After my experience at Glebe Café Chruch, I wanted to check out Hillsong. Hillsong is one of Sydney’s larger churches. By American standards, it would be clearly in the mega church category. Hillsong has campuses all over Australia and a few spots throughout the world.
Hillsong and I crossed paths in 2006 during my time at Menlo Park. Their song Mighty To Save was well received here in the States and was frequently played during the Sunday service. The song resonated with me as it was a then reminder of the power yet grace of Jesus.
I’ve always respected the core element of grace found in the Gospels in the Christian tradition. Grace is a unique and funny thing. It’s never earned and always bestowed. Over the years grace has been bastardized into a number of things, but when it’s in it’s purest form the recipient knows it’s original intent, a gift from the bestower.
Hillsong had two campuses in the CBD (central business district, aka downtown) of Sydney and one campus out in the suburban Hills area known as “Hills Campus”. Hills campus is home base and from the photos on the website looked to hold at least 5000 people. The campus was well integrated with the public transport system as you could take the train from the CBD to Parramatta and then board a church bus to campus. That would have been a 5 hour adventure for me so I opted for the smaller 400 person campus in the CBD.
I met Jennifer and Michelle at the bus station near Wynyard. Jennifer asked me where Waterloo was and I inquired if they were going to Hillsong. Turns out we were going to the same place for similar reasons: to check out Hillsong. They were in their early 20s and fresh off the plane from the UK. They only had two days in Sydney and Hillsong was one of the key stops on their tour. It was a fun chat comparing notes about Australia and hearing of their two week adventure in the land down under. We were going to some similar places so I took the time to learn the key spots in Northern Queensland.
The Sunday evening service at church was packed. They were still laying out seats when we got there a few minutes late back against the wall. The service was full on rock concert as well. Hillsong had loud music, flashing lights, big screens highlighting the band, and everyone was cheering at full volume. I was clearly the old man on campus as the service was targeted to young adults. There were a few of us older gents in the crowd, which made me feel more at ease.
I heard a great quote a few months ago: “If you see the world the same way at 30 as you did at 20 you’ve wasted 10 years of your life.” I felt like I was viewing my life at Sanctuary in my late 20s with 10 more years of life under my belt. My Sunday night ritual back then was a very similar experience to the one here.
The pastor started her sermon talking about American culture with particular reference to our style of marketing. Her key point was as Americans, the pinnacle of our consumer driven culture was the infomercial. We apparently do them well.
The egg cracker infomercial made everyone in the audience laugh. As an American I can laugh at our culture of late night infomercials wholeheartedly amongst the company of many Australians. The pastor’s point was “how have I lived my life for so long without needing an egg cracker?”
As an Assemblies of God church, there was a high degree of interaction between the pastor and the audience. On more than one occasion she shouted, “Can I get an aaaaamen!” The whole crowd responded boisterously.
What struck me was how much churches have adopted technology in what they do. At least every other person in the audience was engaging with their smart phone during the service. As we wrapped up in the closing songs the screens had the twitter logo and the hash tag #ilovemychurch. It was clear there was a bit of a generation gap between the audience and I. Smart phones were not near as mainstream then as they are now. Facebook was just barely on the scene at that point. Hillsong was not only participating in social media, but is driving into it full on. Social media is the forum of our day. It’s the place where we interact and commutate the ideas of our day.
I’m glad I went. I’m in a different place in my life now and this evening was a direct reminder of that. I’m good with that :). It gives me the ability to find what’s next in life.