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 (193 Responses)
  1. 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 |
  2. hannah house

    Hillsong if you guys really do read this I want you to know that I love you guys and I appreciate what your doing...I went to one of your resent concerts in oklahoma. It was hillsong united. Well I absolutely loved it...and I wish every night was like that I ant describe how awesome it was...it really changed me...along with my youth group...people were changed and people were spoken too...and things were realized...so I thank you with all my heart and I hope you keep doing what your doing...so keep up the awesome work and never stop cuz things will get better. So I hope you guys have a good day and take care...I love you guys and I hope you know that...your doing something wonderful for god and I hope you know that...so if your reading this I hope you have a good day and take care 🙂

    July 27, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  3. Caetano

    I had the privilege to be part pf Hillsong church while living in London, and I can tell you that much They are awesome!!
    So caring and friendly and no need to talk about their music; absolutelly heaven in earth!
    God bless you all

    July 27, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  4. Jeamy

    They are a blessing for the youth out there, God uses them in a bigger way....It has help our youth to grow spiritual and not to be ashamed of whom they beleive in....May God keep blessing you and used the way He has....Que Dios Los Bendiga.

    July 27, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  5. Mereline

    Hillsong increase my faith, they made me grow on the spiritual level. It's not about me it's about Him to Honor HIm, to Glorify Him, to worship Him, Everything is for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    The first song I hear was Mighty to Save then At the Cross, This is Our God, Living to make your name High, with Everything, Dessert Song, Where we belong, now when I wake up in the morning and before I go the sleep, also when we are with our Youth reunion at the church every friday the song I loved to sing is From the Inside Out.
    Thank You God for sending us messages trough Hillsong.

    July 27, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  6. Cynthia

    Hillsong Live and the church has changed our family and the churches in which we have served over the last 15 yrs. Hillsong has impacted Christians around the world with a focus on God and others. They have touched Heaven and are changing the Earth. I honor the gift that God has given me, in them. Thank you CNN for airing this report.

    July 27, 2010 at 9:22 am |
  7. Kevin Smith

    Hillsong is more then just music!!! You see this when you visit their church in Sydney and hear the heart of what they are doing... The music you hear at their worship services and on the records ARE songs that the people of their church are singing... God is using them in a mighty way to bring HOPE and LIFE to a world...

    July 27, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  8. Lissy

    Hillsong has been such a blessing in my walk with Christ! I saw them in the States & went to worship with them in Sydney...its amazing to see how God can work through people. The authenticity of their commitment to Jesus & His Word was refreshing & inspiring! Praise God for their ministry around the globe!!

    July 27, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  9. Ann Christine

    God Bless Hillsong.. ";) we pray dat u will continue to inspire people in worshiping our Lord thru music and talents...truly all Praise to God..":)

    July 27, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  10. Michael

    Thanks guys for bringing your passion for God to the states! My son, daughter and I were with you in SC. Your music has seen many through hard times and lead many to find hope for the first time. May God continue to bless you mightily!

    July 27, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  11. I.Gagz

    Love Hillsong...I got to see them in Ocean Grove, NJ last year, they were awesome!!! Truely annointed by God to serve/minister to the adults, young adults & teens...bringing them closer to Christ. God Bless them!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  12. Vimbai

    Hillsong Rocks man – Praise GOD for rock-pomping music that's not filled with sexual suggestion, porn, hate, greed & selfishness – and is still contemporary, vibrant, relevant to our generation...excellent man, just excellent!

    July 27, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  13. Nicole

    I saw Hillsong last year in my home town of Toronto then I flew to Miami to see them again. I've never witnessed such pure worship. No egos on how great they where, just worshipping God. I can't wait for them to come back to Toronto.

    July 27, 2010 at 8:17 am |
  14. Mwenda

    I got introduced to them in 2003,prior to which i used to hear their music from a distance and enjoy. But i think i am their biggest fan right now. My dream is to attend their Live Worship service in Sydney. I say this because their music has transformed me and ushers me into God's presence. And they are quite popular these ends of Africa. God bless you Hillsong!!

    July 27, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  15. Cherryn Whisler

    Love Hillsongs!!! Love their music and the really minister to me. Thank you for all that you do.

    July 27, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  16. Luis Burgos

    They are a very connected to God's heart and show it by they songs.

    July 27, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  17. Tim W

    Absolutely love Hillsong. A group from our church would love to see them in person, provided they make it to Texas one day. Keep up the kingdom work, you really make a difference in peoples lives. God bless you all.

    July 27, 2010 at 8:09 am |
  18. JW Barnhill

    God has so blessed the body of believers at Hillsong church. I have worshipped with them TWICE. Apparently this is not an easy feat in the US. Favorite song: You Deserve. What an experience! Love you guys and pray fo the best of what God has in store for you all!

    July 27, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  19. Fidel

    Wether Hillsong is top or last in sales or popularity is not even a concern of mine. Since I got saved There worship has encouraged a deep awarenes, love and appreciation of Jesus. Unlike so many "gospel" artistes, their music is Christ centered. Too often we hear entire "gospel" albums about me, my problems, my victories, my promises form God (I'm not saying that these are not important), and very little mention of the name or love of Jesus. "The one who saves" and "You" are two of my faves from the last album.

    P.S. I've never been to the U.S. or Australia. I'm actually from a small island in the Caribbean, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I thank The Lord that he uses you guys to touch the entire world.

    July 27, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  20. Kangopie

    Hillsong comes to SA lots! we love them!!

    July 27, 2010 at 7:28 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.