$600 Meals and Designer Clothes? BBC Documentary Casts Hillsong Church in Controversial Light

bbc four hillsong goes viral doc
Hillsong global senior pastor Brian Houston appears in a promotional image for "Hillsong Church: God Goes Viral," which premiered July 21 on BBC Four’s Storyville documentary series. (Photo: BBC Four)

A new documentary by the BBC on Hillsong Church reveals new insight into the global evangelical church network’s celebrity culture, sex scandals, and questionable financial dealings.

The 94-minute film, titled “Hillsong Church: God Goes Viral,” features footage captured during two years London-based producer Nick Aldridge spent with Hillsong leaders. First aired July 21 as part of BBC Four’s Storyville documentary series, it includes clips from about a dozen of Hillsong’s 37 churches worldwide, notably in the US, UK, and Australia.

The film opens with a bang, as Hillsong’s dance production at a 2016 conference features routines akin to Cirque du Soleil and fireworks on stage. This presentation of Hillsong as more glitz than substance continues throughout the film.

In one eye-opening sequence, Hillsong London youth minister Daniel Blythe takes his core team of college-age leaders to a tattoo parlor. They all get matching “70×7” indelible marks, calling it a tribute to the gospel message of forgiveness. Upon the tattoo artist completing her work, one of the guys jokingly remarks: “It is finished!”

Recruited away this past spring by another UK megachurch, Blythe provides particularly candid remarks in the film.

“I’m in the full Hillsong starter pack,” he says in an interview alongside his wife Charlie. “I’ve got the fedora. I’ve got the leather. I’ve got the boots and the skinny (jeans).” Charlie pipes up: “And a beautiful wife on his arm!”

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    Written by Josh M. Shepherd

    Josh M. Shepherd writes on culture, faith, and public policy issues for media outlets including The Stream, Religion & Politics, The Federalist, and Christianity Today. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. You can find him on Twitter @joshmshep. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C., area with their son.

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