Whenever I told people I was going to Australia this past year, the first response I would get would be, especially from the Frequency Youth crowd, “SO… DOES THAT MEAN YOU’RE GONNA GO TO HILLSONG?!?!?!?!”
It’s funny how a continent can be associated with a church like that. Hillsong is internationally known. Their music is especially popular in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America. My church in Ecuador was always talking about how they wanted to model their worship ministry and even their entire church after Hillsong. It appears that they have “gotten something right” with such a following. But there are some weird televangelists with a following too and although I have always loved the Hillsong United CDs and used them often for our worship team, I was interested in seeing what the church experience would be like there.
Hillsong “The City”, the original but smaller campus, is located about half an hour’s train and bus ride away from my house. The church does a great service by sending a free bus to central station to pick churchgoers up and bring them to and from church. Probably because the church is located in Waterloo, which is a part of town we have been told not to go walking in at night by ourselves. Some of its surrounding sections are pretty rough. I have been to this campus 4 times now, two for my service placement on Saturday mornings and twice for Sunday church services.
My service placement is incredible. I don’t know if I already wrote about this but it’s a ministry through Hillsong called Hillsong Kids. It was started years ago as a way to reach out to children in the city, including many children from aboriginal families. Each Saturday myself and 10 of the other girls from the ASC show up around 8:30 and they feed us breakfast (namely, Nutella. goes over pretty well) and talk with us about different things to expect and disciple us. Then we split up into teams and hit different parks around the city, picking up children door-to-door and playing games with them at the park, as well as presenting the gospel and having a brief devotional. The kids are pretty bad, I’m not gonna lie. This Saturday at my park in Gleeb we had about 8 kids show up, mostly ages 6-12, who sprinkled their sentences with plenty of F-bombs and must’ve given each other the finger several times. But there were some incredible tender moments with them, when you would see their innocence, and realize how valuable this ministry is. Even if it is just a drop in the bucket of showing them Christ’s love. Anyways, that is my ministry through Hillsong and I am really enjoying it so far.
One cool thing about this semester will be going to church in the evenings. I asked Tyler, one of our ministry leaders who’s college-age, what would be the best service to go to for me. There’s like 9 to choose from so I wanted to ask. He suggested the Sunday night service, and I love it so much and I’m so glad he said that. This service is mostly people in their 20’s and 30’s, and it’s such an amazing experience. First you get the bus at Central, and when you walk onto the bus the driver is some young guy who’s like friendly to the nth degree, welcoming you to Hillsong and stuff from the moment you step on board. On the bus you realize what a diverse church it is. I think every nationality must be represented in a service. Which is amazing. You pull up to the church and there are tons of greeters outside, and the ushers walk you right to your seat, starting from the front and moving back. They have to do that to prevent chaos because so many people are flooding in, all wanting good seats. The building itself is nothing pretentious, it’s a brick building and a basic structure. They don’t have fancy furniture or anything. It’s a lot of black walls and gray carpet, a modern feel but no frills. The sanctuary seats about a thousand, maybe more. They add rows quickly for overflow congregation members during the services. There are around 16 extension services in other parts of Sydney and abroad. When the worship starts, it’s pretty fantastic. All the people that you’ve heard of like Joel Houston, Brooke Fraser and them are touring with the United Band, but the worship team is incredible and you think… wow this is just like the CD. They don’t just do their songs – last night for example we sang Open the Eyes of My Heart and Here I Am to Worship, along with My Future Decided and Saviour King. People go up to the front for worship and there’s plenty of jumping. The multimedia is incredible, with a big screen on each side and then a triple screen in the center that they use for lots of different parts of the service. Last night kicked off “Sunday Night Live”, a 4-week sunday night series that is an illustrated sermon format with lots of extra media (like video clips and stuff) and special effects. It’s designed to be a great service to bring friends to. It was amazing last night. God really moved. They had a painter on stage making this enormous painting during the beginning of the sermon, when the pastor read the creation account and there were all these effects and videos and such. And then at the end of the painting, the guy preaching walked over and was like, “Look at this painting. It is speaking to me. Look at the colors, I want to worship this painting. I want to give it awards… it has changed my life”, and being that it’s a responsive crowd, everyone is laughing because he takes it really far. Then he stops and says, “It would be ridiculous to praise this painting… and not praise the actual painter.” It was all about how we worship the work of God instead of God and fail to recognize Him as Creator. It was such a great message. They used lots of scripture and also quotes from CS Lewis and others. The altar call was powerful and lots of people were saved for the first time. They do worship at the end, too, and in between songs they’ll break out into spontaneous worship. then when church gets out everyone heads out of the sanctuary to the “garage”, a huge room that’s warehousey with a coffee cafe and places to chat. Last night me and a bunch of the other ASC girls were given hot chocolate and biscuits and plugged into connect groups by students from the Hillsong College. So Tuesday I am gonna go to my first connect group, which is like a small group for people my age (18-25 range). It’s pretty exciting.
I was telling my parents last night on the phone how neat is was to actually attend this church and be involved, but how I recognize that like any church, it isn’t perfect. I’m sure there are a lot of areas that need improvement. But it’s a great model of how to run a large church well, from what I’ve seen so far. Even though it’s huge, they’re so relational and it’s so simple to get plugged in. I may attend powerhouse on Wednesday nights (the 18-25 service) and I also might go to the women’s ministry on Thursday mornings, since I don’t have class then.
Well that’s enough for one entry… more than enough sorry haha… also apologies all around for my failure to blog in the last week or so. Honestly, life has been so busy that I have barely had time to call home once in a while. But that’s a good thing – I’m glad I’m busy and living it up. Hope you’re all doing well.