The City Is My Parish: Understanding The Hillsong Model

Among Pentecostal churches, Hillsong* is the most widely known in Australia and internationally. The weekly attendance at its Sydney services alone is more than 20,000, making it the largest mega-church in Australia.
There are some parallels in the Hillsong development to the growth of Methodism in the 18th century, and the Salvation Army in the late 19th century. The parents of the senior pastor, Brian Houston, were, in fact, Salvation Army officers in New Zealand. Hillsong has inherited some of its patterns of leadership and organisational discipline. Also, like these former movements, Hillsong focuses on city areas, works on establishing and developing groups and networks, and uses contemporary means of communication in that process.

Among Pentecostal churches, Hillsong* is the most widely known in Australia and internationally. The weekly attendance at its Sydney services alone is more than 20,000, making it the largest mega-church in Australia. There are some parallels in the Hillsong development to the growth of Methodism in the 18th century, and the Salvation Army in the late 19th century. The parents of the senior pastor, Brian Houston, were, in fact, Salvation Army officers in New Zealand. Hillsong has inherited some of its patterns of leadership and organisational discipline. Also, like these former movements, Hillsong focuses on city areas, works on establishing and developing groups and networks, and uses contemporary means of communication in that process.

Hillsong has moved from a Sydney focus to a world focus. The world is clearly noted in Hillsong’s Vision Statement:

“To reach and influence the world by building a large Christ-centred, Bible-based church, changing mindsets and empowering people to lead and impact in every sphere of life.”

It is doing this through its music, entrepreneurial leadership, volunteer base, extensive use of technology, extension services and groups, social justice focus and broadening theology.

It is also seeking to realise its vision through the Hillsong Conference through which it is connecting with a multitude of local churches of many denominations. Once church members looked to their denomination for support and resources. Now they consider inter-denominational connections and, in particular, the mega-church for large inspirational events.  The growth in independent churches and churches linked to umbrella groups also feeds into the need to connect with something larger than one’s own sphere, and Hillsong Conference and various networks are building on that development.

While the growth in numbers in Pentecostal churches has slowed to a little less than the population growth rate across Australia, it remains to be seen whether Hillsong will see significant growth in future years. One form of growth may be as a broad umbrella-type organisation providing resources to and networking a wide range of larger and smaller churches in Australia.
For further analysis of the ‘Hillsong Model’, see Pointers vol.22-3.
Peter Bentley

Comments are closed.