A Christian Band With Secular Business Practices



My wife and I went to see Hillsong United last night at the Hollywood Bowl. The Australian band – fronted by the talented Joel Houston, whose dad, Brian, founded Hillsong Church exactly 30 years ago – has produced some of the most well-known praise and worship songs of the past decade and a half.

Its playlist includes “Shout to the Lord,” “Mighty to Save,” “Hosanna,” “My Redeemer Lives,” “The Stand,” “Worthy is the Lamb,” “From the Inside Out,” “Lead Me to the Cross” and other standards in Sunday church services not just in the land down under, but also here in the United States.

I very much enjoyed seeing Hillsong United’s live performance. And so did the other 18,000 or so Christ followers who stood for much of the more than two-hour concert. Yet, I left the Hollywood Bowl last night with a troubled spirit.

That’s because, while Joel Houston and his bandmates might be strictly about glorifying God through their music, the band’s business management appear to be worshiping at the altar of Mammon.

Indeed, the tickets for Hillsong United’s concert were almost as expensive as tickets to a Hollywood Bowl event later this month featuring Aerosmith frontmen Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. And Hillsong was selling overpriced tour merchandise, including tee shirts going for $40.

I expect such buckraking of secular enterprises, especially in the entertainment businesses. And if I attended a U2 concert or a Dodgers game or a Cirque du Soliel performance, I would think nothing of paying a couple hundred bucks.

But just as those who follow after Christ are to set themselves apart from those who follow after the prince of this fallen world, the business practices of Christian enterprises – like Hillsong Music – should be set apart from those of secular businesses.

I have no problem whatsoever with Hillsong United earning a decent profit on its world tour. But the maximization of profits should not be the driving force of a Christian enterprise. Especially, not a worship band that performs a song, “Hosanna,” that proclaims that everything they do is for the Lord’s “kingdom cause.”

I would like to see Hillsong United handle its business more like, say, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, who famously authored “The Purpose Driven Life,” one of the best-selling Christian books of all-time.

Pastor Warren earned millions of dollars from his book sales. And he doesn’t merely return a tenth of his earnings to the Lord. Or a quarter. Or even half. But 90 percent.

That’s not to say that the Lord expects everyone  that earns money in His name – from Christian authors to Christian bands – to “reverse tithe,” like Rick Warren. But He does encourage them to “be not conformed to this world.”

Indeed, if the practices of a Christian business are indistinguishable from those of a secular business – like charging marking up its merchandise as much as 400 percent – it cannot claim to be about the Lord’s kingdom cause.

This entry was published on June 8, 2013 at 11:52 AM. It’s filed under ENTERTAINMENT and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

11 thoughts on “A Christian Band With Secular Business Practices

  1. Your a fool!LOL You obviously know nothing absolutely nothing of the amount of money it takes to hold a single event that size. You have to have 5 million insurance policy before you can even walk through the door. The stage setup and concessions along take a week to setup and another to break down. Its 2017 and stuff is very expensive. But you bring up the true issue here when you say if you were gonna see Steven Tyler & Joe Perry you’d think nothing of paying $200 for a ticket. The church doesn’t like supporting the arts or christian artists. So many of them start in the church and are exploited and expected to give away their gift. They have no choice but to go outside of the church to make a living at their art cause the church devalues them! You should be ashamed of yourself for even insinuating without ant evidence that they are gouging and over charging people when you know nothing of what you’re talking about. Your ignorance is common though and is the churches pout of view at large. I hope Hillsong makes BILLIONS and continues to grow cause inside the church they will never be valued by people like you… SMH

  2. I’m having the same concerns. Last night I went to a Casting Crowns concert, $120 for my wife and I to go. I would be ok if it’s under the frame of “Christian entertainment”, I think that’d be ok. But to bill it as a church service/worship service or whatever just odd feeling to me. Our poor bros and sis’s in the Lord cannot afford to go to this worship service. I’m still trying to figure this out.

  3. Anonymous on said:

    But the bible says do not let the other hand see…Hillsong doesn’t brag openly where they return the Lords blessings. If you have been to Uganda, checkout Watoto Ministries, which is heavily…i repeat heavily funded by Brian Houston!

  4. Anonymous on said:

    I work for an entertainment mgt co and we have to turn away a lot of good artists including christian because no money is made from concert tickets alone…we have to count concessions and merchandise sales too. If it isn’t gonna make “us” $ then we won’t book them. So it’s not just the artist promoters….they gotta work with the ugly side of the business…so just remember a lot more goes on behind the scenes.

  5. I’m so confused as to why this is an article. Are you suggesting Hillsong not be compensated for travel expenses, band expenses, merchandise expenses, and…compensation? Merchandise is expensive no matter who the artist is…but my main point isn’t to focus on how Hillsong manages the financial side of things. My point is…why the need to post this article? This doesn’t do anything to help bring people closer to Jesus. In fact, this is feeding the misconceptions that Christian artist are about money and nothing else. What gives?

    Oh by the way, I went to their show in Tampa tonight with Brian Houston preaching. They gave out a copy of his newest book Live Love Lead. To everyone. For free.

    • In case you didn’t notice, this post was published more than two years ago. And our experience at the Hollywood Bowl was, apparently, quite different than your experience last night in Tampa. Indeed, Brian Houston wasn’t on hand at Hillsong’s tour stop in Los Angeles; didn’t give out free copies of his latest book. On the contrary, we saw Hillsong merchandise being hustled like you’d expect at a secular concert. Sure, the band needs to meet its expenses. Sure, Joel Houston and his Hillsong bandmates should be compensated. But Christian enterprises – and that’s what Hillsong Music is – should not be conformed to this fallen world. They should not follow the practices of secular enterprises.

  6. Marty on said:

    Great music, but it would be good to know how much these musicians earn for themselves, and how much of those earnings they use for their own benefit. If they are genuine followers of Christ, they should be living a life as per instructions of Jesus Christ and the early apostles of the New Testament. Anything outside of this definition of Christianity is subject to speculation. If such speculation turns out to be fact, then these musicians should have lovingly explained to them that they are partaking in leading Christians astray.

  7. Meredith on said:

    We have to be mindful of every expense of each person involved in making a world tour possible, the time and effort it takes to plan and put together a stage, write and record the music, health insurance, travel expenses for the no doubt hundred or more people working to make the tour possible, cost of designing and making/printing merch to sell, all to pay for the next tour and paychecks and studio time. It’s one big cycle.
    Whether a profit is made or not, Hillsong United are a group of Jesus lover’s like you, sacrificing in their own ways to do what they know God has so clearly anointed them to do, for millions to enjoy. People get saved at concerts like this, and you’re nitpicking the price of a t-shirt? As is merchandise sales at concerts and conferences are among Hillsong’s top 10 business concerns.

    • I do not believe Hillsong, the band itself, is motivated by merchandise sales or other forms of lucre. I think they are sincerely performing for the glory of God. Nevertheless, the commercialism for which decidedly-secular music tours are well-known was very much in evidence at Hillsong’s concert stop at the Hollywood Bowl.

  8. I went last night in Texas and shirts there were from 10.00 to 35.00 just like any other concert. We went to see Switchfoot and their short prices were the same. Both concerts were awesome and the majority of Holdings shirts were almost sold out by the time I got to the table to purchase ours.

  9. I think a distinction needs to be made between ministry and vocation.

    Were this concert strictly ministry, I don’t think they should charge anything at all (or, at the most, only charge enough to cover expenses). It’s not that I think they should not be supported, however, such support should come from the freewill offerings of those who attend.

    If, on the other hand, one happens to glorify God in one’s vocation, I think one should be free to charge whatever one desires. After all, if I were a plumber and glorified God in what I do, should I charge any less for my services?

    Perhaps the real question is something along the lines of “how much profit is fair”? I really don’t think there’s any such thing as a “fair profit”. About the only thing one might conjecture about an amount of profit with which one disagrees is that the person earning such a profit is greedy. However, it’s not at all clear that financial increase is a manifestation of greed. “Greed” is an attitude of the heart, not a financial status. One can be wealthy and modest, and another can be destitute while having a greedy heart. I am not, of course, suggesting that there are no greedy persons out there. I’m only noting that one cannot fault another for seeking financially success.

    With respect to Rick Warren, the reason he is able to give away so much of the earnings from his book is because he was already financially well-to-do. Were he a young person, starting off with a family and struggling financially (like many are today), it’s not at all clear he would have parted with his profits so easily. I’m not rendering any judgement against him, but merely noting that parting with money when one has quite a bit of it isn’t necessarily indicative of an exceeding generosity or piety.

    Returning to the music in question, if it really is a vocation, then it needs to be noted that the music industry (even, unfortunately, within the Christian community) is subject to the cult of youth. An aging Christian musician might get a gig here and there, but it’s hardly something that will support him in his golden years. It’s unfortunate, but a musician needs to make all he can in his prime, because it may be all he has to live on when his popularity eventually wanes. And again, I’m only speaking of music as a vocation, not as a ministry. Those who do music for ministry probably shouldn’t look to it for their main income (unless they are on-staff as a worship leader or some such thing).

    Finally, this is a difficult subject because it can sometimes be hard to distinguish where ministry ends and vocation begins, or vice versa. In the end, God will judge the motives men’s hearts, whether they be for good or whether they be for evil. In the meantime, let’s just enjoy the music.

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