Growing up in a Christian home with two dedicated Christian parents, I had gotten one too many texts asking if I have been attending church. One and a half months into school, I finally decided to get to bed on Saturday at a reasonable time and hopped in the car the next morning for Sunday church. I wanted to attend a church that was far different from the relaxed 9 AM services of Seattle Washington. So naturally, I selected Hillsong Los Angeles, a trendy mega church based in Sydney Australia. Hillsong is a driving force in the Christian world and is known not only for their numerous churches all over the world, but also for their music department that has produced quite a few Christian music hits. If this church does not represent the trendy nature of Los Angeles I don’t know what would.
I met my boyfriend, John, a half hour away from LMU in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Both of us upon arriving there were quite confused on the actual location of the church. We found some slightly sketchy paid parking and walked over to an old theater with a banner reading “Hillsong”. There was a long line circling out the door as the service before ours was just being let out. Despite the bustling atmosphere of downtown, I still felt a welcoming presence as a couple of ushers walked through and greeted everyone in line. As we entered the building a few minutes later, individuals with Hillsong badges asked us where we were from and how we were doing. We entered into a beautiful old theater where the stage was set with giant projector screen showing artsy videos promoting the Hillsong ministry. Lights of all the colors of the rainbow swirled around the stage giving more concert vibes than a church sanctuary. John and I sat in the back of the sanctuary, doing some people watching as more members made their way inside. The majority of these people were no older than 35 dressed in trendy LA street style making my denim skirt and Vans slip ons feel too basic.
The service kicked off with worship music that continued to give me major concert vibes. While the lights and energized singers provided an exciting atmosphere, I could barely hear them singing over the slightly too loud drums and electric guitar. This continued for a couple of songs before finally slowing down with some more classic Hillsong tunes. Maybe it was just the Grandma part of me, but I found it difficult to connect with Hillsong’s worship on a spiritual level but rather on the booming music making my ears pop.
As the last worship song ended, one of the Hillsong staff came up to the stage and introduced the pastor for today’s service. I continued to be impressed by the down to earth nature of the Hillsong staff, continually making the service accessible and open to everyone. He talked about their outreach within the homeless community and the importance of helping other people as everyone is a child of God.
The pastor for that service, Pastor Luke, came to the stage and was exactly what I had imagined a Hillsong pastor to be. He gave a rather impactful sermon about the story of Job that ended with the resounding message that through every trial and hardship, God will work to build and restore you once again. I tend to have a difficult time focusing on sermons if they become too dry, but Pastor Luke kept me engaged with unique examples and a heartfelt message the whole time. His preaching was clearly geared towards a younger audience with him even starting his sermon with the Youtube “Invisibility Challenge”. He ended in closing prayer before the worship team performing one final worship song.
Overall, I was impressed with Hillsong LA. In the world we live in with the tension between so many religious communities, having a positive religious space emphasizing love, acceptance, and peace can be sadly uncommon. Their location in downtown Los Angeles gives Hillsong a unique opportunity to minister to a variety of people and cultural backgrounds. Despite my complaints about the music or parking, these thoughts should not take away from the impact of Hillsong on its community makes it a worth a visit or two.