What could 'glorious' and 'ruins' possibly have in common? What business do they have even being in the same sentence, let alone next to each other? It's a paradox, surely an anomaly, maybe some sort of inconsistent mistake. This nonsensical oddity seems to defy logic, it's so unreasonable... It's a scandal.
The scandal of grace
The juxtaposition of terms 'glorious' and 'ruins' is so fittingly obvious at first study of the Hillsong brand, the music, the conference, and the belief that Hillsong professes. This was particularly evident on Monday, when I and many other Christian Media got to attend a press conference with the key leaders of Hillsong church right before the start of the 27th annual Hillsong Conference.
Questions came up of the latest Hillsong Live album "Glorious Ruins", the new Young and Free project, Hillsong's international influence, and what has lead to the success in the music, church and conference. But after each question, the Houston family and panel directed all praise not to the work they had done or the success that they had found, but simply to God's glorious grace.
They didn't know how or why God had chosen this faithful group of people in humble Australia and used them to radically impact the world, but they did know that it wasn't their own greatness or expertise that got them there.
It was humbling for all of us to see these people who were made out to be like celebrities sitting in front of lights, cameras and microphones, representing this famously glorious brand, but were unashamedly pointing out their glorified ruins and the solemn fact that without a greater Power, an undeserving favour of God, they are and Hillsong is nothing.
As the media conference came to a close and the panel were called to their many important jobs in hosting the largest annual conference in Australia, senior pastor Brian Houston stopped and spoke to the media gathered in front of him. He sincerely thanked us for what we do and assured us of our importance, then asked for the opportunity to pray for us.
As he prayed, I suddenly realised I had been so distracted by looking for the secret to success in the packaging, when the answer was the very message that the packaging was wrapped around. Maybe it's not so much how they're singing, but what they're singing about. Maybe studying their leadership ability or reviewing their marketing techniques or even judging their internationally unparalleled musical and design creativity is completely missing the point that all these avenues are so loudly screaming: that it's Christ in them!
And maybe... Just maybe...
Christ really is enough.
In the conference, Hillsong is launching Young and Free's very first single "Alive". Young and Free represent the new and rising generation, the youth of today; and it is a new sound, distinctively different to that of United and Hillsong live.
In this conference there's so many different musical styles, genres and demographics represented on the platform, between Y&F, United, Live, Brooke Fraser, Kari Jobe, Israel Houghton, and many more. But it is interesting to see that all of these different sounds aren't taking anything away from each other; in fact they're blending together, working with each other to create a greater symphony of praise to the creator of creativity.
Even away from the music, there's so many different styles of church, different preaching styles, cultural differences, age differences, even belief differences, but we gather around what unites us, not what divides us. And in this microcosm of faith, it's actually our differences and unique individuality that create such a beautiful melody that captivates both God and man.
Like a painting with so many rich and vibrant colours or like an orchestra with a wide range of differing instruments, each note doesn't clash with another but works together to make a beautiful artwork.
And that's the power of it all, when the ruins come to life in the beauty of the name of Jesus, His name is glorified and lives are changed.
Daniel J. Mathew has finished his Bachelor of Music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and currently writes for Press Service International.