing with it. He was referring to the McDonalds meeting.

A meeting had taken place between AHA and Frank Houston with an elder of CLC present”.
(See June, 2000 letter from Barbara Taylor to Brian Houston, and her notes July 2000)

Now, was this meeting official church business or personal family business? And why is the distinction important?  Because Brian had to justify to the RC why he hadn’t told the AOGA executive.

Brian argued that personal family business was outside the scope of the RC as the RC was only looking at institutional responses. If Brian thought it was family business, then Brian did not feel obliged to tell the AOGA executive either.


  • What Brian tells the RC or the AOG depends on what he decides is family business (including his role as a son).
  • In addition, Barbara Taylor was deceived into thinking that the McDonalds meeting was official church business with the implied idea that AHA’s needs were being looked after.



Below, Brian is telling the Royal Commission he felt no need to inform the AOG about Frank’s payment of money to AHA:

11/2015 Report of Case Study No. 18 – The response of the Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse (PDF 822 KB) p32.   Brian distancing himself & Hillsong from AHA payment at the
Royal Commission – Brian says it was in effect, family business:


The Daily Telegraph reported:

12/10/2014 Daily Telegraph reporting on the Royal Commission: Hillsong leader Brian Houston breaks silence on paedophile father: ‘It was wrong not to report him’.
Brian adamant Frank paying AHA $10,000 was NOT to do with church:

He [Brian] said paying victim AHA had nothing to do with him despite the royal commission hearing the victim had contacted him about Frank Houston failing to pay as promised.

Two weeks later the $10,000 cheque was delivered.

“There have been reports of money being paid to the victim. Again for clarification, this was between my father and the victim. It had nothing to do with me or Hillsong Church,” he said.

As a son, Brian sees his actions as not relevant to the Royal Commission:

T89/P9399 – Brian making the distinction between acting as a son and in his professional capacity – as a son he believes what he did was not relevant to the RC When at the lawyers, Brian checked the document Frank would give to AHA to sign to ensure it did not exclude AHA from going to the police.

Q. Did you go to Mallesons [lawyer] with Mr Saleh?
A.   Yes.  That was as a son, but I don’t see that going as a son has any relevance to institutional responses to child  abuse.

Brian’s counsel also  wants to distinguish between Brian’s roles:

T89/P9388 – Asking Brian Houston questions at the Royal Commission was frustrating as Brian would answer questions according to how he saw his role:

Q. Let me put it to you this way, pastor:  would it have  been easier for you, and perhaps for Barbara, if you had  appointed an independent person to deal with the [AHA]  allegations?

MR HIGGINS [representing Brian Houston and Hillsong]:   I object to this.  The objection is on the  basis that if he is being asked as the president of the  national executive of the AOG, then that should be made  clear as part of the question.  If he is being asked did he take on the role as the son of Frank Houston, then that  should be made clear, because I would object on the basis that it is not about an institutional response.  That’s my  objection.

It is evident that Brian and his council are deliberately forcing the Royal Commission to stay within their “Institutional response” parameters so they don’t glean information from Brian as “son”. (And this is a PASTOR being this manipulative to

This is a GREAT display of ‘conflict of interest’, in spite of Brian and the AOG arguing that Brian Houston never had one. 

So what was the McDonalds Meeting About?

It was a meeting with AHA, initiated by Frank Houston, probably between September 1999 and July 2000. A family friend from Hills CLC (who happened to be an elder) accompanied Frank. At the meeting Frank Houston offered AHA $10,000 and said, “I want your forgiveness for this. I don’t want to die and have to face God with this on my head”.

AHA was passed a soiled napkin to sign. Frank Houston said, ‘Just do it and say you forgive me, and that’ll be it.‘ After AHA signed the napkin he was told by the unnamed man with Frank that a cheque  would be sent to him and to contact Pastor Brian Houston if there was any problem.

AHA found the meeting distressing, Frank was obviously frail, stressed and fumbling because he could not find the proper document from Mallesons lawyers to sign, thus the napkin was used instead. There was nothing pleasant or healing about it from both sides. AHA had the uncomfortable task to phone Brian when the money was not forthcoming.

This meeting was the best AHA got from the Houstons, the church and AOGA.

Why was Frank allowed to contact AHA Directly?

You may be wondering how come this payment meeting was even happening given Brian’s report to the AOGA executive that AHA was so fragile and brittle. So brittle, according to Brian, that AHA didn’t want any church or police investigation or anyone to know his identity.

  • If AHA was as brittle as Brian suggested, then why didn’t Brian nor the AOGA’s discipline process protect AHA from having the perpetrator contact him directly, without proper supervision and without AHA’s prior consent?
  • It is most inappropriate that prior conversations, arrangements and the meeting even occurred:
    – without a third party present, ensuring AHA’s wellbeing was protected;
    – that he was supported and not compromised or intimidated.
  • Frank had refused to meet AHA with Ps Barbara Taylor in her office in early 1999 when requested, yet would “badger” AHA and his mother by phone.

Who was Ps Barbara Taylor?

Pastor Barbara Taylor was an advocate and support for the  Australian victim, AHA, and had been knocking on the door of the AOG leadership since December 1998.

Royal Commission - Barbara Taylor

A year later, Brian Houston finally took over the case in October/November 1999, and only then, after a strong phone call from evangelist “Maddog Mudford” to Hills CLC, alerting Brian to the issue. After Brian heard Frank’s confession, Brian had a meeting with Barbara Taylor and John McMartin on 28 November, 1999. In this meeting Barbara Taylor was relieved that  Brian Houston had taken over the case.

The following day Barbara Taylor sent a letter to Brian referring to their meeting. In it she thanked him and noted AHA received the news well that he had been believed, that Frank had not denied it and AHA was considering legal proceedings.

Note, this letter is important. Brian continues to claim AHA did not want any investigation from either church or legal authorities – this way Brian can justify why he didn’t report Frank to the police. On 29 November, 1999, AHA knew he was already being dealt with by church authorities and Ps Taylor’s letter made it clear to Brian that AHA was not so “brittle” after all as he had softened and was thinking about legal proceedings. AHA also wanted to know if Barbara Taylor had told Brian.


Over the next 6 months she heard nothing from Brian or the AOG. From Barbara Taylor’s perspective there was no evidence to suggest Brian nor the AOG were dealing with Frank’s paedophilia. Barbara Taylor was another victim in this saga – she did not get the support she needed from the AOG or Brian. She had believed the church would be the best option to deal with Frank, provide justice and support AHA. Barbara made some notes to speak with McMartin about her concern which showed how she saw her predicament:

Discussion notes made by Barbara Taylor around 21/12/1999  – highlights how she was feeling about the AHA matter at the time. [It is not clear if the conversation ever did happen with John McMartin (NSW AOG executive)]


25 June, 2000, Ps Barbara Taylor wrote another letter to Brian Houston, this time showing her frustration with the apparent lack of response from him and the Assemblies of God leadership, regarding Frank Houston’s child sexual abuse.  Of all people, she had good reason to think Brian and the AOG were not dealing with it and may even be covering it up.


In response to her letter, Brian phoned Barbara Taylor almost a month later (Hillsong Conference was around that time – July 2000). He obviously was not happy with Barbara’s letter and tried to impress on her that they had been dealing with the matter. Barbara made notes of the conversation.

Here are the Notes from Barbara Taylor of her phone call from Brian Houston

19th July, 2000

Brian Houston rang me and said that :-

 1) His father was receiving AOG Restoration Counselling
2) The National Executive had met to consider the matter
3) A meeting had taken place between AHA land Frank Houston with an
elder of 
CLC present.
4) He was very hurt by my letter
5) He had shown the letter to 3 executive members at Hillsong.
6) His father’s memory and health was failing
7) His father had been abused as a child.
8) He would speak to his mother about a meeting with me
9) He (i.e. Frank) has told the truth about what happened
10) Any future correspondence to be by ‘phone.
11) Two executive members had spoken to Maddog Mudford.
12) His father is very depressed. 

I said:-  [Barbara Taylor]

1 ) Had he told me he was dealing with it the letter would not have been necessary.
2) I requested a meeting with Frank so he could get the resentment out.
3) I apologised for the timing of the letter (close to Hillsong)
4) AHA started going back to church.
5) I believe in restoration
6) I have forgiven his father.

[As an aside, a few key points to note about the phone call notes above:

a. A lot of focus was on Brian, Frank and his family.

b. Brian seemed to know little about the victim AHA.

c. The only thing that Brian cited that “gave” the illusion AHA had been given some personal attention and care, was that AHA had a meeting with Frank with a CLC elder present.

Brian pretended the shameful McDonalds meeting was an official meeting. 

To the RC, Brian said this same elder was only there as a friend to Frank [family business]. It was important for Brian to distance himself and Hillsong from that meeting, and in effect, from Frank and AHA.

NOTE: Brian was the only AOG designated contact for both.

d. Brian did not mention he had made the matter public at services.

Hence it can be assumed Brian probably hadn’t told his church publicly at this stage about Frank’s paedophilia because he would have been trying to convince Ps Taylor he was not hiding it. Can we assume he had not told Hillsong Conference as well?

e. Makes you wonder what else Brian didn’t tell the RC or the AOGA because it was “family business”.

f. It suits Brian not to put things in writing, but do it by phone. No wonder Ps. Taylor was documenting all her correspondence. She wasn’t trusting how the matter was being handled. At the RC it was plain Brian did not properly document his dealings with the AHA matter, even if required by the Procedures Manual – for something so important and which had legal implications. And this is from the top man who is responsible for how the AOG organisation conducts itself properly and follows procedure.]


Why don’t Hillsong followers do their homework and read the Royal Commission transcripts and evidence submitted?

They will find out their leader is incompetent at best and at worst, a morally corrupt man who tried to cover-up his father’s paedophilia and protect the image and reputation of his family name, his church dynasty, and the denomination in which his church is a major player.

Brian is now in PR mode, rewriting history since he has a platform, access to media and a book to tell you all about it. The victims have no voice and have been left without justice.

How do you the think the victims feel each time media channels give Brian yet another opportunity to spin his version of events to hide how badly he handled his father’s crimes and his lack of compassion and support for the victims?

Everyone knows it was Frank’s crimes but who does Brian think should support the victims? Brian and his family did not cooperate with victims and investigations and Brian blatantly tried to distance himself and the Hillsong brand from the victims of the past.

The Houstons boast of the blessings that God has poured out on them. Yet where was the generosity and compassion shown to Frank’s victims? Even a church love offering for the victims (which are not uncommon) would have shown support and care. (So what did Brian actually tell his congregations, and when?)

Yet Brian has the gall to pull out the poor-Brian card every time on TV to garner sympathy for why he didn’t report his father. Brian did not have to deal with his father, and  shouldn’t have due to his conflict of interest. He chose to, and his AOGA executive team AND HILLSONG ELDERS should have stopped him.

You’ve seen above how Brian used the McDonalds meeting to deceive. He has also shown that he gets to decide what is family business or not, that is, to whom, when and what is disclosed. Brian decided that Frank offering final payment to AHA, and Brian  accompanying Frank and the “elder” when seeking legal advice, did not need to be mentioned to the AOG.

Observe, no-one was witness to Frank’s confession to Brian.

What did Brian decide was father-son and what was AOGA business?

Brian has already submitted after the RC he heard Frank’s admission as a “religious confession” [link], trying to avoid being investigated for not reporting Frank to the police. [Note: Brian is quick to hide behind church tradition and the establishment when it suits him, yet denigrates it when marketing his successful, cutting edge, relevant church that breaks the mould.]

Brian operates in a mode where people are called to simply trust him, the man of God who operates in God’s authority evidenced by Hillsong’s success. However, it is incumbent on Brian to walk in integrity, to prove he is trustworthy. Unfortunately, Brian is more focussed on managing the Hillsong brand, image and growth. When facing the hard issues/questions, he has shown himself not to be truthful and frequently resorts to deceiving word games. Brian does not walk in integrity and those who call him out are disparaged (even the Royal Commission got a serve on national television by the Houstons).

Where are the men in Hillsong? Where is the discernment? (O, that’s right!   Hillsong appeals to loyalty, unity, acceptance, and positivity, and the Hillsong faithful are regularly reminded.)

It is sad day when we need the world’s legal system to shine a light on Brian and the AOG’s dark mode of operation and their culture. There is something seriously broken and the church covers its ears, eyes and mouth. Brian and the AOG have lost its biblical and moral compass. It’s about the “cause” and that end is used to justify what should not be justified.

Read the transcripts below of the McDonalds meeting and you will see the focus, again, on Frank, and the church world. Where is the compassion, concern, protection and justice, and biblical discipline leading to repentance and forgiveness?



McDonalds Meeting – References

Report of Case Study No. 18 – The response of the Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse (PDF 822 KB) p31. This is a summary of the McDonalds meeting:


Transcript86/Page 9079 – AHA recalls the McDonalds meeting – AHA was in a state of panic, Frank was distressed and fumbling and wanted forgiveness for the $10,000 and to put an end to it, the “unnamed man” said to sign the spoiled napkin.

Q. But that doesn’t seem to have been the end of the money; is that right?
AHA-A.  No, sir. In a phone call to my mother, he said he would pay $2,000 a month till the day he died. I think  that was his attempt to cover his trail, in my personal belief. Then the phone calls kept coming after that, and that’s when he made the remark that, “We need to get  and sort this out”, and that’s where the  McDonald’s restaurant situation came to light.
Q.  That’s the occasion where there was an apparent agreement to pay you $10,000; is that right?
A.  Yes.
Q.  What did Pastor Frank want from you during that  meeting?
A.  He wanted me to forgive him.
Q.  What else did he say about the $10,000 and what it was compensation for?
A.  Him and the unnamed man basically were pushing me just to sign this piece of paper and to say that, provided I forgive him, “The money is yours.” That was the only connection to it. That was what he wanted.
Q.  You say that you were asked by the unnamed man to sign a food-stained napkin; is that right?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Was there a document, like a typed document, that was put in front of you?
A.  No.
Q.  Did you subsequently sign some form of written agreement?
A.  There was nothing, as far as I could tell, on the napkin, and at that stage, sir, I just want to tell you that I was in a state of panic, but as I could not see anything on it, I just scribbled my name on it and Frank  kept badgering me about the forgiveness.
Q.  Then I understand that there was some delay in the money; is that right?
A.  Yes, sir.
Q.  And you spoke with Brian Houston about the money; is that right?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Was that the first time you had spoken to Brian Houston?
A.  As far as I can recollect, sir, yes.
Q.  You say in your statement that as far as you were  aware, he seemed to know that money had been offered to you by his father?
A.  Yes.
Q.  You say half a month later, a cheque in the sum of $10,000 arrived in the post?
A.  Yes.

12/10/2014 Daily Telegraph reporting on the Royal Commission: Hillsong leader Brian Houston breaks silence on paedophile father: ‘It was wrong not to report him’.
Brian adamant Frank paying AHA $10,000 was NOT to do with church.

He said paying victim AHA had nothing to do with him despite the royal commission hearing the victim had contacted him about Frank Houston failing to pay as promised.

Two weeks later the $10,000 cheque was delivered.

“There have been reports of money being paid to the victim. Again for clarification, this was between my father and the victim. It had nothing to do with me or Hillsong Church,” he said.

Transcript88/Page 9333 Brian Houston says elder with Frank was only as friend

Q. Who was it?
A.  It was a man called Nabi Saleh, who has been a lifelong friend of my father’s.
Q.  Was he a member of Hillsong Church?
A.  Yes, he was an elder of Hillsong Church. But he went along – first of all, by then, my father didn’t drive, so  someone had to go with him. I didn’t want to be in it  because of the conflict with Hillsong, and this was between Frank and [AHA]. So he really went there, if you like, in a pastoral, caring, friendship manner, to drive him there,  sit with him, help him through the process and just be his  friend.

Transcript88/Page 9335 Brian Houston viewed document – Frank was looking at $10,000 amount being final on document to be given to AHA at McDonalds meeting (doc was lost)

Q. What was on the document, apart from the three or so  paragraphs?
A.  I think it was just along the lines of, you know, we  agree to this amount of money and we agree this amount of  money is final and —

Transcript88/Page 9346-7 Brian Houston justifies why he felt he didn’t need to tell the AOGA executive about the $10,000 payment of AHA at McDonalds

Q. If that is the situation, if it is likely that you  knew before 22 December 1999, what were you hoping to achieve by not telling the special executive that such a payment had been made?
BH-A.  Well, I’m not convinced I didn’t tell them.
Q.  There is nothing after 22 December 1999 which  indicates some formal report to the national executive which includes what payments were made?
A.  To be honest, the payment in this sense had nothing to  do with the national executive, because I was adamant that  this was not about Hillsong; this was not about the Australian Assemblies of God. This payment was between Frank and [AHA].

Transcript89/ Page 9379: Brian Houston talking about role of Nabi Selah, Hills CLC elder at McDonalds meeting

Q. Was there any consideration about whether it was appropriate for Mr Saleh – excuse me, am I pronouncing his name correctly?
Q. Was there any consideration of whether it was  appropriate for him to attend?
A. Well, he was a family friend. That’s the only reason he went. And I don’t think that he considered that at all. He loved my dad and I think he just – all he was concerned about was looking after my father in terms of driving him there and being there to comfort him. Obviously, you know, for my father, it was probably a – you know, a difficult day, and he was just there literally to stand with him.

Transcript89/Page 9386. Brian Houston confirming the meeting in the notes of his phone call with Barbara Taylor was the McDonalds meeting

Q. Can I draw your attention to item number 3 in that .  You will appreciate that we understand this document some notes that Barbara Taylor made of her conversation with you on the phone after you had received the letter I have just shown you?
BH-A.Yes, yes.
Q. Can you look to number 3.  Do you recall, during the telephone discussion, a discussion about the meeting between [AHA] and Frank Houston, with an elder of CLC present?
A. I can’t say I recall a lot about that actual phone call at all, to be honest with you.
Q. Specifically in relation to that topic, do you have any memory – that is, number 3?
A. I couldn’t say, to be honest, that I do have a memory that we discussed this at that time.
Q. Is that a reference to the meeting that we have heard described as occurring at Thornleigh McDonald’s?
A. Yes.

Transcript89/Page 9384. RC asked Brian if the Commission should know about meeting with lawyers. He said it was between a father and son.

Q.   Did you not think that it was a relevant matter for  this Commission to know?
A.   It could have been.  Look, I can tell you now, there’s a multitude of things I could have talked about in this  statement.  I was given advice that, “You can’t possibly  put everything in your statement.”
Q.   But you didn’t think that a meeting with lawyers where you discussed your father’s situation in relation to [AHA] was relevant to this Commission?
A.   Where I went, as my father’s son, to go to see a lawyer about my father, and this Commission is about institutional child abuse, so, in that sense, I don’t see that it was particularly relevant that I went to see  a lawyer.  It was something that was between a father and a son.

Transcript89/Page 9399. Brian says his actions as a son is not relevant to the Royal Commission. The lawyer visit with Saleh involved Brian looking over the McDonalds meeting document that Frank wanted AHA to sign in payment for AHA’s forgiveness, and the money was final.

Q. Did you go to Mallesons [lawyer] with Mr Saleh?
A.   Yes.  That was as a son, but I don’t see that going as a son has any relevance to institutional responses to child  abuse.

Trans86/Page 9132 AHA tells about role of unnamed man at McDonalds meeting  – Frank’s “business advisor

Q. In relation to the meeting at McDonald’s, who suggested McDonald’s as a meeting place?
A.  Again, that was because I had bought a house on the Central Coast and moved up out of there. Frank wanted  a meeting place that was mutual for both of us.
Q.  So do you recall who suggested McDonald’s?
A.  It was Frank at that stage who mentioned McDonald’s.
Q.  When you agreed to meet, were you expecting that  a third party would be at the meeting?
A.  No.
Q.  So you were surprised when you arrived and there was a third party?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Were you introduced?
A.  From memory – and it is vague – Frank said, “This is” – something about “my business adviser”, or something along those lines, but mainly Frank was talking to me about getting on with this and getting forgiveness from me. He was more concerned about dying and answering God for what he had done to me, and that was where that started from.
Q. And this third party – can you describe him?
A. From what I can remember of him, he was a short, stout man, balding, with a small moustache, but, again, I didn’t really look at him that much. He was on to my side and he had a hamburger he was pushing into his face and I couldn’t really get a good look at him.
Q.  With the napkin that you signed, do you know what happened to that napkin?
A.  No.
Q.  You didn’t take it away with you?
A.  No.
Q.  Did you see Frank take it away with him?
A.  I don’t remember who took it. I think the other  person, the unnamed man, he grabbed it and crunched it up  in his hands. But at that stage I was leaving the table.   I just wanted to get away from the whole situation.



From AHA’s statement about the Redfern near-meeting and the McDonald’s meeting:

17. Although Pastor Taylor told Pastor McMartin of the AOG my story, I never received any  correspondence or communication directly from anyone at Sydney CLC / Hillsong or from anyone in the AOG hierarchy itself about this matter. The only contact I had was from Pastor Frank himself who started calling me and my mother on a regular basis. The phone calls started coming about a week or two after I received the letter of 16 September 1999 from Pastor Taylor. I received several telephone calls from Pastor Frank over different periods. When he called me, he would say words to the following effect: “I want to get together to discuss some sort of money as a compensation to you … I don’t want this on my head when I stand in front of God.” The money was something that he brought up. It wasn’t something that I asked him for.

18. I eventually agreed to meet with Pastor Frank on or about early 2000. I decided to meet him because of his phone calls as I didn’t want to hear from him any longer and just wanted to get it over and done with. The meeting was at Redfern Station in Sydney. I attended that meeting but when I saw Pastor Frank pull up in his green Jaguar, I walked away. Seeing him bothered me and I did not want to be anywhere near him. Even being in the same State as him bothered me and I just didn’t want to connect with him.

19. Following the near-meeting at Redfern station, Pastor Frank continued to attempt to make contact with me and my mother. When he called me, he would say words to the following effect –

“Look, we need to meet. I want to organise some money for you, some compensation, and get this off.”

[During the Royal Commission hearing, after piecing together evidence that could be tied down to a time, AHA agreed the Redfern meeting was most probably to have been before the Barbara Taylor letter to him 16/9/1999.]

20. On or about late 2000, whilst Pastor Frank was still active in the church, I agreed to meet with him. The meeting was held at a McDonalds restaurant at Thornleigh, just up Pennant Hills Road. When I arrived at McDonalds, I saw Pastor Frank’s green Jaguar in the car park. Inside the restaurant I saw Pastor Frank sitting down next to a man whom I did not recognise [“the unnamed man”]. The unnamed man was eating a burger. Pastor Frank said words to the following effect:

“I want your forgiveness for this. I don’t want to die and have to face God with this on my head.”

The unnamed man then put a food-stained napkin down in front of me and words were said to the following effect
Unnamed man: “You put your signature there and I’ll give you the

Pastor Frank:     “Just do it and say you forgive me, and that’ll be it.”

At this stage, I was nearly going into a panic. I just wanted to get away from the whole situation. I signed the napkin. The unnamed man said words to the following effect – “All right, I’ll be in touch. I’ll send you a cheque.”

Pastor Frank then said words to the following effect: “If there’s any problems contact me or Brian but you’ll get your money.”

I left the restaurant after that.

21. About two months after my meeting with Pastor Frank at McDonalds, I telephoned Brian Houston as I had not yet received any money from Pastor Frank. We had a conversation to the following effect:

Me: “What’s happening with the payment I was promised? I agreed to forgive your  father.”
Brian: “Yes, ok, I’ll get the money to you. There’s no problem … You know, it’s your  fault all of this happened. You tempted my father.”
Me: “Why, did he molest you also?”

Brian got very angry after that. He slammed the phone down after saying words to the effect of:  “You’ll be getting money.”

22. I’m certain that Brian Houston knew about the meeting that I had with Pastor Frank at McDonalds. I did not tell him about the meeting during our phone conversation however, he appeared to be aware of it and I therefore assumed that Pastor Frank had discussed it with him. Pastor Frank had also told me I could call Brian Houston if there was a problem so that made me believe that Pastor Frank would speak to Brian about the agreement made at McDonalds.

23. About half a month later a cheque in the sum of $10,000 arrived in the post. There was no correspondence of any sort with the cheque. I can not recall who the drawer of the cheque was.


Trans86/Page 9112 AHA corrects his estimate about the timing of the Redfern meeting and the Thornleigh meeting

Q.  Still with your points of reference, if you go to paragraph 17, at least in that statement you say:

The only contact I had was from Pastor Frank himself who started calling me and my mother on a regular basis. The  phone calls started coming about a week or   two after I received the letter of 16 September 1999 from Pastor Taylor.

A.  Yes, that was incorrect. It was earlier than that, before that date – the letter had arrived.
Q.  So is it correct that you were in contact with  Frank Houston in the months before receiving the letter of  16 September 1999?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Was it during that time that you were in contact with  him in the months before 16 September 1999 that you had, firstly, this meeting at Redfern railway station?
A.  Yes.
Q. And the meeting at McDonald’s at Thornleigh?
A. No, that came later.

Correspondence between Ps Barbara Taylor and Brian Houston

In June, 2000, Ps Barbara Taylor wrote to Brian, upset that the AHA matter wasn’t being dealt with:


Letter from Ps Barbara Taylor to Brian Houston 29/11/1999 – AHA accepted the that the church organisation was looking into his case, he was pleased he had been believed and AHA was wanted to know if Brian was told AHA was thinking legal proceedings.(yes)


[Handwriting notes are by Ps. Barbara Taylor.]

Hillsong City Church not reporting Frank’s discipline

2015 Report of Case Study No. 18 – From the RC report – “Hillsong City Church” did not report Frank Houston to the New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People, as requested below. pg. 42

167. On 7 August 2000, the [New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People] CCYP sent a letter to the Business Manager at Hillsong City Church acknowledging Hillsong City Church’s registration for a Working with Children Check. The letter stated that ‘[I]t is important to remember that any completed relevant disciplinary proceedings must be reported to the [CCYP]’.172  The requirement applied to all disciplinary proceedings including those completed in the five years  before the commencement of the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 (NSW) in 2000.

168. Mr Aghajanian accepted that Hillsong Church did not report the suspension of Frank Houston  and the withdrawal of his credential to the Commission for Children and Young People. He said  ‘the matter was overlooked due to a lack of understanding at the time in the context of  complying with the comprehensive legislative child protection regime that came into force in and around the year 2000. ‘340

Transcripts noting Keith Ainge giving evidence about the lack of reports to the AOG executive, no independent investigation, Brian is the only source of information to the AOGA executive meeting,  that procedure wasn’t followed, that the AOGA was relying on what Brian Houston said about the complainant not wanting it to go to the  police, no payment to AHA was mentioned to the AOGA.

Transcript88/ Page 9263-4: Keith Ainge talking about Brian Houston being the conduit of information between the AOGA executive and the victim and perpetrator.

Q. Let’s wind back. So you’re saying if there is no complaint in writing, then, effectively, the whole process under the Administration Manual is put to one side?
KA-A. I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying that at the  meeting that we attended, with limited access to any advice, the decision that was arrived at was that with no  complaint in writing, it was difficult to proceed, particularly since we couldn’t appoint anyone to contact the complainant because he refused to be identified.
Q. That was on the basis of what Brian Houston had told  you; isn’t that right?
A. It was on the basis of what Brian Houston told us, yes.

Q. Let’s just wind back, then. You’re aware, certainly  today, of a letter of 16 September 1999, that was written  by Barbara Taylor to Pastor McMartin, aren’t you?
A. I’m aware of it now. I was not aware of it at the time of this meeting.
Q. Was it put to the meeting or did somebody inform the meeting that such a letter containing an allegation of child sexual abuse against Frank Houston by a named  complainant had been provided to the state executive officer?
A. To the best of my knowledge, no.
Q. So after 16 September we know that no state officer was appointed to commence the complaint procedure under these guidelines; is that right?
A. That’s correct.
Q. Were you aware of whether an independent person had  been appointed to liaise directly with [AHA]?
A. I was not aware of that.
Q. In fact, you weren’t aware of [AHA]’s name at all,  were you?
A. No.
Q. Did you ask whether an independent person had been  appointed to liaise with the complainant at the meeting on 22 December 1999?
A. I don’t recall whether that question was asked.
Q. By you or by anybody else?
A. By me or by anyone else.
Q. You say that the conduit for information about the allegation – so I’m just going to focus on the allegation at the moment – was Brian Houston; is that correct?
A. Yes, that’s correct.
Q. And I think Wayne Alcorn was aware of an allegation;  is that right?
A. Yes, that’s correct.
Q. But effectively it was Brian Houston who communicated the allegation to the meeting?
A. To my knowledge, Wayne Alcorn had no knowledge of the  substance of the allegation.
Q. Was any indication given to you that a full interview  with the complainant had taken place prior to the meeting  on 22 December 1999?
A. My understanding from that meeting was that the complainant didn’t wish to be interviewed and didn’t wish  to have any contact with us.
Q. And that came from Brian Houston?
A. It came from Brian Houston, yes.
Q. Was any step taken to provide contact through an independent person, namely, somebody who wasn’t related to the perpetrator, to establish that fact?
A. No.
Q. Was any indication given to you that a full interview with the complainant had taken place prior to the meeting on 22 December 1999?
A. My understanding from that meeting was that the complainant didn’t wish to be interviewed and didn’t wish to have any contact with us.
Q. And that came from Brian Houston?
A. It came from Brian Houston, yes.
Q. Was any step taken to provide contact through an independent person, namely, somebody who wasn’t related to  the perpetrator, to establish that fact?
A. No.

Transcript88/ Page 9268: Keith Ainge talking about no report provided to the AOGA about Frank answering the allegations. Procedure ignored.

Q. There is a process whereby, I think you agreed,  a report is prepared by the state executive, with  recommendations to go up to the national executive under the administration policy. Do you agree with that?
A. Yes.
Q. And you would also agree that at the meeting on 22 December, no written report was provided by Brian Houston or by anybody else at that stage?
KA-A. No.
Q. And no recommendations were made by the state  executive to be considered by the national executive, were they?
A. At that stage, it hadn’t been considered by the state  executive, to my understanding.

Transcript88/ Page 9275: Keith Ainge talking about relying on Brian Houston for information about in regards going to the police..

Q. And that you were relying on what Brian Houston said to you about the complainant not wanting it to go to the  police; is that correct? 
KA-A. Correct.
Q. And you had not had the matter assessed by an  independent person?
A. That’s correct.
Q. And you had not had an independent person appointed to deal with the complainant?
A. That’s correct.
Q. On that basis, you determined that there was no need to refer the complaint to the police?
A. That’s correct.

Transcript88/ Page 9277: Keith Ainge, AOGA executive being interviewed
– Frank paying AHA was not mentioned at the AOGA executive meeting.

Q. Was there any discussion, first of all, at the meeting on 22 December 1999 about the payment of money by Frank or  Brian Houston to the complainant?
A.  At the meeting in 1999, there was no discussion in relation to that.
Q.  And you would have noted that if there was?
A.  Yes.

From Inside Story: True Believers – Brian spoke to Inside on Channel 9 on 11/2/2016. Brian Houston sees AHA “brittle”

Brian mentioned that when he [AHA] came forward he was 36 or 37 years old. And he was very adamant he did not want to involve the police or church authorities.

BH: And so, he [AHA] was brittle and I think that um, because of that I didn’t see the police as an option.

Princeton Theological Seminary reverses decision to honor Redeemer’s Tim Keller

Print More

Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989. Screenshot from Vimeo

(RNS) Faced with mounting criticism for its decision to give a major award to the Rev. Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and one of the country’s best-known conservative Christian thinkers, Princeton Theological Seminary has reversed course and said Keller will not receive the honor.

In an email to faculty and students on Wednesday morning (March 22), the president of the venerable mainline Protestant seminary, the Rev. Craig Barnes, said he remains committed to academic freedom and “the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community.”

But he said that giving Keller the annual Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness – named after a famous Dutch neo-Calvinist theologian – might “imply an endorsement” of Keller’s views against the ordination of women and LGBTQ people.

Barnes said the seminary would not award the Kuyper Prize to anyone this year.

But he said that after he and Keller talked, and after discussions also with the chairs of the Kuyper Committee and the Board of Trustees, Keller had agreed to deliver the annual Kuyper Lecture on April 6 as planned.

“We are a community that does not silence voices in the church,” Barnes wrote. “In this spirit we are a school that can welcome a church leader to address one of its centers about his subject, even if we strongly disagree with his theology on ordination to ministry. Reverend Keller will be lecturing on Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church – not on ordination.”

Newbigin was a British theologian renowned for his writings on mission, and Keller is known for his success at “church planting.”

Barnes acknowledged that the entire episode had been “a hard conversation” but one “that a theologically diverse community can handle.”

In its announcement earlier this month that Keller had been chosen to receive the Kuyper Prize, the seminary’s Kuyper Center for Public Theology had praised Keller as “an innovative theologian and church leader, well-published author, and catalyst for urban mission in major cities around the world.”

But critics quickly noted that Keller is also a leader in the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, which is the more conservative wing of U.S. Presbyterianism and does not permit the ordination of women or LGBTQ people.

READ: Princeton seminary taking heat for honoring Tim Keller

Princeton seminary, one of the oldest in the U.S., is associated with the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), or PCUSA.

While Keller is not known for pushing hot-button culture war issues, several critics said his positions against the ordination of women and against LGBTQ rights, as well as his endorsement of a traditional view that women should submit to their husbands — a view known as “complementarianism” — fostered domestic abuse and prejudice against gays and lesbians.

“In these difficult days, when our president says that women’s genitalia is up for grabs by any man with power and influence, I hoped that my denomination would stand up for women, loud and clear,” author Carol Howard Merritt wrote on her blog, which she publishes on the website of the Christian Century, the flagship magazine for mainline Protestantism. “Instead we are honoring and celebrating a man who has championed toxic theology for decades.”

READ: Tim Keller to step down from Redeemer Presbyterian

Barnes had initially defended the decision to give Keller a platform, saying that even though his own views and those of the seminary diverged from Keller on those contested issues, “censorship” was antithetical to the seminary’s mission and identity; it is, Barnes wrote in a March 10 note, “a core conviction of our seminary to be a serious academic institution that will sometimes bring controversial speakers to campus because we refuse to exclude voices within the church.”

“So my hope is that we will receive Rev. Keller in a spirit of grace and academic freedom, realizing we can listen to someone with whom many, including me, strongly disagree about this critical issue of justice,” Barnes concluded.

What sort of reception Keller will receive at the lecture next month is the next question.

But one critic, the Rev. Traci Smith, a seminary alum and currently a PCUSA pastor in San Antonio, Texas, called Barnes’ decision “the right move.”

“Yes to academic freedom. Yes to listening to others whose opinions are different from our own (no matter how distasteful they may be),” Smith wrote on her blog, where she had initially blasted the award to Keller as “offensive.”

“No to giving large fancy prizes that can be confused with endorsement. Some may not be satisfied with this response. I think it’s a great compromise.”

Conservative-minded Christians, on the other hand, rose to defend Keller and criticize Princeton.

“How deeply saddening and upsetting this is,” wrote Owen Strachan, director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Those who promote tolerance in our time show so little of it; those who call for charitable dialogue do so little to extend it. Biblical sexual ethics is where this take-no-prisoners battle is the fiercest.”

Most people attend Church for the Music and Not to Worship God in Contemporary Worship. According to this Article.

The Diffusion and Influence of Contemporary Worship

How does worship music style relate to congregational growth? |
The Diffusion and Influence of Contemporary Worship

Image: David Ball

In the past half century, perhaps no other Christian ministry innovation has been more influential and polarizing than contemporary worship. It has been maligned, celebrated, blamed for church splits (especially during the “worship wars” of the 1990s), credited for congregational growth, accused of fostering shallow, religious consumerism, praised for catalyzing spiritual revitalization among individuals and movements, and so forth. Another example of its contemporary significance is how worship commonly delineates one Christian community from another. Arguing that the choice of worship style has become as defining marker of evangelical communities and functions as a veritable ichthus, Greg Scheer posits:

…denominational loyalty has all but eroded, replaced by music style. It used to be that a family would move to a new town and look for the nearest Baptist or Episcopal church, but now they look for the nearest ‘contemporary,’ ‘blended’ or ‘emerging’ church. And how do they know that the Methodist church down the road is an Evangelical boomer community? Because it advertises a ‘contemporary’ service (95).

In part one of this short series exploring research related to the diffusion and influence of the contemporary worship, I will point to some recent findings as it relates to current congregational practices and correlations to congregational growth.

But before we get to the research findings, we begin with the arduous task of defining what we mean by “contemporary worship” (let alone the confusion about what worship means!). In their forthcoming book, Lovin’ on Jesus, Lester Ruth and Swee Hong Lim provide a helpful and concise history of contemporary worship (to which they mean more than just music). While contemporary worship has changed significantly since its early development, which can be traced back to at least to the Jesus Movement in the 1960s, Ruth and Lim identify nine defining qualities that characterize and lend continuity to this liturgical phenomenon:

  1. using contemporary, nonarchaic English
  2. dedication to relevance regarding contemporary concerns and issues in the lives of worshippers
  3. commitment to adapt worship to match contemporary people, sometimes to the level of strategic targeting
  4. using musical styles from current types of popular music
  5. extended times of uninterrupted congregational singing
  6. centrality of the musicians in the liturgical space and in the leadership of the service
  7. greater levels of physical expressiveness
  8. predilection for informality
  9. reliance upon electronic technology

If these nine characteristics embody what we mean by contemporary worship, using Everett Rogers’s seminal conceptual framework for understanding how innovations are diffused, we might say that historically, the Jesus People were the innovators, “New Paradigm Churches” like Calvary chapel were the early adopters, and megachurches like Willow Creek and their teaching networks catalyzed mass adoptions among early and late majority adopters.

Image: NCS

For over 15 years, national congregational studies like the National Congregations Study (NCS) and Faith Communities Today (FACT), have used characteristics like informality, use of electronic technology and instruments common to contemporary popular music, to track the mass adoption of contemporary worship within a growing number of American congregations, and not just Christian congregations (FACT studies are trans-faith and weighted to be representative of all participating faith groups).

For example, the bar graph on the right, which is from the NCS III (fourth wave is in the works), summarizes the changes in worship practices among congregations from 1998 to 2012. Listed as one of their “most important observations,” Mark Chaves and his team concluded that “worship services have become more informal and expressive.”

Besides the rapid increase in the adoption of contemporary worship forms over the past 15 years, which will probably not come as a surprise to anyone reading this, more interesting are the conclusions offered in numerous iterations of the FACT studies that the adoption of contemporary worship is correlated to congregational growth and vitality. Here are some excerpts from several studies.

A Decade of Change in American Congregations 2000-2012

“…one sees that while both innovative and contemporary worship are catalysts of spiritual vitality, the relationship is stronger for innovative worship than contemporary worship. In contrast, while both innovative and contemporary worship are catalysts for attendance growth, the relationship here is stronger for contemporary worship than innovative worship. Part of the reason for this difference is that age of membership is more strongly related to growth than vitality, and vitality is less influenced by age of membership than is growth (e.g., older congregations are more likely to have innovative worship than contemporary worship).”

FACTSs on Worship: 2010

“Congregations that have adopted innovative worship and contemporary worship styles are significantly more likely to have grown in the last five years. However, this relationship is strongest among Oldline and Conservative Protestant congregations and is not significant among Roman Catholic, Non-denominational and historically Black Protestant families. Contemporary worship seems particularly important in attracting young adults.”

American Congregations 2015

“…generational changes in music tended to make much “traditional church music” unappealing to young adults. In response many congregations over the last quarter century found that changing to more contemporary forms of worship was a stimulus to growth. The boost to growth from innovative worship is evident in Figure 9.”

Next time, I will share some thoughts on what might be behind these statistics on growth and offer possible implications for adopting ministry innovations beyond just worship styles. In the meantime, I encourage you to reflect on what these findings might mean for your faith community.