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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. Duncan

    Love their worhipping spirit

    July 27, 2010 at 2:30 am |
  2. daisy

    Your ministry has been an integral part of my journey with My Savior. Thank You!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:29 am |
  3. Rhonda

    Hillsong is proof that God is working in such amazing ways! What a talented band and what beautiful hearts they have. God bless!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:29 am |
  4. Btidget

    The church that i go to sings hillsong 95% of the time. The other 5% is from other artists or band members. The song With Everything is uplifting and awesome along with their other songs! It dosnt matter what other people think or say. What matters is them spreading Gods love and word thru their music. My church and hillsong have helped me see the light and find closuer for different reasons.

    July 27, 2010 at 2:29 am |
  5. Stellar N. K.

    Hillsong's a blessing to this world and we're always praying for them. Since some of us can't do what they do, the best we can do is pray that God gives them the grace, wisdom and favor to spread his love across the globe. This video is filled with God favor! And as the Bible says, "you shall know them by their fruits", "he gives grace to the humble." Bless you Hillsong and Hillsong Live

    July 27, 2010 at 2:28 am |
  6. Stephanie

    I think it's awesome how God is using this worship team to glorify Himself. This team of God-centered musicians is spreading the good news through their music with passion and meaning. I saw Hillsong United in April, and it definitely felt like more of a night dedicated to worshipping God than a concert, which is truly admirable. I look forward to seeing Hillsong Live in a couple of days. I know their tour is changing lives across America. Thanks for coming to the states!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:28 am |
  7. Catherine

    Awesome stuff guys! I am South African and first heard of Hillsong church and music when I was 14, I am now 27. I got to see them live for the first time this year in Boston,MA. Its evident that they truely love the Lord and are there to make known HIS praises!!! Proud of the young men and women who are following after God and using the talents and gifts HE has given them. Keep it up!!! Peace 🙂

    July 27, 2010 at 2:27 am |
  8. Yoel

    Many churches in Indonesia have sung Hillsong's song also.They're so changing lives-production of music!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:25 am |
  9. Sonya

    Every morning in our home is stared with Hillsong. It continues in the car with Hillsong for Kids. Their music is so moving!!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:25 am |
    • Allover

      Same here! I don't think a day goes by where Hillsong is not blasted in our house and our cars!

      July 27, 2010 at 3:02 am |
  10. AVelez

    Hillsong has been a blessing to my family and I for many years! Their music fills me with such hope, compassion, joy, love, strength, and so on. I pray that their light continues to shine upon the world so that Jesus may be lifted high!!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  11. Lissa

    They are awesome and anointed by GOD.. I think they are one of the most anointed Christian worship bands period. And they ARE VERY POPULAR.. there's not a person I know that doesn't know who they are. I love them and so do many others.

    July 27, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  12. martin coetzee

    Hillsong is great they really do awesome stuff!!God is everything!!threw Jesus is the only way to God!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  13. Ramela

    As far as I know, Hillsong has been very popular here in the US among Christians. Everyone I have ever talked to about Hillsong has been very impressed and appreciated their style and their heart of worship and desire to change young lives. They are doing a good job and have a positive influence in the world.

    July 27, 2010 at 2:20 am |
  14. rachel berndt

    okay, band. i love you guys.
    just.....please please please keep in the Word day in and day out. do not ever stop being in the Word.
    it will keep every person in the band tightly knit together in Christ.
    the higher the fame level illuminating Christ to the world, the more the need for the Word.
    you can see where i'm going here.....
    each person is a pillar in the band. please no casualities, i beg you. yield your bodies as living sacrifices continuously.
    PRAISE THE LORD.
    press in every day and let God push you forward in His Love.
    THANK YOU!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:20 am |
  15. donheller

    I saw United this past year during their first trip to Philly, it was Awesome, my favorite thing was when Joel Houston opened up in Prayer and said "Were not here to entertain you, we are here to entertain HIM" It set the tone for the night and it was the most anointed place I have ever been...AWESOME, and I wish Hillsong Live was coming to the NorthEast.

    July 27, 2010 at 2:18 am |
    • Bernise33

      They are coming to the Northeast....!!!!! They will be @ the Brooklyn Tabernacle on 08/08/2010... I like you saw Hillsong United for the first time this year on their US tour and I have to say they were a blessing to my life and to all that were there (including people who were not Chritians).

      July 27, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  16. Wendy

    Love hillsong!!! Great write up!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:16 am |
  17. yadz

    i love hillsong's music. Glory to God!

    July 27, 2010 at 2:15 am |
  18. Keiten

    Aw! It's SO awesome to hear how much of an impact these guys are having on our world! God truly works in the most unique ways! I lobe playing their songs in church. They're not just cool Chriatians but amazing musicians! This whole thing is awesome! Go GOD!!! 😀

    July 27, 2010 at 2:13 am |
  19. Tacoma

    "People Just Like Us was the first ever Christian album to go Gold in Australia as well as the first to go Platinum.[3] To date, all Hillsong live worship albums have achieved Gold status in Australia." "The 2004 Hillsong live worship album For All You've Done, debuted at #1 on the Australian Record Industry Association album charts. This is the first time an album of Contemporary Christian music has topped the album charts in Australia." Wikipedia.

    I wont disbute you never hearing of Hillsong because the same thing happens in the U.S. where there are Christian artists who are extremely popular in Christian circles but unheard of elsewhere but I think the facts show that they do have some popularity in Australia.

    July 26, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  20. groupsects

    " The band is extremely popular there on the radio–more so than the United States....."

    Lol, don't know which of Hillsong's press releases the CNN reporter misread but I can guarantee you is that if there's one artist that Australian radio will not play ....it's Hillsong.

    Their music is unknown in Australia outside of church circles and the church has an extremely poor reputation in this country as a cult-like money-hungry organisation.

    It's the Steve Irwin scenario. Steve was famous in the US long before we'd ever heard of him in Australia.

    Lance
    Perth, Australia

    July 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Adam

      @groupsects Actually you seem to have your facts a bit mixed up. Their most recent album debuted at #3 on the Australian charts, Channel 7 did a report on them on them and their new album. Been in the newspapers talking about their popularity. And as far as "poor reputation", they are also widely known in Australia for their incredible community initiatives and helping many people in need. Hope this clears things ups for you.

      July 26, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
    • Jim

      with all due respect, you might want to check your facts. the album did make it to the top selling albums in Australia (for some weeks at that) and, of course, not all radio stations will play Hillsong, they have their own genre that they usually play, and yes, gospel songs might not be the ones among them...

      July 27, 2010 at 2:25 am |
    • kevin babb

      i flew to Sydney to see their Live Recording in '09 and stayed a few days in the city. The lies that were spread about Hillsong were shocking to me! One girl said they require every member to sign a contract in which they will give 20 percent of their wages to the church. When i went to church, i asked several members if this was true (i knew it wasn't, but wanted confirmation and testimonial evidence to this fact so when I'm writing stuff like this i have my own experiences and references to share) and they said it wasn't. When it comes to Christians and churches, especially a church like Hillsong that is being used mightily of God in bringing many people to Christ, there will be those who spread falsehoods. With that being said, is Hillsong Church perfect? Of course not. Is Brian Houston perfect? Or Reuben Morgan? Or Darlene Czchech? No. But they love the Lord and are being used greatly to build God's kingdom. If you're in Sydney, go check it out it for yourself. Don't go by what other people are telling you, because there's a lot of false info going around Sydney about this church. Take care and God bless...

      July 27, 2010 at 2:30 am |
    • Douglas W. Richards

      Hillsong is a wonderfullly annointed band. They have helped move me into a presence with God like no other band in the world. I love to worship along with Hillsong. It's not a concert as much as it is an addictive experience. May the glory of God prevail wherever their music is played.

      July 27, 2010 at 4:07 am |
    • mimitot

      continue to be a blessings to others hillsong worship team! God's grace wud alwys be upon u:) ive been blessed thru ur songs..pursue telling d nation how great is our God thru ur songs:)

      July 27, 2010 at 6:27 am |
    • Kim

      Let me just say that I am a 52 year old mother of 3 kids and my kids and I are sold on the music. They are not performers. They are humble people reaching the world with the gospel thru music. There arent many christian bands out there that have the ability to bring you on your knees to the foot of the cross, the minute you turn it on. I am sold out. I will gladly be the oldest lady at their concerts. They have an annointing that will stay with them as long as they keep playing for an audience of one.

      July 27, 2010 at 7:07 am |
    • thomasbartel

      Ieresting that "A Beauiful Exchange is currently #3 on the mainstream charts in Australia.

      July 27, 2010 at 9:49 am |
    • Luis Perez

      i wish they'd come to Puerto Rico. the band is amazing

      July 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Meisiebyderhand

      I can see you obviously dislike the band, but i cant agree with you. I live in SA but half of my family lives in Ausie and has been living there for years. Hillsong is well known there, but who cares if they are well known, the people that need to hear their music are hearing it and that is great! People will always have bad things to say against God' church, but the more we are persecuted and suffer with Christ the better for us!!! Go guys!!

      July 28, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @groupsects

      Bless you, man! For thou has revealed the truth. I salute you!

      July 28, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
    • whatthu

      dude....it's hard to convince people who are drenched that there is no such thing as water.

      July 28, 2010 at 6:51 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.