Before reading the article by Steve West, it is important to understand who Steve West is.

Steve studied for his Diploma in Christian Ministry at Hillsong International Leadership College in 2001 and 2002.

During that time he served in most ministry areas – kids, youth, carpark, sound, new Christians, offering collection and ushering. He worked closely with many leaders and gave virtually all his available time and money to the church, volunteering at all conferences in that time and spending an average of six to seven days a week at Hillsong Church. He progressed to an effective pastor position at an affiliated church and ran a local young adults ministry effectively for several years.

With this in mind, Steve West wrote the following article.

Modern Pentecostalism in Australia Part 1.2

by Steve West on Sunday, 2 May 2010 at 14:09 ·

Reflection on Part 1 

Thanks to those who contributed to the discussion in part 1, with a particular thanks to James Kasinathan for being critical of my post. Contrary to pentecostals (more on this in the part 2) I consider the kind of criticism that James levelled at my post to be constructive. He was seeking to find the substance in my claims and was asking for references, and when provided with them, he was critical of them. This is good form, and I only wish more people were mature enough to give and receive this form of criticism, with the understanding that it helps sort through our case by seperating the wheat from the chaff.

Part 1 argued that the Pentecostals are facing a demographic crisis as the base of their growth is church switching and that this is a shrinking pool of potential converts. I suspect their growth rates have been declining for the last decade (I only have some evidence for this) and that the underlying demographic realities is the reason. I argued that they need to develop a real missiology that is able to deal with mainstream Australians, that they be less geared towards outreaching to Christians. They need to know how to reach out to secularists and atheists, intellectually and emotionally. The current premise, that of inviting your friends to a service steeped in Pentecostalist assumptions, is simply not working at an effective rate.

On that, I had a friend speak of these issues with me last night, and he said a fascinating thing which I believe reveals to you the interesting assumptions inherent in Pentecostalist thought. He said he was a supporter of Hillsong because a larger church is more likley to have a larger impact. He argued that with more resources, a large church could outreach into a community and be heard more effectively by society.

Here is why I disagree with his position. First, Hillsong is a very small church. It consists of roughly 30000 people in various ‘campuses’ and satellite meetings. This is small cookies. The Uniting church, Anglicans and Catholic church far, far outnumber Hillsong. The fact that Hillsong likes to consider itself a single congregation is incidental. In practical outworkings, it functions more as a highly centralised denomination, and should be considered as such. As a denomination, it is very small. Society has far greater respect for Catholics, Anglicans and the Uniting Church, as these denominations avoid the “it’s all a scam” issues that Hillsong evokes. Further, these denominations have a much deeper charitable impact on society. They have long traditions of charitable arms helping people for many generations. That is not to say that Hillsong’s attempt in these things is futile – far from it, there are many people in our society who are needy (especially refugees) and any help they get is a good thing. But I see no reason to award Hillsong any particular credit. It doesn’t impact society particularly deeply compared to the old churches. Its impact isn’t particularly large. If I wanted to join a church for the size of its impact and for building something large that society would listen to, I would certainly try one of the big three; Catholic, Anglican or Uniting, depending on my theological bent.

Pentecostal leaders really need to move away from the self-congratulation they have achieved with their numbers and really start to think critically as the future of their denomination depends on it. If God’s blessing really lies with numbers, are they arguing that God blesses both Catholics and Muslims more than themselves? Of course, the fundie Pentecostal will immediately object to that assertion and there they must realise that their logic on the matter is inconsistent.

Update: Alphacrucis 

News just in – apparently the premier Pentecostal training facility in Australia, Alphacrucis (formerly Southern Cross College) has sold its main campus in Chester Hill to an Islamic school for 23 million. This is likely due to ongoing financial problems that the college was experiencing.

Wake up Pentecostals. You have branded me as a ‘bitter cynic’ for years and ostracised me for it. When will you realise that your ‘critics’ were often people who cared very much, and whose advice you could well have used? How short sighted to take constructive criticism as someone having a ‘negative spirit’.

Source: Steve West, Modern Pentecostalism in Australia Part 1.2, http://www.facebook.com/notes/steve-west/modern-pentecostalism-in-australia-part-12/422200316927, 02/05/2010. (Accessed 18/11/2012.)

(Disclaimer: The views of Steve West do not necessarily represent our own personal views. We have decided to publish his articles so people may witness his journey out of Hillsong.)

NOTE: SCREEN GRAB WAS TAKEN ON THE 18/11/2012.