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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. Kristen

    I love hillsong, bc I believe hillsong loves God and people. You are always going to have naysayers but I don't believe that Hillsong is trying to argue or defend their style of worship or their heart for worship. I believe their mission is to answer the cultures desire to connect with God through worship using their gifts and talents and relate to this generations. I don't know them but I would say they are most sincere and it shows through their music. I'm thankful that they are doing what they love to do, doing it with excellence, passion and for a greater Cause than themselves. Keep on, keepin' on bringin' that good ole gospel tunes, its amazing and this Texas girl is lovin' it y'all.

    July 27, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  2. Emmy

    Praise God,wonderful works of God through God's people,that is Hillsong!!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  3. Nathalie

    Oh, Hillsong is popular not only in english, but in Spanish too, In Latinamerica they're the prefered christian rock band, and in the churchs we sing their songs in spanish, songs as 'Mighty to Save' that is 'Cristo Puede Mover Montes', or 'Shout to the Lord' that is ' Canta al Senor' are very popular.
    we are inspired by the guys of Hillsong, theyr enthusiasm nd their passion for the cross, for announcing it.

    July 27, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  4. Overcoming_soul

    HM It was not just teenagers either. Sometimes i think we the older population is forgottten. We know how to worship our spirit oare move to an even higher level also. I listen tot he worship songs all day to try and have the constant presence of God with me. The music helps me to achieve that state. In addition to that it is important to note that Hillsong sermon was awesome too. it was not just about his prohject but a message was delivered about friends and how we were to serrve one another. It was an awesome experience. I am sadden to read only 3000 of atylantan got to experience it. I will be praying for a return visit so more People can experience it and the music gets out not only to the christians but their friends who ahve not ewncounter Jesus yet.

    July 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Angela

    I really enjoy Hllsong because it is music I can worship with. It lifts my heart and helps me connect with God.Thank you for a great article about them.

    July 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  6. Eunice

    I am delighted to hear about Hillsong's new album! I'm also disappointed to know that I'm missing out on their live performance while they are here in the U.S. 😦 This was a great article, and I thank CNN for posting it!

    July 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  7. Lucy

    They are a bless for us, i´m very grateful to God for Hillsong! Jesus love for everybody 🙂 from Argentina!

    July 27, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  8. Akintayo

    I am a big fan of Hillsong (live, united, the church and Hillsong altogether) mainly because of the Expression of God's power through what they do, the SONGS. "A Beautiful Exchange" is a great album loaded with the power of One and Only True God, looking forward to getting a copy of the album especially the DVD. Stay Blessed

    July 27, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  9. Fern

    They represent one thing our society, in and out of church, lacks greatly.... consistancy! They have been consistant and true to their faith, the Message of God, their music and their calling. Hillsong...... rock on in the plans and purposes of your God. Touching lives and exalting the one true God!

    July 27, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  10. Héctor V.

    Me gusta mucho su música, la verdad que son unos grandes bendecidos por Dios y espero y pronto puedan estar en México...Bendiciones!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  11. Susan

    I have been hooked on Hillsiong since my daughter came home from a college conference and introduced me to the song Salvation is here!
    I've been to a Hillsong United concert at our church several years ago and had to share a chair with my daughter because it wad filled up with mostly young preople worshipping (so we didn't have to sit down much)! As my youngest son grew up hearing their CDs and singing their worship songs in church Mighty to Save became one of his favorites! It's such a blessing to this mom of 5 to hear my kids singing these sings, worshipping along with the CDs and knowing and singing about how awesome God is!

    July 27, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  12. Reality

    The following one-line lyric would put an end to this group's songs of myths:

    "Jesus' body lies a-mouldering in the grave!!!!"

    July 27, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  13. April

    Thank you CNN for doing a story that lifts up the name of JESUS and thank you Hillsong for your obedience to the spirit of God!! See you tonight in Plymouth, MI!!!!!! So Excited!!!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  14. Amy

    Hillsong is annointed. If you haven't seen Hillson United's iHeart movie, you should. Very moving movie. I wore out one Hillsong CD and will probably wear out this new one. Hillsong IS very popular but that's not important. They are reflecting the Lord showing the way to Jesus...the only way. That's what is important.

    July 27, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  15. Lizena

    Proud of them, for lifting God's name up high!!! Amen!

    July 27, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  16. Julie

    I was lucky enough to attend the Hillsong Church while my daughter lived abroad in London, and it was fabulous! I have never been to a more worshipful experience. So....when I found out that they were coming to Spartanburg, SC this past Sunday, my family drove 2 hours from Charlotte to be a part of it. Let's just say we were not disappointed. Their music truly brings you to the thrown of grace, and we loved it. I hope they do more tours of the US in the future, because I will go see them any time I can!

    July 27, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  17. Hendry

    What Hillsong Church is doing is great.. Seeing how their music has impacted countless lives.. & my life.. The church is not a perfect church.. But we know the positive fruits coming out of its ministry.. I support them and love to see them doing greater things in the future..

    July 27, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  18. Rhea

    I was Blessed to be able to go see " hillsong live" when they came to St. Louis, Mo USA and it was an amazing worship experience. They are such a blessing! I give all the praise to my Lord and Savior- Jesus Christ and so do they : )
    Would to see them come to middle USA again

    July 27, 2010 at 9:59 am |
  19. Julian

    My 13-year-old son and I went to hear Hillsong United in St. Louis a couple of months ago. It, too, was an amazing worship experience, not a concert. So much different than worshipping with our congregation of 125 on Sunday mornings. There were 3,000+ people – what a beautiful sound that was to the Father's ears! Unfortunately, we aren't going to be able to hear the Live group in Tulsa. I hope they return in the next year or two!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  20. thomasbartel

    I saw Hillsong perform in Phoenix last Fall. They are an amazing band and could show some mainstream artists how to write and sing songs. They are an amazing group of people from diverse backgrounds who truly have a heart for other people and there needs.

    July 27, 2010 at 9:51 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.