The Pen

Hillsong’s Houston Has Saddle Sores


The naked cowboy has apparently caused Brian Houston some saddle sores. Yesterday, June 1, he issued a mea culpa that defended his wife Bobbie, the “convener” of the conference where the pants-free cowpoke appeared, as well as clearing Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong NYC and his wife, Laura, from responsibility for the vulgar show. He promised, “it won’t happen again.”

In his blogged “apology,” Houston writes:

I do know that Bobbie – my wife – who was convener of the conference was clearly unaware that this was going to happen and was taken back by it.  She was at the dress rehearsal and there was no sign of a cowboy there. Carl and Laura Lentz were also not part of the decision. I can only guess at this point, that some one thought it would be funny and sent him out there without thinking about the ramifications.

That’s Houston’s defense before the bench of public opinion and outrage prompted by the guitar-swinging, chaps-less cowpoke entertaining the crowds at Hillsong’s Colour Conference.   It’s the typical “nobody knew” defense.   But, in such a highly-orchestrated, well-oiled factory of faith and entertainment that is Hillsong, does this seem likely?

He continues by making the expected shift of attention. Stop looking at what we did. Besides, you’re looking at it wrong. Houston bemoans the inaccuracy of reports of an event for which he’s apologizing. Yeah, we did wrong, but your reporting is wrong about what we did wrong. You almost expect to hear him point the finger and say, they did it too! But shifting focus doesn’t erase the fact that the Bible-betraying boots of Hillsong clearly stepped in something undesirable along their prosperity gospel cattle drive. A stampede seems underway.

What I do know is that those who perpetuate the story, do so mainly with the help of a video, no context, and a good dose of what the bible describes as hearsay and rumour. He was wearing proper shorts, not underwear, and he had a flag draped over him – bare-chested and perhaps inappropriate, certainly unexpected and unathorised; but not naked.

Oh, he wasn’t actually naked, so cut Hellsong …errr, Hillsong some slack. They’ll play fast and loose with Scripture, with the Gospel, but no way would they have a naked, horseless crooner participate in a “church” sponsored conference. But what Houston decries as “hearsay and rumour” are abundantly confirmed by the foul fruits of Hillsong.

Lest we forget, the unnamed cowboy in Houston’s apology is very real and very known to the folks at Hillsong NYC. He was none other than their youth pastor, Diego Simila.


Houston’s brief “time to make this go away” blog closes with this.

What I also know is that talk of apostates etc., is nonsense. Some well-meaning person just made a silly decision. It won’t happen again.

“Talk of apostates, etc. is nonsense?” Houston may have a point here. To be an apostate, you actually had to have once known the actual Truth, claimed to have been bound by it, and subsequently abandoned it. The evidence that Hillsong or Houston has ever proclaimed the Gospel Truth is, though, as scanty as their cowboy’s wardrobe. The prosperity gospel is not the gospel. So, it’s probably more accurate to refer to him, Hillsong, and their ilk by the simpler, more easily understood, and Scriptural moniker “false teacher.”

There are two fundamentals that define an authentic church. First, the Word of God is faithfully preached, taught, and given obedience. Second, Jesus – the Jesus of that Word, mind you – is exalted. He is the focus. Hillsong does neither. It doesn’t take much discernment to determine the appropriateness of an implied “naked” entertainer in the midst of a church event. Jesus is not glorified by such a shameful show of carnality.

When you claim to be a “church,” but show zero obedience to actual, properly interpreted Scripture, and thereby fail to authentically edify the sheep by that Word, there will be no boundaries as to what is deemed acceptable. When the Word is left on the dusty trails in the midst of a wagon train guided by falsehood, anything goes.  And so it does at Hillsong.

We do not get to define worship. God does. Though the naked cowboy episode did not occur during a Sunday morning worship service, it does not diminish the reality that Hillsong is a culture driven by the dictates of our fallen natures coupled with an “it’s all about you” false gospel. You don’t get to merely add the name “Jesus” to your favorite “feel good” experience and call it Christian.

Instead of a corporate mea culpa, Houston and Hillsong would do better to repent and believe. Pray that they do so.

Consider the following from Nehemiah. It reflects a truly powerful moment of worship pleasing unto God, reverent in its humility, and thoroughly guided by His Word.

And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand. Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:1-6)

There are no naked cowboys, as you’ll note. Somebody oughta exegete it for Houston.

Contributed by Bud Ahlheim