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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. jason lederer

    Greatest worship band ever. Got my tickets for Dallas this Friday night! Can't wait.

    July 27, 2010 at 7:23 am |
  2. Aneehz For God

    I agree its not about the numbers but its all about people whose willing to make that song as an act of declarations and prayers... Hillsong are a tool that Lead us to trully worship God... i can say that they are the best tool and they make us a worshiper even though we dont know how to sing... God Bless you more Hillsong...

    July 27, 2010 at 7:17 am |
  3. Lizzy

    the power of God in their music is evident by the impact of the songs they write. God has graced them with this ability to inspire and lead people into God's presence, and whats best is whenever they speak of their music they humbly deny glory to themselves and give it all to God. I think that's why God has opened the heavens for them. I ♥ Jesus in Hillsong.

    July 27, 2010 at 7:16 am |
  4. Renata Oliveira

    God bless AS NAÇÕES!

    July 27, 2010 at 7:09 am |
  5. Renata Oliveira

    Prayer is like oxygen for the soul...Toda honra e Glória ao nosso Deus Soberano e fiel, criador de todas as coisas, e que esta a frente deste projeto da Hillsong.

    July 27, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  6. djohan

    we are waiting for the worship impartation by hillsong to indonesia. God bless.

    July 27, 2010 at 7:05 am |
  7. Alexander

    Hope you can believe in! Thanks for covering!

    July 27, 2010 at 6:57 am |
  8. steve

    and the song is not the one who saves but mighty to save

    July 27, 2010 at 6:53 am |
  9. steve

    Please the one you cold ben fielding in the video is not the one. CORRECT THAT. He is Reuben Morgan.

    July 27, 2010 at 6:49 am |
  10. Johnathan Bilka

    This ministry has Ignited a love for God like no other, God Bless hillsong and may they keep shakin the earth.

    July 27, 2010 at 6:19 am |
  11. Carla

    Amazing group of people w/ awesome talents to share in worship – wish they'd come to USA more often!

    July 27, 2010 at 6:14 am |
  12. groupsects

    Some facts about Hillsong –

    Australia is a comparitively small music market. The reason why they reached number 3 on the album chart, was because of the sales of a Hillsong recording at its annual conference, which are counted in the national chart.

    For example, Sydney's Christian City Church at one point reached number 7 on the same chart by selling precisely 64 copies of its CD from its church shop.

    Darlene Zschech, her husband Mark and other Hillsong people were recently prosecuted by the Australian Competiition and Consumer Commission for false and misleading conduct as directors of the now-closed Mercy Ministries Australia, after former MMA residents complained of forced exorcisms and false promises.

    The reality is, there are two Hillsongs. The baby boomer leadership steeped in AOG prosperity gospel nonsense who routinely exploit people financially and emotionallly, and the new Hillsong generation (of which United is a part) who've actually read their bibles, know who Jesus really is, and are genuine in their understanding of faith.

    Eventually the shonky leaders will be replaced, but please, until that happens, let's not pretend that the lingering exploitation doesn't still exist at Hillsong Church and that United doesn't turn a blind eye to what's happening under their noses at their home church.

    July 27, 2010 at 6:03 am |
  13. shane thaw

    U guys are absolute legends! Thanks for all u do in the lives of others and the Kingdom of God

    July 27, 2010 at 5:59 am |
  14. Phil

    It's incredible how god can reach the people through music . It is a blessing of god that Churches like Hillsong have a Band who can connect thousand of people to encounter the living god . If Hillsong is the 1 Number in the Music Charts , that isn't important , it is about people who meet god and invite god in their lives

    July 27, 2010 at 5:26 am |
  15. Ravi

    Thank you for this blog! And thank you for giving an honest portrayal of the comments made by Hillsongs!

    July 27, 2010 at 5:14 am |
  16. wennzkie

    thanks hillsong for making the great music... i really love the songs because it reminds me in everyday lives and the music are really inspiring..
    God Bless You all..

    July 27, 2010 at 4:53 am |
  17. Christine

    Hillsong ❤ they Are amazing!! They were here in Norway last month and i won't forget that day!

    July 27, 2010 at 4:30 am |
  18. janvier macasaquit

    Hillsongs gave me inspiration in my daily life with Christ our God!!! To God be the Glory! All for Love! God bless you guys.. Hope to see you soon here in the Philippines! Lets worship the Rock! =)

    July 27, 2010 at 4:21 am |
  19. Renea

    I luv Hillsong! Always have!
    Yes we also do many of their Worship songs in our church, Calvary Temple, Edmond, OK...
    What "REAL" church doesn't ... Lol...
    Keep up the "Good Fight of Faith" and continue in your Destiny!!! You're doing wonderfully well!!!
    Looking forward to MUCH, Much MoRe!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 4:11 am |
  20. Maxine

    I do my housework and "rock with God" while listening to Hillsong (as loud as I think my neighbours will tolerate 🙂 ). I always look forward to their new releases. Keep bringing us AWSOME worship songs guys, God Bless you all!!! xx

    July 27, 2010 at 4:10 am |
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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.