Saturday, 18 October 2014

HILLSONG: CAN TWO WALK TOGETHER?

This has been simmering for a long while and must soon come to the boil

That Hillsong should run into trouble on the issue of homosexuality was as predictable as the ol' currant bun peeping its head over the horizon this morning.

The Hillsong brand is, and always has been, predicated upon the notion that Church services can be so dumbed down and made attractive to unsaved people that it is possible to assemble each Sunday morning a sizeable gathering of the unregenerate, whilst also also retaining just enough evangelical flavour to avoid losing all but a few of the genuine "little flock" of Christ to the Baptists' down the road.


 As a strategy this can just about work in an era where there remains broad agreement between said sheep and goats on what constitute societal norms. Where such agreement prevails you can survive, even appear to prosper for a while, through the free mixing of wheat with chaff every Sunday morning.

So it was that until recently you could put up a nice air-conditioned building with padded seats and ample free parking, assemble a talented worship band and an entertaining frontman who keeps the sermons short and not too challenging, throw in some decent childcare facilities and lots of midweek activities and know that you were always likely to be on to a winner.

Of course, drawing a crowd (as opposed to a congregation) is really not even as difficult as that. Doubtless a sign advertising free beer and a porn movie would achieve the desired result even more quickly, but we do have to appear to maintain some kind of standard.

But the Hillsong strategy used to work (if large crowds are your definition of working), only because there was just enough commonality between the folks who ought to be in church and the folks who ought not, that you were able to preserve the pretence that everybody in the fold was of the species sheep.

But the day of such shared values is over. Now that society's view of morality has so diverged from that of the Bible we cannot maintain the myth of commonality. 

This means that the Hillsong model can no longer function and its days must be considered to be numbered. After all, how can decent, tolerant goats reasonably be expected to rub shoulders every week with narrow-minded sheepish bigots? 

Eventually Hillsong was always going to come up hard against Amos 3:3. 

 Now that this has occurred, an inevitable day of decision has arrived for the goatherders. What are they to do? 

 One option is to retreat from their once-profitable strategy and seek a return to the time-honoured practice of tailoring meetings for the actually regenerate whilst still offering hospitality for the genuine seeker. 

  The other is to follow the Hillsong model to its logical conclusion: out with the Bible and the communion emblems, in with the beer and the smutty movie.

Either way, there is no question that the Hillsong model as it currently stands is defunct. 

 Sheep and goats are simply too dissimilar in our day to keep up the illusion any longer and Brian Houston and his ilk will find that they are able to sit on the fence for only so long. Indeed, as the article above makes clear, a non-statement is a statement in itself. 

  Thus it is that at some point very soon, Hillsong and its numerous clones and wannabes will be compelled to answer the highly pertinent (but inconvenient) question: do we exist to please men or to please God?

I have a strong hunch of what answer most of them will give to that. But that is because in reality, they made that choice a long time ago.