Brian Houston: The Hillsong Experience

“I’ve always been passionate about big, global cities, cities that have influence within nations, within continents.”

What are some differences you’ve come across in doing church in the U.S. versus Australia? Any insight you have of American church culture, as someone looking from a different perspective?

America obviously is far more churched than Australia or most of the other places where we are. We’ve definitely gone to some of the least churched cities [in the US.] but I notice here—I’m in Orange County [California]—it’s not uncommon at all to overhear a conversation, people talking about church or even see someone reading the Bible or doing a devotional, whereas in Australia, if you heard another table say “church” your ears would perk up because it’s not normal.

So, America is more churched, but I think that has its strengths and weaknesses, because Christianity can develop a lot of gray—a lot of people who are kind of Christian—if you asked them on an airplane, if they find out you’re a pastor, all of the sudden, yes they’re a Christian, but right before that they were, “blankety, blankety” [laughs]. Whereas, in Australia and in many of the other countries which are nowhere near as Christian-based or church-cultured, it’s much more black and white; you either are or you’re not, there’s not much in the middle. So I see that as a difference.

What I notice in LA in particular, even more than New York, LA seems to have a culture amongst a lot of people, which is to treat churches a little bit like restaurants. You know, let’s go to Cheesecake Factory tonight, let’s go to Spaghettini’s tomorrow night …

I’m from LA, and that’s very true. People go to one church for the worship, one church for the sermon …

We’ve even had experiences where someone wanted to start a connect group for us, for our church, but they’re already committed to their own church. You can only ever really build the church on people who want to be there, and people who have had the revelation, this is my church and I want to be part of the answer here. So that’s certainly something different that you’ve got to work with. Again in America, historically maybe, even more than today, often the only way you would get people to play in the worship on the weekend was to pay them. We’ve never paid the worship team in our church anywhere; it’s all based on a volunteer heart, and a passion for the church. Certain things like that are where we’re refusing to bow to the culture and continue to be ourselves, and I have to say it’s working for us.

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