Hillsong United and Chris Tomlin drop 'VIP' ticket after criticism

Hillsong United and Chris Tomlin have removed a 'VIP' ticket option for an upcoming tour after being accused of commercialism. 

The two worship acts will be heading out across the US on a 33-date tour starting on February 9, 2022.

It is the first time they will be conducting a live stadium tour since before the pandemic.

Tickets went on sale last week and came under immediate scrutiny for a more expensive VIP option that offered a package with premium seats, exclusive gifts and a meet-and-greet that included a photoshoot with the artists. 

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Modern Hymnal founder Tom Read said the VIP package was "hugely disappointing, although sadly it's not surprising" because of the "celebrity culture" in modern worship.

But he also blamed fans for being prepared to pay extra for such packages.

"I'm not sure which is worse: that Hillsong and Chris Tomlin think that this is ok in the context of worship; or that there's actually a demand for it?" he wrote.

"No doubt some people will think that I'm being unfair here, or unnecessarily 'devisive' [sic], but at what point are we allowed to say something is not ok? Because this is not ok, and justifying it just contributes to the problem."

He went on, "Modern day worship has become so corrupt that I have no doubt Jesus would flip the tables on so much of it.

"In my opinion, worship needs it's own reformation that rids itself of the celebrity culture that's it's become so entrenched in."

He ended his thread with a plea for change.

"This will continue as long as we give a platform for it to continue. So please, do not buy a "VIP EXPERIENCE" for worship events. It's the opposite of what worship should be about. We need to do better," he wrote.

Neither Tomlin nor Hillsong United have publicly addressed the criticism but the word 'VIP' was removed from the sale page and the offers rebranded as 'Experience Packages'.

In an op-ed for Premier Christianity, Rend Collective member Chris Llewellyn sympathized with Christian worship artists offering a VIP option because of the costs of staging a tour.

He also suggested that having such options made general ticket prices more affordable for everybody.

"One of the main mechanisms by which large Christian concerts actually break even is via upgraded ticketing — think 'VIP experience' — or through sponsorship," he said.

"I can say confidently that without these things my own band would be unable to tour.

"This is because we already reduce our ticket prices to staggeringly low rates compared to equivalent artists in the secular world to make the concerts as accessible as possible," continued Llewellyn.

"Yes, there's a price tag for [VIP] service, but in a world of compromise, I'd rather offer this service at an extra charge to people who have expressed that they want it, than have to have a more expensive ticket for everyone," he added.