This weekend, Hillsong Senior Pastor Brian Houston explained why new visitors to his global, multi-site church originally based in Australia won’t hear two of the most popular songs their worship bands have ever recorded. As The Christian Post notes, while speaking at Atlanta’s Catalyst, Houston explained that,
When it comes to influence, predictability is our enemy. Because you never get influence from doing things the way they've always been done. You get influence from creating new ways … Thank God for innovation. Thank God for creativity ... Spontaneity is our friend in the church.
For them, that means not singing two of the most popular modern worship songs ever recorded.
You may be shocked to hear we don't sing 'Shout to the Lord' anymore at Hillsong Church. It's not 1993. If you come all the way to Australia and you hope to hear 'Shout to the Lord,' your chances are slight. We don't even sing 'Oceans' much anymore.
Along with their global church plants and multi-site locations, Hillsong has been home to some of the most influential worship artists in the last 30 years, including Hillsong’s worship band (originally led by Darlene Zschech and Reuben Morgan), Hillsong United and Hillsong Young & Free. Discuss
The drama started back on Aug. 7, when Stanley preached a sermon called “The Bible Told Me So” as part of a sermon series called “Who Needs God.” The name of the sermon—which was about the role the Bible should play in the life Christians—comes from the old children’s song, "Jesus Loves Me." Stanley explained,
Many of you were brought up to believe this: Jesus loves me this I know … for the Bible tells me so. This is where our trouble began … Because, the implication is—and this is important, the implication is, the Bible is the reason we believe …
In other words, ‘I can believe Jesus loves me because it’s in the Bible.’ I grew up in a church where basically, the by-line, the subtitle for everything was, ‘If the Bible says it, that settles it.’ And so we send kids off college with a ‘If the Bible says it, that settles it’ and all the sudden they realize, ‘Oh my goodness, that didn’t settle it.’
The problem with that is, ‘If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, as the Bible goes, so goes our faith’ … Christianity can not survive if somehow, every single part of the Bible isn’t absolutely true if the Bible is the foundation of our faith.
Essentially, Stanley’s sermon makes the case that too many Christians put the Bible on the same level as God. He also discouraged a “version of a Christianity” that is “a house of cards” that falls apart if we find out that certain possible historic or scientific details of the Bible are inaccurate or that there are apparent contradictions. (You can see the entire thing here.) He went on to say that “Christianity does not exist because of the Bible.”
This weekend, Stanley posted a response to criticism and clarified his sermon. Not only did he explain why he preached the sermon (to set the context for why many millennials are leaving the church), but also confirmed that he still believes inerrancy.
In a piece of Outreach Magazine, he explained, “The confusion related to my most recent series stems more from methodology than theology.” He said that he doesn’t preach from notes and that his delivery can be confusing: “[A] technique that is sometimes confusing for the occasional viewer is my habit of saying what I suspect skeptics are thinking about something I’m saying. In my effort to state their assumptions, I sometimes sound as if I share their assumptions.”
During “The Bible Told Me So,” I wanted educated, dechurched millennials to know that I knew that those who supposedly know everything are convinced there was no worldwide flood or Hebrew migration from Egypt. While addressing them directly, I gave them the benefit of the doubt to make the following point: Even if those events never occurred, it does nothing to undermine the evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus and thus the claims he made about himself. And yes, as noted above, I know Jesus made claims about the Jewish Scriptures. But this was one sermon in a series of six … I hadn’t gotten to that yet.
Stanley went on to repeatedly say that he believes “the Bible is without error in everything it affirms” and that he “believe[s] what the Bible says is true, is true,” and pointed to the work that his father, Dr. Charles Stanley, to preserve the belief in the infallibility of the Bible among modern Christians.
According to a new CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation poll, most white, working class evangelical voters don’t have a very favorable view of America, and most think their values are under attack. Six-in-10 said that America’s best days are behind it, and somewhat a shocking 90% said that “Christian values” are under attack. By comparison, just 41% of Americans with no religious preference believe that Christian values in the U.S. are somehow under attack.
Most of the same group, also are concerned about Muslim immigration, with 75% believing immigration from Muslims countries increases the risk of terrorism.
The poll also showed a racial divide among evangelical voters. From CNN, “While black evangelicals are solidly against the GOP nominee, among white working-class evangelicals, about three in four—76%—say they'd consider voting for Trump.” Discuss
The pastor of one of the country's fastest growing churches is resigning. This Sunday, Pete Wilson, who has served as the pastor of Nashville’s Cross Point Church for 14 years, told his congregation that he was stepping down, saying he was tired and broken . Wilson is also known for his best-selling book Plan B.
We have a community here at Cross Point where everyone’s welcome because nobody’s perfect and we really believe that anything’s possible … I haven’t prioritized some other things that were equally as important. Leaders who lead on empty don’t lead well. For some time, I’ve been leading on empty …
I think the best thing for Cross Point is for me to step aside. And so I’m resigning as the pastor of Cross Point … I really need your prayers and I need your support. We’ve said that this is a church where it’s OK to not be OK, and I’m not OK. I’m tired. And I’m broken and I just need some rest. I love you all; I love the vision of this church more today than I ever have.
Wilson founded the church back in 2003, and it's since grown to multiple locations, drawing more than 7,000 every week. The elders released a statement following Wilson’s announcement, saying,
Pastor Pete's resignation was 100% his decision. In fact, we tried to talk him out of it as we told him to take as much time as he needed. But he was ready to get rest and start a new season … Pete even indicated he would always be available to help us answer any questions—we plan to take him up on his offer … We can’t wait to watch all that God has in store for Pastor Pete."
Americans want to keep politics out of church. According to a study from Lifeway Research, 79 percent of Americans said that it is “inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church.”
There is currently a legal ban against 501(c)(3) organizations (like churches) being active in any sort of political campaigns, though, it’s become increasingly unpopular among some evangelical leaders. As Lifeway notes, during the 2008 election, a group of pastors around the country observed “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” which encouraged pastors to sign up “to preach an election sermon.” Evidently, their congregants aren’t as excited about the proposition (in 2008, 86 percent of American said it was inappropriate).
In a statement, executive director of LifeWay Research Scott McConnell explained, “Americans already argue about politics enough outside the church. They don’t want pastors bringing those arguments into worship.” Discuss
According to new research from the group Church Growth Today, America’s megachurches are getting even bigger. Founder John Vaughan began studying churches in the mid-‘80s when there were just 27 non-Catholic churches around the world that drew at least 6,000 people per week. Only 11 of those were in the U.S. Since then, the megachurch phenomenon has exploded—especially among evangelicals—and today there are more than 200 6,000+ non-Catholic churches across the country.
And, not only has the number of megachurches grown, so has attendance among the most mega. From 2000 - 2010, the 100 largest churches in the U.S. doubled in size. Currently, every weekend across the U.S. 1.6 million attend one of the country’s 100 biggest megachurches. 1.6 million.
The largest remains Lakewood Church in Houston, pastored by Joel Osteen, which alone, brings in more than 52,000 every weekend. (Though, the multi-site church Life.Church draws 70,000 in locations across seven different states.) According to the research, these churches are, for the most part, continuing to grow. The group wrote, “This newest research indicates that among the 100 largest churches 60 percent are growing, 20 percent have plateaued, and only 11 percent have decreased in attendance during the past five years.” Discuss