"Speak church the world is listening. That's what God wants to say to you." Judah Smith, lead pastor of The City Church in Seattle, clapped closed his metallic silver Bible as he stood at the edge of the stage in the centre of Allphones arena. And isn't it true?
All week Hillsong has been in the media and despite divergent, and often negative representations of the church, it has become apparent that the world really has tuned in. Regardless, attendees remain unperturbed by the media frenzy.
"We are spending more time on Facebook than we are looking at his face!" a passionate Jentezen Franklin proclaimed last night. "If you can't hear the word read the word", he advised an extremely attentive Wednesday night congregation. Pastors from churches all over the world stood one by one and pointed, some at Franklin, some at the roof, clapping and shaking their heads. The atmosphere was tangible and it was uplifting. God was speaking to people and his voice was edifying.
If last night elevated expectations, this morning didn't disappoint, Joel Houston, son of Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church Brian Houston, taking to the platform in the morning session, stripping back the layers metaphorically, describing our need as a church to come clean and get real. "False humility is true pride", Houston suggested in hushed tones. "God doesn't need you, he wants you. There's a difference."
It went hand in hand with the lyrics to the first song of the morning, "a passion worthy of your name". Is this conference worthy of Jesus' name? The reality is that it is not. It's far from it, but Lead Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston have never pretended that it was anything worthy of Jesus' name.
As Joel stated, "I don't think God's up there saying, far out this is excellent! I think he's saying, the songs are cool, the preaching is okay but I really love the people and I love their hearts." Pastor Brian has always said God is interested in the condition of your heart, and son, Joel again made that reality unmistakably clear. "It's outrageous that God would allow us to write songs that connect hearts with him," he tried to explain, in awe.
Quiet, thoughtful, humble
"There is a prevailing expectation that a preacher has to be animated and loud and authoritarian, but Joel Houston was the complete opposite," delegate Leeanne Erickson of Lilydale Church commented, "quiet and thoughtful and humble" she said.
With preaching from Bobbie Houston, wife and co-lead pastor of Hillsong Church, and then Judah Smith, Thursday morning was as star-studded as church can get but it's never about that.
One of the main points of the conference so far has been that the church isn't gathering around names of renowned preachers, but around "the name of Jesus." To see a movement so strong and yet so selfless is refreshing. Hillsong will reach as far as God allows - now that is something that runs in direct contrast to the portrayal of Hillsong Church in the media.
In an elective stream, Christine Caine, founder of the A21 Campaign which rescues and restores victims of human trafficking in countries scattered throughout Europe, spoke about the need to combine faith with works to help a world in need.
Last night Carl Lentz took to the stage, asking the question of attendees, "Is it well with your soul?" and launched into a series of five things a healthy soul does. It made Thursday one of the hardest hitting of the entire week. Carl Lentz is co-pastor of Hillsong New York. He studied at Hillsong Leadership College. Once again his preaching was transparent with real-world evangelism.
David Luschwitz is a writer living in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. He leaves for Huelva, Spain in September where he plans to write a book. To check out more of his writing go to www.davidluschwitz.com.
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