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JD Douglass talks church's impact on Christian music, ministry
By Jeannie Law, ChristianPost.com
and award-winning Christian worship band Hillsong UNITED
is gearing up for the release of their album PEOPLE,
and The Christian Post caught up with founding band member
JD Douglass to get a look at how the ministry
continues to revolutionize worship music worldwide.
Hillsong church was founded by Brian Houston and his wife,
Bobbie, in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, in 1983. It
has now grown from a single church to an international
ministry that has churches in 21 countries on six
continents, including: London, England; Paris, France; Sao
Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa;
Tel Aviv, Israel; and three cities in the United States.
The church has an average global attendance approaching 130,000 weekly.
In the U.S., Hillsong is recognized for its thriving congregations in New
York City, Los Angeles, California, and Phoenix, Arizona,
and their services are frequently attended by many A-list
There are three different musical groups affiliated with Hillsong Church,
these are Hillsong Worship, Hillsong Young & Free,
and Hillsong UNITED.
Hillsong UNITED has sold more than 4.7 million albums and remains the No.
1 Christian artist on all social media platforms with over
10.5 million fans combined. Their new live album PEOPLE
will be released on April 26 and is said to reflect the
band's roots and core mission of “unity.”
from the album, "Whole Heart" and "Another In The
Fire" have already entered Billboard's Contemporary
Christian Top 25.
support of their new music, UNITED will also return to the
U.S. for the first time in three years for their The
People Tour MMXIX.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview
with longtime Hillsong church member and founding member of
Hillsong UNITED, JD Douglass, who talks about the evolution
of Hillsong music, their commitment to God, and their
influence on western culture.
relationship with Hillsong Church has been a lifelong
journey. What's it been like to be a part of the ministry
all these years?
extremely blessed. Everyone has a different journey, but my
parents are Christian so not going to church wasn't an
option in our family. I'm kind of glad that we've been going
to Hillsong church my whole life. There really hasn't been a
time that I haven't wanted to go [to church].
We're definitely not the best or the most perfect church but it's a
church where we've got great leadership that just believes
in the next generation. That believes in encouraging,
letting people know that God does have a plan and purpose
for everyone's life, and that's a really encouraging
Growing up in that, going from the school of Hillsong and then in the
youth ministry, it's been a great experience. I never
dreamed or imagined that I'd be part of the music team,
especially with UNITED and being able to be around those
early days and to see 20 years on now what God has done and
how faithfully He's been. It's definitely one of those
things that has blown our expectation and probably surprised
us more than anybody.
revolutionized Christian culture, even down to what people
to church in a lot of contemporary churches. Was that
intentional as a way
to reach people?
kind of funny to see how that's unfolded as I look back over
the journey. But to be honest, it wasn't anything that we
did intentionally, and I think I can say that about the
whole Hillsong journey. I think that we're just lucky that
in the part of the world that we grew up in, Australia has
always had great churches and people that are following
Jesus. But I guess the culture is a lot different in the
church. Different people, different languages, and they all
have different accents. And I think one thing about
Australia is that we're very laid back because it is a
It was actually a weird thing to go to church in Australia. The majority
of Australians don't go to church. So just the way that our
culture was in the church within Australia was very laid
back. So I think for us, we didn't know anything else except
to dress how we wanted to, and sometimes that was the same
as our school friends or whatever was the fashion at the
We have a lot of respect and honor for the house of God and the platform,
but I honestly just think that, again, if we can just be who
we're called to be and be authentic to ourselves, and do our
best to honor and please God, then He will have His way.
It's funny, and I can see now that it's probably worked to our advantage,
but it's all laughs that that has happened because there was
absolutely no intention. It's just kind of how we grew up
and it was to our surprise that it wasn't the same all over
the world. God has been able to use that to help people and
to get His message into the hearts of many, and I'm all
But yeah, we kind of sit back and laugh about that stuff because it was
people to be like Jesus in this day and age is very
How do you, as someone who has been in church leadership,
in this generation?
risk of sounding cliche or too basic, I can't go past
looking at Jesus and use His example. I think where we get
it wrong is when we overlook, or we go too far away from the
truth of God's word. I think, automatically thinking about
Jesus' ministry, it was full of opposition from the
religious people of the day. There's not many or any stories
that I can remember, in the Bible, where He got attacked by
the non-Christian or the nonreligious people of the day. He
got all this opposition, all resistance from the religion
that had been set up in His time.
It does surprise me that other religious groups, or churches, or people
of faith would oppose what we do. But I also think that
we've got grace for that, because, again, Jesus. Also, Paul
was constantly writing letters about how "we are going to
have opposition, living this life of faith and this life
sacrifice and hard times." What I love though is that the
Bible always talks about the fact that it's worth it, and
God is with us, and He's made us perfect in our weakness.
It's not always going to work out the way that we want, it's not always
going to be perfect. But at the same time, it is always
going to be worth it and God is always with us. I think that
would be the biggest thing that I want to encourage the next
generation or anyone really to not get discouraged when
things aren't going our way. To understand that out our
journey of following God and being in relationship with
Jesus is one of trusting Him and that He’s working all
things together for good.
I think, if we just all go with our emotions or feelings or
circumstances, I think we can all get pretty discouraged.
I'm 35 now and have been on this journey my whole life. When
it comes to disciplining, if we look to the world for our
inspirational strengths or stability, then we're not going
to go the distance.
But if we look to the Word of God, which is the truth, I believe that we
can re-center what's really important and live the kind of
life that God has planned for all of us. Knowing that we are
human, and that we are going to stumble, we are going to
fall, but God loves us too much to leave us the way that we
are. He works with us and I'm just grateful that every day
we get new mercies.
Hillsong UNITED, Hillsong Worship,
and Hillsong Young & Free?
have a laugh about it because, on one hand, it's really
clear that they're different but it can get very confusing
because we are all trying to do the same thing, really.
live performance of
"Who You Say I Am"
Hillsong Young & Free's
"Let Go" -
live performance of
"So Will I (100 Billion X)" -
live performance of
"What A Beautiful Name"
live performance of
#1 Christian video
"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
There was always Hillsong Worship
and that was from the very early days. That was just our main church
worship team that would lead worship on Sunday mornings and Sunday
night services and write songs for the church.
Then you'd have our youth group. Even when I was in youth group, 20 years
ago now, the pastor encouraged our youth group to write songs that
would really hit home for that age group and write in the style of
music that would really encourage and speak to the young generation.
So that's how UNITED got birthed.
Our pastors always encouraged us to
bring people through and give young people the opportunity to serve
God. So that's how Young & Free got birthed because UNITED has been
going for 10 or so years and youth was getting a little bit too old
for us. So we all encouraged the younger guys that were coming
through. Slowly, that's how Young & Free was birthed and that was
kind of a new generation.
As UNITED, we thought, does that means that we should stop doing what
we're doing? But God had really created a special lane for us to
create music, so we've kind of just kept going.
So, really, at the end of the day, the three different brands are all
about writing songs that glorify God and help people.
Hillsong Worship is definitely more about writing songs for churches to
be able to sing on Sunday mornings. Young & Free are going for that
next generation. We're (UNITED) somewhere in between, doing whatever
we can really.
In a recent interview with former
Hillsong worship leader Darlene Zschech, she said she really loves
how honest and raw some of the newer worship music is.
What inspires your music now?
First of all, I have to honor
Darlene because she was my worship pastor growing up. And when I was
too young to have the opportunity to be able to sing in big church,
she really put her arm around me and I was just lucky to have her as
a worship pastor. She always believed in me and all of us from
UNITED and Young & Free.
For us, [it's about] writing honest and authentic songs. I think that
religion always wants to paint a picture that's not real. [But for
us, we want to create] something that makes it all about the things
that Jesus came to establish, which is have a relationship with
people, operating in His grace, His love His mercy.
I feel like Jesus spoke to the hearts of people, not to the heart of a
religious organization. Even within the church and even with the
best of intentions, I think we've got to always commit to being
authentic, to being honest, and that's probably been one of the most
key things for us.
I know I can speak on behalf of Joel Houston, who is our main
writer and our main leader over the years, whenever we get together
to write a project or when we get in the studio, he always says, "I
want to write the most honest song I possibly can." So it's always a
balance because you've got to put faith in there and keep it
positive and all the rest of that.
But, to be honest, I think it's the grace of God that people are
connected with the songs more than anything. That commitment to just
writing the most honest songs that we can and at the end of the day,
we don't want to write a song that sounds good or that lots of
people are going to listen to or that sells a lot of records, we
want to write songs that are going to glorify God. And, secondly,
actually help people where they're at. That's always been our main
focus. And we've been blessed to still have had the ability to
travel the world as we get to do that.
You guys are bringing your tour back to
America, what's your goal with the tour?
I feel like America is such a big
country, and there's so many people and so many churches. We've been
going to America a lot over the last 20 years and it's hard to make
a general statement on the whole of church in America, or
Christianity in America.
I think that it's probably different for each person, but one thing I
know is that we've never been more excited about this tour. It's
going to be the biggest tour that we've ever done, especially
because we're coming off a season where we just recorded a new album
and it's the first live album we've done in almost 10 years.
What overarching message are you are
hoping to get across with the new album?
We recorded it in the same
auditorium where we recorded a lot of the early UNITED albums and
gave us the platform that we've got today. So just going off how
these songs have been going in our church and even just the few that
we've released already, the response has been the best response
we've ever had.
The name UNITED came by accident because it was just the name that we
were giving these nights at youth, when we're gathering all the
different age groups that used to come to our church. We would all
come together and have these United youth nights.
But I think God planned for us to be called UNITED because now what we
feel more than ever is that now's the time for people to come
together and be united and understand that we're not always going to
agree on everything but let's stand behind the things we agree on.
As believers, that's the truth of God and His word and plan for
So I think that it's a really important time because there's a lot of
uncertain things out there. But there is also some certain things
and that's that God is in control and God wants to work His destiny
through His church and through His people.
And so that's what these tour nights are all about. We just want to unite
people. We want to unite America as much as we possibly can. We
believe that with God, nothing is impossible. We're just fired up
about this tour because we think God''s gonna do something really
incredible and we're just pumped that we get to be a part of it.
"Another In The Fire"
Hillsong UNITED's new live album includes the singles "Another In The Fire," "As You Find Me," "Whole Heart (Hold Me Now)" and "Good Grace" with accompanying live performance videos, the powerful worship anthems feature lead vocals from Taya and showcases UNITED's signature sound.
"Who You Say I Am"
(from There Is
The anticipated 2018 release from the Hillsong Worship community strikes the balance of contemplative devotion and powerful declarations of praise for both individuals and congregations alike. There Is More includes lead single "Who You Say I Am" plus "Be Still," "The Passion," "New Wine," and more uplifting new offerings. Special edition includes the standard edition CD, digital download card, and live DVD, plus a 35-page hardcover book with lyrics, scripture, devotions, artwork, and more.
(There Is More (Live), Special Edition CD/DVD/Hardcover)
The anticipated 2018 release from the Hillsong Worship community strikes the balance of contemplative devotion and powerful declarations of praise for both individuals and congregations alike. There Is More includes lead single "Who You Say I Am" plus "So Will I (100 Billion X)," "Be Still," "The Passion," "New Wine," and more uplifting new offerings. Special edition includes the standard edition CD, digital download card, and live DVD, plus a 35-page hardcover book with lyrics, scripture, devotions, artwork, and more.
(from Let There Be
Recorded live at the 2016 Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Let
There Be Light showcases
the talents of staff musicians
Reuben Morgan, Joel Houston, Ben Fielding,
and others on a selection of electrifying new worship offerings.
This twelve-song performance includes
"Love So Great," "What A Beautiful Name," "Grace To Grace,"
and others. Deluxe edition CD/DVD includes full standard edition CD
album and DVD video.
(Open Heaven/River Wild (Deluxe
Recorded live at the 2015 Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Australia, Open
Heaven / River Wild is
a transformative worship event with the all-star Hillsong team.
Features a selection of all-new worship offerings, including
"O Praise The Name (Anastasis)," "Transfiguration," "One Thing,"
"Love On The Line,"
the title cut, and more. Deluxe edition, includes
full CD and DVD.
(The Peace Project)
birthday of the Prince of Peace! Shining a beacon of hope in a dark
world, Hillsong offers a melodic blend of vibrant new songs and
beloved Christmas classics. Worship along with them as they sing
"Seasons"; "Peace upon the Earth"; "Prince of Heaven"; "O Holy
Night"; "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"; "Joy to the World";
(Let Hope Rise Soundtrack)