Brian Houston Calls Hillsong a 'Contemporary Church,' Not 'Classic Pentecostal'

(Screenshot: TBN.org)Pastor Brian Houston speaks on an episode of TBN's "Praise," June 8, 2018.

Hillsong Church Senior Pastor Brian Houston said while his influential church, which has locations around the world, has been described as "Pentecostal," he would prefer to be considered a "contemporary church."

"To be honest, we are not classic Pentecostal. Charismatic, yes. We believe in the gifts of the spirit, we believe in the freedom of the spirit, absolutely," Houston said in an interview with Christian Cultural Center Pastor A.R. Bernard on TBN earlier this month. 

The church's website describes the ministry as a "contemporary Pentecostal church," but Houston said he likes to label his church a bit differently now.

"I would describe myself, if I could, [as a] contemporary church," he said.

"I say 'if I could' because every time we put that in Wikipedia, that we're a contemporary church, somebody changes it back again that we're a Pentecostal church," he laughingly explained.

The church's Wikipedia reads: "Hillsong Church is a global Pentecostal megachurch."

Houston said he grew up in a Pentecostal home and his father was "a full-on Pentecostal preacher."

"He was more Pentecostal than Acts Chapter 2 I think," he continued. "That's my background."

But he noted that "today, especially here in the U.S., Pentecostal — a lot of people see that as being a particular type of denomination, as more of a denominationalism." 

Houston was on the TBN program to discuss his recently released book, There Is More. He emphasized that he hopes to renew the minds of the lost and hopeless with the message and love of Jesus Christ. "When the world says you can't, God says you can," the book's promotional video says.

He also talked about Hillsong's humble beginnings in Sydney, Australia, 35 years ago. Houston called their growth always "two steps forward and one step backwards."

Hillsong now has churches in major cities throughout the world, including New York City, Los Angeles, London, Barcelona, Paris, Bali, and more. Houston said he always had it in his heart to reach the unreachable cities of the world and God has blessed them to do so. Combined, the ministry reaches over 100,000 people weekly.

The U.S.-based churches often attract the attention of many A-list celebrities. Justin Bieber, Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, and Selena Gomez, to name a few, have attended Hillsong Church.

When asked why he believes his ministry is so successful, Houston said, "We dare to be ourself wherever we go and we're not squeezed into a mold."

As for his objective when preaching, he said he wants to help people live "according to the thinking of God's Word."

"I'm very intentional about speaking into people's Mondays, not just their Sundays, not just their devotional life but their vocational life, and teach in a way that people can bring into the things that really matter in life — their children, their family, their home, their work, their career, their business, etc.

"I feel like when we speak and we teach and we use the Word of God, the whole idea is to bring transformation and change. And transformation starts often with our thinking."

With Hillsong widely known for their world-renowned worship songs, including "Shout to the Lord" and "Oceans," Houston said that all their songs are reviewed by theologians and that they have been "more intentional" about vetting their songs in the last decade.

"We do put more effort into the theology of our songs than we ever have before for that very reason (of being able to reach into the hearts of people around the world)," he said. "So we have people specifically who, every single song has to fit through a system of being tested by theologians.

"There's often a lot of grind, hopefully in a positive way, between the songwriter and getting it to a point where we feel like it's not going to be too easily misrepresented."

He noted that they usually do not throw a song out but they work on it until it's theologically sound. Otherwise, if they release a song "that's going to be misunderstood or theologically weak, believe me, we hear about it."

Bernard was pleasantly surprised and commended Houston for that, lamenting that often songs are created by "momentary feelings" with no review of how those words will impact people.

Later in the discussion, Houston also talked about protecting himself from being offended, sustaining the Christian faith, and the dichotomy of weakness and strength.

Watch the full TBN episode with Pastor Brian Houston here. There Is More is available everywhere books are sold.