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Geoff Bullock Hillsong’s Prodigal Son: Grace Alone And Not Prosperity

It is said if you have sung a Hillsong tune, then you must have sung a Geoff Bullock song. Geoff Bullock (1955) is an Australian Christian singer-songwriter and pianist best known for his songs “The Power of Your Love”, “You Rescued Me”, “Jesus God’s Righteousness revealed” and “Love overcomes” among others. He was a founder of the Hillsong music team and the annual Hillsong conference. But now he says, “I have grown into someone completely different. I have learnt much, some by bitter experience, but, through all this, I have found a hope and peace that continually surprises me.”

Looking back over the last ten years we hardly have seen him grace the head lines nor the lime light and many seemed to have written him off. But the confident assurance that wields his spine can only be a divinely crafted work of grace as Geoff has battled bi-polar affective disorder with its crippling anxiety spells. A recent interview with Terry Allen revealed a lot more than one would have known about this gifted and extra ordinary psalmist:

Life as a Christian, especially with bi-polar disorder, must be difficult. Some Christians believe it is demonic & should be dealt exclusively by prayer. How have you managed it?

Well, the first thing I want to wade in swinging is that I wish the evangelists and those who visit churches, and they arrive one day and leave the other, who drop such dangerous bombs on people’s medical situations; I wish they would go and do some research by sitting down with a psychiatrist and realizing how dangerous their teaching is.

You wouldn’t dare say that to someone with diabetes, but this irresponsible message; all it does is heighten the symptoms twice. You know, they go off medication, they get worse and then, getting worse, they think they must be possessed by demons, so that makes them feel worse and then they are totally without an anchor. Of course the hope of medication and a good psychiatrist is taken away from them, so I get furious about that.

And it’s also totally irrelevant to the gospel…For me, I do a lot of thinking, prayerful thinking and I think about the life of Christ all the time. Trying to strip away all of the things we’ve said culturally and theologically: strip it away. The drama that was Jesus when he walked into somebody’s life or somebody’s social circumstances: that is of great help to me.

I have a little saying: receiving grace compels us to begin the journey towards becoming gracious. Receiving grace is free but becoming gracious will cost you everything. It will cost you every opinion you have in your life and every bias.

Its not that often that some one from Hillsong talks about grace, righteousness and theology in the same sentence . Don’t they preach word of faith and prosperity gospel? Well, Geoff Bullock actually left Hillsong…15 years ago.

15 years ago you left Hillsong. Why?

Well, I’ve got to say that I was always a round peg in a square hole there. From the beginning of Hillsong’s association with the Word of Faith churches in America, their prosperity doctrine and their very works-based doctrine of spiritual and physical rewards, I just could not tie the gospel together with what they were saying. Not when I looked at Jesus at the cross; I couldn’t understand how they combined the grace of Jesus found in the gospel with the laws of conditional blessings and rewards found in the Old Testament.

They teach that Jesus rewards us according to our works. That is not the work of Christ. Grace is never a reward. We receive grace as a gift according what Jesus accomplished for us.

Many of the songs you wrote, you now sing with revised lyrics. Why?

Well, I suppose it’s because I remember who I was when I wrote the song. I remember my approach to God and I remember what was a real disfunctionality.  Yes, it was the result of an undiagnosed illness, but it was also an error of theology. An error of grace or rather an error of works in grace.

For this current generation, singing in church has become synonymous with worship. Why is that? And how would you describe the current state of Christian music?
First, I think we need to look at ‘worship’ again. And I think ‘worship’ as our response to Jesus could be a whole lot of other things before we turn it into songs. [Full interview here]

Recently there has been an unhealthy the adage that Hillsong is worryingly becoming a modern free church. The repetitive loud music has comfortably compensated for theological depth with monotonous syllabic dreg. Another  person mused, “They perfectly blend music, the bible and showmanship to create what can only be described as the Hillsong experience. It’s an experience on the whole… that contain[s] self help stuff – lots of positive motivational stuff for teenage kids that need direction.”

Therein lies the biggest concern –easy believism and pragmatism.  And confusing singing a song with a good “hook” and meaningless theology for worship. But as one reads of Hillsong’s prodigal son’s perseverance in trials and hardship to invaluable  lessons in grace its no doubt his dependance on prosperity gospel have come to an official end. What a change has occurred in Geoff Bullock’s theology! We now see the abundance of God’s grace reflected in his new psalms and music.

How I wish my heart would pant and yearn for this God of Geoff Bullock. Just so I can sing to Him too with assurance:

“Lord I come to you, let my heart be changed,

renewed, flowing from [this] grace that I’ve found in you.”


4 responses to “Geoff Bullock Hillsong’s Prodigal Son: Grace Alone And Not Prosperity

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  3. Born4Battle November 4, 2010 at 09:51

    That is an important message. I am going to check out the whole interview.

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