Jayma Anne Montgomery
Why the Rise and Fall of Hillsong Should Be Viewed as a Blessing
Christians and Jews know the story of the tower of Babel well. The people of the day began to demonstrate great capability by coming together and literally building a tower to the heavens (Gen 11:1-9). This is probably also meant to be taken metaphorically as well because Hebrew scholars were quite brilliant in their literary style. Growing up, I always wondered what the big deal was about this story. On the surface, it doesn't seem bad at all. A lot of things in the Bible are about understanding context and the intention of the Biblical authors. I won't get into the specifics of Hebrew translation here because this blog isn't really intended for that and I am working on being more succinct. But I will say that one of the things that this tower represented was humankinds thirst for limitless power and achievement. It was a way of saying to the Almighty that we are mighty in our own right and we are ascending to His place to dethrone Him as king because we ultimately want to be the sovereign rulers over all things. We believe we know better than GOD. This has been at the root of most sinful behavior since the original fall of mankind.
We have many figurative towers of Babel: biological weapons, weapons of mass destruction, the dark web, sinister aspects of virtual reality, eugenics, genocide, and human trafficking, just to name a few. We think that just because we can accomplish a difficult thing that we absolutely should no matter the cost to our neighbors. Towers of Babel labeled as 'church' are no better. GOD's spirit departed the tabernacle due to Israel's disobedience to their covenant with Him; mostly exhibited in their unjust treatment of the disadvantaged and idolatry. What makes us think that we are any different? As I once heard the brilliant Tim Gombis say on his podcast, there are likely many church buildings that are conducting the appearance of 'christian' practices but from whom the spirit of GOD has long departed due to disobedience and idolatry.
The church is GOD's bride not our personal creation. If He is choosing this time and this means to purge it from political idolatry, child sexual abuse, the exploitation of women, abusive leaders, and traditions/practices that are overall not conforming His people to the image of His son, then that's His prerogative. If Jesus had to be shamed publicly and die a gruesome death then why should we be spared? We may not have individually committed these sins but we are one body and we are called to corporately confess, repent, and make amends to the world. Our appetite for good vibes, celebrity culture, and surface charisma is unhealthy and unproductive. Lets just own this one (regardless of the denomination you claim or reject). If we could just sit in the aftershock for several beats then maybe we could actually learn some things that could help us grow and not keep making the same tired mistakes over and over again. It's exhausting. We will always be the light. The missionary work we continue to do around the world as well as the outreach we are doing to help refugees in Ukraine right now is a beautiful testimony to that. But we still have some serious heart work to do here in the national church of the United States of America. We need to humble ourselves and be honest about the ways in which we have failed to live up to what Jesus has called us to do. We will have to answer for the vulnerable populations that He has called us to protect and serve that we have played a role in exploiting if we don't change our ways and I dread that day.
You may be wondering, like my astute husband did, why I am not getting into the particulars of the various scandals of Hillsong ministries. It's because they are stories that we have all heard before and I simply don't care to rehash them here. There is a link below that covers it quite nicely as well as an in depth documentary about it on the Discovery+ App. It's a pattern of behavior that plagues Christendom, from Catholicism to Evangelicalism and it needs to die a very painful and permanent death. You may also be wondering what the whole corporate repentance thing is all about as well. It's a theme that is all over the Bible and I will definitely dedicate some time to talk about it in the near future. Becoming part of a liturgical tradition after being raised in an evangelical tradition has really reformed my thinking on this. Until the body at Christ at large learns to do this routinely and wholeheartedly we are doomed to repeat this sick, sad cycle. We absolutely have to re-examine and restructure the way that we execute church gatherings, community, and leadership. Regarding the trail of wounded, disillusioned people who are left out in the margins of the fallout, I don't really here much talk about what can be done to restore them. But they matter to GOD and they certainly should matter to His people.
Skye Jethani in his 'With God Daily' Devotional once talked about the Megachurch phenomenon comparing it to Goliath. It appears tall and invulnerable but there are many hidden weak points. Ultimately, this hulking giant was taken down by a small boy, a sling, a stone, and a structural weak point on his head. Likewise, many megachurches simply lack structural integrity. Eventually, many little things come along to eat away at those structural defects and when its time to fall, it falls hard...and does so publicly. Nothing is ever too
big to fail. And I thank GOD for that.