Hillsong Music has swept across the global Christian landscape, with many of their songs entering the liturgies of charismatic megachurches and small mainline parishes alike. The theological content of these songs comes under scrutiny for a lack of doctrinal depth and hyperpersonalism. This paper argues that between 2007 and 2015 the theological content of Hillsong Music has become increasingly “generalist.” Notably, this theological shift, as expressed in the hymnody, is embedded in a larger shift in Hillsong Church’s vision: from the local church level to a self-replicating global community. As the scope of the church has widened, so, too, has the theological scope of the hymnody. Methodologically, this project is an exercise in comparative discourse analysis, examining song lyrics, official statements from Hillsong Church, officially sanctioned blogs of the church, and dialoging with liturgical and hymnological discourse.
Mark Evans“Hillsong Abroad: Tracing the Songlines of Contemporary Pentecostal Music,” in The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in Global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianityed. Monique M. Ingalls and Amos Yong (University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press 2015) 182. Hillsong Music Publishing is the resource and publishing arm of Hillsong Church’s music.
For exceptions see C. Michael Hawn“Congregational Singing from Down Under: Experiencing Hillsong’s ‘Shout to the Lord,’ ”The Hymn57 no. 2 (2006): 15–24; see Gesa Hartje-Döll “(Hillsong) United Through Music: Praise and Worship Music and the Evangelical ‘Imagined Community’ ” in Christian Congregational Music: Performance Identity and Experience ed. Monique Ingalls et al. (Surrey UK and Burlington VT: Ashgate 2013); see Greg Scheer “Shout to the Lord: Praise & Worship from Jesus People to Gen X” in New Songs of Celebration Render: Congregational Song in the Twenty-First Century ed. C. Michael Hawn (Chicago: GIA Publications 2013); see Tanya Riches “The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Worship (1996–2007)” Australasian Pentecostal Studies 13 (2010): 87–133; see Mark Evans “Hillsong Abroad” in Evans The Spirit of Praise.
C. Clifton Black writes“In Jesus’ proclamation the kingdom is not coterminous with Israel or any geopolitical entity; neither is it styled as inner spirituality or a utopian dream. The kingdom is a metaphor for God’s dynamic sovereignty throughout eternity (Matt. 13:36–43), already yet secretly erupting in human history (Matt. 13:18–23; Mark 4:22; Luke 17:20–21).” See “Kingdom of God,” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology265.
See Kate Bowler and Wen Reagan“Bigger, Better, Louder: The Prosperity Gospel’s Impact on Contemporary Christian Worship,”Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation24 no. 2 (2014): 186–230.
Robbie Goh“Hillsong and Megachurch Practice: Semiotics, Spatial Logic and the Embodiment of Contemporary Evangelical Protestantism,”Material Religion: The Journal of Objects Art and Belief4 no. 3 (2008): 297.
See Birgit Meyer“Religious Sensations: Media, Aesthetics, and the Study of Contemporary Religion,” in Religion Media and Culture: A Readered. Gordon Lynch and Jolyon Mitchell with Anna Strhan (London: Routledge2012) 161.