Hillsong has been a music powerhouse since they burst on the scene in 1998 as part of Hillsong’s youth ministry and has grown into one of the most recognizable acts on the planet today.
It’s not uncommon for a large church to have some incredibly talented musicians who go on to score commercial success — but Hillsong (and now Hillsong Young & Free) has managed to consistently churn out chart-topping hits and stay on top, despite seeing lots of turnover in talent throughout the years.
Ironically, that’s proven the biggest testament to their success, the band told Faithwire in a recent interview.
“It’s the grace of God completely,” Laura Toggs, daughter of Hillsong Church founders Brian and Bobbie Houston, explained before digging a little deeper. “It’s not like we’re going out there and looking for these talented people… I do believe that there is a favor upon our church if I can say that. There’s like a mantle that’s placed upon our church for worship because it’s never been built around one person, one extraordinarily gifted and talented person,” she said.
Keep reading below — or check out the full interview here:
Toggs believes it’s because they haven’t put one individual person above everything else that they continue to experience God’s favor.
“If you think to back in the day with Darlene Zschech and with Hillsong United, my brother Joel (Joel Houston), and others, you know, amazing gifted talented people — but it hasn’t stopped with them. Every single time another young person comes through who has this gift and calling upon their life that’s so obvious. I just think being part of an environment that empowers that as well is part of why God breathes upon it,” she said.
“I think Laura is being a little humble,” Hillsong Young & Free’s Alex Pappas interjected. “From the top down, our senior pastor, they believe in the next generation, they believe in empowering and raising people up.”
“The truth is, we were all risks at one point,” Pappas explained. “There are talented people and they could just keep doing this — they keep leading, they could be the ones writing songs — but there are people who believe in us,” he said, before encouraging church leaders around the country to adopt a similar approach. “God uses that, and He’s used us and He’ll continue to use the next generation of people.”
It is evident when interacting with the band that this is a group of people who are sincere and serious about their faith. There’s often thought-provoking introspection found in their answers, and genuine concern for the young people they seek to reach with their music.
The band’s mission to expose young people to church in a way they didn’t think was possible is more critical now than ever, as startling numbers of young people are leaving the faith. Aodhan King addressed the growing disconnect between youth culture and faith, and what Y & F is doing to bridge the gap.
“Young people today are faced with so many different messages. I think for us, with the church, we need to be in that place — with strong messaging,” King said. “People have an idea of church, that it’s all about rules and regulations. What we’ve tried to do in everything is to show that church is actually fun, and faith is fun and full of life. That’s our message, to bring that kind of fun and joy of God,” King explained.
When asked about the hostility that the wider culture often expresses towards Christianity, church and people of faith — including in the music world — Melodie Wagner-Mäkinen explained how Y & F hopes to impact both believers and non-believers alike.
“Music in itself is created by God. When it’s used to glorify Him something happens in your spirit,” she says. “Music is an incredible tool one, to Glorify God and two, to break down barriers in people’s lives. What we get to do by making music that’s accessible, fresh, fun, exciting– is that we can break through the barriers and almost bring down the walls in people’s hearts and get to the truth and give them the truth and even give them something to sing and believe.”
Wagner-Mäkinen noted that she doesn’t view their position as a Christian band as adversarial to secular culture.
“I would hate to think it’s us vs. them but almost us standing in that sphere, in that industry and shining a light and being different,” she explained.
Young & Free’s new album is simply titled ‘III,’ and you can check it out here.
And take a look at their impressive recent performance on ‘Today” below: