“Heaven And Earth Collide”

“Heaven And Earth Collide”

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PNEUMA 39 (2017) 78–104

“Heaven and Earth Collide” Hillsong Music’s Evolving Theological Emphases

Nelson Cowan

Boston University, Massachusetts



Hillsong Music has swept across the global Christian landscape, with many of their songs entering the liturgies of charismatic megachurches and small mainline parishes alike. The theological content of these songs comes under scrutiny for a lack of doctri- nal depth and hyperpersonalism.This paper argues that between 2007 and 2015 the the- ological content of Hillsong Music has become increasingly “generalist.” Notably, this theological shift, as expressed in the hymnody, is embedded in a larger shift in Hillsong Church’s vision: from the local church level to a self-replicating global community. As the scope of the church has widened, so, too, has the theological scope of the hymnody. Methodologically, this project is an exercise in comparative discourse analysis, exam- ining song lyrics, official statements from Hillsong Church, officially sanctioned blogs of the church, and dialoging with liturgical and hymnological discourse.


Hillsong – worship – Pentecostalism – NVivo – lyrics – Christian liturgy


Often dismissively relegated to the category of “individualistic piety,” the music of Hillsong Church has been part and parcel of its identity since its inception in 1983. Through the pastoral leadership of Brian and Bobbie Houston and the worship leadership of early leaders Geoff Bullock, Donna Crouch, and, most notably, Darlene Zschech, the seed of excellence in musical worship germinated, then grew wildly and expansively. With songs such as “Shout to the Lord” (1993) and “Mighty to Save” (2006) setting new standards for

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2017 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03901001


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success, followed by a steady stream of newer titles (such as “Oceans,” 2013, and “No Other Name,” 2014), Hillsong Music has swept across the global Christian landscape, many songs entering the liturgies of charismatic megachurches and small mainline parishes alike.1Hillsong Church estimates that over fifty million people sing their songs worldwide.2As Australian musicologist Mark Evans has recently reported, Hillsong Music Association is currently distributing music to more than eighty-seven countries across the world.3

Despite its significance on a global scale, however, Hillsong Church and its music have been under-researched.4 The theological content of the church’s songs often comes under scrutiny for a lack of doctrinal engagement and hyper- personalism. As such, the trend in liturgical scholarship has been dismissive of Hillsong Music as a formative liturgical force.5 Given that local churches have seemingly “voted with their” feet regardless of the liturgical academy’s caution-

1 The word liturgy (leitourgia—“the work of the people”) will be used frequently throughout


introductions to Protestant liturgy, see James White, Protestant Worship: Traditions in Tran-

sition (Westminster John Knox Press, 1989); see The Study of Liturgy, ed. Cheslyn Jones et al.

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992); see Martin Stringer, A Sociological History of Christian

Worship(Cambridge,uk: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

2 See Hillsong Church’s Media Fact Sheet: http://hillsong.com/fact-sheet/; for more officially

reported numbers, see Hillsong 2013 Annual Report: http://hillsong.com/policies/2013-annual


3 Mark Evans, “Hillsong Abroad: Tracing the Songlines of Contemporary Pentecostal Music,”

in The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in Global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity, ed.

Monique M. Ingalls and Amos Yong (University Park,pa: Pennsylvania State University Press,

2015), 182. Hillsong Music Publishing is the resource and publishing arm of Hillsong Church’s


4 For exceptions, see C. Michael Hawn, “Congregational Singing from Down Under: Experienc-

ing Hillsong’s ‘Shout to the Lord,’” The Hymn 57, no. 2 (2006): 15–24; see Gesa Hartje-Döll,

“(Hillsong) United Through Music: Praise and Worship Music and the Evangelical ‘Imag-

ined Community,’” in Christian Congregational Music: Performance, Identity and Experience,

ed. Monique Ingalls et al. (Surrey, uk and Burlington, vt: Ashgate, 2013); see Greg Scheer,

“Shout to the Lord: Praise & Worship, from Jesus People to Genx,” inNew Songs of Celebration

Render: Congregational Song in the Twenty-First Century, ed. C. Michael Hawn (Chicago: gia

Publications, 2013); see Tanya Riches, “The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Wor-

ship (1996–2007),”AustralasianPentecostalStudies13 (2010): 87–133; see Mark Evans, “Hillsong

Abroad,” in Evans,The Spirit of Praise.

5 Hillsong Church’s music gets lumped into the “contemporary worship” debate and treated

as such. See A. Daniel Frankforter, Stones for Bread: A Critique of Contemporary Worship

(Louisville, ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001); see Gordon Lathrop, “New Pentecost

or Joseph’s Britches? Reflections on the History and Meaning of the Worship Ordo in the

Megachurches,” Worship 72, no. 6 (1998); see Paul Westermeyer, Te Deum: The Church and

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ary tales, this paper proposes a different approach. Presupposing that Hillsong Music (and indeed, sacred music in general) serves as a method of liturgical formation, this paper argues that Hillsong’s lyrical repertory has not remained monolithic, but over the years has both deepened in doctrinal engagement and widened in doctrinal scope. In an exercise of comparative discourse analysis, this project primarily surveys and examines song lyrics spanning the years 2007 through 2015.6 Official statements from Hillsong Church, officially sanctioned blogs of the church, and broader academic discourse will be used as supporting material.

The transformation of Hillsong’s humble beginnings as a forty-five-person congregation in the Sydney suburbs to a global, iconic megachurch “brand” is inextricably tied to its success in musical innovation and in technologies of distribution. Researchers Tom Wagner and Tanya Riches track five phases of Hillsong Music’s development. Phase one (1985–1995) accords with the time of worship leader Geoff Bullock and was Australia-centric in musical and lyri- cal inspiration.7 Phase two (1995–1997) marks the hiring of Darlene Zschech as worship leader and the worldwide success of “Shout to the Lord.”8 It is dur- ing this phase that Integrity Publishing began to distribute Hillsong albums. Phase three (1998–2002) signals the emergence of Hillsong United as a youth band producing original songs.9 The fourth phase (2003–2007) stamps Hill- song as an international music brand, with Hillsong London producing their own albums. It is in this phase that Hillsong Live (now referred to as Hill- song Worship) and Hillsong United became better differentiated brands, with Live recording annual live albums and United recording biennial studio-based ones.10 The fifth phase (2008–2012) observes a partnership between Hillsong



8 9 10

Music(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 314–318; see Marva Dawn,Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time(Grand Rapids,mi: Eerdmans, 1995).

Similar approaches are found in Mark Evans, Open up the Doors: Music in the Mod- ern Church (Sheffield, uk: Equinox Publishing, 2006); see Tanya Riches, “The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Worship (1996–2007),” Australasian Pentecostal Stud- ies 13 (2010), http://aps-journal.com/aps/index.php/APS/article/view/108/105; see Daniel Thornton, “Exploring the Contemporary Congregational Song Genre: Texts, Practice, and Industry,” PhD diss., Macquarie University, 2015.

Tom Wagner and Tanya Riches, “The Evolution of Hillsong Music: From Australian Pen- tecostal Congregation into Global Brand,” Australian Journal of Communication 39, no. 1 (2012): 22.

Ibid., 23.


Ibid., 24.

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Music Association and Sony-emi music publishing group, the dissolution of Hillsong London music, and “Live” marked as the “global congregation,” while “United” served as “touring ambassadors” to the globe.11Since 2012, Hillsong has created a third musical brand called “Young and Free,” which is geared toward young adults and has strong characteristics of electronic pop music.12

This project begins intentionally with the year 2007, the year in which Dar- lene Zschech’s resignation as Worship Pastor of Hillsong Church marked the end of a longstanding leadership appointment since 1996.13 Zschech was suc- ceeded in 2008 by Reuben Morgan and Joel Houston, who, along with many other worship leaders and songwriters, have carried on her legacy but also helped spread Hillsong Music even further across the globe.14 Tanya Riches, a doctoral candidate and former Hillsong worship leader, published a similar study in 2010 that tracked Hillsong Worship’s evolving theological emphasis between 1996 and 2007.15 My research is not strictly a continuation of her project given its different methodology, categorizations, and loci of analysis; however, her work has provided valuable insight into the early stages of Hill- song Music.


This project is principally based on an analysis of song lyrics featured on all Hillsong Worship and Hillsong United albums between 2007 and 2015.16 Between these years, and up to the present date (including the recent May 2015 Empiresalbum from the church’s touring band, United), Hillsong has published a total of 170 tracks. Among this 170, 158 are distinct, nonrepeated tracks that

11 12 13 14

15 16


See http://hillsong.com/youngandfree (accessed July 12, 2016).

Riches, “The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Worship (1996–2007),” 87. Joel Houston currently carries the title of Global Creative Director and Co-Lead Pas- tor of Hillsong New York City, while Reuben Morgan serves as the Worship Pastor of Hillsong London. Hillsong Church, “Joel Houston,” http://hillsong.com/contributor/joel -esther-houston/ (accessed July 15, 2015); Hillsong Church, “Reuben Morgan,” http:// hillsong.com/contributor/reuben-morgan/ (accessed July 15, 2015).

See Riches, “The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Worship (1996–2007).” Albums from Hillsong Kids, Hillsong Young and Free, and the 2007 Hillsong Next Gen- eration’s release of In a Valley by the Sea were not included. Further, the 2008 I Heart Revolution project of Hillsong United was not analyzed, except for the few songs that were newly debuted on that album.

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feature lyrics.17These 158 tracks form the locus of this research.The lyrics under analysis were pulled from the official Christian Copyright License International (ccli) database and coded with NVivo, a qualitative research software program typically used for oral interview data.

The song lyrics were coded manually on multiple levels, moving from the basic and objective to the complex and subjective. First, all lyrics were coded by brand name designation—either Hillsong “Worship” (hw) or Hillsong “United” (hu)—and by the year of album release. Because the intended audience and focus of Hillsong Worship and United are different, it is critical to analyze these brand designations separately; however, when appropriate, I will make general conclusions that encompass both of them.18Second, lyrics were coded by the perspective of the worshipper (that is, first-person singular or plural, or no coding if there was no self/group reference) and the address to the Divine (second-person singular, third-person singular). In the one instance where the song was written from the perspective of God, this was coded accordingly. Most songs in the repertory expressed more than one perspective and address. Therefore, rather than coding each occurrence of “perspective” or “address” within a song as a separate unit, the entire song was coded one time per perspective and address in an effort to track a more general change instead of recording the frequency of references.19

Third,bywayof contrast,thelyricsthemselveswerecodedfortheirdoctrinal engagement. Considering the scope and focus of this project, it was important




Ten songs are repeated on both Hillsong Worship (hw) and Hillsong United (hu) albums. Two songs are instrumental only.

Daniel Thornton draws parallels between hu and other “next generation” bands like Jesus Culture, who often experiment with new stylistic elements that “parent” bands later incorporate. In general, Hillsong Young and Free is geared toward youth, hu toward young adults, and hw to a wider audience. See Thornton, “Exploring the Contemporary Congregational Song Genre,” 220, 283.

More often than not, each song contained multiple worshipper perspectives (typically first-person singular in the verses and plural in the choruses) and multiple addresses (typ- ically describing God’s deeds in the third person, then a more intimate, direct address in the second person). This is not uncommon in pentecostal, evangelical, and charis- matic congregational song. In a recent dissertation analyzing contemporary congrega- tion song, Daniel Thornton conjectures that the switching of perspectives may appease the communal/individual dichotomy that is often sharply drawn. See Thornton, “Explor- ing the Contemporary Congregational Song Genre,” 2015. In this connection, see Lester Ruth’s comparison of evangelical hymnody (1737–1969) to theccliTop 25 (1989–2015) in “Some Similarities and Differences between Historic Evangelistic Hymns and Contempo- rary Worship Songs,”Artistic Theologian3 (2015): 68–86.

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to document each doctrinal occurrence within the song, even if the atone- ment, for example, was referenced twice.20 The project initially started with classical doctrines of Christian theology, such as the incarnation, atonement, kingdom of God, the Trinity, and justification, among others. The advantage of discourse analysis, however, is that categories can be added as they appear organically in the source texts. As other doctrinal themes, such as miracles, realized eschatology, Satan, theparousia, and others, appeared while the lyrics were being coded, they were added to the list. The final list of doctrinal cate- gories is as follows: atonement-exemplar; atonement-general; atonement-vic- tor; Christology-Incarnation; Christology-natures of Christ; creation-natural, cosmic; ecclesiology-concrete; ecclesiology-mystical body of Christ; eschatol- ogy-the parousia and end-times; eschatology-realized; imago dei; justification; kingdom of God; mercy and justice; pneumatology; resurrection; sacramental; sanctification; Satan; and the Trinity. Each of these doctrinal categories will be explained in fuller detail in the “Findings” section. I did not include the general “Doctrine of God” in this study because of the difficulty in systematically doc- umenting it. For future research, however, it will be pertinent to explore the attributes associated with God the Father and track their development over time.

Fourth, the lyrics were coded for their expressions of piety. This was a labyrinthine category to code because of the diversity in interpretations of piety and what constitutes “piety” as contained in lyrics. Theological ethicist James Gustafson understands piety as a set of basic dispositions colored by the concept of “awe and respect” toward God, exemplified by human faithfulness.21 Utilizing ccli’s list of 336 themes, which is featured on their SongSelect soft- ware, I culled the words associated with Gustafson’s definition and organized them into the following four categories: words describing (1) praise, (2) prayer, (3) a relationship with the Divine, and (4) a relationship with humanity (see Table 1).22Many songs featured multiple expressions of piety, but each category




For example, if the chorus proclaimed, “You died for me, Jesus / You died for me, Jesus,” I coded this as “atonement” one time. However, if atonement themes appeared in the chorus and in a separate verse, I coded it as “atonement” twice. If it appeared in a verse, chorus, and bridge—three times, etc. A verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, tag, and vamp is considered a separate unit in this project.

James Gustafson, Ethics from a Theocentric Perspective, vol. 1:Theology and Ethics(Univer- sity of Chicago Press, 1981), 201–203.

SeeccliSongSelect, “Themes,” https://us.songselect.com/themes (accessed July 10, 2015). These categorizations are not intimating that words describing praise and prayer do not also signify a relationship with God. However, the ccli themes such as “commitment,”

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was coded only once per song in an effort to track a general trend over the years, rather than tabulating frequency. Though the categories of piety may appear too general, I observed that separately querying themes such as “exaltation,” “rejoice,” and “adoration” was superfluous to a general tracking of pious expres- sions. If this were the repertory of a mainline Protestant hymnal, for example, there would necessarily be different categories of piety, such as sacraments, lament, and social justice. However, the broad categories I selected are consis- tent with the majority of Hillsong’s lyrical piety.

On a less precise level, I used the NVivo software to run word frequency queries. Though these queries include song titles in their frequency analysis, I was able to track the most commonly used words for Hillsong Worship and Hillsong United. More specifically, I tracked references of divine names accord- ing to each year and each brand designation. Although these query results are ancillary to the overall focus of this project, they are helpful in gauging patterns and supporting the target data. As a final note before turning to the Findings section, each phrase or song that has been coded to a particular doctrinal com- mitment or expression of piety contains a direct quotation from the song, typ- ically with a few lines of context surrounding it. It is available as a resource for further inquiry.


In this section, I will provide the results of all twenty categories of doctrine, beginning with the most notable findings about theology, followed by the less significantdataregardingtheologicalcontent.Iwillthenreporttheusageof the perspectives and addresses to the Divine, the four expressions of piety, andwith word frequency. For every result that yielded a significant statistical change, analysis proceeds in dialogue with other Hillsong publications and academic discourse.23


“confidence,” “expectation,” “obedience,” “surrender,” and “trust,” among others, needed a category of their own. Hence, they were grouped into “relationship with the Divine.” While the meaning of the first three categories can be intuited rather easily, the fourth, “words describing a relationship with humanity,” needs more attention. This category refers to song lyrics that exhort other believers or all of creation todosomething.The most common examples of this are phrases that follow the verb let, such as Hillsong United’s song “Glow,” which declares, “Let the earth come to life in the light of Heaven’s glow / and the streets shout with joy as the shackles lose their hold.”

The abbreviations “hw” for Hillsong Worship and “hu” for Hillsong United will be used throughout the analysis.

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Key Findings of Theological Content

Of all the doctrinal categories, atonement is the most frequently appearing theme in Hillsong’s lyrical corpus—a cumulative total of seventy-five men- tions (22 percent of all documented categories). The writers of Hillsong music employ a variety of atonement theories and images, which necessitates a pars- ing of atonement. The first category is “exemplar atonement,” which empha- sizes Christ’s example on the cross as a demonstration of God’s love toward humanity.24 There was only one concrete reference to this atonement theory, occurring in 2007 within hu’s song “Break Free.”25 The second category, “gen- eral atonement,” is an amalgamation of atonement theories—namely, substi- tutionary, penal substitutionary, and satisfaction.26 Many of these atonement theories intersect in the lyrical text, thus making it problematic to force a stark delineation between them. Any language of Jesus dying for “me” or “us” was coded in this category. Further, any language about “debt being paid” or Jesus “paying the cost” for humanity’s sin was coded. The satisfaction of God’s wrath is only mentioned once in Hillsong’s repertory, but also documented in this cat- egory. Betweenhwandhu, there were a total of sixty-six references (by far the most prominent) to these atonement theories. Across the years, there has been little change in the frequency of their utilization. When analyzed separately as hwandhu, the results are the same.

The third category of atonement bears strong resemblance to the “Christus Victor” atonement theory, which is an ancient theory more recently reinvigo- rated and popularized by Gustaf Aulén.27 Victor-themed atonement theories emphasize the victory of Jesus, the triumph of the cross, and the defeat of death and point to the resurrection. There are only eight references to victor- themed atonement theories in the Hillsong corpus; however, this is a recent innovation in Hillsong’s repertory.28 This does not suggest a replacement of






This is a “humanward” and a subjective paradigm of atonement. See P.R. Eddy and J. Beilby, “Atonement,” in Global Dictionary of Theology: A Resource for the Worldwide Church, ed. William Dyrness and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Downers Grove,il:ivpAcademic, 2008), 89. Joel Houston, Matt Crocker, and Scott Ligertwood, “Break Free,” (2006), Hillsong Music Publishing, ccli Song # 4785770. Although written in 2006, it debuted on the 2007 hu album All of the Above.

These atonement theories are categorized as “objective” paradigms because of their emphasis on God’s agency in the atonement event. “Theories that fall within this paradigm tend to emphasize such New Testament themes as vicarious suffering, sacrifice, justifica- tion, and propitiation/expiation.” See Eddy and Beilby, “Atonement,” 2008.

See Gustaf Aulén,Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement, trans. A.G. Hebert (New York: Macmillan, 1967).

Prior to the albums released in 2013, there were zero references.

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the “general” atonement theories, but rather a form of complementary status. In the “Hillsong Collected” blog, worship leader Reuben Morgan writes of the song “Calvary” as an account of “His victory. Calvary covers it all.”29 Interest- ingly, “Calvary” does not contain victor-themed atonement language in the text itself, but Morgan complements the mentions of our debts, our separation, and “His ransom” with an emphasis on Christ’s victory.30

Another notable finding is Hillsong’s emphasis on the incarnation. Lyrics coded as “incarnation” make a direct reference to Jesus as “Word made flesh” but also references to the earthly ministry of Jesus.31 These references are not necessarily tied to the work of Christ on the cross. Between 2007 and 2015, there were eight references to the incarnation, two from hw and six from hu. Both hw and hu show an increasing use of the incarnational theme over the years. Seven out of the eight references occur in 2013 and beyond. In a 2014 blog post from Hillsong Global Lead Pastor Brian Houston, the incarnation and God’s saving work on the cross of Calvary are described as instances of heaven and earth “colliding.” He writes, “… the incarnation is the message of Heaven coming to Earth through the person of Jesus. Jesus—first through His birth ‘when the Word became flesh’ and then through His death and resurrection— brought forth the greatest collision of Heaven and Earth in history.”32 The idea of heaven and earth colliding is a consistent theme across many of their publications and not just connected with the incarnation.

Though “realized eschatology” could be subsumed under the “kingdom of God” category, I wanted to highlight the notion of heaven’s “collision” with earth, namely, references to the “kingdom” that has already come.33There are seven references in hw and six in hu.34 Though the change is subtle, there is an overall increase of references across the years. This category proves to be especially interesting because of the immediacy of heaven and the Kingdom


30 31


33 34

Reuben Morgan, “Calvary (Easter Song Study),”Hillsong Collected (blog), March 31, 2015, http://hillsong.com/collected/blog/2015/03/calvary-easter-song-study (accessed July 16, 2015).


The incarnation, a subset of Christology, is “the process by which God is understood to have become flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.” See Mike Higton, “Incarnation,” inThe Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, ed. Ian McFarland (Cambridge, uk: Cambridge Univer- sity Press, 2011), 235.

Brian Houston, “When Kingdoms Collide,”Hillsong Collected (blog) April 17, 2014, http:// hillsong.com/collected/blog/2014/04/when-kingdoms-collide (accessed July 16, 2015). See Hans Schwarz, “Eschatology,” inThe Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, 169. However, there are twelve references overall due to a shared song from bothhwandhu.

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of God. It is not a coincidence that the word now is ranked the ninth most frequent word across all of Hillsong’s repertory. Lester Ruth notes that the themes of “immediacy of heaven” and realized eschatology are common trends in contemporary worship songs.35 He also writes that their lyrical structure, contra the strophic structure of evangelical hymns, “reinforces the possibility of immediate access as the repeating of verses, chorus, and bridge create an ascending experience.”36The structure of most hw and hu songs accord with Ruth’s assertion.

To be coded as “kingdom of God,” the lyrics needed to mention explicitly the word kingdom or closely resemble the concept of God’s “already, but not yet” reign on earth.37Forhw, kingdom language is used nineteen times, and forhu, ten times. There has been a significant increase in kingdom of God language across the years. hw consistently used this language between one and three times per year, per album; however, the 2014 No Other Name album used king- dom language six times—a sudden spike. Similarly,hupeaked in 2013’s album Aftermath with four references to the kingdom, contrasting their once per album trend in years past. It must be noted, however, that the 2015hu Empires album only featured one vague reference to the kingdom. The track titled “Closer than You Know,” written in part from the perspective of God, intimates to the worshipper that “heaven is closer than you know.”38 Hillsong’s kingdom language lives in the tension of the already—not yet, as some songs proclaim the kingdom’s current “collision” while others pray for its continued unveiling. The kingdom of God is never spoken of as a distant, “only heavenly” reality.

Shane Clifton has observed that the notion of “flourishing” in the present life for the sake of the kingdom of God has diminished the “classical” pente- costal emphasis on the second coming of Christ and the heavenly reality of the kingdom.39Pastor Brian Houston of Hillsong Church has come under pub-


36 37



Ruth, “Some Similarities and Differences between Historic Evangelistic Hymns and Con- temporary Worship Songs,” 75.


C. Clifton Black writes, “In Jesus’ proclamation the kingdom is not coterminous with Israel or any geopolitical entity; neither is it styled as inner spirituality or a utopian dream. The kingdom is a metaphor for God’s dynamic sovereignty throughout eternity (Matt. 13:36–43), already yet secretly erupting in human history (Matt. 13:18–23; Mark 4:22; Luke 17:20–21).” See “Kingdom of God,” inThe Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, 265. Joel Houston, Matt Crocker, Michael Guy Chislett, “Closer thanYou Know” (2015). Hillsong Music Publishing.ccliSong # 7037927.

Shane Clifton, Pentecostal Churches in Transition: Analysing the Developing Ecclesiology of the Assemblies of God in Australia(Leiden: Brill, 2009), 165–166.

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lic scrutiny for readily associating this “flourishing” with material wealth, as evidenced by his 1999 book, You Need More Money: Discovering God’s Amaz- ing Financial Plan for Your Life. In response to critiques, his 2003 book enti- tled How to Flourish in Life reduces the emphasis on money and focuses on flourishing in all aspects of life. More recently, “flourishing” has been linked to social justice, particularly demonstrated through the establishment of the Hillsong Foundation.40 Hillsong music, too, has not escaped critique for con- taining prosperity-influenced lyrics.41 At the same time, their lyrical emphasis on mercy and justice speaks to the diversity of this “flourishing.” In both the teaching and music of Hillsong Church, the kingdom of God is here “colliding” with earth, it is now and yet subjunctive.42

No Significant Pattern

The data from the following doctrinal categories demonstrated no significant change across the years:

Christology—Natures of Christ: Lyrics coded as “natures of Christ” (five references) directly address the ontological nature of Christ—high- lighting either his humanity, his divinity, or the interaction of both (the communicatio idiomatum).

Creation—Natural, Cosmic: This category (seventeen references) con- tains all references to creation, whether the natural world or the cosmic universe. It highlights God’s work and majesty in natural and cosmic cre- ation, as well as creation participating in the worship of God. Ecclesiology—concrete: By “concrete” ecclesiology (five references) I mean direct references to the church, whether a spiritual body or a phys- ical structure.

Ecclesiology—mystical body of Christ: Coding lyrics as “mystical Body of Christ” included references to “nations,” “tribes and tongues,” “all the earth … with the angels” singing praise to God. This was the third most frequent doctrinal category, with forty references.

Eschatology—the parousia and end times: All references to the second coming of Jesus, end-time visions, or end-of-life prophetic visions were

40 41


Ibid., 165.

See Kate Bowler and Wen Reagan, “Bigger, Better, Louder: The Prosperity Gospel’s Impact on Contemporary Christian Worship,”Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Inter- pretation24, no. 2 (2014): 186–230.

This is an avenue where a comparative project of Brian Houston’s sermons and teachings with Hillsong Music’s lyricism is needed.

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coded as “parousia and end times.” There were thirteen total references. No pattern is evident for hw, but it is notable that hu has not made a reference since 2009.

imago dei: There is only one reference to this, and it occurs in the 2015hu title track “Empires,” claiming, “we are shadows and portraits / empires of light and clay / images of our Maker / sinners called out as saints.”43 It will be interesting to see if there are any further developments in this doctrinal expression.

Justification: This category coded all references to the regeneration of the believer as “justification.”The most frequent words associated with regen- eration are variations of “saved” and “redeemed.” This was the second most frequent doctrinal category cited, with fifty-four references. Mercy and Justice: Most of these twenty references refer to God’s and humanity’s role in justice and compassion for the global poor, as well as biblical justice themes such as caring for the widow and orphan. Pneumatology: Lyrics coded as “pneumatology” (eighteen references) were those that directly mentioned “Spirit” or “Holy Spirit”—the third Person of the Trinity.

Resurrection: Lyrics coded as “resurrection” mention the raising of Christ from the dead. I chose to code specifically for resurrection because my analysis observed Hillsong’s tendency to highlight Jesus’s death without mention of the resurrection. Though I predicted an increase over the years, there was no such pattern. Twenty-three references.

Sacramental: There were only two sacramental references—one about baptism in hw’s 2012 “Beneath the Waters” and one vaguely about com- munion inhu’s 2015 “Closer than You Know.”

Sanctification: Generally, sanctification (five references) describes the process following justification in which the believer, through God’s grace, grows in love for God and neighbor.44

Satan: There are only two references to personified evil—one in 2012 and one in 2014. Both instances appear onhwreferring to the “Devil” and the “evil one.”

Trinity: In this category, I coded songs as “Trinity” and “Trinity-unclear.” The “Trinity” designation means that all three persons are referenced in the song, though not necessarily addressed as triune. For example, the



Ben Tennikoff, Chris Davenport, Dylan Thomas, and Joel Houston, “Empires” (2015). Hill- song Music Publishing.ccliSong # 7037637.

For more information on general understandings of Sanctification, see Van A. Harvey, A Handbook of Theological Terms(New York: Touchstone Books, 1964), 214–215.

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2007 hw and hu song “Saviour King” features functions of each Person in the Trinity, but never addresses them as three-in-one. In contrast, the 2014 hw song “This I Believe (The Creed)” mentions each Person, then exclaims, “Our God is three in One.”45The above-mentioned songs are the only two songs acrosshwandhucoded as “Trinity.” Eight other songs are coded as “Trinity-unclear.” (This indicates that two persons of the Trinity are explicitly mentioned, while the third is alluded to, but not concretely referenced.)

Perspective / Address Findings

Of the 158 distinct songs on hw and hu (counting the “overlap” songs only once) albums, 112 (71 percent) contain first-person singular perspectives, while 82 (52 percent) contain first-person plural perspectives. The overlap indicates the songs containing both singular and plural perspectives. In terms of address- ing the divine, 141 (89 percent) songs contain second-person singular addresses and 73 (46 percent) contain third-person addresses. Once again, the over- lap indicates songs containing multiple addresses. The only detectable trend across the years is a reduction in the use of first-person plural address, which is very minimal (seeTables 3a–b).The years 2007 through 2009 proved to have the largest frequency of “first-person plural” perspective, a trend emerging at the same time as Hillsong’s promotion of the I Heart Revolution, “a multimedia- based social justice project,” as Gesa Hartje-Döll terms it.46

The only other noteworthy pattern is an increase in songs dedicated to the third-person address. This is a different pattern from songs that solely utilize a third-person address in one section. (For songs to be considered “dedicated,” it had to contain more than two units—for example, a verse and a chorus, or two verses—referring to God in the third person.) Among the fifteen ded- icated third-person songs, six were written in 2014 and 2015—an impressive increase. The remainder were evenly spread throughout the other years. These songs tend to exhibit didactic purposes, such as hw’s 2014 “This I Believe (The Creed),” a modern paraphrase of the Apostles’ Creed, and hu’s 2014 “Rule,” which teaches that Love came “crashing down to bring the world to life” and “hope came dancing on an empty grave / death has lost its rule to the King of grace.” Though these didactic songs certainly represent a minority of Hill- song’s overall repertory, their increasing presence could indicate a shift in the



See Ben Fielding and Matt Crocker, “This I Believe (The Creed)” (2014). Hillsong Music Publishing.ccliSong # 7018338.

Hartje-Döll, “(Hillsong) United Through Music,” 145.

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organizational purpose of Hillsong’s music. As Hillsong becomes increasingly global in presence and in resource distribution, the impartation of consistent doctrine (contra the sole overwhelming focus on the experience of atonement and justification) seems to have increased in priority.47

Expressions of Piety Findings

Of the four expressions of “piety” (words describing praise, prayer, relation- ship with the Divine, relationship with humanity), words describing a relation- ship with the Divine accounted for most of Hillsong’s repertory (156 out of 158 songs). One exception was the 2008 hw “Sing to the Lord,” which is largely an ascription of praise. Another exception was “For All Who Are to Come,” which directly followshu’s 2007 “Hosanna.” “Praise” categorizations accounted for 92 songs and “prayer” categorizations in 48 songs. The “relationship with humanity” expression, or in other words, “exhortation,” gained 45 references. This expression of piety is also the only one that changed, decreasing in fre- quency on both hw and hu albums. This may be linked with a parallel overall decline in the use of the first-person plural, given that most songs with exhor- tations such as “let all the earth shout …” include the first-person plural as well.

Word Frequency Findings

Specific data on the in-order rankings of specific words is provided in Tables 2a–c. In light of Riches’ findings in her earlier study, it is no surprise that the wordloveand its variations appeared at the top of the list.48In Hillsong’s reper- tory, almost every song references the love of God, preeminently as displayed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The love spoken of was not simply a transaction in the past, but is still faithfully witnessed in the life of the believer through acts of praise and other forms of pious relationship with the Divine.The preferreddivine nameis “God,”followedbythe oftentimesambigu- ous “Lord,” followed by “Jesus,” “Christ,” then “Saviour.” The word Spirit ranks



The didactic emphasis of hymns is familiar to mainline Protestants, who find their hym- nological heritage in such figures as Luther, Watts, and Wesley. See Paul Westermeyer, Te Deum.

While the earliest phase of Hillsong Music (1996–1998) emphasized “praise” of God’s attributes more so than an intimate love, phases two (1999–2003) and three (2004–2007) increased in “love” intimacy, with phase three particularly locating this love christologi- cally. See Riches, “The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Worship (1996–2007),” 108–109.

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eighty-ninth in frequency of occurrence across all hw and hu albums, which may seem a curious deficit, given Hillsong Church’s affiliation with the Aus- tralian Christian Churches (part of the global Assemblies of God movement). This may be explained by the fact that pentecostal theologies—largely, though not exclusively subsets of evangelical theologies—focus on the presence of Jesus Christ as the central theme of worship and proclamation.49 Concerning trends in the usage of divine names, addresses to the second Person of the Trin- ity, such as Jesus, Jesus Christ, Lord, and Saviour have tended to increase onhw albums, while remaining consistent on hu albums. For hw and hu, instances of “Lord” have decreased over the years. Although there is no internal verifica- tion for this trend, it is certainly in line with similar trends in western hymnody and congregational song.50


There are findings from this coding analysis in the areas of doctrine (an increas- ing use of kingdom of God language, realized eschatology, and victor-themed atonement theories), piety (a decreasing use of exhortative language), perspec- tives (a decreasing use of the first-person plural and an increasing number of songs“dedicated”tothird-persondivineaddresses)and,finally,wordfrequency (an increasing use of “second Person of the Trinity” nouns and a decreasing use of “Lord”). Is there an overarching theory that can make sense of all these changes? Given the limitations of a study like this, all conclusions must be considered tentative. Of all the possible interpretations, Hillsong’s increasingly global presence plays the most prominent role.

In Mark Evans’s recent dialogue with Steve McPherson, the head of Hill- song Music Publishing, he reports McPherson as saying the following about Hillsong’s global focus:

I do believe we initially set out to write music for our congregation but as time went on and we saw the impact our songs were having across all denominations, we became more and more aware of the responsibility



Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity(Cam- bridge, uk: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 205. On evangelical doctrinal hallmarks (conversionism, activism, biblicism, and “crucicentrism” [stress on Christ’s sacrifice]), see DavidW. Bebbington,Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London and New York: Routledge, 1989).

For an in-depth analysis of the problem with “Lord” in congregational song, see Brian Wren, Praying Twice: The Music and Worship of Congregational Song(Louisville,ky: West- minster John Knox Press, 2000), 243–252.

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and the privilege to be speaking into the broader church, and I believe our songwriting changed accordingly. Our focus went from being local to global.51

Hillsong is not simply writing songs for their congregation, but for the fifty mil- lion worshippers in over eighty-seven countries who regularly sing from their corpus. Evans argues that the “generalist theological foundation” of Hillsong music—an intentionally globalized product (though predominantly English- speaking)—is what allows multiple denominations and theological persua- sions to comfortably sing hw and hu songs.52 The data from the doctrinal analysis supports that claim. Neither hw nor hu has deemphasized any par- ticular theological claim across the years; instead, new theological emphases (such as the kingdom of God, realized eschatology, and victor-themed atone- ment) are added or buttressed in a complementarian manner.

In Dutch sociologist Miranda Klaver’s ethnographic study of Hillsong New York City and Hillsong Amsterdam, she observes the intentional global focus of the liturgy, particularly in media technology.53 Professionally recorded videos of sermons shared across the global network of Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and others are described by Klaver as “sermonic events.”54 This fosters “a person- ality culture of preachers and a universal message of salvation” across the Hillsong network and extending outward.55 Similarly, the liturgical structure, which includes music, is shared across the world.56 Anthropologist and glob- alization scholar Arjun Appadurai’s concept of “mediascapes” intersects well with Klaver’s observations. He contends that mediascapes are “image-centered, narrative-based accounts of strips of reality” that offer a series of elements “such as characters, plots, and textual forms” out of which “scripts can be formed of imagined lives.”57 These “sermonic events” and song lyrics, I will add, are such mediascapes. Both the sermons and the song lyrics nourish and

51 52 53

54 55 56


Evans, “Hillsong Abroad,” 183.

Ibid., 183.

Miranda Klaver, “MediaTechnology Creating ‘Sermonic Events’:The Hillsong Megachurch Network,” inCrosscurrents65, no. 4 (2015): 422–433.

Ibid., 422.

Ibid., 432.

Klaver (ibid., 424) describes the liturgical ordo as video, music, prayers, announcements, offering, music, sermon, altar call, music. A similar ordo is reflected in Riches, “The Evolving Emphasis,” 92–93.

Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” inTheory, Culture, Society7 (1990): 299.

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sustain the globally imagined identity or “scripts” of the Hillsong network. Yet, these mediascapes extend beyond the Hillsong network due to Hillsong’s immense success in global branding. From the vision-casting of Brian and Bob- bie Houston to the level of the local congregation, Hillsong is profoundly aware of its global status.58

Concerning the issue of lyrical perspective, on the other hand, Hillsong’s increasinglyglobalpresencecoupledwiththedecreasinguseof thefirst-person plural appears counterintuitive. Is this intentional or happenstance? A recent release from hu’s 2015 Empires album features the song “Even When It Hurts,” the chorus of which declares, “Even when the fight seems lost / I’ll praise you / Even when it hurts like hell / I’ll praise You / Even when it makes no sense to sing / Louder then I’ll sing Your praise.”59 Notably for this genre, pain and suffering are expressed openly and in the first person. Joel Houston, the author of the aforementioned song, wrote a blog post that included a free download of the song with the hope that his audience would donate to the World Vision Syrian refugee fund.60 Through the simple publishing of a blog post, Houston forges the connection between a first-person “lament” (a traditional biblical form) and the current suffering of Syrian refugees. The song may sing “I,” but the connection to the global “we” is palpable.

Singing “I,” a common trope in experiential charismatic worship, is more relatable and accessible to all participants, while the “we” component is mani- fested in communal ritual performance.61 Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong argues that in pentecostal worship, textuality is not a key component; it is theexperiential dimension that demands interpretation.62The vibrant experi- ence of congregational singing supplies ecclesiological meaning to the written






For instance, compare Brian Houston’s local “The Church I See” vision statement from 2003 to the global “The Church I Now See” statement in 2014. See http://hillsong.com/ vision/ (accessed July 12, 2016).

Joel Houston, “Even When It Hurts” (2015). Hillsong Music Publishing. ccli Song # 7037924.

Joel Houston, “Even When It Hurts,” Hillsong Collected (blog), December 5, 2015. http:// hillsong.com/collected/blog/2015/12/even-when-it-hurts-2/#.Vr5e6pMrKYU (accessed February 13, 2016).

On the commonality of the first person perspective, see Evans, Open Up the Doors, 137. See Thornton, “Exploring the Contemporary Congregational Song Genre,” 190–193. On the communal import of pentecostal and charismatic worship practices, see Daniel E. Albrecht, Rites in the Spirit: A Ritual Approach to Pentecostal/Charismatic Spirituality (Sheffield,uk: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 243–247.

Amos Yong, Discerning the Spirit(s): A Pentecostal/Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions(Sheffield,uk: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 134.

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text. In the words of Singaporean literature professor Robbie Goh, the musi- cal portion of Hillsong’s liturgy is a semiotical “performance of the mega.”63 No matter which words are sung, in the context of a megachurch like Hillsong the grandness of the music creates a feedback loop between the grandness of the assembly and a projected greatness of God. In relation to this, theologian Karl Tangen’s ethnographic fieldwork of Hillsong London documents worship- pers “dancing” their songs to God, arguing that the “total impression of light, sound, and strong involvement easily creates the notion … of experiencing [a Durkheimian] ‘collective effervescence.’”64The communal ritual performance of music, in particular, is part and parcel of pentecostal spirituality.

Hymnologists and liturgical scholars are quick to cite contemporary worship music as “too loud” or too “performative” to allow for congregational singing.65 Often, criticisms are levelled against the “Hillsong experience” and churches with “contemporary” sounds for being anti-communalist, often rooted in the notion that all voices must be heard aloud in congregational singing.66 The communalism of Hillsong worship, however, is of a different sort. In the age of megachurches and the consumerization of worship, communalism is evinced by the worship’s sonic resplendence, not minimized by it.67 This is not an






Robbie Goh, “Hillsong and Megachurch Practice: Semiotics, Spatial Logic and the Embodi- ment of Contemporary Evangelical Protestantism,” Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief 4, no. 3 (2008): 297.

Karl Tangen, Ecclesial Identification beyond Late Modern Individualism? A Case Study of Life Strategies in Growing Late Modern Churches(Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2012), 56. See Gordon Lathrop, “New Pentecost or Joseph’s Britches?” See Westermeyer, Te Deum, 314–318.

These critiques make sense in light of the Puritan heritage of democratized religion, and singing, in particular. Because singing was considered a “means of grace,” all voices were to be heard in this important communal ritual. See Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe,The Practice of Piety: Puritan Devotional Disciplines in Seventeenth-Century England (Chapel Hill, nc: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), 111–114.

For critiques of contemporary worship for similar reasons, see Willow Creek Com- munity Church Leaders, “Seekers’ Service/Believers’ Worship,” in The Complete Library of Christian Worship, vol. 3,The Renewal of Sunday Worship, ed. Robert E. Webber (Nashville: Star Song Publishing Group, 1993), 124–126. For popular level critiques, see the exam- ples of Dr. David Gauger of the Moody Bible Institute: http://moodystandard.com/ bughouse-square-worship-the-forgotten-dimension/ (accessed July 11, 2016). See Kenny Lamm’s article, “Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship,” http://www .renewingworshipnc.org/2014/06/11/nine-reasons-people-arent-singing-in-worship/ (accessed July 11, 2016).

See Birgit Meyer, “Religious Sensations: Media, Aesthetics, and the Study of Contemporary

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apologium for Hillsong, but rather points to the need for further research along the lines embarked on by scholars such as Goh and Tangen.

Hillsong’s global presence and generalist theological approach accords with the increase in songs “dedicated” to a third-person, didactic approach. hw’s 2014 musical adaptation of the Apostles’ Creed, “This I Believe (The Creed),” was written at the request of John Dickson, the director of the Centre for Public Christianity (and an Anglican).68 Dickinson wanted the song to call “modern churches to reflect on the foundation of the faith that unifies us,” something that consequently resonates with mainstream Protestant liturgy.69Though the song is written mostly as a second-person address, the chorus proclaims the triune God in the third-person address and transmits centuries of Christian history (albeit differently from the original creed) to modern worshippers across the world. Ben Fielding, one of the composers of the song, also notes that the song’s “translatability” was a key factor for the way it was written.70 This didactic song was written for the purposes of unity—drawing on the ecumenical tradition to produce unity in multiple languages, denominations, and expressions of the church universal.

Connected with the increase of didactic songs is the decrease in exhortative songs. Songs that contain exhortational components are typically evangelistic in tone. For example, hw’s 2010 song “Our God is Love” states, “Ev’ry soul ev’ry beating heart / Ev’ry nation and ev’ry tongue / Come find hope in the love of the Father.”71 This is not to say that “evangelism” is no longer an end goal of Hillsong Music, but that it is, rather, a reframing of how evangelism is to be lyrically expressed. hu’s 2015 “Prince of Peace,” for instance, speaks of God’s love encompassing humanity and expresses this in testimonial form. The bridge proclaims, “Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war / when night screams terror there your voice will roar / come death or shadow, God I know your light will meet me there.”72 The concept of testimony is


69 70



Religion,” inReligion, Media, and Culture: A Reader, ed. Gordon Lynch and Jolyon Mitchell with Anna Strhan (London: Routledge, 2012), 161.

See “This I Believe (The Creed) Song Story,” https://hillsong.com/collected/blog/2014/07/ this-i-believe-the-creed-song-story/ (accessed July 20, 2015).


For more information on issues of translation and the Hillsong musical corpus, see https:// distribution.hillsong.com/publishing/faq.

Joel Houston and Scott Ligertwood, “Our God Is Love” (2009). Hillsong Music Publishing. ccliSong # 5636866.

Joel Houston, Matt Crocker, Dylan Thomas, “Prince of Peace” (2015). Hillsong Music Publishing.ccliSong # 7037925.

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central to pentecostal song-type “intents,” as Mark Evans has argued.73 In the earlier years of Hillsong’s lyricism, testimony was intimately connected with encouragement “to seek fullness in Christian life.”74While this project has not explicitly examined the concept of testimony in the 2007–2015 corpus, it is apparent that it still plays a central role; however, its immediate connection to evangelism is not as self-evident.

The increasing frequency of highlighting the second Person of the Trinity is indicative of Hillsong as a global presence but also of its emphasis on salvation. While Christians across the world are not in agreement christologically, most can affirm that Jesus is foundational to Christianity. Hillsong Music empha- sizes, above all, Jesus’s role in the salvation of humanity. Of all the doctrinal categories queried, atonement ranked highest, followed by justification, far outnumbering other doctrinal references.This is unsurprising due to its consis- tency with Evangelicalism at large, a significant contingent of Hillsong Music followers. Lester Ruth argues that Jesus is the most cited Person of the Trin- ity in both historic evangelical hymnody and contemporary worship because of Jesus’s decisive acts for humankind and the incarnation—particularly, “the tangibility of Jesus Christ’s embodiment.”75 Hillsong’s emphasis on Jesus, one mostly confined to his salvific acts, makes for a successful “mediascape” in an interconnected, global evangelical and pentecostal milieu of varying theolo- gies and experiences of the Divine. Technologies of distribution, including but not limited to publishing companies, social media, and broadcasting networks, are indispensable methods of effecting the proliferation of mediascapes such as this.

This study is more of a research project sounding into a particular set of sources than a general analysis of Hillsong’s repertory. A theological analysis of its implications for global Pentecostalism, charismatic Christianity, and Evan- gelicalism at large is clearly needed. Without oral interview data and observa- tional fieldwork, there is only so much one can claim for nine years of congre- gational evolution, musical and theological. Moreover, in moving forward with future research within this project and others concerned with Contemporary Worship Music (cwm), it is critical to evaluate not only the text of a song but its instrumentation as well. The many seemingly “simplistic” words of praise or devotion uttered in Hillsong lyrics are supported by complexly layered, soni- cally rich instrumentation. Somehow, a simple, seemingly rote recitation of “I

73 74 75

Evans,Open Up the Doors, 114, 144–147.

Riches, “The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Worship (1996–2007),” 110. Ruth, “Some Similarities and Differences,” 70–71.

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believe in God our Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit, Our God is three in one” has been received as a powerful, heartfelt worship anthem across the globe. It is here that the work of musicologists, semioticians, and other liturgical scholars who employ methodologies “beyond the text” will prove helpful.76 Hillsong worship songs and contemporary worship songs in general involve an aesthetic—a text and tune synthesis—in which one cannot be evaluated without the other. This aesthetic has swept across the globe and reframed how Christians (mainly Protestant, but others as well)think about the worship of the church. It deserves greater attention: it will remain a presence, albeit an evolving one, on the scene of global Christianity.


The idea of going “beyond the text” in liturgical scholarship finds its roots in the work of Jewish liturgical scholar Lawrence Hoffman. See Lawrence Hoffman, Beyond the Text: A Holistic Approach to Liturgy(Bloomington,in: Indiana University Press, 1987).

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figure 1a Doctrinal changes—Hillsong Worship.note: 2015 was not considered because

a one-songepwas released that year and would skew results.

figure 1b Doctrinal changes—Hillsong United.note: The 2008 I Heart Revolution was

omitted because one new song debuted that year and would skew the results.

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figure 1c Frequency of doctrine—all

table 1

Words describing expressions of piety

Praise Prayer Divine relations Human relations

Adoration Confession Commitment Exhortation Alleluia Help Confidence

Appreciation Prayer Conversion

Blessing Repentance Expectation

Celebration Hope

Dance Intimacy

Exaltation Longing

Gratitude Obedience

Honor Redemption

Joy Trust

Love Servanthood

Praise Surrender




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figure 2a Frequency of piety—all

figure 2b Expressions of piety over time—all.note: This only documents the albums from

hwandhuthat were released in the same year.hw’s 2014 album andhu’s 2015

album reflect the graphically represented trend.

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table 2a

Top 20 most frequent words—all

Song lyric Frequency Similar words

1. Love 341 Love, loved, loves, loving 2. God 228

3. Name 184 Names

4. Hearts 170 Heart, hearted 5. Life 165

6. Lord 156 Lords

7. Jesus 156 Jesus’

8. Knows 126 Know, knowing 9. Now 121

10. Sing 121 Singing, sings 11. Let 111 Letting

12. Hope 110

13. See 109 Sees

14. Forever 108

15. Praise 107 Praised, praises, praising 16. Coming 97 Come, comes 17. Light 95 Lights

18. Lifts 89 Lift, lifted, lifting 19. Soul 89 Souls

20. Earth 84 Earthly

table 2b

Top 20 most frequent words—Hillsong Worship

Song lyric Frequency Similar words

1. Love 186 Love, loved, loves, loving 2. God 171

3. Name 147 Names

4. Jesus 125 Jesus’

5. Lord 118 Lords

6. Life 99

7. Heart 82 Hearted, hearts 8. Sing 80 Singing, sings 9. Hope 79

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Song lyric Frequency Similar words

10. Forever 75

11. Praise 69 Praised, praises, praising 12. Now 69

13. Let 68 Letting

14. Lift 67 Lift, lifted, lifting 15. Earth 67 Earthly

16. Coming 61 Come, comes 17. Glory 60

18. One 56 One, Ones

19. Knows 55 Know, knowing 20. See 54

note:Italicized words are those which do not appear on any other list.

table 2c

Top 20 most frequent words—Hillsong United

Song lyric Frequency Similar words

1. Love 178 Love, loved, loves, loving 2. Hearts 101 Hearted, hearts 3. Life 75

4. Know 73 Know, knowing 5. Now 72 Lords

6. See 68 Sees

7. God 64

8. Let 54 Letting

9. Name 53 Names

10. Soul 52 Souls

11. Sing 50 Singing, sings 12. Light 48

13. Coming 46 Come, comes 14. Praise 44 Praised, praises, praising 15. Lord 43 Lords

16. World 43 Worlds

17. Forever 38

18. Hope 38

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table 2c

Top 20 most frequent words—Hillsong United (cont.)

Song lyric Frequency Similar words

19. Jesus 38 Jesus’ 20. Like 38

note:Italicized words are those which do not appear on any other list.

table 3a

Perspective / address—Hillsong Worship

perspective address Year of album release 1st sing. 1st plural 2nd sing. 3rd sing.

2007 (14 tracks) 13 6 14 9 2008 (16) 9 13 13 9 2009 (13) 7 11 13 7 2010 (12) 10 6 10 3 2011 (13) 6 9 12 3 2012 (12) 8 4 11 3 2013 (12) 10 8 12 7 2014 (11) 8 7 10 7

table 3b

Perspective / address—Hillsong United

perspective address Year of album release 1st sing. 1st plural 2nd sing. 3rd sing.

2007 (14 tracks) 10 9 13 9 2009 (12) 8 8 12 6 2011 (12) 7 6 10 3 2013 (15) 12 6 14 6 2015 (12) 10 2 12 5

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