How much Hillsong earned from Aussie flock
Megachurch Hillsong is exploding in popularity with the church raking in an eye-watering $96 million in tax-free revenue from its 38,300-strong Australian flock.
The faith factory's conferences attracted 28,800 Sydneysiders alone and 3,281 children to its kids' conferences in Australia and Bali, according to its annual report published on September 14.
The Daily Telegraph revealed 76 per cent of worshippers were blessed in 2019 for filling the bulk of the church's coffers with 10 per cent of their annual income in tithes and offerings - a request stipulated in the Bible, the church website states.
In 2018 the Evangelical church, which receives tax breaks as a charity and began its Australian roots in Baulkham Hills in the eighties, raised $1.3 million less but its popularity among predominantly 20-34 year olds saw its young flocks fork out a total $8,839,565 to attend conferences last year.
Founding pastor Brian Houston said attendance was 2,636 new members and 1646 new weekend church goers and 6 million new visits to the Hillsong Church website.
"Although this report relates to the 2019 year, we face unprecedented times as a nation,- never has it been more important as a church that we support the physical and pastoral needs of our community particularly as we stepped into this new decade with the impact of bushfires and floods and then the COVID-19 pandemic," he wrote in the report detailing the church's finances from December 2018-2019.
"Since we moved to online church in March this year, over 250,000 calls have been made to care for people suffering from the effects of isolation, supporting those who have lost their jobs or whose businesses have been affected, as well as partnering with organisations to provide food to those who are most vulnerable at this time."
With campuses springing up around the world last year in Kuta, Milan, Edinburgh, Brussels, and the Mexican city Monterey, the powerful church sends volunteers to move in new circles and meet potential newcomers.
The vaguely detailed annual report, signed off by multinational auditors Ernst & Young, said the church invested heavily in youth programs for the disaffected - ploughing an undisclosed amount of revenue into summer camps and setting up Young and Free conferences to which 4,334 registered last year.
Tithes and offerings fund church activities and takings for the men's conferences generated $49,000 which was then ploughed into the bushfire funds across the country.
The Hillsong church annual report last year states "One in four Australian citizens - both male and female - experience loneliness and 50 per cent feel lonely at least one day every week and 27 per cent feel lonely for more than three days in a week
"Hillsong is a broad, diverse, multicultural community.
"It is out of our diversity that we facilitate and arrange cultural events that build value, belonging and opportunities."
Hillsong church conferences are popular with women - 17,464 in Sydney took part in the so-called colour conferences dedicated to female worshippers last year and 46,500 across Australia.
Through its music label and push into the lucrative US market, the Hillsong brand has become a magnet for celebrities, including singer Justin Bieber, NBA star Kevin Durant and NRL/NFL player Jarryd Hayne, who became the poster boy for the church.
It also collects millions from music royalties and its childcare and tuition services, which are put back into the church's operations and expenses.
The church website states: "We believe in the Biblical principle of tithing. In Malachi 3:10 (NLT) the Bible talks about bringing the first 10% (tithe) of your income into the storehouse (church). Tithes and offerings received at Hillsong fund the vision and activities of our church.."
A Hillsong spokesman would not declare how much Mr Houston was paid, underlining it was church policy to not divulge personal details including salaries of its staff.
The spokesman told The Daily Telegraph while the church believed in the "biblical principal of tithing (giving a percentage of income to God)" it did not force followers to make financial donations.
Originally published as How much Hillsong earned from Aussie flock