What Is Hillsong Church and Why Do So Many Celebrities Go There?

If you did nothing but read about celebrities all day long, then you’d probably think that Hillsong Church was a great place to spot one. After all, the Christian church has a few A-list celebrities associated with it, from Justin Bieber to Chris Pratt. It all has people wondering – what is Hillsong Church? Who goes there? And what kind of faith do they preach?

Hillsong
Hillsong church | Hillsong via Instagram

Hillsong hails from Australia

Fans are surprised to find that Hillsong isn’t even based in the United States – the church comes from Down Under. It was founded in New South Wales, Australia in the 1980s by Brian and Bobbie Houston. It’s most popular there and boasts more than 100,000 attendees every week, but also has a decent following in other major cities, too. You’ll find a Hillsong church in New York, London, Paris, Moscow, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires, to name a few.

Don’t live in a city? They also live stream their services to people all over the world.

What religion does Hillsong preach?

Faith practices taught at Hillsong are rooted in Pentecostal Christianity. The teachings focus on Bible study, faith in Jesus Christ, and baptism.

The belief systems fell under scrutiny recently when actress Ellen Page tweeted out a criticism of the church. Actor Chris Pratt appeared on The Colbert Show discussing a recent fast he had done under the guidance of his church. Page said on Twitter, “…But his church is infamously anti lgbtq so maybe address that too? If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don’t be surprised if someone simply wonders why it’s not addressed.”

“Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides,” she continued. “The damage it causes is severe.”

Pratt issued a response, saying “Nothing could be further from the truth. I go to a church that opens their doors to absolutely everyone.”

While the church had previously denounced homosexuality as a sin, they also said in a statement that they “love everyone” regardless of sexual orientation.

Pastor Carl Lentz is basically a celebrity himself

There’s more than one pastor at Hillsong, but the one you’ve probably heard of is Carl Lentz. He’s been spotted with Justin Bieber, Hailey Baldwin, Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne. The 32-year-old Virginia native graduated from Hillsong International Leadership College and now offers spiritual guidance to celebrities and other non-famous parishioners, too.

Lentz and his wife Laura run Hillsong New York, which he says is mostly made up of young members in their 20s and 30s. Their parish has 6,000 active members.

Church services are modern and musical

This isn’t your grandmother’s church service. Fancy dresses are swapped for jeans and graphic tees. Instead of practicing worship in an ancient building, church happens in a mix of locations including event spaces like the Hammerstein Ballroom for the NYC outpost. Attending celebrities are granted VIP seating.

The whole thing is very hip and cool – there are neon signs, psalms on iPhones, and upbeat music. The church releases an album every year with songs from Grammy-nominated artists, like the Christian rock group Young & Free.  

They make a lot of money

Celebrity attendees aside, there’s no question that Hillsong is raking in donations. One estimate found that the church brought in $100 million in just a year thanks to record sales, book sales, and regular old donations. Pastors at Hillsong do not take a vow of poverty like they do in some other religions.

Like other megachurches, critics have called Hillsong a “cult” and accused the founders of everything from sexual abuse scandals to exploitation of members. But even with these criticisms, it’s an undeniably popular place to worship for young people (or celebrities) who seek a deeper faith.