The fallout from Hillsong should encourage all churches to do a little soul-searching

Hillsong has been dogged by scandal for several years.(Photo: Hillsong)

Well, it is safe to say it's been a time of annus horribilis for the global megachurch. With breaches of trust in their US branch, an accusation of rape from a junior staffer against a Hillsong pastor, criticism in Australia against live music during a time when music festivals were banned in New South Wales, and the resignation of Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston, it is clear there is a lot we can learn from mistakes made by the megachurch.

Now, anyone that has ran a global ministry of the size of Hillsong will know that it takes a lot of good people to get it off the ground, let alone be fruitful. There is no doubt that the global reach of Hillsong has made it a fruitful ministry and that they do a lot of things right, and that this in no way makes them a 'bad' church.

But, there is a lesson to be learned here - that nothing is infallible, procedures can fall through the cracks, and perhaps now is a great opportunity for all churches to reflect broadly on their own procedures and their own culture.

Hillsong NYC - a story of failed procedures and a failed leadership culture

An investigation conducted by an independent law firm into the culture of Hillsong New York City painted a picture of a church leadership rife with abuse, sexual misconduct and secrecy.

The termination of the former pastor of the church, Carl Lentz, opened up a pandora's box of extramarital affairs and spiritual abuse of volunteers and staff.

However, could this whole story be an example of what happens when adequate safeguards are not put in place by the church board?

According to The Christian Post, the report claimed that Lentz acted with so much freedom in running Hillsong NYC that there was a sense that the "church's Australian leaders had little to no control over him". Although denied by Lentz, multiple staffers reported that Lentz had uttered the words "Australia is dead to us".

But that is also a failing of the mother church, surely? Where there is a multisite church, especially a church of a global nature, effective oversight needs to be put in place. If effective oversight had been put in place, Lentz would not have been the final arbiter of what was considered appropriate behaviour.

Will local churches now place more emphasis on effective oversight?

I should hope so. When abuse happens in church, it can nearly always be traced back to lack of accountability, lack of effective oversight, and putting the wrong people in the wrong positions.

In my role in The Hub Baptist Church - another multisite church - it has given me access to the workings of our leadership and this question of 'how do we ensure effective oversight?'.

We have been in the privileged position of being able to speak into other churches, and working with our denomination to assist other churches in our region with their own policies, procedures and framework.

We have been at churches on the brink of collapse and also facing issues internally. Almost every issue I have seen can be traced back to the wrong people in the wrong positions.

Scripture makes clear the kind of people we are to see in eldership. Specifically, the Apostle Paul gave frequent instructions to Timothy about the sorts of people who should be in leadership.

Sometimes in church, we give responsibility to the loudest voices, and that is not healthy. I hope that by following the scriptures and taking time to put in effective leadership procedures, we can learn from Hillsong's mistakes, that there will be no more abuse, and that His name will be glorified.

Ben Kruzins is a Pastor of The Hub Baptist Church in Regional New South Wales Australia. He has written articles in The Canberra Times and The Sydney Morning Herald.