If you are a member of Hillsong church going through extreme difficulties, know this: you might see the other side of Brian Houston when you reach out to him with a serious problem.
And if you are a victim of sexual abuse in Hillsong, know that the world has more compassion for you than Hillsong leadership.
Late last year, Kerri Ferguson was interviewed by Chris Rosebrough from Fighting for the Faith. She gave an horrific story detailing the poor behaviour of pastors Gary Dench, Ian Treacy, Phil Pringle and Brian Houston.
One reason why we started Church Watch was because we noticed popular cults starting to rewrite their history. Specifically C3 and Hillsong.
In his book, ‘Live Love Lead,’ Brian Houston of Hillsong lied about his history in how he dealt with his father’s crimes and victims (he also added new information to the story that was not disclosed at the Royal Commission). The stories he told the media also contradicted his story at the Royal Commission.
He has also been promoting the lie that he started CLC/Hillsong (switching histories to suit whatever agenda). He also insists that he founded his church at Hills in 1983. This is now being refuted as well.
The philosophy with Hillsong is this: if your history doesn’t make you look good, change it or cover it up. And Brian Houston has had lots of experience with this (as we are about to find out).
EIC – no morals, no ethics, no Christianity. Just a network to promote stuff that sounds Christian to consumers.
Recently, Brian Houston was focusing on the Evangelical Industrial Complex (EIC) in America to sell his new book ‘Live Love Lead.’ Terry Meeuwsen appeared to make Houston nervous while he promoted his material on the Christian Broadcast Network. She raised the issue of Houston’s terrible experience losing his “best friend” in 1995. His body language indicated that he clearly was not comfortable with Meeuwsen throwing this experience in his face. (Watch at 7:10 onwards.)
Terry Meeuwsen: “… When I think of Hillsong, I think of praise and worship because those songs are sung in my own church and the churches of so many of us. And God actually used the disappointment and the surprise of a leader leaving – a key lead- THE leader of your worship team, and yet God did an amazing thing.
Brian Houston: “You mean right back in 1995?
Terry Meeuwsen: Yeah.
Brian Houston: So it’s 20 years ago? It’s true.
We were on the edge of recording with ah- Integrity Music here in America. And of course we’re Down Under, like, you know, its already amazing that, that um- people were reaching out to us.
And so, the week that it was about to happen – and ah- I still don’t even understand it. I still to this day don’t understand it. But our worship leader walked out. [Behaviour gets antsy] And literally walked out. Like literally left my life- left our lives- and he was like a best friend, so there’s huge grief involved. [Rubs loose tooth?] And uh-
But the incredible thing in it all is that the only person I could turn to was a lady called Darlene Zschech. And of course Darlene Zschech is well-known now around the globe. So I kind of, as well as I could, I gently pushed her forward. I rang Integrity Music. And incredibly they never had a woman lead one of their projects at that time. So it was quite a big thing for them. But it turned out to be an amazing story.”
[Drinks cup of water]
That worship leader and “best friend” to Brian Houston in 1995 was Geoff Bullock.
Geoff Bullock was the man that gave Christian Life Centre the name Hillsong and helped put Hillsong on the map for it’s outstanding musical events and it’s famous music. Just like many others who made Hillsong what it is today, Brian Houston simply rode on the coat-tails of his “friends” who made Hillsong what it is.
So how does Brian Houston treat his best friends? Did he really suffer memory loss on the CBN set? To answer that question, we will look at Brian Houston’s book ‘You Can Change the Future’, Tanya Levin’s book ‘People in Glass Houses’ and finally read what Geoff Bullock himself said about his experience.
Tanya Levin wrote about Geoff Bullock in her book ‘People in Glass Houses’:
“Geoff left Hillsong in late 1995. I knew that his marriage had broken down and had remarried but, not having stayed in touch with the Christian music scene, not much else. The Geoff that I shared cappuccinos with was the same man as always. Same piercing blue eyes, soft mannerisms, and a voice born for the BBC. Geoff is not, by nature, an AoG salesman. Rather he represents a large group of artists who are attracted to the Pentecostal church by the opportunity for creative expression for Jesus.
What I didn’t expect was the brokenness. Although I had worked with people from a diversity of backgrounds for years, I assumed all the old wise men of God were naturally of stronger character than me, Over the time we spoke I found it not to be so. It was Geoff’s openness and willingness to talk that prepared me for a world of people damaged for the long-term by the work of Hillsong and the AoG.
Geoff says he remembers having episodes of mania when he was a child, although he wasn’t diagnosed with symptoms of any kind until after he left Hillsong. He sees a therapist to work on his long periods of depression, which are often followed by episodes of intense creativity. The other obstacle in his life is the nightmares he suffers dating from the time with Hillsong, an off-shoot of his post-traumatic stress diagnosis.
As the Hillsong conference expanded in the late eighties, so did Geoff’s responsibilities and pressures. He and his wife, Janine, were expected to spend infinite hours away from their children to run the music department. International interest in the music grew and so did Geoff’s profile. The couple travelled extensively with the Praise and Worship team, and personally with their old friends Brian and Bobbie. Despite the bright lights and the glory, his music career at it’s peak, Geoff was finding less satisfaction and spirituality in what he was doing.
After the most successful conference yet, Hillsong ’95, Geoff went to Brian and told him he was leaving. It was time, he felt, spiritually, to pursue other interests. Nothing personal.
Geoff Bullock had left a career with ABC-TV as a production manager to become a pastor with the Hills Christian Life Centre in 1978. For nearly twenty years he was able to use those skills to produce Hillsong music, and the show that accompanied it. During that time he wrote, produced and performed countless songs, and released seven albums. Because Hillsong still uses those songs, has remixed them and re-released them, Geoff’s royalties are growing at the same rate as Hillsong.
Which is lucky for Geoff. Hillsong did everything in its power to prevent his future success. Due to speak at a bible college occasion soon after leaving, he received a phone call with a sudden apology. Hillsong had informed the bible college that any associations with Geoff Bullock meant no further association with Hillsong. Christian magazines were told the same thing. Piles of the CD Geoff was about to release were found dumped at a tip in Blacktown, not far from Hillsong headquarters.
In Bobbie’s I’ll Have What She’s Having, this period is clearly referred to (the emphases are hers):
In July 1995, we witnesses a wonderful HILLSONG Leadership Conference. It was our 9th conference and in our nation and in our context of influence, to put it delicately- ‘we put the wind up the devil!!!’ Stories would flood into our offices of churches and towns being turned upside down with a revival spirit. God is good (all the time). Brian and I took a week to tie up loose ends and then together with our friends Pat and Liz Mesiti we took a little holiday. (I think God was just being terribly kind to give us a rest, because he knew what lay around the next bend.)
We came home a week later, stepped off the plane (‘hello, hello … lovely to see you … we missed you all … had a lovely time!’) and literally all hell broke out with one of our key people. It was the first and only time that something like this had happened to us. (I must admit prior to that conference I sensed something brewing, and had called our pastors wives to prayer.)
… For the next several months it was as though demons came out of the woodwork on every front. When attacks come from every side it is a sure sign that you are doing something right (which is contrary to some people’s belief). We experienced a barrage of attack-cancer, accidents, stinking thinking, people throwing in the towel, disloyalty in our team that disappointed our heart, devil induced confusion, opposition and fine thread ‘cancerous attitude’ bent on contaminating and taking out this particular Body of Christ.
Eventually, a Hillsong board member had lunch with Geoff. ‘We tried to destroy you,’ he told him. ‘until we realised you weren’t a threat.’ Geoff continues to work and write music, though he gave up performing years ago.
The nightmares remain one of the most intrusive spillovers from the old days. Three of four times a week he dreams about Hillsong events, being humiliated by Brian’s demands, being screamed at, berated and bullied along the way. His psyche is deeply affected. He is very aware that he, too, became a bully. Years later, Geoff has tried to make amends to many people he treated ruthlessly in order to avoid punishment from above.
At the end of our first meeting at a café, Geoff is exhausted. He tells me he feels drained by the remembering. I realise I have stumbled into a much more serious affliction in people’s lives than I had anticipated.”
Source: Tanya Levin, People in Glass Houses, Published: Black Inc., Melbourne, VIC: 2007, pg. 242-4.
Brian Houston writes of his best friend this way in his book ‘You Can Change the Future’ (a book that attempted to cover up his father’s crimes as a paedophile and exalted as a role model for others to follow):
Commitment to the right vehicle
“When I was a little boy, I had a scooter. As I got older, I rode a three-wheeled trike before I got my first bicycle. One day my father took me down to the shops and as I sat impatiently waiting for him in the car, all of sudden [sic] he came around the corner with a shining green bicycle. It was my pride and joy. Of course getting my first car was an unforgettable moment in my life. It was a ’57 Austin A50. It was also green and it cost me $650.
Many people desire to make an impact on the generations but rely on old vehicles to get there. Imagine me trying to fulfil my overseas speaking engagements via my original scooter or bicycle! You need the right vehicle and the right associations to enable God to take you forward. You may have a great vision to impact the earth, but alone you cannot do as much as you could together with others. If you are in associations which are holding you back or on a vehicle that is moving too slowly, stretch yourself by stepping into the mainstream and being committed to going forward.
I have been blessed to pastor at least four world-class songwriters, and many others heading in the same direction. I cannot take credit for their anointing or their God-given gifts, but I do have a sense of satisfaction about their opportunity. The Hillsong Church is a vehicle that has taken their songs to the world. One of these writers, who severed their link to our church several years ago, told me how they were writing more songs than ever before. Interestingly, it is only the songs that were written within the local church that I have heard anybody singing. It seems as though the local church was the vehicle which God was blessing.
Currently, the most sung praise and worship songs in Australian churches have emerged from the life of our church. Obviously that association with Hillsong Church has been very fruitful for people like Darlene Zschech, Ruben Morgan and Russel Fragar. They have obvious talent, a beautiful anointing, but also the right vehicle. Talent and anointing on their own aren’t enough, but placing the right people, in the right place, at the right time, has enormous potential.”
Source: Brian Houston, You Can Change the Future: Living Beyond Today and Impacting the Generations Ahead, Published: Maximised Leadership Incorporated, Australia, 2000, pg. 131-2.
And what did Geoff Bullock had to say about his experience? This is a very insightful interview exposing what Bullock went through, discussing areas of Hillsong’s philosophy, methods and dirty tactics which lead to his swift removal.
And Houston claims he has no idea why Geoff Bullock, his best friend, walked? What other lies and smear campaigns has Brian Houston written about in his book ‘Live Love Lead’? What other media organisations and Christian groups has he publicly mislead and lied to about his past life?
Let the sledge BEGIN!
Terry Allen from the Christian Faith wrote this piece back in 2010:
Geoff Bullock opens up …
We all know his music and we each have a favourite. He is Geoff Bullock. But what do you know about the man? About Geoff as a Christian? About Geoff as a sufferer of bi-polar disorder?
Join Geoff as he discusses his life and ministry with Terry Allen.
Geoff, what have you been doing for the last decade or so?
Oh, what a question! What have I been doing for the last 10 years? I would say I have been learning grace and un-learning working to prove myself.
Now, that is not just in a spiritual situation, that is in a whole of life situation: in my relationships with my kids, with my friends, with [wife] Victoria, especially as a step-father. Learning how to be rather than to do.
Spiritually, that has huge impacts on my life. I wrote two books at the beginning of the century, which was the beginning of that journey. Jesus’ story painted in a way that I hope you could see or visualize the impact he was making on society and the lives of broken hearted people; people without hope.
In the last 10 years I suppose, I would say, combined with that, I have been battling with mental illness: bi-polar type two which has caused all manner of symptoms in my life which has been confronting. One of the main ones being high levels of anxiety, which has seen me come and go publically three times.
I am now 10 years on and I feel the illness is manageable and the greatest gift, I think, is that I have been forced to learn insight into the way I think and the way that I do. I have learnt that by reflection on my past and reflection on the times where I can see the illness in that.
Also, over the last decade, I have had a most surprising return to public profile to tie that journey in to the life of Christ and the hope we see in the cross. So, I think that’s what I’ve been doing.
Life as a Christian, especially with bi-polar disorder, must be difficult. Some Christians believe it is demonic & should be dealt exclusively by prayer. How have you managed it?
Well, the first thing I want to wade in swinging is that I wish the evangelists and those who visit churches, and they arrive one day and leave the other, who drop such dangerous bombs on people’s medical situations; I wish they would go and do some research by sitting down with a psychiatrist and realizing how dangerous their teaching is.
You wouldn’t dare say that to someone with diabetes, but this irresponsible message; all it does is heighten the symptoms twice. You know, they go off medication, they get worse and then, getting worse, they think they must be possessed by demons, so that makes them feel worse and then they are totally without an anchor. Of course the hope of medication and a good psychiatrist is taken away from them, so I get furious about that.
And it’s also totally irrelevant to the gospel. There’s no resemblance to the life of Christ whatsoever. So, those are my little swinging punches.
For me, I do a lot of thinking, prayerful thinking and I think about the life of Christ all the time. Trying to strip away all of the things we’ve said culturally and theologically: strip it away. The drama that was Jesus when he walked into somebody’s life or somebody’s social circumstances: that is of great help to me.
I have a little saying: receiving grace compels us to begin the journey towards becoming gracious. Receiving grace is free but becoming gracious will cost you everything. It will cost you every opinion you have in your life and every bias.
So that has made a huge difference in the way I react to my symptoms because often my symptoms are feelings of rejection and a lack of affirmation and a feeling of isolation.Then I will expect people to do as I want them to do which is to work to prove their love for me as I am working to prove my love for them. So meditating on the life of Christ helps me to challenge that works based expectation of myself and others.
Bi-polar disorder is often suffered by artistic and creative people and one of the symptoms is depression. Have you suffered depression?
Yes, I’ve been absolutely lost in it. It was in 2007, actually it started back in November 2006, I remember vividly when i suddenly realised that I was falling into depression, I was sitting on a sun drenched balcony overlooking the sea and feeling absolutely miserable and that lasted for just on a year.
Obviously, talking to my GP and then my psychiatrist, I began a journey of trying to balance medication and cognitive therapy. I ended up as a day patient at a psychiatric clinic in Sydney, which I think was the beginning of helping me to have insight and, strangely enough, 2008 saw the rebirth of what I’m doing now and I spent a good 18 months of it depressed, but it was wonderful having a mission.
Have you ever felt Christian condemnation over your condition?
No, I don’t think I’ve ever been in that situation, but look, I can be a little outspoken and I have thought really deeply about my condition and so I feel that I have ammunition now. If, for example someone said to me, “Oh, it’s the devil”, which did happen to me once: one of my very, very oldest friends: he is not a man with insight. He does not think deeply and so he has a book of rules that he applies. He started a conversation with me about my depression being demonic and I think my response was strong enough for him to realize that even if he thought I was wrong, he would be wise to step away.
15 years ago you left Hillsong. Why?
Well, I’ve got to say that I was always a round peg in a square hole there. From the beginning of Hillsong’s association with the Word of Faith churches in America, their prosperity doctrine and their very works-based doctrine of spiritual and physical rewards, I just could not tie the gospel together with what they were saying. Not when I looked at Jesus at the cross; I couldn’t understand how they combined the grace of Jesus found in the gospel with the laws of conditional blessings and rewards found in the Old Testament.
They teach that Jesus rewards us according to our works. That is not the work of Christ. Grace is never a reward. We receive grace as a gift according what Jesus accomplished for us.
I actually tried to leave in 1992, but got turned around. It’s important that I say I chose to stay and rededicate all that I could to continue being part of their vision and the outworking of it.
Then, in 1995, I had two major things happening: I had this sensation that I really didn’t know Jesus. I knew Paul’s Jesus, I knew the epistles’ Jesus and Hebrews and I knew my movement’s Jesus: all the preachers and teachers who came through and spoke about him, but in my own life I felt I did not have this sense of meeting him. And so I started a search.
That’s when I wrote the song Jesus, God’s righteousness revealed. Towards the middle of the year, I started to really burn out because I was trying so hard to prove myself worthy of being who I was and trying to prove myself worthy of God’s presence on a Sunday: I had this poor, misguided feeling that if I play really, really well, God will come. It might sound stupid to say it, but it was where I think lots of Church musicians still are.
But after Hillsong ’95 I just felt so broken and so failed, I thought, “Look, I could just fall over dead and no one would notice.” But then I had this profound sense, and it grew: in fact, I would say it was the strongest spiritual encounter I had with God, where he said, through a whole lot of ways, to do something: that I had to go.
And it took three months and a whole lot of conversations, but eventually I wrote a letter and handed it on by a friend. I didn’t have the courage to do it to their face, but I knew that if I didn’t do what I felt God was saying… I had a choice: either I follow God or follow the church.
In the end, I’d rather build my relationship, my spirituality, on trying to discern what God’s saying to me and that’s how I left. And it really was the great divorce. It was unnecessarily bitter and divisive and that I found very confusing.
By saying it was bitter and divisive, do you mean you were stabbed in the back?
Yes, absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt. There were letters written to other churches, there were approaches made to other churches, there was a statement made to the whole church leadership team. They just couldn’t understand what I was doing, but in the end that’s just human and it’s very painful.
One of the hardest things was when my marriage ended three months later people jumped to a conclusion which was so far from the truth. This sad piece of gossip is still believed to be the truth.
Even last weekend I had to retell my story to put events back into the order that they occurred. It would have been lovely if Hillsong helped to put things right. However I simply became the invisible and forgotten man and that hurts deeply. Very deeply. I would have thought that my work there was seen as a blessing.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that rift has ever been repaired. There is nothing to indicate that it has.
Has there been any reaction at Hillsong in recent times to your current ministry?
Well, firstly, I made contact within six months with Brian Houston who was my very best friend at the time. This is really painful stuff and I can fully understand how he felt. I tried to explain as I was slowing gaining insight into what eventually would be bi-polar. I talked about co-dependency, I talked about my spirituality and I would often find that Brian would understand and ‘get it’. I had a chance to go and see most of the elders and senior pastors at that time and try to explain that I was sorry it happened the way it happened. I could have handled it a whole lot better: I handled it very, very poorly. I suppose we both did, but I can only be accountable for myself.
I met with Brian many, many times because I didn’t like the thought that he thought ill of me and misunderstood me, but I also felt that I had wounded him in a way that I wished I hadn’t and that somehow I could take those wounds away or help heal them. So, we’ve had good contact, but as far as the church is concerned, nothing. There’s just been silence, absolute silence.
I must say, when I left and obviously it was getting rather sad, I decided not to contact any of my friends because I felt that if I did, the worst thing they could do is try to understand me because then they would misunderstand the church and I didn’t want to put my friends in the middle of something that was unnecessary but very human. So, I walked away too and that has to be understood.
Funnily enough, I could see something of my bi-polar going way back to when I was 17 and I was at a very good school in Sydney and all of a sudden I decided I had to leave and I left at the end of year 11. I’ve had almost no contact with that school ever since.
The same thing when I left the ABC and the same thing when I left Hillsong. There is a part of me: I just cut my ties and run.
In realising this I have to take responsibility for my actions and not blame others for my sense of isolation. This is a difficult lesson to admit. I must have hurt so many people. However, no matter how I set about leaving I always come back to believing that i made the right decision.
You wrote some of our generation’s favourite songs. They are ones we all sing in Church. How does that make you feel?
Weird. I’ve always been a musician and always written songs but it hadn’t really defined me all that much, so it was very weird when all of a sudden I was writing songs that were defining me. My claim to fame in the early to mid 80’s was that I was a former cameraman with the ABC. I worked on virtually all their programs for 10 years, so that was my claim to fame.
Then I wrote The Power of Your Love and The Heavens Shall Declare and off it all went. And I have really badly battled with it at times because I would feel it placed on me a responsibility to try to be someone I wasn’t. And that was hard and unnecessary, but I would still feel this pressure. People would come and tell me these stories and I wouldn’t know how to answer.
The way I relate to it now is that I just feel like I have very successful children, which I gave birth to. They’ve now gone and travelled the world, they’ve made a huge impact in their own right and I look back remembering their birth, but looking at their independence. I think that’s by and large how I relate to it now.
Many of the songs you wrote, you now sing with revised lyrics. Why?
Well, I suppose it’s because I remember who I was when I wrote the song. I remember my approach to God and I remember what was a real disfunctionality. Yes, it was the result of an undiagnosed illness, but it was also an error of theology. An error of grace or rather an error of works in grace.
When Paul says in Galatians, “You foolish Galatians.” ‘You silly things. It had to be done by the Spirit; what are you doing completing it by works?’
Well, that was me. I sort of felt like it was a one-time grace or two-time grace. You went back to God asking for forgiveness, you hung your head in shame, but then you tried to prove yourself worthy of it all. I was constantly striving and therefore constantly burning out.
I was so fierce on myself. I would just push myself and push myself and I would never receive any comfort because I would always be measuring myself and coming up short. I didn’t count myself worthy of comfort. I could never be than man of god that significant others were telling me I should be.
In the middle of this sad and broken time I became aware, ever so gently, that grace was embracing me. I started to realise that I hadn’t fallen from grace, I had fallen into it. I was no less righteous; I had simply lost my sense of self righteousness. Yes, there were consequences but I became increasingly aware that Jesus had come to give me hope and to help me to be accountable to all these consequences.
So, grace became my only anchor, sort of like lifeboat drill. When you’re a sailor and you do lifeboat drill it is usually in an Olympic swimming pool, but when you are in the middle of Bass Strait, you suddenly discover how effective this lifeboat is.
And so the phrase, “Lord, I come to you,” I was saying that in frustration. “Oh Lord I’m sorry. I should be there with you but I’m not. Here I come again. I come to you again.” And then the prayer, “Lord, hold me close” is like saying “Please hold me close because I don’t think you are holding me close at the moment. I think perhaps you turned away again because you are as frustrated with me as I am.”
The wonderful truth is that the “Lord you come to me to let my heart be changed, renewed flowing from the grace that I found in you” that the “weaknesses that I see in me are being stripped away by the power of your love.” Isn’t that so wonderful? Sometimes I wonder if we simply don’t understand what God has already done for us in Jesus.
So I changed that song to a confession of what God has done. It’s not “hold me close” but “you hold me close”. No matter how dry and disappointed I am, to be able to say to myself, “It’s okay, he’s holding you. You’re depressed, life is tough, but nothing’s changed between you and God. You’re not a disappointment.” And perhaps that also relates back to my experience with my father.
You would hope every Christian, certainly evangelicals, would be pleased that you are looking for ways to ground your songs in God’s word, because if they are not Scriptural we should not be singing them. However, in the case of The Power of Your Love, and I’m thinking in particular of that line you mentioned: “Lord I come to you,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” So the idea of us coming to God is not un-Biblical, therefore there is no need to completely re-hash all of your songs is there?
No, but you see the greatest thing about Jesus saying “Come to me,” is he wasn’t calling to me from the other end of heaven waiting for me to work and struggle all the way to him. Jesus came to mankind to say “Come to me”. And that’s outrageous when you really think about that. God put on flesh to come personally. I mean, he could have sent a postcard, he could have written in the sky, but he came personally to dwell as a human being.
Jesus has come to hold us close, to draw us to his side, to comfort us, to speak healing to our wounded souls. He comes propelled by a mission of such eternal and unconditional love.
For this current generation, singing in church has become synonymous with worship. Why is that? And how would you describe the current state of Christian music?
First, I think we need to look at ‘worship’ again. And I think ‘worship’ as our response to Jesus could be a whole lot of other things before we turn it into songs. The intimacy between a husband and wife is expressed many ways before it becomes a love song and that love song will speak of a life of love rather than a love song about love itself.
And I think we’re in error here. I’m not saying don’t sing or play. I think that’s fabulous; it gets down into the soul. Many of the lyrics we sing are great theological truths, mind you, many of them aren’t, but if we could get a grip on God becoming flesh to come to us, Jesus living a life of grace, love, forgiveness, mercy with his last dying words announcing forgiveness and then living a life that responds to his life. How wonderful could that be.
For me worship is my response to the grace of Jesus. This response is my choice to become gracious, to become loving, accepting, merciful, forgiving. This journey needs grace for every step, however, this journey will start its work of transformation in me and hopefully through my life: a worship that flows from grace becoming graciousness in us. A worship that is seen in our relationships with the world around us. A worship that cries “grace” to our leaders, the media, our friends and our enemies.
Does this mean we don’t sing anymore? Not at all. It simply means that our songs are more about worship rather than being worship. Yes, of course there is time for celebration, for adoration, for a corporate time of singing songs of love thankfulness but we will be on a wonderful journey discovering that there is so much more than we have ever realised. I think our songs would be more wonderful, but I think our worship lives would be even more wondrous and I think the way the church’s interaction with our world could be far more a work of love than us simply singing songs on a Sunday morning.
So now I’m wondering what elements have to go in to make a good Christian song. Is it difficult to write a song which has both a good “hook” and good theology?
Yes it is. I must admit, these days I write from experience first, or from meditation first. Almost every song I write is about brokenness being repaired in the most extraordinary way. So I start, I suppose, with my own sense of being overwhelmed with who God is when I see him from my own brokenness.
Then I try and work that into good poetry that has flow, a little bit of repetition but especially that each line contains a picture that is bigger than the words. Then, working that into a melody that can fly; that can float, so you can close your eyes and be caught up in just a beautiful melody.
Or you can turn the melody off, just read the words and become caught up in the words: a piece of poetry. But you put it together and I suppose I hope that people go, “Oh, my goodness, that’s me. How wonderful!” That it hits their life, not just their soul.
You have been a Christian for over 30 years. You’ve had highs and lows. Looking back over that time, what can you say you have learnt about God and what advice would you give to a young Christian about how they should prioritise their life?
What I’ve learnt about God is just the overwhelming amazement that God would do the Jesus story. He didn’t have to. He just didn’t have to. He lived in this huge creation of trillions and trillions of stars and constellations and whatever. That God would make a bee line to broken people finds me simply awestruck!
It appears to me that Jesus did not come to establish Christianity, he did not come to start a movement, he came to meet one person here, and one person there. Broken people, hopeless people, people like me, like you. Jesus did not come to reward us; there’s no reward in it. He came to give hope and he came to affirm the most unlikely people.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why he was crucified, because he put everybody’s nose out of joint, he was a disappointment to so many people who wanted a messiah in the image of their needs and theologies. Jesus was not a preacher of righteousness, he was a bringer of hope to the unrighteous, the poor in spirit. He didn’t start a campaign to overthrow the Romans, he affirmed a Roman centurion as having more faith than all of Israel.
He allowed a prostitute to anoint him with oil with her hair… Jesus was decidedly “ungodly”. This Jesus excites me because the more I look at him, the more I meditate on his life, the more grace I see.And that’s a growing thing, it continues in my life. This is the truth, it’s not just something I’ve learnt to do to get myself seminars & concerts. It is a constant source of amazement.
So I would say to a young Christian, “Look, this is different to any other relationship you’ve got. You don’t have to prove yourself worthy. You don’t have to dress up, know the right words to say or the right actions to make. You are totally free to be just who you are. You don’t have to have faith. There is no hurry. Ahead of you is a lifetime of discovery. Jesus offers his life, he holds it out to you. It’s free. It’s a gift. God comes to bring hope to the good times and the bad times, the times when we make mistakes, some truly awful mistakes. This Jesus shows us an acceptance that gives us the hope that we can walk forward with his comfort, his peace, his grace and his love. I have found that, in my life, a life that has had its considerable challenges, that I am slowly being renewed and transformed. And that’s really quite amazing.
Geoff, thank you for what you have given in service of the kingdom over the years and for enriching the lives of so many congregations who have sung your songs over and over. We pray the Lord will bless your ministry in whatever time remains. May you make the most of it.
Thank you for the opportunity of being part of what you are doing. And if you hear of anybody who wants that message, you know where I am.
Once again, Brian Houston comes across as an unstable man, ruling with an iron fist in a movement where he demands things are done his way. If Geoff Bullock was his “best friend”, why did Brian Houston and his empire destroy him? Why is everything always about Brian Houston? How come Houston is the victim… again?
Geoff Bullock repented of his sins and sought reconciliation to those he damaged. However, Brian Houston still refuses to show any sign of the Holy Spirit. No conviction of sin. No repentance. No seeking reconciliation of those he has destroyed.
Only lies, slander and cover up in his books and on national television. Lastly, if this is the way Brian Houston treats his “best friend”, you have to wonder how he treats people he doesn’t know.
Before reading this article, you might want to read the previous articles to develop a framework of what the Royal Commission has uncovered so far in Case Study 18 of the Hillsong Church, Assemblies of God and Frank Houston case:
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – Case Study 18: a public hearing concerned with the institutional response to child sexual abuse of the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) and its affiliated churches.
This is the next FactFile summarising this article:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27
The purpose of this article is to examine a sermon excerpt from Brian Houston. This sermon was entitled, “My Salvation – My Freedom from Shame.”Brian preached this sermon after presenting his case around his father’s pedophilia to the Royal Commission.
His sermon was about not living in shame. In the below segment, he used his sister as an example what happens when you live in shame. To expose the lies in the below sermon segment, we will contrast his account with his own mother’s testimony (from her book, ‘Being Frank’), in order to understand what really happened within the Houston family regarding Brian’s sister.
To begin, we will first look at what Brian actually said in his sermon. Then, we will lookat what really happened according to Brian Houston’s own mother, Hazel Houston. We will then conclude our investigation by looking at the book excerpt written by Hazel Houston. It will not be until our next article that we will expose why the “biblical” foundation of Hillsong is so dangerous as well as the negative impact that that has made on the church today.
HOUSTON’S LIES POST THE ROYAL COMMISSION
The Sunday after the Royal Commission, Brian Houston preached a sermon entitled “My Salvation – My Freedom from Shame.” This sermon has just been recently published on their website. As you watch it, please note that you are seeing an edited version. In spite of some technical difficulties, we were able to record the original. The part of the sermon that we would like people to pay careful attention to is transcribed below.
Brian Houston said,
“When I was 13, I remember one time my mum talking to me and my siblings in our lounge room and telling us that we are going to be looking after a baby for awhile. I mean I was surprised I was told it was someone’s baby and we were going to look after it, and so sure enough that’s what happened for I don’t know how long, maybe a year we looked after this baby in our house.
At the time my older sister was in Melbourne, what I didn’t know was that she had been secretly sent off to Melbourne, because she was pregnant. And then without anyone knowing she was brought back to New Zealand, and then across the Mountain range, close to where we lived was a little town and quietly, on her own, she had a baby there. And ahh in that era, in that landscape, there was so much shame attached to it. So much shame was put on her, that it affected her for many, many years. And a lot of people, they allow things to become shame and then it rules you, it robs you. You see, one of my favorite verses is Proverbs 15:24, it says ‘the way of life winds upwards for the wise’.
Sadly instead of winding upwards, some people want a steep decline downwards, a spiral downwards. Because this is what happens, sin leads to guilt, then guilt leads to shame and ultimately, shame leads to condemnation and condemnation is death.
If a building is condemned, it means it’s unfit for use, it’s disqualified, it’s only good for being pulled down.”
Source: Brian Houston, My Salvation – My Freedom from Shame, Hillsong Church, 12/10/2014. (Accessed 12/10/2014.)
BRIAN HOUSTON’S VERSION OF THE STORY
When Brian told the story about his sister, he stated that his mother said to him one day that they were “going to be looking after a baby for awhile.” According to Brian they had the baby for an entire year, not knowing who the baby belonged to.
In his sermon, he deliberately avoided connecting the dots so that he could make whatever point he wanted to about shame. He said he “didn’t know” that his older sister “had been secretly sent off to Melbourne because she was pregnant.” Then he said that he somehow found out, (“without anyone knowing”), that his sister who, “was brought back to New Zealand,” was hiding “across the Mountain range.”
Brian’s conclusion, of course, was that his sister “had a baby” outside of wedlock and experienced ”so much shame” during that time. “So much shame was put on her, that it affected her for many, many years.” These comments, then, lead us to believe that his sister moved around a bit in order to deal with her sin, guilt and shame. What is very interesting about this story, however, is that Brian’s very own mother has a different account.
Hazel and Frank Houston
HAZEL HOUSTON’S VERSION OF THE STORY
In 1989 Hazel Houston wrote a book about her husband, Frank Houston, entitled “Being Frank: The Frank Houston Story”.
In her book Hazel writes,
“That God is more merciful than people was proved in the experience which almost shattered our world. We were sitting comfortably by the fire one night when our daughter and her boyfriend came in.
‘Do you want a cup of coffee?’ I asked.
‘Sit down Mum, I’ve got something to tell you.’ Her voice contained an unusual gravity. There was a long pause then she continued, ‘I’m pregnant.’
For a moment we had no reaction. Then deep unreasonable anger swept through me as I realized the implications. Fingers would be pointed at us and we would have to resign from ministry. Twenty years ago a pre-marital pregnancy in any circle was regarded as the ultimate disgrace. There would be some ready to accuse the pastor of this inability to control his children.
‘You better leave,’ I told the boy.
‘Don’t be so hasty,’ Frank reprimanded me.
‘I’ll have the baby adopted,’ our daughter volunteered.
‘I’ll pay for her to go to Australia,’ her boyfriend offered.
After they had left we discussed the situation. Should we tell the church and the other children or just Trevor Chandler. As our associate pastor he should know. We didn’t tell anyone but we should have done. Someone else eventually told the children.
‘We will have to resign from the church,’ Frank said.
A day later when the heat of the moment had passed I began to ask myself had God removed the call to the ministry at this time or was this an attack of the devil designed to smash our ministry. We fell on our knees before God. I voiced my thoughts to Frank.
‘I don’t think we should resign. God hasn’t lifted the call.’ Frank agreed.
Our daughter went to Australia but a noted trouble-maker in the church asked people at the next prayer meeting to pray for the Houston’s family situation.
Did she suspect something and was spreading gossip in a spiritual guise? We never found out.
Our hearts continued to ache and our daughter suffered extreme homesickness as she sheltered in a Salvation Army home from a hostile world. We decided she must come home.
We arranged for her to go as companion to an elderly lady over the mountains from our valley. Within us there was a monumental struggle between the desire to keep the baby and face the consequences or proceed with the adoption.
‘Frank, I think we should keep the baby. It might be another statistic to the Government but it is our grandchild and I want it. I can look after it.
‘I’ve been thinking the same thing,’ he said. We hurried over the mountains to tell our daughter what we had decided.
That day we saw a light in our daughter’s eyes which had been missing for a long time and God removed the ache in our hearts. But people are not so forgiving. Months after the baby was born, some by their attitude screamed condemnation at the young mother until an agonized cry fell from her lips.
‘Mum, when does God forgive?’
‘As soon as we confess our sins from a repentant heart.’
‘Then why don’t people also forgive us?’ Why indeed.
‘Unfortunately, people are not like God.’ Frank and I both would have carried her pain but she had to work through it herself.
‘Do you realize the times I longed to sit on your bed and talk after an evening out?’ she asked one day years after she was married. No I hadn’t realized.
Source: Hazel Houston, Being Frank: The Frank Houston Story, UK, London: Marshall Morgan and Scott Publications, Published 1989. pg. 165-167
Comparing Hazel’s account to Brian’s raises some questions.
1. Was Brian being honest?
2. Why did Brian put his sister’s journey back in public focus, using it as an example of his idea of shame? (He has mentioned his family feeling the pressure of recent public scrutiny.)
3. Brian’s account is very different to his mother’s and he leaves out significant information related to the point he is making. The practice of cover-up was plain in Hazel’s account. If this did not happen, would his sister’s journey have been different?
4. Is Brian ashamed to give an accurate/more complete account? What does he know? Did he ever discuss with his parents their decision to hide his sister’s pregnancy from the public, including their church and children, largely to avoid being stood down from ministry? What did Trevor Chandler do with this information? (You would assume Brian would have discussed it with Frank and Hazel at some stage as, either from a family point of view or from a ministerial responsibility perspective. After all, it is a significant family event.)
5. Brian made the point that his sister was “sent” to Melbourne. So who “sent” his sister?
6. The timing of him saying this was a few days after his public hearing at the Royal Commission (RC) into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. So why did he talk about this issue right after the RC?
Last year, the Royal Commission revealed a tendency for cover up within Brian Houston and Hillsong’s dealing with Frank Houston’s pedophilia and not being forth-coming with the “whole” truth. However, after Hazel Houston’s account, we are noticing that cover up appears to run in the Houston family. And the more we seem to uncover – the more we realise Hillsong is founded not on Christ the rock but on the sifting sands of man.