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July 26th, 2010
12:59 PM ET

Hillsong Live, long popular in church, tours the U.S.

[cnn-video url= http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/showbiz/2010/07/25/holmes.christian.rock.cnn%5D

If you told your friends you were going to a Hillsong Live concert, worship leader Ben Fielding would have a good-natured correction for you.

“We’d probably err to call it a performance,” he said during the band’s second U.S. concert stop in Johns Creek, Georgia over the weekend. “We see these nights as being about people coming out to worship. We don’t just want to play our songs to people; we want people to take hold and to encounter God. That first night ... we saw a lot of people give their lives to Christ.”

With more than 11 million records sold, Hillsong is one of the most popular worship groups in the world.

But they haven’t been to the United States in nearly a decade, and the two-week nearly sold-out tour is an opportunity to make new fans and reconnect with long-time admirers.

Many Americans have sung their songs at church, but most have never seen the band–a worship team, really–in person.

“We hope that more people are getting to know our music," said band member Reuben Morgan, a pastor and songwriter. “We’re doing a lot of new music so we want to connect with them and connect with people who have known us for years.”

The group just released “A Beautiful Exchange,” with 12 songs recorded in November at Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia. The band is extremely popular there on the radio–more so than the United States, where their influence is felt much more during Saturday and Sunday services. “Mighty to Save,” written by Morgan is sung by an estimated 40 million people each week.

The CD is off to a strong start in the States, hitting No. 1 on Billboard's Christian music chart after its release three weeks ago.

But the band says numbers don't mean much.

“When we do these projects, which are really reflections of what we do at church,” Morgan said, “our hope is people take on these songs, play them in their cars, sing them in church. If we were artists, maybe we’d have other goals, but we want to hear that people are laying on to God.”

On Saturday night, more than 3,000 boisterous fans packed Mount Pisgah church in Johns Creek, an Atlanta suburb. Hundreds of teenagers left their pews before the lights dimmed to scrunch together around the altar.

The two-hour service began with three power anthems, with the crowd singing along at full volume. The only time people sat was during a short intermission, when pastor Phil Dooley of the Hillsong Church in Cape Town, South Africa, discussed his project to raise money to build a facility for poor children in his country, the Tembaletu School Housing Project

After the show, Fielding was on emotional high, amazed at how the crowd sang along despite the newness of the songs.

Earlier, Fielding talked about coming to the States, saying he was observing “a real movement in the church in new ways to worship.”

Morgan says he is especially proud of the new song, “The One Who Saves,” written by Fielding.

“It’s really connected with the soul of our church,” he said. “You can write a great song, and it doesn’t connect with a congregation but this one had an amazing reaction.” For Hillsong, that's more important than radio play or album sales.

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Faith • Jesus • Music

soundoff (194 Responses)
  1. nasse muschi

    Simply desire to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your post is just cool and I could assume you're an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the rewarding work.

    July 9, 2012 at 4:04 am |
  2. Chris $-Man

    I agree w/ others here - I love Hillsong! I learned a lot about them from this article. I'm going to their "God Is Able" concert in a month and I am PUMPED!

    One question I have for anyone who knows - Why do Christian radio stations in the U.S. like K-Love and Moody Radio not play Hillsong??? I am utterly disappointed and confused about this. Anyone know?

    October 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • A.Santana

      It's funny 'cause I was wondering the same thing about K-Love. There was a group of Christians here in NYC from my church and we were debating the reasons for it. The only logical explanations would be the fact that Hillsong belongs to a Charismatic church and probably K-Love wants to stay as close as possible to mainstream Christianity. God bless.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  3. Christina

    OMG I love Hillsong..I listen to their songs everyday!!!! I definitely cant wait for them to perform in Florida!!!!! Keep up the good work God bless youuu

    February 28, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  4. johnson

    actually i just know few days ago about hill songs ..im from srilanka ...but i love this songs now everyday im listning...its make me happy and i like ..

    August 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  5. Oscar

    So blessed by the music and ministry of Hillsong! They have the unique ability to reach and influence people from multiple generations with a single message of hope. Not only do they put out great worship music, but they live lives of worship to God through their missions work in their home land and around the globe! The most beautiful thing about all this is that the God who gives Hillsong their creativity is the same God who desires to use us in similar ways to bring glory to His name in our communities! The church should be the most creative place in the world because we serve a God with unlimited creative potential, and the church (the people of God) should be the most loving/compassionate people because we serve a God who is love. Thanks for the inspiration, Hillsong...keep up the amazing work!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:23 am |
  6. Rini Budiman

    Blessed u guys,, Let the glory unto GOD,amen.. =)

    August 23, 2010 at 3:10 am |
  7. Gordon

    Hillsong music is My All time Favourite!! Nothing in Christian music is as authentic and as connecting as theirs. Its Amazing. I remember when I first Heard "Shout to the Lord" back when I was like 8 years old. Man I was so blown away. And after that Everything from them never disappointed me. Glory to God for their faithfulness to the Lord. God Bless Darlene and Ruben and Joel for their High Level of creativity in their music. May they Go on from glory to glory!

    August 18, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  8. Margaret Stanulis

    Thank you so much Hillsong. I love your music and the lyrics really do help strengthen me, especially at times when I'm feeling low.
    May God continue to bless you. <3<3<3

    August 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  9. Michael Stensland

    I just love the worshippers of Hillsong United! ❤
    I hope that they can come to Norway again 😀 ❤

    August 17, 2010 at 6:46 am |
  10. bok malahito

    worshipers not performers...kudos!

    August 15, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  11. michael

    Way to go Hillsong, love your music. Keep pumping out that worship groove.

    August 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Rodger

    God is using Hillsong to spread the gospel of love , and changing live from all around the world. I myself is from Aruba , many people doesn't even know Aruba. But this worship is impacting the world IN JESUS NAME AMEN

    August 13, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.