chooklookThinker, who doubles as one of the CWs’ moderators, asks an intriguing question.

‘Hillsong supporters, does Hillsong follow the commandment from James chapter 2? 

James 2:1-5 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?’

She then asks the reader to check out the whole chapter. I say, why not go through the whole letter of James? It would help the critics to note a great many things James says, especially about judging a brother and complaining about church members.

Eisegesis

The claim being made is that Hillsong prefers certain types because they have a building program that encourages levels of giving, including from the business sector. Of course, this is not at all what James is addressing in the passage above.

The issue James raises is that of partiality, here called ‘respect of persons’. The Greek word is prospolepsia, which is defined by Strong’s as ‘the fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities.’

James’ context is permission and partiality. It is addressing access and entry into an assembly, so it is talking about where a person is seated during weekly worship, teaching and communion meetings. James’ admonition is that, whether a person is rich or poor, they should be equally assured of honour and a good vantage point in the meeting, and that the wealthy man should not be preferred over the poor. That is very true.

Since every vantage point in a Hillsong or C3 meeting is catered for I don’t see this as an issue at all. These days, in local churches such as Hillsong and C3, we have video, audio and comfortable seating, with ushers to guide people according to their needs, which makes it convenient for every member and visitor to be well positioned to hear, see and access the speaker and the message.

The modern church venue is well suited to every attendee, especially at Hillsong and C3 meetings. There is no controversy here.

The admonition by James is important, and we should adhere to his counsel, but I do not see an application in the general assemblies of Hillsong or C3 attendees. Everyone is made welcome, and there are teams of people given exactly this task. Hospitality is known to be a great strength of these churches.

Special meeting for defined goals

In contrast, thinker attacks fundraising events put on by local churches and claims this is what James is addressing. He is not.

Those meetings termed ‘Vision Meetings’, which are clearly designated as fundraising events for those who want to contribute, are completely different. They are specifically aligned meetings with clearly defined goals.

Setting targets for prospective financial supporters is logically sound and has helped churches reach financial goals that the members willingly and voluntarily support at various levels according to their means. Misconstruing this as James’ admonition on partiality is mischievous at best.

See how, in continuing with her comment, thinker erroneously applies James’ teaching as she attempts to create a non-existent elitist meme.

Q: How much respect does the wealthy “Kingdom Builder” get compared to a poor “Faithful believer”?
A: see how much attention Hill$ong [sic] gives celebrities like Justin Bieber get [sic] compared to a person who can only afford to volunteer time and not much else….

Well each contributor has equal respect since each is contributing to the best of their ability to a defined program. The only level that is different is the target for that group. It is all entirely voluntary. No one is forced to be part of any group, or any level of giving.

No one is excluded. Each group is open to anyone who determines to be part of it. All are equally important to the goals of the church in its plans for expansion. Each wants to be part of the process, and each is given a choice about how to contribute.

Granted, there are incentives given which help drive the concept, but that is part of the initiative to encourage giving. Again, no one is excluded. No one misunderstands the aims of the event. It is not a Sunday local church meeting. It is a specific event with a defined purpose.

Thinker has created a dilemma which only exists in her own mind and is being used destructively to suit her own agenda, and, it must be added, to encourage other detractors to negatively add to the conversation.

Justin time

As for Justin Bieber, it is obvious to the sensible observer that it was the media that pressed him into the limelight. The only ones who preferred him were the millions of fans who want to know his every move, and a media which feeds into this frenzy.

It has to be said that the CWs jumped on this bandwagon themselves to draw online traffic to their sites by adding Bieber and Hillsong to its tags.

There was a clear message sent out from Hillsong leadership that Bieber would not be entering any kind of leadership position, following unsustained and evidence-free rumours (passed on and encouraged by the CWs) that he was set to be fast-tracked as a pastor at Hillsong. These rumours were swiftly trounced by Hillsong. Clearly, it was Bieber’s own celebrity status that inevitably thrust him into the limelight as a Hillsong attendee.

He was never given preferential treatment at any stage by his local church, Hillsong New York, and has entered the same discipleship processes any new believer goes through. But Hillsong were not stupid or naive enough to think that his celebrity status would not eventually lead to his being identified with Hillsong NY, which also has a very high profile as a result of its rapid growth and popular appeal.

So the issue is not one of church preference of a person, but of media representation.

From what I have seen in photos Bieber stands or sits where every other person could sit and is accepted as part of the congregation just as anyone. It is probably a liberating place for him to be knowing he will be left alone with his friends to worship God and fellowship just like every other member and not be mobbed by fans, or have to sign hundreds of autographs, or be the subject of endless selfies.

The rest of James speaks too

Unfortunately for normal logic, the CWs have been only too willing to misrepresent this obvious conclusion and misuse a passage from the Book of James as a foil for their own distaste for all things Hillsong.

Perhaps they could consider some other passages from James.

James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!

Yes, well, does thinker think there may have been some grumbling at times over at the CWs’ sites? Is she perhaps part of the problem which encourages grumbling? Anyone who has ever read any of the CWs’ articles and commentary from supporters will know that it is one long groan, grumble and grizzle.

According to James, there is a condemnation for those who grumble about their brethren. Perhaps they could write an article addressing this. Rather than grumble, why not be humble?

James 4:10-12 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

Of course, the excuse the CWs give is that they do not consider these churches or leaders to be brethren. They say we are not Christians. They say we are not churches. But, again, who are they to judge even this? God knows those who are his.

They are wrong of course, and those of us who attend these churches and are believers have every right to question why they, who also claim to be Christians, would be so set on condemning and judging their brethren.

It’s their choice of course, but if we are being admonished by them to take heed of James’ words, then let them, by example, also take note of the rest of James’ letter and apply it to their lives before demanding that we comply with their eisegesis on a passage they have misapplied.

I for one am happy to take heed of James’ words and make sure, as we have done many times, we honour the poor when they enter our doors, for it was from poverty we came into the blessing of God, and we should never forget where He has taken us from, to His glory.

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