Hillsong LA is freaking people out

What if other churches lose members when Hillsong opens their new church in Southern California?

An article, based on a comment from a ‘visitor’ (not sure where she was a visitor to or from), says that the opening of the new Hillsong will likely be devastating.

“There are plenty of churches in the Orange and Los Angeles Counties that will be swallowed whole when Hillsong LA arrives…There are jobs that will be lost and pastors who will see their congregations dwindle. There are also plenty of larger churches as well [whose] pastors have spoken at your conferences, supported your endeavors and welcomed your church’s presence as a visit from overseas, all who will now see you as an unwanted threat.”

That’s actually pretty lame, I think. That sounds to me like pastors trying to protect their turf.

(I’ve heard the talk from pastors.  We can’t compete.  They have all the money.  They have all the resources.  They have all the talented musicians…  Baloney.  You have the same gospel they have. Stop crying and start believing it).

[harsh tone over]

But she asks a better question:

Like the venture in NYC, how is this not just capitalizing on the popularity of Hillsong in the United States?

OK… that one, I get. Kinda of.

Of course, Hillsong is capitalizing on their popularity.  Otherwise, they would not be planting in LA.

But is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Question totally out of left field for you as you think about this:

What if Billy Graham had decided NOT to work alongside local churches, but rather decided to start a church in every city he conducted a crusade in?  What would the church landscape look like in the US today?

Yet, no one EVER accused Billy Graham of capitalizing on his success in New York when he did a crusade in Los Angeles.

And before you say that Hillsong is all money motivated… you have to remember that there was (and still is) a TON of money going through the coffers of the BGEA.

It seems to me that when someone starts to make accusations that a church will swallow other churches whole that someone is either:

1.  Overstating what will actually happen; or

2.  Scared for their turf

Please tell me I’m all wet. (which I probably am)



  • pietrosquared September 24, 2013 Reply

    I’m tired of church planting in “super churched” cities. Why not Passaic? Des Moines? Or New England? Because they’d rather be successful than go where there is a real need. Those fellas from passion did pretty much the same thing when they planted in Atlanta, one of the most churched cities in the world…

    Not judging their motives, but… it seems that church planters are not interested in places where they are most needed.

    It’s not about money, it’s about success. I’m just glad Jesus wasn’t about success. Because he only rose after dying… and that’s why I’m able to get to God at all…

    • Chuck September 24, 2013 Reply

      I agree with you in theory, pietro, but I never saw Los Angeles as “super churched.” There are millions and millions and millions there who are unsaved.

      Seems likely to me that Hillsong LA will just mostly pull in the K-LOVE FM crowd out of other churches to fulfill their fantasies of, “Oh, if only my church had worship like this,” unless they are full of the Spirit and led of Him to bring revival not being experienced by American churches.

      • Melissa March 28, 2014 Reply

        so what is wrong with good worship? I don’t know about American revival but I do know it is alive and well it HS Australia

    • Stephen Canfield September 24, 2013 Reply

      I agree, that is why we planted a church in Ann Arbor. We will never see the success of a big city but we are in one of the most unchurched cities in the US and our church plant is thriving. Still, LA and New York, though big, do have many unchurched people as Chuck said.

      • Melissa March 28, 2014 Reply

        In many ways, big church cities that are influential can be the hardest to reach. While HS is starting in NYC and LA, that is not the be all and end all, It will go where God commands it to go. That means everywhere. It just doesn’t happen overnight.

    • Tim Bucktoo September 24, 2013 Reply

      Absurd argument. I’m sorry. So, if God tells you to plant a church in Atlanta you would say, “God, I think you are wrong. I need to plant it in Wyoming.” Why don’t you plant a church in Des Moines?

      • Melissa March 28, 2014 Reply


    • Trapper September 24, 2013 Reply

      Did you mention Des Moines because you were just mentioning random cities or because you meant it? I’m curious because, though it *really* IS one of the best places almost no one knows about, I recently declined to pursue a job there because I couldn’t find (via internet) a single church I would have been excited to be a part of.

      If the “biggies” are looking to plant a campus somewhere, buy up some of that empty land out west by the mall and get going…there’s only one church there that even appears to be trying!

    • Tim September 26, 2013 Reply

      Dude, you obviously haven’t ever looked at stats on LA. 94% have not been in a church synagogue or mosque in 18 months or more (the definition of “dechueched”). More than 50% have never been in a church (the definition of “unchurched”). You assume that because a couple of large churches exist within 1-2 hours do LA (Saddleback, Newsong, etc) that it is “super-churched”. You are ignoring the fact that there are millions of unchurched and dechurched people in between those few big churches. There are roughly 4 million people in the LA sprawl while only 600,000 in Boston or Seattle. So even if all of Boston & Seattle together (1.2 million people) were completely unchurched, there would still be nearly double the number of completely unchurched people in LA. Please think before you blast off you opinions.

    • Kara October 27, 2013 Reply

      I continually find it silly that Christians argue about things like this. God is expanding HIS kingdom. When God speaks to us, we are to obey. I don’t doubt that in the future there will be a Hillsong DSM or a Hillsong Chicago. It is an amazing revival movement based on JESUS what he did for us. Shouldn’t we champion the cause of ALL churches because they all set out to do what God desires for our lives?

      Especially in a city where there are SO many people, where drugs and alcohol are accepted, where random sex is rampant, where body image and monetary value means so much. Not that these issues don’t exist in every city in the US – but once Christians start worrying more about “losing” people or getting angry about other churches starting – it’s time to take a step back. God has called ALL of us to revive HIS kingdom… EVERYWHERE. All over. Big cities and small cities. Places where there are already church and where there are not.

      It’s time for Christians to start supporting each OTHER and churches as a whole because that is what God has called us to do.

      • Melissa March 28, 2014 Reply

        so well said

    • Melissa March 28, 2014 Reply

      Ever thought of the logic that they are planting where God has led them? Ever thought that they are planting where it is stable so that they can then reach out to other areas such as Des Moines or New England with grounding in their own country? HS didn’t go to other Australian states until they were established in Sydney. It would be stupid to overextend, Have you also looked at where a good portion of their money goes i.e. missions, preventing and recovery from child slavery, feeding the homeless, reaching the prisoners and their families? Yes, they are successful but why should blessing be cursed by other believers??? If people are leaving your churches that you feel threatened, maybe ask yourselves why. The same talents and blessings are available in all but perhaps not recognized or utilized. Do the same churches that lament the talent, offer the training that nurtures that talent, even outsourced? HS didn’t always have the following it has today. It started out from blood, sweat and tears by it’s founding members. It built and grew by following God’s direction and never giving up. Sure, times got tough. Sure there was opposition but God forgive those who persecute their own. Churches should be leaping with praise that because of HS the church is alive and well in 2014 and that people are giving their lives to God on a daily basis because of what HS is doing. It is about adding to the kingdom, not about which church is better than which. Don’t feel threatened. Feel challenged to meet the people’s needs in a God directed and led environment. It doesn’t have to be done as it is at HS. Each church must follow God’s lead. HS teach God’s word. HS embrace a culture that is current but still founded on God’s Word. Yes, it is being built where churches exist, but the church need not fear if it is following God’s leading, as whatever God builds, cannot be divided. Maybe look at yourselves and why you are afraid and threatened when the word says not to be.

  • Leonard Lee September 24, 2013 Reply

    Hey Peter, hope you are well. You kinda did judge their motives (Because they’d rather be successful than go where there is a real need.) and who says where they are going there isn’t a real need?

    I will assume this… They prayed, researched and obeyed. That is really what love requires of me (you know the believe,hope, endure… all things part of 1 Cor 13)

    I planted 2 churches in very hard to reach communities and understand your passion, but I did so based upon prayer, research and obedience. I don’t think I am really much better than Hillsong (not better in any way)

    As for people freaking out, last I checked, in every city I have ever traveled to, Satan has the biggest youth group, children’s ministry, singles group, marrieds group, business men’s gathering and worship services. Let’s unite in a mission and shout “who cares what church you go to as long as you “be” the church when you get there!!!”

    • Chuck September 24, 2013 Reply

      Great post, Leonard.

  • Jason Ebeling September 24, 2013 Reply

    “it seems that church planters are not interested in places where they are most needed.”

    Church planters (or better yet, disciple-makers) are needed everywhere, big cities and small towns. Neither is more important, however, some are more strategic (think Paul wanting to go to Rome).

    Leonard nailed it….”every city I have ever traveled to, Satan has the biggest youth group, children’s ministry, singles group, marrieds group, business men’s gathering and worship services.” So the problem shouldn’t ever be which Christian church is bigger or more popular or better financed or whatever…the concern should be which Kingdom is having the bigger impact? If who’s included in the Kingdom of God is a secondary concern that comes after we’re done fighting over who’s in the kingdom of this or that church, I can’t help but picture Jesus weeping.

    The fact that we’re even having this discussion seems to indicate which Kingdom matters most (hint: it doesn’t appear to be Jesus’)

  • RA Moody September 24, 2013 Reply

    People will always be drawn to “the show”, the latest and greatest, loudest and brightest.
    In these areas, we are seeing “church attendance” rise because of the numbers of people that come to the see the show and as in the local “megachurch” in my area they will hear…”see ya next week” as they walk out the door.
    How are growing disciples?
    How are we encouraging, assisting and training our people to find, define and use their God given talents and abilities?
    The only way for the local church to survive and grow in these days of “the show”… will be to take a page from our missionary brothers and sisters and get our hands and feet dirty in the trenches with those we are reaching out to and create a community of believers based on growing people deep and not entertaining them only once a week.

  • Levi September 24, 2013 Reply

    It happened in our small town of about 35,000. If this particular church had only been seeking the lost/unchurched the results would not have been so devastating. But the members were encouraged to find a weak or possible trouble area of another church’s ministry (and what church doesn’t have that?), and target them by “talking up” their church to all their co-workers from other churches. They encouraged deacons and elders to leave their church for the “incredible moving of the Holy Spirit that was going on there. “We’re an exciting, loving, growing church, with no problems,” was what you heard over and over again. Churches as large as 200 in Sunday attendance began to combine with other churches just to survive. These were good churches with good pastors who ministered and preached the gospel. This is not sour grapes, as even though they built within two blocks of us they only siphoned about 50 from our congregation about 350. I know the statistics. A new church plant will generally grow and reach more people than an established church. And there are certainly more lost people than saved in a town of any size. But would Hillsong LA encourage visitors who were members of other churches to stay and work in their church, and just pray for them that they would grow by reaching the lost and unchurched? I kind of doubt it.

    • Chuck September 24, 2013 Reply

      I think those questions you ask at the end of your post are fair.

    • Pat McConville September 24, 2013 Reply

      They have made the statement of encouraging people to stay planted where they are in there blog regarding the new church plant in LA. You can find the announcement at http://www.hillsongcollected.com under the “Bright Lights, Big Cities” post by Brian Houston. Honestly I believe this will be a great thing just as the hillsong church plant in NYC was. Here are just a few thoughts to ponder:
      1. We have great churches (large and small) being led by amazing pastors in both cities and those churches will continue to do what they do. Even if they are threatened, I pray this new church will challenge them to evaluate what they are doing and improve where they need to improve in order to move forward. I would also assume Brian Houston has had many conversations with pastors in LA many of which he has spoken for or has a relationship with.
      2. Just like with any church plant, the pastor will have to go in and work hard. It will not just happen overnight. Yes they have resources. Yes they have people that will join them. When the church was planted in NYC the team came from Australia. Why? The hearts of the pastors are being reproduced in their people. Their leadership and passion are being carried globally by their people. They are simply reproducing heart of Jesus. When you do that you are contagious.
      3. LA and NYC are the two most influential cities in our nation. As they go the USA goes. If an Awakening hits these two cities, it will spread quick. The Awakening this nation needs will be very different than it has been in the past. People too often pray wrong. We don’t need what happened once before we need what God has for today. A fresh and mighty move of God. It will not be because of one church it will be through the unified Body of Christ.

  • Ryan September 24, 2013 Reply

    As for whether or not there is room to plant churches in a large city such as L.A., I am sure that there is always room for more. There is tremendous need in the cities and where there is great need, I have no doubt, that the Lord will continue to raise up laborers to bring in the harvest.

    As for the concern of local pastors and churches that their churches may be adversely affected, I can understand their feelings. Though I am no expert, it seems that when some mega-churches plant new works in communities they do so with little regard for the pastors and churches who have working faithfully in those communities for many years. A mega church recently advertised a new church plant in our community with an advertisement that read… “Is your church dead? Come where Jesus is alive!” There goal was clear… take as many people as they could from other churches. For us, that meant that we lost an entire worship team, because they were promised a CD with a guy who had been with Hillsong. We later found out that this church had been advertising for quality church musicians to be apart of this new plant for several months and having try outs. Never one time did the pastor call to speak with me or any of the other pastors in our area as a courtesy to let us know what was going on, or that some of our people were involved. To the churches in our area, the new pastor in his church came across as nothing more than a hired sheep hand looking to build his own kingdom. We were not the only church affected, several churches in our area felt the impact.

    I realized through this experience several things though: (1) Happy and contented people don’t leave your church; (2) Churches that plant other churches in this manner received the reward of their labor – quick growth with discontented Christians; (3) every church needs a good bowel movement from time to time (4) God will eventually expose the real motives of those involved (5) God is watching how I respond; (6) it is very important for me to help people who may be discontented to leave through the front door (people who leave through your front door will come back through that door) as opposed to allowing people to walk unheeded through the back door (people who leave through this door will never come back out because of embarrassment or sense of being unwelcome); (7) Your people are watching how you respond and IT MATTERS TO THEM.; (8) though it may be a short term set back for you, it will prove to become a catalyst for growth if your heart is right in the process.

    I could probably add more, but my fingers are growing weary of typing.

  • jack September 24, 2013 Reply

    Comparing Hillsong to BGEA is comparing apes to oranges. Bad illustration, dude.

    • jackpickel September 24, 2013 Reply

      APPLES to oranges. Sorry – blame autocorrect.

  • Barry Whitlow September 24, 2013 Reply

    Large churches are doing to small churches what Walmart did to small towns years ago. When ANY “larger than them” church expands into a community and does not meet with the existing church pastors/leaders that will be impacted and say “How can we help you too” then it is clear it’s more about expansion and less about unity and family care. I’ve served as a consultant to churches 150 and under for 10 years and can assure you that smaller churches 1) have a valid ministry in the community (they reach people larger churches do not/will not; 2) are at an extreme disadvantage over larger churches for a variety for reasons, 3) need help. Putting other churches out of business can’t be the right, can it? We are to love and reach all people, but “especially those in the family.” *Book on the topic is forthcoming.

  • brianroden September 24, 2013 Reply

    If they were just planting a new church with a launch team, and working THROUGH other churches to build that launch team, without bringing along the franchise big name, I think it would be a different story. I fear the fact that it’s “Hillsong” will impress and draw Christians more than reach non-believers, especially if the nonbelievers see the negative Aussie press about Hillsong online.

    My church in Arkansas is involved through our national home missions/church planting department with a church plant in Santa Monica. This plant was financed via cooperation among many churches across the nation getting behind the pastor with the vision, not one or two deep-pocket churches. This young church plant is now about to plant its own daughter church in Hollywood. They’re reaching people with no church background or people who had become inactive after moving to the LA area to pursue their dreams in the entertainment industry.

  • Pastor Jimmy September 24, 2013 Reply

    I don’t really know who these Hillsong guys are…are they really that good? Are you sure my congregation will dwindle?…can someone tell them to send me some invitations for their opening day with directions. I have some people that would be perfect…ah, never mind.

  • Mike Adams September 25, 2013 Reply

    I think one of the important things to remember is that any time a new church is planted it raises the spiritual temperature of the city. That is good for the entire community. Some will go for “the shoe” but connect with Christ. They may find it uncomfortable to be part of the Big Church once they are growing and come out to the smaller plants. Everyone benefits. Statistically I believe all surrounding churches benefit. Although small dying churches may not live through the influx of a vibrant church full of life. The kingdom of God is expanding and the gospel is being preached so I say “Praise God”!

    • Melissa March 28, 2014 Reply


  • Mike Adams September 25, 2013 Reply

    “the big shoe” – Ed Sullivan reference.

  • davepatchin September 25, 2013 Reply

    I’m saddened to see so many posts about a church opening using words like fear, jealousy, Walmart, and “the show” when describing the church of Jesus.

    Here are my questions:
    1) Are the people attending church with you “your people,” or do they belong to Jesus?
    2) Who is working to build their own kingdom, the one who ‘siphons off’ your people,” or the one who worries about “losing’ their people?
    3) Is your goal to make disciples of JESUS or church attenders at YOUR church?
    3) Are you afraid of the spread of the gospel of Jesus?
    4) If another church has an “advantage” is it because God blessed them and not you?
    5) Do you desire to prevent followers of Christ from attending the church of their choice by stopping that choice from existing?

    There are gentler ways to launch a church than some of the stories told, but the fear and presumption of motives of others is sinful.

    • Stefan June 24, 2014 Reply

      I agree with you Davepatchin!

      I’ve been a Christian for 10 years now and I was someone who was against the Church and seeing how the Church has changed over the years, God is upto something and is really looking for the people that are hungry and want to seek His Face!

      I have attended a few Hillsong Churches around the world and I can agree to disagree with some of the things that has been said about Hillsong Church, having friends that work for the Church and having met alot of the main team I see them no different to any other small church or large Church they just have been good stewards with what God has blessed them with over the years. I do also think their is alot of ego that comes with any non-profit or charity organisation per se today. But if they making a change and seeing people really get saved I think that is something to celebrate. If we as the Church can all stand in Unity for the cities we live in and be JESUS in our cities letting God do a good work in us. I think we will see Revival sweep across the planet like never before it’s not about a name of a Church or a pastor but let’s See Jesus name be lifted up in our cities.

      Last I checked God uses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise.

      And also before anyone has anything to say to me I do attend a local church which isn’t Hillsong and I have come from a small church living in South Africa where I got saved and living in Australia now just doing my bit. Hope I have bought some sort of clarity to some of you.

  • Brian Norwood September 25, 2013 Reply

    I work at one of 3 Large-ish churches that are very nearly on the same street in Corona, CA. If all three of us, and the dozen or so smaller churches on (or slightly off) the row were FILLED TO CAPACITY, there would still be TENS OF THOUSANDS of people who would have no place to sit and hear the Gospel. We are in competition ONLY if we are all fighting over the same group of ALREADY SAVED people.

  • PastorTom September 25, 2013 Reply

    I would lile to see “mega church planters” try to do the same in a place lile Italy , where I serve, where the hold of the catholic church is embedded in every fibre of the country. ..or is it not profitable enough?

  • Stephen September 25, 2013 Reply

    The model for Hillsong so far? Plant in the world’s most influential cities; the game changer cities where all the big decisions are made in the financial sector, fashion sector, art sector, entertainment sector and whatnot. All the movers and shakers are in NYC and LA. I think more people need to plant in these cities. LA is the second largest and most populated city in the country. There is room for the gospel to be spread in new ways through new churches.

    • Melissa March 28, 2014 Reply

      Gives a launching pad into lesser influential cities. Influential people changing their lives is also a testimony in itself to those in less influential places. Hence gives a better chance of growth. Jesus didn’t stay in Bethlehem but went to more places of influence, did he not?

    • Bob Romanelli October 8, 2014 Reply

      Which is why the Apostle Paul spoke on Mars Hill in Athens. He knew the power of ideas and that Athens was where ideas and culture radiated from. Go, Hillsong! Radiate ideas and culture from LA and NYC. Paul would have approved.

  • pastorkjl September 25, 2013 Reply

    This type of thinking is so lame and unbiblical. If a church is a true church, then it should not fear Hillsong. There’s enough fish in the sea.

  • Joseph Franklin September 25, 2013 Reply

    Don’t mistake participation for transformation. This may be one of the biggest mistakes the church is making these days. We need to plant churches focused on the lostness that exist in our geographies, instead of planting “worship services” that shuffle consumers around.

    Also, I live in LA…We are desperate for more life-giving city focused churches! We’re super desperate for churches planted by 2nd gen Latinos focused on reaching Latinos. 1st Gen pastors have become more concerned about preserving their language and culture instead of the Gospel.

    Welcome to LA Hillsong, glad you’re here. We need all kinds of churches for all kinds of people.

  • Rick September 26, 2013 Reply

    Real territorial motivations aside (because while it’s a real issue, such accusations can also be a convenient way of shutting down discussion on such matters), it’s interesting that Paul’s pattern is to start churches in unchurched places and find ways to encourage and build up churches where they already existed.

    It’s hard to apply that in a world where churches are much more common – and I doubt there’s an overt lesson/command to obey in Paul’s approach – but I wonder what things would be like if heavy hitters (modern Paul’s) spent more time building up good, existing local churches of people that have been loving and praying for their community for years, but maybe have lacked the giftings and resources that come from elsewhere.

    Some might say (me, for instance) that this idea is the basic meaning of what Paul is teaching in Ephesians 4…the local teachers/pastors and the more wide-spread evangelists, etc. joining together to be unified in the Gospel and moving forward in mission.

  • Dan September 26, 2013 Reply

    I work for a large church in Orange County and I’m thrilled Hillsong is coming to LA. Like many posts have said before there so many unchurched people in LA and the metro area. Look at the numbers: 4 million in LA, 9.9 million in LA County and just over 3 million in Orange County. Some people may consider Hillsong a destination church, but who cares? If they hear the gospel of Jesus – that’s great! Maybe people will get saved and be the church in their neighborhood. As far as fearing that other churches will be swallowed up? I doubt that. People who live outside of this area may not understand our culture that if you have to drive over 20 minutes to any place, you probably won’t. And with our traffic, 20 minutes is a handful of actual miles.

  • Jeff September 27, 2013 Reply

    I’ve learned a lot here. So far, Hillsong is power hungry and growth oriented. They are ‘putting on a show’ instead of worshipping. They are planning to steal sheep from surrounding churches. They are afraid of ‘getting their hands dirty in the trenches. What was it Jesus said? Was it “Anyone that gets a clear shot, hurl the first stone”?

  • Moscow, South Africa,Barcelona, Stockholm, Amsterdam..etc etc. many difficult places they are planting churches. Dont be ignorant! https://www.hillsong.com/en/

    Plenty of non christians to go around..

  • Robert E. Romanelli October 8, 2014 Reply

    This is not about Hillsong. It’s all about God. Don’t ask what Hillsong is doing or not doing. Ask what God is doing. Aslan is on the move whether institutional clergy like it or not. Try more prayer, less complaining. Too many pastors are not born again. Maybe that’s what threatens them about Hillsong. Hillsong is all born again.

  • Rudy November 11, 2014 Reply

    I go to Calvary Chapel, theres a Cavlary in every city in Orange County. and nobody is complaining, if god palced a call in there lives to plant a church in LA well so be it.
    It all about Jesus.

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