"Be these," began John Maxwell on Tuesday morning of Hillsong Conference 2015 at Allphones Arena, and on the second day of his church's official annual gathering, Brian Houston showed just how 'salty' Hillsong Church is.
It started with John Maxwell's teaching on sharing the message of Jesus with others. "Lost people" he said, "don't have an accurate picture of who Jesus is. They're not anti-God, they just don't know the real one." But it wasn't all so encouraging.
Maxwell packed a punch challenging Christians to go past simply inviting their friends to church, but to set the example in the workplace and in the streets. "Before you go around pushing people to get into Heaven with you, exceed their expectations in their world" he said. "They don't want to go to Heaven with you, they don't even like you," he quipped.
If attendees were impacted by Maxwell's teaching on living by example, they were taken by surprise by Brian Houston's surprise announcement that he had travelled to the US and pre-recorded an interview with Mark Driscoll, previous senior pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
After a media tempest last month Driscoll's inclusion in the Conference 2015 line-up was cancelled by Houston, who stated he didn't want a distraction from the goal of the conference, to hear from God.
However the Driscoll's who appeared on the Allphones screens was not the misogynistic preacher exemplified by the Australian media only weeks earlier. The arena was silenced by a humble Driscoll who confessed, "the way people perceive me is my fault and no one else's."
When given the chance to qualify some of his more controversial statements, a watery-eyed Driscoll replied, "previously I would have jumped at the chance, and I'd like to thank you for that opportunity Brian but I think I'll stay silent on that one."
As the congregation listened to the breathing in their own heads Driscoll added, "I'm not out to win." The arena erupted in applause which was two-fold. They clapped for a man who had obviously been humbled and spoken candidly and vulnerably, but they clapped also for the man behind the event, Brian Houston.
"I'm just so overwhelmed by Brian's grace in the way he responded to Mark Driscoll, even in deciding to interview him," a sincere Anthea Tjon from Singapore said, "he didn't have to do that."
This is the fourth time miss Tjon has travelled to Hillsong Conference from Singapore. "I'm really looking forward to hearing Joseph Prince" she said, "it's the first time I've seen him in person." (Joseph Prince is the senior pastor of New Creation Church in Singapore.)
The quiet lull is tangible around Sydney Olympic Park. As friends gather round in the breaks, taking the opportunity to stock up on pulled pork buns and marinated wagyu beef on rice and quinoa, there is a very sincere look on peoples' faces as they contemplate words spoken and lessons learned.
Words are carefully selected and all are deeply edifying. It's only the second day but this conference has already been utterly transformative.
When asked how he felt about the conference thus far, Houston stated, "it's brilliant. It just keeps getting better and better."
Hillsong Conference Nights continue all week until Friday July 3 at Allphones Arena, Sydney Olympic Park. Free and open to the public. Nights are packed with creative items, powerful praise & worship with Hillsong United and Hillsong Worship and incredible teaching from world-class communicators.
Wednesday 4pm (doors open 3pm)
Thursday and Friday 6pm (doors open 5pm)
For the full program or to register, go to http://hillsong.com/conference/sydney/#program
David Luschwitz is a writer living in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. He leaves for Spain in September where he plans to write a book.
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