Hillsong Church: An International Phenomenon

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SYDNEY - The Australian Hillsong megachurch is known worldwide for its contemporary praise and worship music.

And it's the vision that God gave senior pastor Brian Houston that has helped propel Hillsong Church into an international phenomenon.

Hillsong has now released a total of 40 albums of praise music that continues to influence people of all ages around the globe.

"We were intentional in writing the songs that affected the church and glorified God," Houston said. "It's a miracle. It couldn't have happened the kind of opportunity that we have."

Houston and his wife Bobbie first started Hillsong Church in 1983. At that time, it was called Hills Christian Life Center and had only 45 members.

Within four years, the church grew to 900 people. Services were held in a warehouse in those early days. The church moved to its current location in 1997.

Now, 23,000 people attend services on any given weekend. The church has three campuses in Sydney, 14 extension services and churches around the world in cities like Kiev, Moscow, New York, London, Cape Town, and Paris.

"It sounds like a cliche, but it's really by the grace of God," Houston said. "We preach to people not only on Sundays. We want to relate to the people in their everyday lives."

And Hillsong is more than just music. The church has many other ministries in Australia and around the world, like Hillsong Kids, youth and women's ministries, and Hillsong City Care.

Hillsong Church will celbrate its 25th conference year in 2011. Approximately 150 people attended the first anniversary in 1986. More than 30,000 have attended since the inception.

"It comes down to a church that is effective and influential and reaches beyond itself," Houston added. "The outworking of those things and they were just dreams. We're just being consistent on doing what the Lord puts in our hearts. "

Hillsong has faced a number of controversies and challenges in recent years, including media criticism for its relationship with several Christian organizations and some conservative politicians.

Pastor Houston admits the church has had to overcome some difficult times, but he's not discouraged. He sees the recent election of Australia's first openly-atheist prime minister as a rare spirutal opportunity.

"Australia is a very secular country. There's a very strong anti-Christ spirit. But at the same time, we experience people coming to Christ every week," Houston said. "There's a great spiritual hunger. If we can tap into that, there's a great future for the church in Australia."

"To me it's about consistency in season and out of season," he continued. "And it's amazing what God can do."

Originally aired January 7, 2011.

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