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A taxing time at Hillsong

By Tracie Aylmer

When one thinks about Hillsong, one usually thinks of mega churches along the lines of those in America: bright lights and a few celebrities dancing and singing along to rock star bands that get the hymn groove on.

I guess it’s all about the buzz, with the added bonus of being ‘included’ in something. It’s the way all churches have existed in the past, only without the rock sound.

What one doesn’t notice – particularly at first – is that Hillsong is claimed to be nothing but a cult that strips funding away from each individual without giving much of anything in return. It also has tax exempt status, and uses politics to reach its own end.

One woman, Tanya Levin, wrote a book about her experiences with Hillsong. While I haven’t as yet read it, her experiences after the book was published made me more interested in trying to get my hands on it. She was arrested for being in a public place. She received a move on notice, for which she complied with, and then shortly after was asked by a police officer to walk to him, for which she was arrested for unknowingly walking to an area that was part of the move on notice. Hillsong had then decided to pursue her case for two solid years, with her only recently being found innocent of the charges.

A number of politicians have attended the ‘church’. Among those has been Peter Dutton. Scott Morrison used to be a member, although now it appears he attends another ‘show-biz’ type ‘church’. Both have a very distasteful philosophy when it comes to refugees, perhaps bonding over a superiority complex.

I have attended one of these rock style type churches; more than 10 years ago on the Gold Coast. I remember it not doing much for me. I never saw the point in meshing rock and roll to church. It had very little substance.

Although some aspects of Hillsong such as finances are kept under the radar, one thing is now very well known – money is now God. These mega churches rely on making sure that people are bled dry. To be rich and successful means, to them, that one will see the kingdom of heaven. To be poor means that the person is unclean, and will go to hell. There are no greys in this black and white world.

Even the community service work is about how to increase membership. I have heard stories from a number of different sources where, if Hillsong entities help a person through any kind of dilemma, there is an expectation of giving back. A former business partner’s wife had claimed that blood wasn’t enough. Hillsong exacts literally everything.

There’s even talk of tithing from people’s income. Tithing has been around for centuries, although a successful church that passes the plate around on a Sunday shouldn’t be expecting to also receive 10% of the person’s income. Is this exactly what Hillsong expects from people? This is what ensures their expansion. Considering how much is made, the community service work (along with demands from volunteers) appears to be very little. Hillsong, in my opinion, are receiving much more than they are giving back.

From a former Pastor, the atmosphere is meant to be created in a certain manner to ‘please others’ instead of bringing spirituality to the masses. It has a component of mind control in it, which is meant to bring more and more people into the fold, and not let them leave quite as easily. It’s meant to show only the positives of happy happy joy joy, without the complexities of everyday life. It’s meant to ‘uplift’ with no other feelings or emotions. It’s as plastic as the chairs people sit in.

Leaving the church ensures isolation and ridicule. Tanya Levin has shown exactly how isolating it can get. Others have had similar stories where they were left in the dark by members. Friendships are cut automatically. The ex-member has to start their life all over again, but without the supports they used to be comfortable with. This can leave the ex-member with confusion.

None of their methods show real life or real spirituality. It appears to be all about the money. Anything less than the money is shown the door. It’s a cult. It’s a business. It seems to prey on the disadvantaged like a sponge soaks up water.

It must be taxed.



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  1. Keitha Granville

    instead of tax exempt status for churches, perhaps they could just all be taxed at 10%. That’s about as low as you can get, but it still gives something back to the country. there also needs to be really tangible evidence of the programs they provide to the community – family assistance, counselling, unemployed assistance, drug and alcohol programs etc. They can’t just collect cash and spend it on their leaders/elders/pastors whatever.

  2. David1

    Hillsong will be tapping the tambourines and mooching with Morrison, as long as they are his preferred happy clappers. The fruits of the vine have never tasted sweeter.

  3. stephengb2014

    I believe anyone who professes to belong to a religion or believe in some deity, or attend any church, synagogue, mosque, citidal or similar, automatically makes them inelligable to be a councilor, State or Federal MP.

    After all our Constitution calls for the following

    116. Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

    Yes I understand the last line and half – but it works both ways

  4. Kaye Lee

    In Scott Morrison’s maiden speech he said…

    “Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman.”

    Brian Houston is the head of the Hillsong Church and the author of a book titled “You Need More Money.”

    Morrison is a Pentecostal. He worships at an American-style mega-church called Shirelive in his constituency. With its water baptisms and designer-shirt pastors, Shirelive has close ties with the better-known Hillsong community. The founder of Hillsong, Harley Davidson–riding pastor Brian Houston, is one of Morrison’s mentors.

  5. diannaart

    Hillsong and other related happy clappers are for people who know nothing about real Rock ‘n Roll (and don’t care either).

    Tax exemption – honey pot for authoritarian blow-flies.

  6. corvus boreus

    Not paying taxes is anti-Christ-ian.
    Jesus said to render unto Caesar.

  7. Halfbreeder

    exempting churches from paying tax is a law with respectbto religion and un constituional. the constitution prohits the fed gov making laws with respect to religion. has this ever been explored?

  8. Oliver Mensah

    What a load of rubbish this opinion piece is……they run people dry and when they leave the church….people are cut from friends and family….please please i beg of you if you are not part of it you make up misleading and false statements… is the church getting money from its congregation, any different to what you are asking for here…..i give 10% of my income because its a command from the bible…..that i believe in….so stop attcking something you dont understand.

  9. wam

    I have often wondered if I could assign my car as a deity and claim the succour and sacrifices needed to maintain the religious aspects of the god.

    corvus jesus was a bit of a wowser and whilst his name gets a belting what he said becomes, as described by the rabbott, not what he said or what you heard but what the men of the church tell you what he meant you to hear

  10. Alan Baird

    I get no pleasure at all from observing stupidity. I get even less pleasure from observing politicians assisting stupidity by maintaining tax rorts for this useless segment of the “economy” which is pol-speak for society. I resent the overweening respect given to the worshippers of an invisible friend. I resent the insistence on others complying and the infiltration of religion into the processes of government. I do not respect politicians who insist on their religion overriding their constituents’ wishes on a wide variety of issues. Crass tribal stupidity wins. Constituents however, continue to be unable to discern their representatives’ religious proclivities. There may be many religious franchises, but hillsong is the perfect antithesis of chrisitianity, given that it’s supposedly based on the teachings of Christ, well, reportedly. Wealth is the new attribute that Christ wants! Jesus F. Christ! A totally MALLEABLE religion that can be fashioned to whatever you want! What’s next? Perhaps it’ll soon be okay to indulge in a little kiddie fiddling? Hmm? A spot of murder? I know! In the entrepreneurial spirit of hillsong, you will be able to pay for the expiation of sins! An oldie but a goodie. Yeah! Let’s bring back papal indulgences! This time we’ll call them “pastor-al” indulgences, in keeping with the usual given “occupation” of the chief trickster. Bring your money with you. He’ll keep a straight face, honest.
    PS. I just lerve that good ole American cadence in hillsong type sermons because it is a “type”, giving false gravitas, with that quavering, wailing “sincerity”. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and why change a successful business model? Ditto the crap religious rock “music”. Whar’ yo’ jes’ ‘spect Jim and Tammie Bakker to walk in any second. Someone from the Appalachians’d feel right at home. Monkey see, monkey do, but the simians would have more sense.

  11. Matters Not

    how is the church getting money from its congregation, any different to what you are asking for here…..i give 10% of my income because its a command from the bible

    Re any different to what you are asking for here . Note the asking bit. Then there’s the 10% of my income bit. And finally: its (sic) a command from the bible .

    No doubt that MT will recognise the business opportunity (LOL) but also acknowledge that he operates outside biblical commands. Now if only this site could impose the 10% rule. Or become doubly religious and up the ante to 20%.

    MT, think of the possibilities – 10% of H’s gold mining activities. (Just jokin ..)

  12. Michael Taylor

    MN, I look forward to Oliver’s donation as I too demand a tithe of his income. I pray that his income is more than his intellect would indicate.

  13. paul walter

    Also about voter cultivation and harvesting. Bit like sheep farming.. The flock get castrated, fleeced and their throats cut trusting the very bastards who bring them so much grief.

  14. Sir Scotchmistery

    OMFG Michael… are you suggesting that Oliver whatever it’s name is, is a dead in the wool god – botherer?

    Lord save us all.

  15. David Ashton

    Whilst I agree with some of your analysis or commentary, there are few things I question.

    1.”I guess it’s all about the buzz, with the added bonus of being ‘included’ in something. It’s the way all churches have existed in the past, only without the rock sound.”

    Which churches are these? My experience of church (for over 40 years) ells me otherwise.

    2. “although a successful church that passes the plate around on a Sunday shouldn’t be expecting to also receive 10% of the person’s income.”

    i. Christians who know their bible don’t insist on 10%, or even on “tithing” for that matter.
    ii. The only expectation is that if you want uour church to function, you’re not only going to need to contribute some funds but your time, your skills, your energy.
    iii. Christians are free to give, and many give more or even far more than “10%”.

    Your comment about superficiality is spot on. These churches, because it’s about how you feel and less about what you believe and think, have a superficial theology. They represent some of the wloves in sheep’s clothing the NT warns us about.(ACts 20:29-30; Matthew 7:15-20)

  16. Jai Ritter

    It’s pretty common knowledge that people who leave pentacostal churches are ex communicated and treated like lepers. My partner grew up in one of the local pentacostal churches here that is a derivative of hillsong and oh man, have I heard some stories!!

    Not to mention I’ve seen first hand the effects its had on families where some leave and some choose to stay. It’s simply evil the way the family members who leave are treated.

    Oliver you should really read what you just wrote, especially that last sentence. I hope it eventually sinks in.

  17. Red Leaf

    If Hillsong is a cult that takes advatage of people, then it needs to be stopped and not just taxed.

  18. Kerri Ferguson

    “Matters Not” you do NOT know your Bible and you are seriously mislead in claiming that tithing is a biblical command and seriously out of order in telling others that this is so. Tithing is an OLD TESTAMENT instruction and refers to stock, produce etc so is not a command about MONEY! Furthermore, did you not know that Jesus Christ came and died on the Cross and did away with the old covenant and gave us the GOSPEL which does NOT include tithing. He told us how to FREELY give and to be in bondage to these shysters by tithing is not biblical at all. You need to read your Bible and stop listening to these scam artists who don’t know their Bible any better than you appear to. The sooner these churches are taxed the better. You speak of the Bible telling us about tithing.. (which you got wrong anyway) but I note you didn’t refer to the way the Bible tells us that Pastors and leaders should behave! The mega churches of Hillsong and C3 particularly do NOT fulfill the role in the community that gave rise to churches being granted tax exempt status in the first place. Though the pastors continually state their books are open and any one can see them any time they wish, just try it and see how quickly they show you the door! Scott Morrison should have the grit to order an audit on the books of these organisations and see what it digs up …. but we know THAT will never happen. His would never want to upset his “mentor” and his mates!.

  19. Matters Not

    Kerri Ferguson, thanks for correcting my many (apparent) errors when it comes to the concept of tithing. Your comments will guide my future deliberations.

    And seeing you’re here, I wonder if you can apply your theological expertise and answer a question that’s always puzzled me?

    “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

    Please reply as a matter of urgency, the future of Istanbul and Erdogan may depend on it. After all, Trump is out and about and needs the evangelical vote.

  20. Kerri Ferguson

    Normally seven but on some Wednesdays in a leap year it can be eight. Glad to be able to help .

  21. Zathras

    It’s not just the taxes they don’t pay but I wonder if they declare the suitcases full of cash “love offerings” Houston & Co are handed when he attends overseas speaking engagements and they pass the bucket around the crowd.

    No wonder they preach The gospel of Prosperity and are always clamouring for money. Houston’s book “You need more money” is an indication of their prime motivation – being in Hillsong will make you rich!

    Hillsong is a typical cult that uses “the power of the crowd” to maintain the illusion of being something much larger and other than it really is.

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