Brian Houston's cry for more
‘I don’t think God called anyone to a life of mediocrity’
Hillsong’s Brian Houston is a “huge believer” that God sees more in his people than they see themselves.
In his new book, There is More, the larger-than-life global pastor of the worldwide Hillsong Church harnesses the power of dreams to encourage Christians to enlarge their vision for their lives.
He cautions that it’s not about more stuff, more money or self-fulfilment but about understanding the way God sees you and living out his will for your life.
When Houston was a child in New Zealand, he used to sit in church every Sunday and dream about one day serving God as a preacher. But he never imagined he would lead a church that now covers 20 countries on six continents.
“Our whole story blows my mind,” he tells Eternity. “That’s why There is More starts with the fact that when I was 17 I had a dream, just like Joseph – when he was 17, God gave him a dream,” Houston references the Old Testament figure Joseph (who features in the book of Genesis, chapters 37-50).
When Brian and his wife Bobbie came to Australia 40 years ago, aged 24 and 21, “we were kids with a big dream, but we had no idea of what was ahead of us.”
When asked if his message is simply positive thinking wrapped up in a Christian bow, Houston replies: “I was really careful to try and not go down that road…”
Now, with a church he estimates has brought hundreds of thousands of people to faith in Christ “at the very least,” Houston has drawn inspiration for his new book from Ephesians 3:20-21:
“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (New King James version).
“That’s why Ephesians 3 verse 20 is such a favourite Scripture of mine because we’ve experienced it, God doing exceeding abundance above what we could have ever asked or thought as we’ve let him work in us. So it’s a story that amazes me more than anyone, I think.”
When asked if his message is simply positive thinking wrapped up in a Christian bow, Houston replies: “I was really careful to try and not go down that road because I feel like when I think about ‘more’, the last thing I’m thinking about is stuff, and material things.”
“I’m thinking about the fact that if we can discover more of God, we’ll also discover more of God’s will for [our] life.
“And I am absolutely confident that no one’s on earth by chance, that all of us here have a sense of calling and purpose. Unless you’re intending to retire tomorrow or die tomorrow, I just feel like God’s got more for you – because this is an adventure, and it’s an adventure that opens up, and we all know that it has its challenges … along the way and it has its pressure, but I’m a huge believer in what God has for people.
“I don’t think God called anyone to a life of mediocrity and so all the positive thinking I just think it’s reflected [in] how I see the word of God.”
“If people could understand the way that God sees them … it would change the way they live their lives.” – Brian Houston
Asked if his focus is still a little egocentric, Houston says the book is about doing more for the kingdom of God through other people.
“It’s all about what we do in terms of what God’s called us to do.”
“If a business person is a believer and their entire life is about serving Jesus Christ, that means their business is like their ministry as well – so it’s all about the will of God for their life, which means that it’s not just going to be about selfish pursuit; it’s going to be about something much bigger than that.
“So the whole purpose in writing the book actually is other people because I just feel like if people could understand the way that God sees them, it would change the way they think, it would change the way they live their lives.”
“I think you can always learn from criticism…” – Brian Houston
Houston’s dedication to a positive outlook has been challenged over the years by the criticism of Hillsong Church, including the painful revelation that his father Frank, another Pentecostal minister, had been a child abuser.
“To be honest, it’s a challenge at times,” he says. “We went through years of intense scrutiny in Australia – I don’t think Australia obviously had seen a church that was so big and young and relevant – and so I think it’s the Aussie way but probably not only the Aussie way; people criticise what they don’t understand, so it was an interesting period. I think that we learned a lot from it, I learned a lot from it.”
“I think you can always learn from criticism and so that side of it, I guess, was good.
“But by God’s grace [during] the last few years that’s evened out a whole lot, so we get a fair run nowadays with that. But, yeah, it was intense and between that and some of the issues that I’ve talked about a lot with my father, for a ten to 12-year period there, I went through a tough time.
“I find that the things that relate to what I do, being a pastor and a leader, yes, it’s got pressures and challenges, but I always feel like I was created for that.
“But it’s the things that came externally – like, you don’t expect when you’re 45 one day to hear that your father was a child abuser, you know, many years before, and then of course just the intensity of the scrutiny we got after a long, long time. It was a pressure but by God’s grace I feel like we never, ever retaliated; we just tried to keep doing what we’re called to do and I think God just looked after the church.
“The church just kept going forward and kind of confounded the critics to a degree and to this day … I don’t feel animosity towards anybody because that was a choice we made.”