Many Christians have been inspired by Hillsong-branded music and worship. Additionally, Hillsong LA is one of several Hillsong churches globally, including congregations in Australia, France, England, South Africa, Germany and Brazil. Recently, Hillsong pastor Ben Houston, announced the "planting" of Hillsong's new San Francisco campus, but not all people welcome them into the Bay Area.
Hillsong Church is a Pentecostal megachurch in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, which is affiliated with Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God. The church was founded in 1983 when the Sydney Christian Life Centre in Waterloo, New South Wales, established by Frank Houston, merged with the Hills Christian Life Centre in Baulkham Hills, New South Wales, established by his son, Brian Houston.
Houston said it was around Eastertime in 2013 when he and his wife, Lucille, asked his parents, Brian and Bobbie, about them relocating to the western coast of the United States. Following their belief and dreams planted them in San Francisco.
Knowing that Vision Sunday would come early February during 2016, Houston said he started to speak to his father during midyear about the next chapter he believed God had in store for them, which was establishing a campus in San Francisco.
"San Francisco is an amazing city! And the surrounding areas of Oakland, San Jose and beyond all combine to create a city of millions of people filled with so much potential. The Bay Area is similar to LA in that you see the full breadth and diversity of humanity," Houston said.
"People from all different backgrounds. People at every stage of life. And I believe that Jesus did not come to separate the rich, poor, famous, faceless, successful, or desperate. He came to unite us. He came to love us. He came to lead us to truth. He came to save!"
Houston said as excited as he is about all that is ahead, he knows there is nothing that is going to be easy about this venture. "It is up there with the most expensive cities in the world. I sense that there could be a lot of spiritual opposition to The Church. And this whole dream to start a campus here is truly another blind step of faith. Another great leap into the unknown."
There is no secret formula to Hillsong Church, he added. "I don't ever believe we have all the answers or ideas or strategies. I guess the only thing we know to do is to lift up the name of Jesus and do all that we can to truly point people to Him. It is Jesus that saves, Jesus that heals and Jesus that restores."
He said they are in the very early stages of planning the San Francisco campus, and that there is no building or location or start date. "It's nothing more than a dream right now bursting with opportunity."
He and Lucille did, however, in a corresponding video, say they believed God was granting them permission to expand their territory.
He then encouraged more prayer and dreaming.
"Hillsong SF is not something I am looking forward to. In fact, their video offends me. And it makes me extremely sad for this city and what it is becoming. And I am convinced, beyond any doubt, that Hillsong SF has absolutely nothing to do with God's Kingdom here in San Francisco," Lee blogged this week.
San Francisco is a city under siege, Lee penned.
"There is a war going on here that can't be seen or understood through the eyes of a naïve, idealistic pastor. So when Ben Houston shows up in his overly-produced video saying, 'San Francisco is a city where we see great potential,' it's painfully clear that he has no idea of the context onto which his words fall," stated Lee.
"Guess who else saw 'great potential' in this city? The real estate agents, developers, and city officials who have destroyed neighborhoods, broken up families, and displaced poor people of color for their own idealized, dystopian visions for San Francisco," Lee wrote.
"What kind of 'great potential' does Hillsong fulfill with its presence? And why would this random Australian dude ever think he's qualified to evaluate this city's potential? San Francisco is not a hopeful candidate auditioning for his religious services. We have bigger things to worry about," said Lee.
Lee said he was "tired of pastors coming to San Francisco, posting pictures of bridges and crooked streets and declaring how much they love this city without actually understanding any of it, without being hurt by it, without any scars to show or dirt on their shoes or calluses on their hands."
He said Hillsong Church, in its current state, takes San Francisco nowhere near the vision of the necessary repenting needed.