Hillsong Church’s interim global senior pastor Phil Dooley is claiming that the upcoming Discovery Plus docu-series Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed paints an unfair picture of the church.
Based on the recently released trailer, the three-part series says it will examine how the Australia-based church become a massive phenomenon and toes the “fine line between cult and culture.”
The trailer for the docu-series shows footage and audio clips discussing recent various issues and scrutiny Hillsong has face in recent years, including the controversy surrounding Carl Lentz, a former Hillsong NYC pastor who was fired from his role due to “moral failures,” allegations against pastors who misused church funds, claims of manipulation and religious trauma, and more.
During a global webcast on Feb. 19, Dooley tied his message from Nehemiah 4 to the speculation surrounding Hillsong, connecting the resistance Nehemiah faced to Hillsong’s recent difficulties.
Dooley served as a youth pastor in Sydney before leading Hillsong South Africa in 2008. He recently stepped in for co-founder Brian Houston, who stepped down as Hillsong global senior pastor to handle a criminal charge in Australia. Glimpses from the trailer show that Houston and his father, Frank, will be discussed in the docu-series, as well.
Dooley believes the image Discovery Plus is painting of Hillsong is “far removed from … the truth of who we are as a church.”
Dooley specifically slammed the producers of Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed, noting that “their purpose is not the healing of people, but simply to hurt the church.”
The interim pastor expressed his frustration that the film seems to over look the positive things the church has been doing.
“I’d love to expose them to Phillippi village, not too far down the road, or a small place in Johannesburg, where we are teaching young people from disadvantaged backgrounds digital skills so that they can be educated and they can get the kind of skills that enable them to step into a digital economy rather than become a statistic in a country that has over 60% youth unemployment because that’s what our church is doing,” Dooley explained.
“Our church helping all the partners that we’ve partnered with, say Compassion, for example, who have been able to help thousands of young people get a better education and families out of poverty,” he continued. “And we have played our part-time and time again, in serving and helping.”
This is the second film to attempt to pull back the curtain on Hillsong Church. Following the release of the BBC film Hillsong Church: God Goes Viral, the church released a statement saying the story did “not reflect reality.”
“Most of the footage that demonstrated the positive impacts of our church were relegated to the cutting room floor and erased from the final cut of the documentary,” Hillsong said of the BBC film. “We strongly refute the many aspects of the film that fail to meet a basic level of journalistic integrity and a commitment to the truth.”
While Dooley mainly spoke about his frustration for the church being painted unfairly, he did briefly acknowledge the church’s shortcomings, saying that Hillsong has “never claimed to be a perfect church.”
Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed will premiere on Discovery Plus on March 24.