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The False Gospel Of Hillsong (Part 4) – My Entire Correspondence With Hillsong

Today, I am going to post the entirety of my correspondence with Hillsong, or more specifically, Robert Fergusson. I realize that a lot of this has already been posted, but I thought it might be useful to have the entire dialogue and chronology laid out in a single post so the reader can get a clear picture, and also as a tool for others to pressure Hillsong (e-mail them at prayer@hillsong.com). Forgive me if this is too long for you – if you don’t want to read through the entire dialogue then you can scroll down to Fergusson’s e-mails which are in italics.

For those of you who don’t know who Robert Fergusson,here is his profile on the “Hillsong International Leadership College” website:

Robert Fergusson
Cert.IV AWT, PGCE, B.Sc (Hons)
Trainer and Advisor (Pastoral Leadership)

Robert Fergusson is one of the Senior Associate Pastors at Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia where his primary responsibilities are preaching and teaching in the Bible College. Originally from England, Robert was a minister there for twelve years before he moved to Australia in 1990. He has travelled extensively and has a passion to teach practical life principals. Robert is married with three adult children.

From what I am told, Fergusson is perhaps the most popular and prominent preacher at Hillsong Sydney along with senior pastor Brian Houston. Someone who is recognized for biblical insight. In the light of the glowing endorsements of Fergusson’s teaching/preaching you will have to arrive at your own conclusion after reading through this correspondence.

On Wednesday December 30th 2009 I wrote the following mail to Hillsong’s prayer@hillsong.com address which is supposed to be for non-Christians with questions:

To whom it may concern,

I recently read through the CD liner notes of your “Hillsong Live – Mighty To Save” CD. In it I found an explanation on how to become a Christian.

Here is what it said:

“Our prayer is that you would discover the Author of Love . . . Jesus. His life and death represent the greatest gift of love the world will ever see . . . a gift for you. All you need to do is accept it . . . a brand new start to a life lived in relationship with God. Meeting God is as simple as praying a prayer . . . asking Jesus to meet you right where you are. If you are not sure that you know God, and that you are going to heaven, then make this your prayer today . . .

Dear Lord Jesus

I need You . . . I need Your grace to forgive me and I need your love to change me. Thank You for your amazing love. Thank You for giving me life and eternity. But above all, thank you for dying on the cross for me.

I accept You as my Lord and Saviour. Now I’m a Christian, which means You live in me.

I belong to You. I will live my life for You and I will love You forever . . . Amen.”

Now I am concerned about several things lacking in this presentation including Who God is, defining what sin is, that we must all be judged, and why Christ needed to die on the cross. These all give me great cause for concern with the gospel you are proclaiming. But I want to zero in on one particular issue. On your website you have a statement of “what we believe” which says this:

We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the ‘new birth’ we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives. (http://myhillsong.com/what-we-believe)

Can you please explain to me why repentance is never mentioned in the gospel presentation in the CD’s you sell but your website says that “in order to receive forgiveness and the ‘new birth’ we must repent of our sins”? Can you tell me which one is the correct?

Adding to this I noticed on the back cover of the CD liner notes a quotation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

By checking in my Bible I found this verse to be incomplete and is missing the words in bold print:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Can you explain to me why you deleted the line from that verse that speaks specifically about repentance? I hope you agree that it is very serious indeed to add to or delete information from sacred Scripture.

I am very concerned about this. I’m sure you would agree that the stakes are high and it is imperative that we get the Gospel right. Eternal destinies hang in the balance. The Apostle Paul said:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

I would appreciate your response as to where Hillsong church actually stands on repentance and that you would promptly ammend your website or the CD liner notes that you publish. I am writing to you first to give you opportunity to clarify your position before I discuss this publicly on my blog.

Sincerely
Cameron Buettel

Well Hillsong’s 911 emergency hotline sent me an out of office auto reply with another e-mail address – bethany.norton@hillsong.com. So I resent the e-mail to that address but it seems that Bethany was not used to these sort of questions. Finally on Thursday 7th January 2010, 8 days later, Robert Fergusson responded. It would seem my letter had spent several days moving up their theological chain of command to answer my “difficult questions”.

Hi Cameron,

Thank you for your recent email and your obvious concern for truth and the preaching of the gospel. I am responding on behalf of Hillsong church as one of the key preachers here.

Let me assure you that at Hillsong church we are as committed to the declaration of truth as you evidently are. As you have seen from our statement of faith our beliefs are those held by the Australian Christian Churches. All of our preaching and publications attempt to reflect those beliefs. For instance, in the example that you have chosen, although we didn’t use the word ‘repent’ on that occasion, we did use the words, ‘change’ and ‘forgive’. We felt that was appropriate at the time and I am sorry if you feel that is inadequate. Nonetheless, we do regularly review all our preaching and publications and have noted your helpful comments. May I suggest you visit our Hillsong church in London, which may allay some of your concerns.

We pray that God continues to bless you and your ministry,

Yours sincerely,

Robert Fergusson.

I wrote back on the following day (Friday the 8th of January 2010):

Dear Robert, I am honored that you would take the time to write to me. I do know of you as an author and seem to recall that you are from the UK. I hope I’m right about that.

I am from Australia (though I now live in Denmark) and my background is in the AOG movement. I am aware that Hillsong cops it’s share of criticism – much of which is unfounded. I know that most of the controversy swirls around money and the use of it. Conspiracy theories abound as much as the wild imaginations of their originators. I realize that you probably get asked many “loaded questions” with an agenda bent on discrediting the Hillsong church. I would hope that you would not categorize me among these people but would biblically consider the objections I raise. They pertain to the purity of the Christian Gospel of which I preach both in the pulpit and on the street. And my questions have no grounding in personal credibility but in the authority of Scripture – which the Hillsong website professes: “We believe that the Bible is God’s Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our every day lives”. So please, regardless of what you think of my personal credibility, I ask that you give my words merit on the basis of their alignment to Holy Scripture.

I must be clear from the outset that I am very critical of the gospel proclaimed by Hillsong that I have been exposed to in both print and audio form. In my travels I have spoken with members of Hillsong church which has only served to increase my concerns about the gospel that is preached there. Also, a good friend of mine, while filming a reformation documentary in London, bumped into and interviewed some leaders from Hillsong London in which they were unable to clearly articulate the Christian Gospel – this again was more fuel on the fire in prompting me to write. I believe that God made His Gospel knowable for a wretch like me and it is a subject/discussion that does not require top level theologians to discuss at the basic level. I have just completed a series on my blog (www.onceuponacross.blogspot.com) which you are welcome to critique entitled “The Anatomy of the Gospel”. Based on Scripture and, to a lesser extent, church history I have asserted that all Gospel proclamations must include:

1. Who God is – His Holiness (Romans 1:18-20)
2. Who man is – sin must be clearly defined in order to show us our sinfulness (Romans 3:10-23)
3. Judgment – heaven and hell – God must judge because He is good, loving, and righteous and we are not (Rev 20:12-15)
4. What Christ has done – the cross and the resurrection – that Christ died to endure God’s wrath in the place of sinners and credit sinners with His righteousness – He rose from the dead confirming that He is God and made satisfactory payment for our sins. (Rom 3:24-26)
5. How man must respond – repentance from sin and faith towards Christ (Acts 20:2-21)

Now I could have targetted any one of those five points as the presentation in the CD liner notes was sadly lacking on all five. But I zeroed in on repentance as it is clearly affirmed by Hillsong’s own doctrine statement.

I noticed on the back cover of the CD liner notes a quotation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

By checking in my Bible I found this verse to be incomplete and is missing the words highlighted in bold:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Can you explain to me why you deleted the line from that verse that speaks specifically about repentance? I hope you agree that it is very serious indeed to add to or delete information from sacred Scripture.

Robert, there is no excuse for taking a scalpel to Scripture like this. It is bad enough when people quote verses out of context. How much worse to delete words out of a verse and print it as if that is what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says. The text does not even contain a … to show that the verse has been abbreviated. I don’t blame you for this and realize that you cannot possibly know everything that goes on in a ministry as large as Hillsong. But neither can I see how you could possibly defend this as a professing Christian preacher.

And there is no way that the words “change” and “forgive” (as found in the CD liner notes “prayer”) remotely resemble repentance from sin in their context. Please read it again remembering that the faith statement says that people “must repent of sin” in order to receive forgiveness. Repentance is never mentioned and neither is sin. Robert, please take this seriously as a steward of the Gospel. If people must repent of their sin in order to receive forgiveness but the CDs that are sold say nothing that remotely resembles that they are giving false assurance. Please, I beg you, listen to your conscience. Please change your literature to reflect this truth and make sure that your preaching is consistent with this.

The Gospel is not about happiness but righteousness. People must come to Christ seeing their unrighteousness and need for righteousness found only in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. A failure to talk about sin and the need to repent from that sin is short changing the glorious Gospel at its foundational level.

Sincerely
Cameron Buettel

Robert Fergusson replied again the same day (Friday 8th of January 2010):

Hi Cameron,

Thank you for your email and, once again, thank you for your observations. To be honest, I think it would be unprofitable for us to engage in a long debate on the nature of the gospel. It would also be ungracious for either of us to suggest that we believe the Bible, repentance or the gospel more than the other. We are both endeavoring, by the grace of God, to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and we should pray for and support one another in that endeavor.

God bless,

Robert Fergusson.

I responded again on the same day (Friday 8th January 2010):

Now Robert, be reasonable. They are fair questions that I am asking. How can you even suggest that repentance from sin is discussed in the Gospel presentation found in the CD? I was hopeful you would address the issue – not pretend it doesn’t exist! I am not suggesting I believe the Gospel more than you – I am saying that if you do believe the Gospel then you will put a stop to the false one being presented on behalf of Hillsong. Doesn’t it concern you at all that Hillsong propogates information telling people to pray this prayer and then you are a child of God with no call to repentance from sin. No mention of the cross. No mention of our guilt. Please tell me this is of concern to you as a preacher of the Gospel?

Cameron

So there you have it. What do you think about the theological guardians of the Hillsong empire?

Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

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