Earlier this month, the world-renowned Australia-based church Hillsong announced it would be planting a church in Los Angeles, CA. The news has caused quite a stir.
Judging by comments on social media, sites, and Hillsong’s own blog, most of the reaction seems positive, save the heresy hunters and megachurch bashers.
Last week, however, the Christian Post featured an article voicing the concerns of a few who thought Hillsong’s move to L.A. would essentially kill other area churches. One commenter wrote:
“There are plenty of churches in the Orange and Los Angeles Counties that will be swallowed whole when Hillsong LA arrives. There are jobs that will be lost and pastors who will see their congregations dwindle. There are also plenty of larger churches as well [whose] pastors have spoken at your conferences, supported your endeavors and welcomed your church’s presence as a visit from overseas, all who will now see you as an unwanted threat.
Even though there is plenty of praise being shouted your way and your intentions may be noble, is Hillsong Church ready for the backlash of this decision? Like the venture in NYC, how is this not just capitalizing on the popularity of Hillsong in the United States?”
First off, I respect the reader for broaching the subject. This isn’t stuff church leaders readily talk about publicly. Having 9+ years of pastoral experience and a few more as an itinerant minister, I can sympathize with her concerns, both for existing local churches and capitalization of a global brand. I think this person voiced the inner fears of at least a few people, pastors or not.
But this got me thinking because I’m a local church pastor! What would I do if Hillsong moved into my neighborhood?
1. I’d stop thinking it’s my neighborhood. Christian turf wars…no thanks. The biggest churches in the country are still just a drop in the bucket compared to the total population of any small U.S. city. No one church can serve the needs of an entire community. A church that finds it’s identity in it’s territory scares me.
2. I’d go to Hillsong to learn from them. I wouldn’t leave my pastorate though I enjoy Hillsong’s music and style. But they’re doing something right, and I’d welcome access to this kind of ministry. Consequently, a megachurch is opening a campus just 15 minutes from my house. I don’t view them as competition. I view them as help.
3. I’d remind myself of who I’m called to reach. As a pastor and leader, I’ve had to narrow my focus to which segments of the population I can best effectively impact. Inner city? I’m probably not your guy. Second or third generation highly educated career-driven minorities? I might be your guy. Anyone else is a bonus. If I try to reach everyone, I won’t really reach anyone. That’s why every city needs multiple healthy and growing churches. Hillsong has a broad reach, it’s true. But they don’t impact the non-English speaking restaurant workers that some volunteers at our church do.
4. I’d find another line of work if I’m worried about job security. I’m a bi-vocational pastor, and it’s awesome. As long as there are non-Christians or dying people, the church should always have available business. Sure, small churches might need to shut their doors once Hillsong gets into town. But churches close their doors all the time, and it’s usually not because of a new church. If that’s all it takes to drive a church out of business, chances are there wasn’t much business there in the first place. If a church effectively does the job of reaching people and growing, there will always be “business.”
Question: What are your thoughts on the Hillsong church plant? Do you really think it will displace a lot of churches? Share your thoughts below!
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