Brian Houston’s autobiographical fodder entitled Live Love Lead, published in 2015 by Faith Words, an indicia of Hatchette Book Group Inc (It certainly is a “hatchet” job on truth!), is hyped to be “a transformative approach to life” that will “help you navigate a faith path that is all your own.” By implementing “his own life-tested experiences and the powerful biblical truths he’s learned,” you too may harness techniques that will “enable you to live fully, love completely, and lead boldly – the hallmarks of Jesus’ time on earth.”
Among the many endorsements plastered prior to the book’s preface and emblazoned upon the back cover, there should be one sufficient enough to warn off the discerning. Rick Warren, the false teacher of the Southern Baptist Convention and wanna-be pope of unbiblical ecumenism, wrote, “This is a remarkable book by a remarkable man. You will love his transparency and passion!”
Really? His transparency? Our friends down under seem to have been giving Houston quite a bit of a row over the issue of his “transparency.” According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Hillsong seems to be quite the opaque “money making machine.”
“While Hillsong’s charismatic leader Brian Houston presides over a glitzy religious empire, he has not only had to face a Royal Commission grilling, but questions over theology, money and his church’s treatment of homosexuals.”
That Hillsong is an empire is unquestioned. It is estimated that the “church” rakes in over $100 million annually from its growing international and media (read: music) operations. Called by the article “the reigning couple of Australian Pentecostalism,” Houston and wife Bobbie “pulled in tax-free revenues of nearly $80 million in Australia” in 2014. The three adult children of the couple are also among the upper leadership of the organization.
The empire includes “church plants” on four continents in 15 countries with a radio and television outreach that stretches into 160 nations around the globe. That “narrow path” warned about in Scripture seems to have been surreptitiously widened for Hillsong and its ilk.
The notion is that God is blessing Hillsong is as equally erroneous as its claim of transparency. That God is merely blessing the obedience of Houston is unfounded when casting a discerning eye at the theology upon which this empire is built. It is nothing short of a word of faith, prosperity gospel heresy, substantially driven by a finely tuned marketing campaign of contemporary “Christian” music blasted at undiscerning multitudes via Hillsong Music.
For those of us in America, accustomed as we are to expecting the typical prosperity gospel heretic to be bedecked in the accoutrements of gaudy wardrobes and bouffant hairstyles, slathered heavily with thick lashed makeup and insincere glimmering grins, the Hillsong Houston duo betray this stereotype.
Instead, burnished as they are from the Australian outback, they exude a style that is decidedly more hip, chic, and appealing to the very demographic – the elusive millennial crowd – being targeted by their marketing machine of faith. Their appealing features are a suave and disarming attraction for many who do not understand their foul false teaching is a mainstay of an enemy who, we’re told, may appear as an angel of light. Things are not always as they appear. It requires a Berean approach, consistently applied, to verify right from almost right.
With Hillsong, the enemy has morphed away from the flash and sizzle of gaudy decorum stylized by likes of Jim and Tammy Faye, or Paul and Jan, and into the more favorably amiable and highly contextualized couple from down under. Brian and Bobbie are the face of the new prosperity gospel. Though the enemy has changed his wardrobe, his beguiling message of deceit remains the same. Times change. Styles change. Deception remains the same.
In his tome, Houston emphasizes his detestation for being labeled under the “prosperity gospel” moniker. Commenting on his first book, You Need More Money (yeah, that doesn’t sound prosperity gospel at all, huh?), he writes, “I thought readers would be drawn to a provocative title. I may as well have painted a bulls-eye on my head, because critics took the title and labeled us ‘ prosperity preachers’ teaching a ‘prosperity gospel. I hate that term!”
“I hate that term!” Houston says. (So lemme repeat it here, for the sake of clarification. Hellsong, errr, Hillsong preaches a prosperity gospel and Houston is a prosperity preacher.)
Here’s a telling quote. It comes not from Houston’s book, though it is heavily endowed with WOF and prosperity tenets, those are toned down under a cautionary veneer of ill-used Scripture.(Can’t be too blatant, you know?) From the earlier cited news article in which commentary from a Hillsong sermon is given Houston preaches these words:
“Your words can frame your future. Speak your faith, start seeing miracles … Owner of your first home! Best selling author … Mother of handsome sons and beautiful daughters! Businessman who is prosperous and fruitful! Your brother’s salvation, your sister’s healing … Speak it into being! Speak it into being! Speak it into being! Amen!” (Source)
Umm, friends, this ain’t the Sermon on the Mount!
Live Love Lead is replete with pithy platitudes and spiritualized notions pregnant with prosperity gospel promises.
“We are all born with God-given potential to change the world around us.”
“We are on a co-mission with Christ.”
“When following Jesus, be careful what you dream. Because you can rest assured that God will exceed the limits of your imagination if you’re committed to advancing His kingdom.”
(FYI, “kingdom” talk is a consistent theme with the prosperity crowd, including the NAR movement, of which Houston is equally well-entrenched. But, lest we forget, the real “kingdom of God” is at hand, providentially orchestrated by God, not dependent on our participation.)
“Step into the great unknown.” (Cuz faith is a blind trust, ya’ know.)
“God will always be your soul supporter.”
“… finding our grace zone …” is repeated within the book, representing a spiritual state from which to accomplish your goals, dreams, and visions. “Follow your heart, stay true to the gift that is on your life, go forth in the strength that you have, be comfortable in your grace zone, be confident in your call – and watch as God exceeds your every expectation and leads you into a wide-open and spacious life.” (So much for trusting Jesus, I guess … but then, this ain’t about the Jesus of the Bible; it’s about a different Jesus, a false one, to be certain.)
“Sometimes I fear we get in the way of the supernatural healing God wants to give us in the midst of our pain.” (Yeah, we really shouldn’t do that.)
“Live a big, spacious, abundant life like Jesus…” (A markedly different notion that “take up your cross and follow me,” isn’t it?) Later, Houston says, “When you serve God by leading a big life, it not only blesses you but provides opportunities for others to be blessed as well.” (Kinda hard to share the blessings of Jesus when you’re talking about a different Jesus, isn’t it? But then, that “angel of light” deceives many with the presumption of blessings while whistling them down a wide path.)
“God has planted something in you that He intends to bring to fruition if you will just keep your dream and vision alive.” (Cuz, well, God, who gave life to all things, isn’t able to keep my vision alive? Oh yeah, it’s not His vision. It’s something I made up.) Woefully, Houston writes, “If you lose the vision, the dream that God planted in you, then you will ultimately lose your way.” (So, umm, I’m supposed to have a vision? Planted by God? What if I don’t? What if, reading Scripture, I see that, instead of vision, I’m supposed to “be holy as I am holy?” This is a typical universalistic appeal common to prosperity gospel proclaimers. It’s for everyone!)
“The name of Jesus can unleash power in your life unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.”
Concerned, evidently, that some potential devotees to the Hell-song, errr, Hillsong, faith might have some hesitation, Houston says, “You don’t have to quit being who you are just because you’ve surrendered your life to Christ.” While he suggests that those engaged in illegal, immoral endeavors “may indeed need to be relinquished,” “… all too often I suspect we underestimate what God can use.” (Like naked cowboys on stage for a worship service, I guess.)
“…see opportunities with spiritual eyes and attract the favor of God.”
(The only thing attractive about me to God isn’t me, it’s Christ; it’s only when He sees me through the lens of His finished work on the cross that He graces me with favor, and that grace is nothing of me. But … it is eternally enough!)
“What are your expectations of God?” “I let God…” (Not really used to bossing around the sovereign Creator of the universe, myself. I’d advise others against the same.) “Yes, the gate is narrow but it is beautiful. Through the power of Jesus’ name, your foot is already in the door.” (No. Just no. Prosperity gospel infused with universalism and word power remains heresy. The only door into which that foot goes will assuredly find “wailing and gnashing of teeth” on the other side.) Not only is there power in the name (as opposed, you’ll note, to “power in the blood”), “the seeds for your glorious future have already been sown.” “What is in your hand and on your heart is the key to your glorious future!”
With regards to money, Houston writes, “You see, without money, it’s hard (as a ministry, a business, a family) to fulfill the kingdom endeavors that are in your heart.”
(Again, the true kingdom of God is not a function of the “endeavors that are in” my heart; it is, rather, the certain, fore-ordained, will of God. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Pretty sure my plans for His kingdom are irrelevant, and His plans for His kingdom aren’t dependent on my cash flow.)
While, theologically-speaking, nothing happens by the falsely spewed, though rampantly-prevalent notion of “inviting Jesus into my heart,” Houston writes that “I was five years old when I made the decision to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” He does not, though, actually proclaim anything remotely close to the Biblical Gospel. He explains nothing of repentance for himself, or the Biblical call for its necessity for others. The book is incredibly void of the fundamental calls of the New Testament to “repent and believe.” The notion of sin is referenced in a clearly more anthropomorphic manner.
Of sin, Houston writes, “if you fall short of the glory of God, it means that sin makes you smaller. It diminishes you – your potential, your relationship with God, and your confidence.” Even the casual reader of Scripture ought easily recognize the “other gospel-ness” of this false assertion – sin means death, a physical death -barring Christ’s return – that will lead, outside of Christ, to certain and sure eternal, spiritual death. It is not merely a hiccup in my grace zone; it is a terminal condition that will bring righteous wrath and judgment.
The problem with Hillsong isn’t merely naked cowboys on stage, doctrinally dangerous song lyrics, the obvious false behaviors blossomed forth by lack of a Scripturally-centered theology, or the apparently nepotistic global empire that it has become. Those are expected symptoms of the fundamental problem. The problem with Hillsong is Houston.
He and the cadre of compatriots with whom he’s spanned the globe spouting the false prosperity gospel are deceiving tens of thousands who attend their worship “experiences” every week (estimated at over 90,000 on any Sunday), and countless more through their intensive media presence. Coupled with the “worship is about me” tunes pumped out by the musical arm of the “ministry,” Hillsong is a formidable counterfeit. But it is a counterfeit.
But it is a counterfeit.
The astute student of Scripture will see through the slick, appealing surfaces of Hillsong and recognize easily the subversion of Truth it proclaims. True believers should boldly stand against supporting this behemoth of Baal; turn off their tunes; demand the revenue from songs that feed that beast be deleted from playlists in your church; and disciple those on Hillsong’s wide path by taking them to the Word and sharing the authentic Truth.
The Truth is there, in the Word, and it’s not burnished by a glowing sun down under; instead it is the very Light of the World Himself.
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim