The New York Times profiled Michael John Warren’s unlikely path to becoming director of ‘Hillsong: Let Hope Rise’, a documentary film featuring the popular Christian rock band Hillsong United.
Warren is a self described agnostic, and the thought of making a film centering around people who worship Jesus seemed almost repulsive. From the NYT:
“Like many nonreligious Americans, he had never even heard of the group in question: Hillsong United, the primary musical engine for Hillsong, the stylish, internationally expanding Australian Pentecostal megachurch that counts Justin Bieber and Kevin Durant among its flock.
“Why would I ever make a Christian rock film?” the director, who was raised Catholic but is now closer to agnostic, said. “You could have told me it was about ISIS or Satanism and I would’ve said, ‘Sounds edgy and cool — let’s go!’ But you say ‘Jesus’ and I’m like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, no thank you.’”
When you’re more excited about Satan movies than Jesus, yeah that’s not exactly the person one would expect to take on a movie like this one.
Hillsong United is the music front for the Hillsong mega church, famously from Australia and with locations in major cities such as New York and London. Their success is unquestioned, but often times their heart is. Many wonder if this seeker-friendly church has watered down the message of Christianity in order to reach higher levels of success in the mainstream. Hillsong would likely counter that they’re doing exactly what they set out to do – bring the message of Jesus to an audience that otherwise wouldn’t have heard it.
The mere fact that the New York Times wrote a feature article on them today seems to be a point in their favor, but only time will tell if the ministry ultimately serves God & people – or merely their bottom line.