Hillsong Church is the hip and happening church in Hollywood. It attracts some of the hottest young stars such as Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Nick Jonas, and Hailey Baldwin, and it looks like Patrick Schwarzenegger is the latest member as he was spotted at the megachurch earlier this week. Justin Bieber had a spiritual awakening that caused him to cancel the final dates of his Purpose World Tour. Rumors swirled that he’s planning to open a church of his own. He’s been hanging out with Pastors Carl and Laura Lentz.
Hillsong Church is not your grandmother’s church. It has its own radio station, smartphone app, and record label. It may seem like it’s an organization made for young Hollywood. But the church was founded in the early ’80s in New South Wales, Australia, by Brian and Bobbie Houston. It has over 100,000 parishioners in Australia attending the official church services each week. Hillsong also has locations all over the world, including Buenos Aires, London, Moscow, Paris, and San Francisco. Hillsong boasts itself as being a “contemporary Pentecostal.”
What’s that mean? Well, most of its teachings are Bible-based even though it has a hipster coolness to it. It’s focused on individual relationships with Jesus through baptism and Bible study groups. Hillsong’s popularity with young celebs is not something that takes Lentz by surprise, as he told VICE back in 2014.
“We knew what we were getting into. We just believe that our church would be a home to everybody. The faceless and the famous.”
The reason why Hillsong Church attracts young Hollywood is that Lentz understands the pressures and pitfalls that come with fame or success. He recognizes that celebrities are often isolated and spiritually neglected. They are looking for something more in their lives that money or fame can’t give them. It doesn’t hurt that Hillsong’s pastors wear trendy clothing and take on a contemporary approach to prayer. Hillsong Music sounds like your typical alternative rock station, but with Jesus-centered music.
Hillsong’s music will change the way they talk about God, according to researcher Nelson Cowan, a doctoral student at Boston University. He told Eternity News that “Hillsong’s lyrical repertory has not remained monolithic, but over the years has both deepened in doctrinal engagement and widened in doctrinal scope.” He found that a lot of songs teach about God rather than reflect one’s experience of Him or personal relationship with Him. Jesus will increasingly become the focus of Hillsong’s music, Cowan said.
There’s an app along with a 24/7 digital channel with access to Sunday services across the world. Hillsong also holds acoustic sessions with Hillsong UNITED, includes behind-the-scenes footage from Hillsong’s conferences, and coffee time with the pastor via the Cafe Theology. Hillsong does its best to stay youthful and cool by allowing its members to wear hipster clothing, take selfies in the bathroom, and throw beach balls into the crowd. No wonder why it sounds appealing to the young and rich.
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