This week I asked Hanes, who is 55, what he believes
could learn from the Aussies’ out-of-the-box approach to church. He
gave these seven reasons why churches are growing Down Under.
Hanes makes a painful comparison between Australia’s lean
church-planting machine and the multilayered AOG hierarchy in the
States. He says one Aussie minister visited the AOG’s headquarters in
the U.S. four years ago and learned that leaders were celebrating the
that they had millions of dollars in the bank—even though church
planting was flat. “Can you imagine if Jesus came back and we had
millions in the bank?” Hanes asks. “I’d rather we had no
money in the bank because we had used all the money for
4. Their worship is fresh and vibrant.
Australia has dominated the Christian music scene since the mid-1990s,
after Hillsong Church’s band, led by Darlene Zschech, first released
their popular chorus, “Shout to the Lord,” in 1993. Today
Hillsong music encircles the globe, its annual worship conference
40,000 people and their youth band, Hillsong United, is setting trends
Christian teens. Hanes’ wife, Carol, says she believes God’s
anointing has stayed on this Aussie music because it is based in a
church—not in a music industry that is driven by sales, profits and
5. They give sacrificially. Unlike those
United States, contributions made to churches in Australia are not
tax-deductible. Yet many Aussies give extravagantly to missions and
church-planting ventures. In 2007 Hanes’ church gave more than $1
million to missions and started more than 700 churches in India. “And
church leaders here don’t ask the people to give what they are not
willing to give themselves. We lead by example,” Hanes adds.
6. They focus on youth. Australia is a
and Hanes’ church mirrors the population: The average age in his
congregation is 27. “I don’t know of one church in Australia
that is filled with old people,” he says, “except some of the
mainlines.” Aussie Christians see the potential of giving young
people ministry credentials so they can pioneer churches.
Hanes points out that in Iraq today, 19-year-old soldiers
of 48 men. They are trusted to fight battles for us. “Yet we
won’t let people that age preach in our pulpits until they are
‘proven.’ Something is wrong with that,” Hanes
7. They release their women. “There is a
recognition here in Australia that if a woman has a gift, you make room
her in the church,” Hanes says, noting that the AOG has many ordained
female pastors. The growing list of prominent women ministers in
includes Margaret Court, a pastor in Perth; Christine Caine, a Bible
teacher based in Sydney; Donna Crouch, a lead pastor at Hillsong;
Jensen, a pastor in Brisbane; and Zschech, the Hillsong vocalist who is
arguably the most recognizable worship leader in the world.
Hanes dreams of a day when the same innovative approach to
that is transforming the churches of Australia will one day sweep
America. After spending this week in Sydney and seeing these
with my own eyes, I share his enthusiasm.