Is Hillsong “championing” the cause of your local church? An insider from Calvary Kendall Miami shines a light behind the scenes as to how Hillsong assimilates churches into their movement:
It’s done by deceit.
This type of unethical take-over of churches is a reoccurring phenomena within the Hillsong movement. Significant churches that have been taken over by Hillsong are:
Garden City Church
Grace City Church
Oslo Christian Center
Pay attention to the warning signs.
CALVARY CHAPEL “TAKE-OVER” IN MIAMI
Imagine: It’s 2010 and you are happy at your Calvary Chapel church. All seems to be going well. Then the senior pastor decides he wants to change direction and become a Hillsong copy and join the Hillsong family. But you don’t know this. All you know is your pastor kicked you out because you believe in Jesus and His Word. Then you find out what was happening because Christians online were forced to take their experiences online and warn everybody about your pastor’s agenda.
This is what people experienced under the leadership of Hillsong “Family” leader Pedro Garcia at Calvary Kendall, Miami.
“Pastor” Pedro of Calvary Kendall was influenced to do church differently after attending a Hillsong Concert in 2010. Later, Pedro personally met with Hillsong’s senior leader Brian Houston over dinner. Houston invited Pedro to have his church join the Hillsong Family. This invitation was kept secret and “Pastor” Pedro Garcia proceeded to start the process of assimilation into Hillsong without telling his congregation of his agenda.
THE MIAMI GROOMING DEVASTATED THE CHURCH
The transition to turn a Calvary Chapel Church into the Hillsong Family cult was planned well before church members were told. This secrecy and form of grooming only confirms that Hillsong leaders encourage the Apostolic Totalitarian model within churches who join the Hillsong Family. The result of this New Apostolic Reformation model in church does not allow Christianity to flourish but rather destroys any form of Christian discipleship to flourish.
In private, petitioning or biblical approaches by concerned leaders, elders or church members did not stop Pedro Garcia from furthering his agenda to join the Hillsong Family. Questioning was not tolerated (as is the nature within the Hillsong model of governance).
Nearly all the long-term faithful staff and pastors left. Many of the elders and older church members also stopped attending. Unfortunately, this meant less income was coming into CK, which bought on the high-pressure giving talks.
The personal recollection of an insider below shows some of the concerns, observations and grooming of the church membership in preparation for its adoption into the “Hillsong family”.
And it started with the music.
A Summary from an interview: 20/07/2014.
Here is an overview as seen by an (ex-active) member of Calvary Chapel Kendall, as they watched their beloved church morph into a Hillsong model, and be absorbed into the Hillsong family. Their input will be noted in blue.
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“IT STARTED WITH THE MUSIC”
Calvary Chapel Kendall was a church plant under the Calvary Chapel Movement in the year 2000 by Senior Pastor Pedro Garcia. It could have been described as relatively conservative, evangelistic church with in-depth teaching. That was until about three years ago (about 2011).
The congregation then had more older people than younger which meant offerings were stable and the leadership/eldership were respected as godly men.
Becoming part of the “Hillsong Family” was a process initiated and enforced by Ps Pedro. Five years [around 2009] ago the church started changing, elders and people started leaving, and over the last 3 [around 2011] years the church became more “Pentecostal” in flavour.
The music increasingly was from Hillsong.
Then it was only Hillsong music.
Pastor Pedro would go to Hillsong Conferences, meet with Brian Houston personally and started advertising Hillsong album releases and events from the Calvary Chapel Kendall stage and in their foyer. Alex expressed to us his concerns how Pedro was using Hillsong’s music to groom his church to embrace the Hillsong movement.
Alex noted it wasn’t the Holy Spirit that was active in worship but the flesh.
NOT YOUR GRANDDAD’S CHURCH
If the elderly start leaving your church, warning bells should go off. Why?
Godly elders are people we should aspire to be like. They are like goal posts. They should be people we strive to be like. The elderly often have a stronger knowledge of the bible and are not so easily manipulated.
Hillsong however, remove the goal posts and become preoccupied with the new and the young.
From what we’ve seen in Hillsong, the elderly are made to feel irrelevant in Hillsong’s “relevant” culture, are overwhelmed by the loud music and remain voiceless under Hillsong’s Apostolic, vision-driven regime. They get the message that they are not a part of ‘it’ and leave.
Interestingly enough, Alex observed old people from his church leaving.
HILLSONG’S APOSTOLIC GOVERNANCE ENFORCED
Hillsong has its roots in the New Order of the Latter Rain movement which morphed into what is now known as the New Apostolic Reformation. Frank Houston of Hillsong/CLC branded himself as an apostle and laid out this “new wineskin” of Apostolic Governance in his church back in New Zealand before bringing this model to Australia. Hazel Houston [Frank’s wife], wrote how one church attendee observed how this form of governance made Frank Houston a “dictator.”
Under Brian Houston’s invitation and personal mentoring, Pedro Garcia “reformed” this Calvary Chapel church (old wine skin) to Hillsong’s New Apostolic model (new wine skin).
The insider stated,
“I believe he [Pedro] was part of the Calvary Chapel Board of Directors. But I don’t think he is a part of that anymore. I think he created his own board of directors now with people under him. You know? So he doesn’t really have anyone accountable to.”
Notice the similarities between the Hillsong Apostolic model and what is being introduced to Calvary Kendall. The bible has no authority, the vision is the final authority. God has been replaced by someone’s “vain imaginings”, whereby that person is attributing to God things that are not of God. If you don’t comply with the vision, you’re unqualified to pastor. If you are not on board with the vision, you’re treated like a tax collector.
To question the vision is the new unforgivable sin.
WHAT JOINING THE HILLSONG FAMILY REALLY LOOKS LIKE
The insider stated that Pedro did not fit the biblical qualifications of a pastor as clearly outlined in scripture.
“There have been countless testimonies of [Pedro] being nasty with others and you know, kicking pastors out for not being on board with his vision… Counting on the top of my head I would say seven or eight [pastors]… I knew them and they were the most Godly people I’ve met in my life… There were definitely people who were trying to keep him accountable. And he didn’t want to hear it and he didn’t want to put up with it. He’s told people, ‘I don’t have time. We don’t need baby Christians in our church – so you can leave.’”
Leaders attempted to lovingly correct Pedro Garcia. People who actually knew the bible approached Pastor Pedro Garcia saying, ‘Can you please look at this’ – he was calling them baby Christians. Pedro’s definition of a ‘baby Christian’ was “someone who is not strong in the word, strong in his relationship with God. In other words, Pedro was calling those around him baby Christians even though they actually knew the bible. The elderly youth leader left after biblically approaching Pedro to share his concerns.
Replacing Old Wine Skin Pastors with New Wine Skin Pastors
The elders committed no sin or failing in the eyes of the congregation. The way they were treated were completely unjustifiable. Pedro just didn’t seem to care about people and he carefully managed the perception and information given to the congregation. There was no transparency.
“Every situation was different. Some people wanted to leave a little bit better. Some people left because of very aggravated situations… The congregation was totally oblivious to anything.”
Pedro doesn’t care about people. It’s all about him. He has placed pastors around him that are more like puppets.
The new pastors included some who seemed more like puppets, on board with whatever Pedro wanted. In the new pastoral team Alex saw:
1. a lack of discernment,
2. a willingness to submit to Pedro,
3. they were not particularly intellectual,
4. all preached the same type of stuff and
5. a couple were quite self-absorbed.
6. Accountability was a concern.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY
The preaching at Calvary Kendall was reduced to having pastors talk more about their lives than the gospel. Hillsong influenced Pedro Garcia to embrace the Prosperity Gospel (a non-Christian teaching that takes scriptures out of context and manipulates people into giving money to their church).
Alex didn’t recognise that Pedro Garcia was preaching Hillsong’s prosperity gospel and theology until after he left. But Alex did notice that the messages were being stripped of the biblical message and replaced with personal stories.
“When I started researching stuff online, I didn’t know much about [the prosperity gospel]. I was kind of ignorant toward it, unfortunately because no one- I was never taught it.”
Everything that Alex researched over the last three years (2010-2013), had concluded that his church was preaching the Prosperity Gospel of Hillsong.
“It’s definitely all encouragement, all prosperity and having your best life now. And that’s what I’ve come to acknowledge after leaving and taking a step back. It’s allowed me to see clearly what’s happening. Because while I was in the church, I honestly didn’t notice the teaching as much until I left and started really analyzing the theology behind the church.”
When asked about how the new leadership talked about money Alex claimed that they taught, “Basic lies, stripped from context” in the bible. Making fraudulent claims about giving up money from the bible is a signature feature of prosperity cults like Hillsong. Now it was being practiced at Calvary Kendall.
Here is one example how Hillsong groomed Calvary Kendall to embrace the practice of the Prosperity Gospel:
“The whole thing of this tithing started was a pastor… came as a guest speaker. And they had this thing called the ‘Hundred Day Challenge’… They would pass the buckets, (we never pass the buckets at Calvary, ever), and so for these hundred days they started passing the buckets and they would report how much was raised. They never reported anything and they just continued to do this after the hundred days. No mention of any hundred day thing whatsoever. They just continued to do the bucket thing for the upcoming years.”
HILLSONG LOYALTIES AND CALVARY CHAPEL DISLOYALTY
During the transition Pedro attended a Calvary Chapel pastors’ conference and was on stage with other pastors, even though Pedro had been speaking badly of Calvary Chapel: their theology, movement style; they were old and boring; basically sewing the seed of discontent within his church, making it easier to implement his change.
Alex thinks Pedro would love to have his church become a fully fledged Hillsong Church.
“[Pedro] just changed his big billboard sign at the front of the church. It used to say ‘Calvary Chapel Kendall’. Now it says ‘Calvary’ and the bottom right it says ‘Hillsong Family’. So the fact that he put his big brand ‘Calvary’ on there already, I don’t really think he’s going to make a move to say Hillsong Miami. But you never know. There is no doubt in my mind he would absolutely love that.”
Pedro also regularly met with Brian Houston,
“Meetings? Pedro saw Brian Houston very regularly when he went to Australia. He’s posted pictures with him and all that stuff.”
Alex also observed how Pedro showed disloyalty to his Sr Pastor Chuck Smith by parading his Brian Houston as his Sr Pastor.
“Pastor Pedro put on a caption right on a picture of Brian Houston saying that, ‘This is my Senior pastor, Brian Houston’ when he was still under the name Calvary Chapel, Kendall. At the point, his senior pastor was Chuck Smith. But he said Brian Houston. And I think he deleted that picture. I have to check. But yeah – he said that before being apart of the official Hillsong Family.”
Pedro’s allegiance with Hillsong was kept quiet. Pedro told his congregants that they would be joining the Hillsong Family even though this was already well under way months earlier. In other words, he wasn’t saying anything until he thought it was safe to do so.
“[Pedro] … announced it months after. And the plan to become part of the Hillsong Family was a year long plan. He openly admitted that on the pulpit, that he had a dinner with Brian Houston and Brian Houston proposed this idea to enter the Hillsong Family. Now that video is not online anymore unfortunately. But that’s what was said on the pulpit. It was pretty much a year long process that they were introducing themselves into this Hillsong movement.”
NEW EVENTS & TRENDS EMERGING
Pedro was diligent in copying the Hillsong way of doing church:
“You know the Creative Team nights that Hillsong has? [Pedro] has those and he’s had businessmen from like a sushi restaurant come or like advertising guys come and share their marketing techniques and all that stuff. So it seems he’s mainly focused on those things rather than the things of the bible.”
Pedro started marketing his church the way Hillsong markets their church. “Social media graphics resembled their graphics identically.”
GETTING THEM WHILE THEY’RE YOUNG
“Pastor Pedro has had meetings with young youth. I am talking young thirteen year-olds, and have them go on stage and talk about tithing at some points. Thirteen year-olds go on the stage and talk to the congregation on Sunday morning about tithing. He’s actually done that. He’s actually had a seminar for them to teach them how to be speakers on a platform… It wasn’t really advertised. It was just, I think, some chosen youth for little kids to come to a meeting and have Pedro host it for them.”
Pastor Pedro was also using Hillsong’s model in raising up young pastors. Alex offered one such example.
“Even some of the newcoming pastors in the church, always told stories about their lives… Even this one guy … he’s a pastor from Calvary. He’s a vey regular pastor now. He’s a very young guy. And he hasn’t gone to bible school or anything like that. He was going to the church for a couple of years and now he’s automatically a pastor. The reason being was that he was one of the most charismatic guys you’ll ever meet in your life. And so because of that, Pastor Pedro made him a Pastor. And it was ridiculous because he had no experience whatsoever.
He had no education whatsoever on the bible. And the only thing going for him was the gift of encouragement and charismaticism. That made him a new pastor. A very, very young guy.”
RECAP – AND SOME OTHER VISUAL CHANGES
Changes that were noticeable to church members included:
- Only Hillsong music played, advertising of Hillsong events and albums from stage and in foyer
- The name of the church and its campuses (all controlled by Pedro) were changed. (Now Calvary Kendall.)
- Preaching changed to messages like: “Stepping into Your Purpose”, “Staying the Fight”, “Always on the Run”, “Get Out of The Valley”,..
- Women started to speak on stage. Christine Caine was invited to speak at the church in 2012, Pedro’s wife spoke on Mother’s Day. Women more frequently gave tithing talks.
- The transition went slowly so people were accustomed or prepared – so when announced that Calvary Kendall was joining the Hillsong Family, there was no disruption.
- Teachers came from Hillsong.
- Trips to Hillsong Australia were announced and the congregation was always kept up-to-date of Pedro interacting with Hillsong.
- Tithing started with a guest speaker who introduced a 100 day challenge, passing the buckets around. They never did that at Calvary Chapel before. They would report how much and after the 100 days the buckets continued.
- They needed more money now as older people had been leaving. So Calvary Kendall embraced Hillsong’s Prosperity Gospel to manipulate people to give money.
- Then the building plan starts to surface.
Alex saw Pedro as dishonest in getting the type of church he wanted – not being straight with the church about his intentions, but rather gradually making changes and weeding out those who would not be behind him.
Pedro was big on literature. He read Houston’s books and got the staff to read about Steve Jobs. He had advertised guys and business men in to share their marketing secrets. He was big on business, had creative nights like Hillsong, used social media and graphics like Hillsong, focussing on those things rather than the bible.
And why would the church have large binders of Elevation Church financial documents there (eg. Financial records, tax returns).
Andrew Denton (? name, elder) was brought in to build financial givings, there were Kingdom Builders and Heart for the House programs. Edro [?] even met with 13 year old and had them go on stage and talk about tithing. They had a seminar for them to learn how to be speakers (for the chosen kids).
Pedro had plans for another building and brought in pastors from Hillsong regularly to speak.
Three people have been recruited from Hillsong College and who quickly were given jobs in high positions, including becoming worship leaders.
[The information above was extracted from a private conversation we had with an ex-member and insider of Calvary Kendall in July 2014]
If you are questioning this insider’s testimony, others have expressed concern with the changes of Calvary Kendall, Miami. Below is someone who documented the change of Calvary Chapel Kendall to a Hillsong-driven church.
In January 2015, Pedro Garcia announces operating as part of the Hillsong Family. He notes that in 2010 he went to a Hillsong Live Concert in Dallas, Texas, and it impacted him so much that everything changed in his world… [hence his trajectory with Hillsong].
- What to watch out for if you don’t want to see your church assimilated as Hillsong continues to “champion the local church”.
Has your pastor:
- Been visiting Hillsong events lately, been talking to Brian Houston?
- Promoting Hillsong music/events, playing Hillsong tunes?
- Changing the style of the service to more like a show – music is used to build and heighten the experience?
- Using charismatic MCs and speakers and story tellers?
- Dumbing down the biblical content, at best providing Christianity Lite?
- Mocking the old way, i.e. boring denominations
- Pushing the church giving?
- Being OK with long time staff/ elders and older members of the congregation leaving?
- Dropped Jesus as the focus and instead uses His name to give the illusion his ideas, vision or direction has God’s authority?
- Is your church now targeting a younger audience?
You might want to check.