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Hillsong Church
Hillsong Convention Centre.jpg
Hillsong Convention Centre in the Norwest Business Park
Country Australia
Weekly attendance 150,000 (global), 43,000 (Australia)
Founded 1983; 41 years ago (1983)

Hillsong Church, commonly known as Hillsong, is a charismatic Christian megachurch and a Christian association of churches based in Australia. The original church was established in Baulkham Hills, New South Wales, as Hills Christian Life Centre by Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie Houston, in 1983. Hillsong was a member of the Australian Christian Churches – the Australian branch of the US-based Assemblies of God – until 2018, when it separated to form a new denomination. The church is known for its contemporary worship music, with groups such as Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United and Hillsong Young & Free with many musical credits and hits and a series of scandals and criticisms.

Hillsong and its music have been highly successful globally, with its presence described as a global corporate brand, but a series of scandals and criticisms have negatively affected its image in recent years. In March 2022, Houston stepped down as global senior pastor after an internal investigation found that he had breached the church's moral code of conduct for pastors by engaging in inappropriate behaviour with women on two occasions in the 2010s. Phil and Lucinda Dooley, who had been acting in the position since January 2022, took over as global senior pastors.


Early Hills Christian Life Centre logo

Beginnings: 1977–1999

In 1977, six years before the establishment of what would become Hillsong Church, Brian Houston's father Frank founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre (Sydney CLC) in Waterloo, New South Wales, in inner-city Sydney, in what was described by scholar Sam Hey as "a neo-Pentecostal megachurch". Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie, started holding services at a school hall in Baulkham Hills, establishing Hills Christian Life Centre (Hills CLC) in 1983. Both Sydney CLC and Hills CLC were affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches (ACC), the Australian branch of the US-based Assemblies of God.

Hills CLC's growth into a megachurch through the 1980s and 1990s was largely driven by young people attracted by its contemporary worship music, and by its practice of planting churches internationally. In 1992, Hills CLC planted London Christian Life Centre as an independent church, with Gerard and Sue Keehan as pastors; it was renamed Hillsong London in 2000 and gradually grew to twelve locations across the United Kingdom. Kiev Christian Life Centre, now Hillsong Kiev, was also planted in post-Soviet Ukraine in 1992.

In 1997, Hills CLC moved into a new building at Baulkham Hills' Norwest Business Park. The church merged with Sydney CLC in May 1999. Brian Houston became senior pastor of both churches for eighteen months. The multi-campus church was renamed Hillsong Church in 2001.

21st century

Between 2008 and 2018, Hillsong Church planted more churches in Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Israel, Canada and Mexico. Hillsong also branched out into the United States, establishing sixteen locations by 2022.

In September 2018, Hillsong left the Australian Christian Churches—of which Brian Houston had been national superintendent/president from 1997 to 2009—to become an autonomous denomination, identifying itself more as a global and charismatic church. According to both Hillsong and ACC, the parting was amicable. Of the decision to spin itself off into its own denomination, Houston wrote, "We do not intend to function as a denomination in the traditional sense of the word... We are a denomination purely for practical reasons related to having the ability to ordain our pastors in Australia to legally conduct weddings as marriage celebrants operating under the rites of Hillsong Church". Houston added that they had not shifted doctrinally and that the ACC was still their "tribe".

In October 2020, Hillsong purchased the Festival Hall venue in Melbourne to become the home of Hillsong Church Melbourne City's weekly church services after undergoing renovations to better suit the new uses.

In October 2021, Hillsong bought the Golders Green Hippodrome in London, England, with the intention of holding Sunday services there.

Brian Houston stepped aside from his senior roles as global senior pastor and chair of the board in January 2022. In March 2022, he stepped down as the global senior pastor of the church after he was found to have breached the moral code of the church in his behaviour with two women.

In August 2022, Hillsong was sued by an Australian whistleblower in federal court there, alleging that the megachurch had moved millions of dollars overseas to avoid the charities regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). The whistleblower alleged that Hillsong made "large cash gifts" to Houston and his family using tax-free money.

In August 2023, Brian Houston was acquitted of covering up his father's crimes.

Reach and branding


In 2018, it had 80 churches.

According to a census published by the association in 2022, it would have 38 churches in Australia and 150,000 members in 30 countries, up from 130,000 in 21 countries in May 2019 and 100,000 in 14 countries in September 2015.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the church started measuring online attendees instead of regular attendees, which they stated average 444,000 per weekend.


Hillsong has been described as a "global corporate brand", and "Australia's most powerful brand", with its fast global growth assisted by the spectacle of its huge conferences, the popularity of its music releases, young people's attraction to the charismatic leaders, Hillsong Television, its messaging and language (described by critics as "health and wealth"), customer service, targeting of children, presence on social media, and merchandising.


The church is governed by the Hillsong Global Board and a group of elders known as the Hillsong Eldership, headed by Pastors Phil and Lucinda Dooley since 2022. The elders lead the church spiritually whereas the board of directors manages the corporate administration appointed for one year, with renewable terms.

The founders, Brian and Bobbie Houston, had been the global senior pastors of Hillsong Church. On 31 January 2022 it was announced that Phil and Lucinda Dooley, pastors of the South African church, would be acting global senior pastors in Houston's absence until the end of 2022, after Brian Houston stepped down.

Brian Houston was also chairman of the board, until his resignation from this position in January 2022. As of February 2022 the replacement chairperson has yet to be announced. George Aghajanian is General Manager, as well as a director of Hillsong Church Australia and its international entities.

In March 2022, Brian Houston resigned from the board of Hillsong Church and from his role as global senior pastor as a result of breaching the moral code of the church in his behaviour with two women.

Locations and ministries

Hillsong has a global presence, with churches and ministries in Australia, Indonesia and Japan, many European countries, Canada, US, South Africa, and, in Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Uruguay as of February 2022.

Hillsong's various ministries include Hillsong Music, Hillsong Kids, Hillsong Youth, Hillsong Sisterhood, Hillsong Men, Hillsong Conference, Hillsong CityCare, Hillsong International Leadership College, TBN Inspire (branded as Hillsong Channel from June 2016 to 31 December 2021), TV & Film, Hillsong Performing Arts Academy and Hillsong Health Centre. Their total facilities are estimated to be worth around A$100 million.

Hillsong College

Two campuses of the Hillsong International Leadership College arose from the two churches that are now Hillsong Church, the Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre. Both original colleges had similar goals of creating courses in ministry and leadership development based in a local church setting. With an emphasis on the creative arts, theological education was based on the ministry model.

The Sydney college was originally founded in 1983 by David Johnston and located at Arncliffe as the "International Institute for Creative Ministries" (IICM), but in 1989 Johnston parted ways with IICM, bringing the college under the auspices of Wesley Mission. That college moved to the Wesley Centre in Pitt Street, Sydney, and after a few name changes became Wesley Institute (now Excelsia College).

In 1988, Hills Christian Life Centre developed a training arm of IICM, under Ian Fuller. It was first known as Power Ministry School, then in 1992 Power Ministry College, under Steve Kelly. In 1993 the Hillsong School and a School of Music was established to train young musicians. In 1996, after Mark Hopkins took over as director, the Hillsong School and the School of Music were merged to form the Hills Leadership College.

In 1990, Robert Fergusson became principal at the Sydney location and switched the focus to practical ministry training. Classes, at this time accommodating around 50-70 students, were moved back to the church site and the name changed to Aquila College of Ministries in 1993. After Hills CLC merged with Sydney CLC (referred to as its "parent church") in 1999, in early 2000 the Sydney college merged with the Hills Leadership College to become Hillsong International Leadership College, with Duncan Corby appointed principal of its "City campus". It was approved as a registered training organisation in December 2002, and by 2007 there were around 900 full-time students enrolled across the two campuses, the majority from overseas.

In February 2016, Duncan Corby was dean of the college, while Catrina Henderson was principal. and it was still trading as Hillsong International Leadership College. In late 2016 it shortened its name to simply Hillsong College, and as of 2022 has campuses in Sydney and Phoenix, Arizona, and has an online curriculum. The official trading name of the city campus is Sydney Christian Life Centre Pty Ltd, and one of its tax-deductible charitable funds is called the International Institute for Creative Ministries Library Trust Fund.

Hillsong Sisterhood

Bobbie Houston has been especially influential in Hillsong's ministry for women, called Sisterhood. She is a mentor to many of Hillsong's women leaders. Although Hillsong generally supports the traditional roles of wife and mother for women, the church's position is that their ministries "empower" women. Riches found via interviews with attendees that the ministries encouraged women to start small businesses and to take on promotions at work; facilitated women's participation in cultural events, as well as promoted women's voices in religious teaching and public life. Church members have described Hillsong's leadership development as a process that supports women's movement from timid, supportive wife into leadership roles within the church. The Sisterhood is involved in issues such as HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. Their midweek gathering is primarily for women. It is attended by all female staff members and is the foundation of Hillsong's women's ministries. The Thursday meeting for mothers includes businesswomen, and special quarterly "Sisterhood United" night meetings include working women. Members of the church say that her authority as a leader comes from "a Pentecostal understanding of Spirit empowerment".


Hillsong has multiple campuses around Australia. As of February 2022 in New South Wales it has Baulkham Hills, two Sydney city campuses (one the location of the original Sydney CLC), several around various suburbs, and one each in Newcastle and Wollongong. There are also one or two churches in major cities in all of the other states except for South Australia. It also has churches in 30 countries across the world, and As of February 2022 reports 150,000 regular attendees globally.

Avalon Theatre

Hillsong purchased the heritage-listed Avalon Theatre in Hobart, Tasmania for $2.55 million in 2020. The theatre underwent renovations in 2022.

Hillsong CityCare

In 1986 a social engagement program called CityCare was established in New South Wales, offering various community services including personal development programs, counselling services, a health centre and youth mentoring. CityCare's "street teams" worked within the community to care for, feed and clothe the homeless.

In July 2008, concerns were raised by some teachers, parents, and experts about the Hillsong City Care Shine program for girls being run in New South Wales public schools, community groups and the juvenile justice system. The concerns include that the program is "inappropriate for troubled young women, that the under-qualified facilitators are reinforcing gender stereotypes and that some parents have not been properly informed" and that "the program encourages girls to be subservient by teaching them that they need to be attractive to men". Hillsong claimed that parents were supportive and that the program broke down barriers in a group situation. In a further response, Hillsong denied that the program had been used for evangelism, but a teacher's federation representative insisted that children had been exposed to religious content, such as people relating stories about finding religion and joining the Hillsong Church.


Hillsong was formerly affiliated with Australian Christian Churches (the Assemblies of God in Australia), part of Pentecostal Christianity. The church's beliefs are Evangelical and charismatic.

Hillsong's positions on non-central doctrines of the faith are diverse, although individuals have taken a public stand on many topical issues in contemporary Christianity in keeping with mainstream Pentecostalism; for example, the church's founder supports teaching creationism in schools. Hillsong has also declared support for Creationism and Intelligent Design and believes this should be taught in schools.

Hillsong's prosperity teachings have been criticised by Christian leaders Tim Costello and George Pell. Subsequent statements by Tim Costello indicated that he was satisfied with changes made by Brian Houston to Hillsong's teaching in response to criticism. Costello also wrote a foreword in Hillsong's 2019 annual report. Hillsong's teachings have been commented on favourably by Peter Costello, Tim Costello's brother, also a Baptist and a former Treasurer of Australia, who has defended the church against accusations of unorthodoxy.

Media and events


Hillsong has been described by popular music scholar Tom Wagner as a "confluence of sophisticated marketing techniques and popular music". The music of Hillsong United and Hillsong Worship are credited with driving Hillsong's global popularity. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the congregation grew from 45 members to nearly 20,000 and emerged as a significant influence in the area of contemporary worship music. This was a result of strategic marketing that targeted younger generations and Hillsong's success at establishing itself as a global music standard.

Hillsong Church has produced over 40 albums, which have sold over 11 million copies. Albums are produced for different target audiences including Hillsong Kids for children. Hillsong Chapel features acoustic arrangements, which are "quieter" than the electric guitar, keyboard and drums that are typical of Hillsong's music. Hillsong's albums are produced by Hillsong Music Australia. Hillsong's congregational music has been the dominant source of the church's influence in the Charismatic Christianity movement.

Music is central to worship at the church. Hillsong's worship leaders have generally enjoyed a high-profile international position. Early worship leaders included Geoff Bullock and Darlene Zschech. Zschech was Hillsong's second worship leader and Hillsong achieved international acclaim during her ministry. Zschech's "Shout to the Lord" was an early hit for Hillsong in mid-1990s. In 2008, Reuben Morgan became Hillsong's third worship leader.

Hillsong's worship music has been widely influential not only in Pentecostal churches, but more broadly in Evangelical churches. Many of Hillsong's "worship expressions" have been incorporated into Evangelical services including raised hands, vocal utterance and dance. Hillsong Music has released over 40 albums since 1992, many of them achieving gold status in Australia and one of them, People Just Like Us, achieving platinum status. The church's 2004 live praise and worship album For All You've Done reached No. 1 in the mainstream Australian album charts (ARIA).

In September 2012, Hillsong produced The Global Project, a collection of their most popular songs released in nine different languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin, Indonesian, German, French, Swedish and Russian.

Hillsong Worship

The Hillsong Worship albums, formerly led by Darlene Zschech and Reuben Morgan and previously named Hillsong Live before 2014, all achieved gold status in Australia. The live album series was recorded at the Sydney campus(es) and then edited and produced by Hillsong Music Australia. The worship series began as a compilation of songs and developed into studio recorded albums. To help make Hillsong Music mainstream, an agreement with Warner Music Australia took place in 1999. In 2003, Sony Music Australia also signed with Hillsong Music to make the group even more mainstream. In 2018, Hillsong Worship won its first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song for "What a Beautiful Name".

Hillsong United

Hillsong United was conceived as the youth arm of the worship ministry, producing annual live albums similarly to Hillsong Live, with a focus on alternative rock. As the members grew older, United has since transitioned into a band with currently an eleven-member fixed lineup of Hillsong musicians as well as a focus on studio albums compared to the Worship and Young & Free ministries. Their song "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs list for a full year. It was the No. 1 song on the Billboard Christian Songs chart in 2014 and 2016, No. 2 for 2015, and the No. 1 song of the 2010s decade. The New York Times described their music as "ornate mainstream arena rock but with God-only lyrics that are vetted for adherence to theology". Joel Houston, Hillsong's creative director and former lead pastor of Hillsong New York, leads Hillsong United.

Hillsong Young & Free

Hillsong Young & Free was established in 2012 as a new youth branch of Hillsong's ministry. Hillsong Church has been successful at adjusting the musical style of their ministries to keep up with changing musical trends. Hillsong Young & Free was launched to attract postmillennial youth worshippers. The style of music in this particular ministry reflects features of musical genres that are popular with this target demographic, including electronic dance music. Laura Toggs and Peter Toganivalu were founders of the collective, while Laura was also one of the vocalists of Young & Free prior to her resignation from Hillsong in 2023.

Hillsong Kids

Hillsong Kids is music designed for and by Hillsong's children's ministry. The albums Jesus Is My Superhero and Super Strong God were included on Natalie Gillespie's "Best Christian Children's Albums" lists for 2005 and 2006, respectively (published in Christianity Today).


In late March 2022, Network 10 removed Hillsong-produced television programs from its schedules and video on demand service 10Play. The removal came amid controversies involving Brian Houston, who resigned from his position as senior pastor after being indicted in a misconduct investigation by the ministry. Since then, Brian Houston has announced through X, formerly known as Twitter, that they would be launching a new church in 2024. This would contain of weekly services through an online platform.

Hillsong Channel

On 9 March 2016, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the American religious broadcaster, announced a partnership with Hillsong that saw TBN's digital terrestrial television (DTT) sub-channel, The Church Channel, rebranded as the broadcast version of Hillsong Channel on 1 June 2016. The American linear channel was rebranded as TBN Inspire on 1 January 2022, and the international versions followed suit in April 2022, though Hillsong remained a partner in the network. Due to the scandals associated with Brain Houston in relation to Hillsong Church, TBN has decided to remove Hillsong Channel from their network. It has since then been replaced by similar Christian content. In substitute to the channel, they will be providing non-pulpit teachings, worship programs, documentary, and a one-hour flagship program.

Hillsong Conference

Hillsong Conference logo
Hillsong Conference 2021 logo

Hillsong Conference is a mid-year week long annual conference in Sydney, London and New York City each year. First started in 1986, it has grown to be the largest annual conference in Australia as of January 2022.

The Australian conference is hosted by Hillsong Church and lead pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston and involves a variety of guests from across the globe. Baptist minister Michael Frost described the 2011 conference as having, "a kind of electric, almost carnival atmosphere ... the delegates were full of anticipation and excitement".

In 2014, the New York event was held in Madison Square Garden, while the London conference was held in The O2 Arena over three days and has continued to be held at this venue until at least 2018.

Media appearances

On September 16, 2016, the documentary Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, directed by Michael John Warren, was released to cinemas across the United States. The film had gone through two other media companies, Warner Bros. and Relativity Media. It was set to be released the year prior in April, but had complications with the distribution rights. The film was picked up by Pure Flix Entertainment and released the following year.[1] The documentary explores Hillsong's beginnings and its rise to prominence as an international church. The focus is on the band Hillsong United as they write songs for their upcoming album and work toward a performance at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

In 2022–2023, various programs charting the rise and demise of Hillsong were aired on a number of media platforms. In March 2022, Discovery+ released a documentary series, Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed, revealing the allegations related to marital affairs and the mishandling of money given from the congregants to the church. In March 2023, satirical news outlet The Betoota Advocate partnered with Paramount to release a new satirical series on TV which would include an episode about Hillsong. The Herald Sun produced an investigative podcast called Faith on Trial. In June of that year, ex-Hillsong member Marc Fennell presented The Kingdom on SBS Television.

FX: The Secrets of Hillsong

On May 19, 2023, Hulu released a four-part documentary series, The Secrets of Hillsong,across the United States and Australia, in association to Vanity Fair. The series was directed by Stacy Lee and produced by Scout Productions and Vanity Fair Studios. The four episodes speak on a variety of topics regarding various scandals related to Hillsong Church, specifically in the United States and Australia. Throughout the series, there are conversations and interviews with former congregants, journalists, and former pastors Carl Lentz and Laura Lentz.

The show begins with an introduction of the former pastor Carl Lentz and his process of creating a revival among the city of New York through their new location, Hillsong NYC, that opened on October 17, 2010. The church quickly evolved into a megachurch and started attracting various big-named celebrities like Justin Bieber, The Kardashian-Jenner family, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Kyrie Irving, Jay-Z. In 2020 the church's reputation began declining and people began speaking out about their experience the Hillsong Church, along with Carl Lentz's Instagram post about being unfaithful to his wife of 17 years. Among the troubles at Hillsong, former congregants reported allegations of racism, homophobia, and being taken advantage of when offering their services for free to help the church.

Political influence

Hillsong Church has attracted support from high-profile politicians, especially from the Liberal Party of Australia. In 1998, Brian Houston met with the prime minister of Australia, John Howard, and most of his cabinet at Parliament House in Canberra before sharing prayers. In 2002, Howard opened the Hillsong Convention Centre at the Baulkham Hills location. In 2004 and 2005, the Treasurer of Australia, Peter Costello, spoke at its annual conferences. Mark Latham, the Leader of the Opposition, declined Hillsong's invitation to the 2004 conference, although Bob Carr, the Premier of New South Wales (from the New South Wales Labor Party), attended the 2005 conference.

Liberal MP for Mitchell, Alan Cadman, and two Family First Party senate candidates, Joan Woods and Ivan Herald, who failed to win senate seats, were featured in a Hillsong circular during the election, with members being asked to pray for them.

Hillsong's high-profile involvement with political leaders has been questioned in the media, and publicly, the church has distanced itself from advocating certain political groups and parties, including the fledgling Family First party. Brian Houston has replied to these criticisms by stating, "I think people need to understand the difference between the church being very involved in politics and individual Christians being involved in politics."

In 2008, Sydney inner city publication Central Magazine stated that Hillsong had donated A$600 to a Member of the Legislative Council, Kristina Keneally (ALP), for the tickets of a fundraising dinner, featuring the New South Wales' planning minister, Frank Sartor (ALP), as a guest speaker one month before the 2007 state election, despite Hillsong's own statement of corporate governance declaring that "Hillsong Church does not make financial contributions to or align itself with any political party or candidate." A Hillsong staff member, Maria Ieroianni, said that no donation had been made and that the dinner was not a fundraiser. Hillsong also issued a statement on their website denying that the money was a donation. According to the Central Magazine article, Keneally has described the dinner as a fundraiser and the money from Hillsong as a donation. The article also states that these descriptions are confirmed by the records of the New South Wales Electoral Commission.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the 2019 Hillsong annual conference, shortly after the May 2019 federal election. He is not a member of Hillsong, being part of the Horizon Church's congregation.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Iglesia Hillsong para niños

  • C3 Church Global
  • Transformational Christianity
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