I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Hillsong Church, but I’m also not a fan of bad journalism and reporting, and that’s exactly what happened Wednesday night on Channel 9’s A Current Affair when Ben McCormack’s most recent attack on the mega-church aired, this time, focusing on the currently-running Hillsong Conference.
It could be so easy to hammer in on Ben McCormack’s atrocious “reporting”, listing out each and every lie and half-truth (and ignoring the occasional accidental truth). But there’s not a lot that can come from that — in the end, McCormack has a much wider audience than I currently have, and it’s a visual-tabloid, sensationalist medium to boot. I plan to leave Ben McCormack to God. (I also believe God doesn’t want us responding to each and every attack on His people like ambulance-chasing lawyers.)
But there is something important that can be taken away from this.
Hillsong is, to say the least, a polarizing entity in the Christian world. Their childish and naive press release in response to the A Current Affair story is proof that just because someone or some thing is attacked, does not inherently place them in an unassailable position. But the tenor of the A Current Affair had very little to do with the differing theological issues Hillsong is often at the very heart of. The story made no effort to hide its mockery of Christianity, and repeatedly misrepresented tenants of the Christian faith such as tithing/giving, serving, etc. Amidst the fallacies and deceptions regarding the Hillsong Conference, the report made one thing very clear:
The world hates Christianity.
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.” — John 15:19
In many ways, Hillsong was not the target of A Current Affair’s attempt at reporting. Questions were raised about why people give money to the church, and whether they really believe that their money is being given to God. Volunteering to serve God was similarly questioned, working for no financial reward clearly a baffling concept. The very idea of meeting to encounter and learn about Jesus was repeatedly spoken of in the tone of bullying sixteen-year olds.
The very fact that they targeted Hillsong has a lot more to do with simply aiming for the most obvious and current public representation of Christianity.
But we should not be surprised at this.
Jesus made it very clear to his followers that they would be hated by the world, as did those who taught after Jesus had been raised to heaven:
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” — 1 Peter 4:12-14
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” — James 1:2-3
There were always going to be trials and tribulations of various degrees and kinds for God’s children — and being buffeted by yet another A Current Affair attack on Hillsong must needs be seen clearly to be very low on the degree of testing that Christians have suffered down through the centuries. Rather, the sheer ease of mocking Christianity as evidenced by A Current Affair is indicative of the increasing popularity such a view holds these days, and is at least partially responsible for the greater horrors that have taken place throughout history, and continue to take place all over the world today.
How then should we behave? Should I have ignored my inner writing-conscience and dot-pointed my way through A Current Affairs deceits? Should Hillsong Conference attendees take an hour out from their Streams today and go picket the Channel 9 studios? Should we all begin to verbally return the mounting abuse that Christianity is facing today, maybe even partake in some retaliatory hate-crimes ourselves?
Simply put, no.
God gave us an answer to how to live our lives long before Jesus acted out how we should live our lives:
“How happy is the man
who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners
or join a group of mockers!
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.”
— Psalm 1:1-2
The two ways described in Psalm 1 acts as an opening to the remainder of the book, a preface to the remaining 149 psalms that follow. Everything that comes after is in lieu of the message of how to live presented in Psalm 1. The wicked “are like chaff that the wind blows away” and they “will not survive the judgement, and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous.” (Psalm 1:4-5)
But those who take delight in the Lord’s instruction, and who meditates on it, “is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)
The world may hate us — in fact it does, clearly evidenced in numerous news items across the world these past weeks — but we are to be 2 Timothy 2:21 from the world, to be Ephesians 1:4 before the author and saviour of this world. We are to take delight in the Lord, in His instruction, and in glorifying Him.
In his commentary on Psalm 1, one of my favourite commentators, James Montgomery Boice, describes the “futile, empty, worthless life of the godless” chaff mentioned in Psalm 1:
If only those who are running away from God could see this! But they cannot, because they will not listen to God and the world is shouting the exact opposite of the Bible’s teaching. The world says that to be religious is foolishness.1
If only the authors of the A Current Affair report would listen to God, but they are part of the world, shouting out the foolishness of Christianity. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever.” (Romans 1:25) So let us then, ignoring the cries of the godless foolish, “run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Let us delight in God and glorify His name, no matter the rising chorus of mockery that may assail us.
- Psalms — Volume 1, James Montgomery Boice, p.18 ↩