Multi-platinum-selling and award-winning Christian worship band Hillsong UNITED is gearing up for the release of their album PEOPLE, and The Christian Post caught up with founding band member JD Douglass to get a look at how the ministry continues to revolutionize worship music worldwide.
Hillsong church was founded by Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie, in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, in 1983. It has now grown from a single church to an international ministry that has churches in 21 countries on six continents, including: London, England; Paris, France; Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa; Tel Aviv, Israel; and three cities in the United States.
The church has an average global attendance approaching 130,000 weekly.
In the U.S., Hillsong is recognized for its thriving congregations in New York City, Los Angeles, California, and Phoenix, Arizona, and their services are frequently attended by many A-list celebrities.
There are three different musical groups affiliated with Hillsong Church, these are Hillsong Worship, Hillsong Young & Free, and Hillsong UNITED.
Hillsong UNITED has sold more than 4.7 million albums and remains the No. 1 Christian artist on all social media platforms with over 10.5 million fans combined. Their new live album PEOPLE will be released on April 26 and is said to reflect the band’s roots and core mission of “unity.”
In support of their new music, UNITED will also return to the U.S. for the first time in three years for their The People Tour MMXIX.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post‘s interview with longtime Hillsong church member and founding member of Hillsong UNITED, JD Douglass, who talks about the evolution of Hillsong music, their commitment to God, and their influence on western culture.
CP: Your relationship with Hillsong Church has been a lifelong journey. What’s it been like to be a part of the ministry all these years?
JD: I feel extremely blessed. Everyone has a different journey, but my parents are Christian so not going to church wasn’t an option in our family. I’m kind of glad that we’ve been going to Hillsong church my whole life. There really hasn’t been a time that I haven’t wanted to go [to church].
We’re definitely not the best or the most perfect church but it’s a church where we’ve got great leadership that just believes in the next generation. That believes in encouraging, letting people know that God does have a plan and purpose for everyone’s life, and that’s a really encouraging life-filled environment.
Growing up in that, going from the school of Hillsong and then in the youth ministry, it’s been a great experience. I never dreamed or imagined that I’d be part of the music team, especially with UNITED and being able to be around those early days and to see 20 years on now what God has done and how faithfully He’s been. It’s definitely one of those things that has blown our expectation and probably surprised us more than anybody.
CP: Hillsong has revolutionized Christian culture, even down to what people wear to church in a lot of contemporary churches. Was that intentional as a way to reach people?
JD: It’s kind of funny to see how that’s unfolded as I look back over the journey. But to be honest, it wasn’t anything that we did intentionally, and I think I can say that about the whole Hillsong journey. I think that we’re just lucky that in the part of the world that we grew up in, Australia has always had great churches and people that are following Jesus. But I guess the culture is a lot different in the church. Different people, different languages, and they all have different accents. And I think one thing about Australia is that we’re very laid back because it is a secular nation.
It was actually a weird thing to go to church in Australia. The majority of Australians don’t go to church. So just the way that our culture was in the church within Australia was very laid back. So I think for us, we didn’t know anything else except to dress how we wanted to, and sometimes that was the same as our school friends or whatever was the fashion at the time.
We have a lot of respect and honor for the house of God and the platform, but I honestly just think that, again, if we can just be who we’re called to be and be authentic to ourselves, and do our best to honor and please God, then He will have His way.
It’s funny, and I can see now that it’s probably worked to our advantage, but it’s all laughs that that has happened because there was absolutely no intention. It’s just kind of how we grew up and it was to our surprise that it wasn’t the same all over the world. God has been able to use that to help people and to get His message into the hearts of many, and I’m all about it.
But yeah, we kind of sit back and laugh about that stuff because it was not intentional.
CP: Discipling people to be like Jesus in this day and age is very counter-cultural. How do you, as someone who has been in church leadership, disciple people in this generation?
JD: At the risk of sounding cliche or too basic, I can’t go past looking at Jesus and use His example. I think where we get it wrong is when we overlook, or we go too far away from the truth of God’s word. I think, automatically thinking about Jesus’ ministry, it was full of opposition from the religious people of the day. There’s not many or any stories that I can remember, in the Bible, where He got attacked by the non-Christian or the nonreligious people of the day. He got all this opposition, all resistance from the religion that had been set up in His time.
It does surprise me that other religious groups, or churches, or people of faith would oppose what we do. But I also think that we’ve got grace for that, because, again, Jesus. Also, Paul was constantly writing letters about how “we are going to have opposition, living this life of faith and this life sacrifice and hard times.” What I love though is that the Bible always talks about the fact that it’s worth it, and God is with us, and He’s made us perfect in our weakness.
It’s not always going to work out the way that we want, it’s not always going to be perfect. But at the same time, it is always going to be worth it and God is always with us. I think that would be the biggest thing that I want to encourage the next generation or anyone really to not get discouraged when things aren’t going our way. To understand that out our journey of following God and being in relationship with Jesus is one of trusting Him and that He’s working all things together for good.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jeannie Law