Like father, like son: Hillsong’s sandy foundations (Part 1)

Jesus says,

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

The purpose of this article is to examine a sermon excerpt from Brian Houston. This sermon was entitled, “My Salvation – My Freedom from Shame.” Brian preached this sermon after presenting his case around his father’s pedophilia to the Royal Commission.

Being FrankHis sermon was about not living in shame. In the below segment, he used his sister as an example what happens when you live in shame. To expose the lies in the below sermon segment, we will contrast his account with his own mother’s testimony (from her book, ‘Being Frank’), in order to understand what really happened within the Houston family regarding Brian’s sister.

To begin, we will first look at what Brian actually said in his sermon. Then, we will lookat what really happened according to Brian Houston’s own mother, Hazel Houston.  We will then conclude our investigation by looking at the book excerpt written by Hazel Houston.  It will not be until our next article that we will expose why the “biblical” foundation of Hillsong is so dangerous as well as the negative impact that that has made on the church today.


The Sunday after the Royal Commission, Brian Houston preached a sermon entitled “My Salvation – My Freedom from Shame.” This sermon has just been recently published on their website. As you watch it, please note that you are seeing an edited version. In spite of some technical difficulties, we were able to record the original. The part of the sermon that we would like people to pay careful attention to is transcribed below.

Brian Houston said,

“When I was 13, I remember one time my mum talking to me and my siblings in our lounge room and telling us that we are going to be looking after a baby for awhile. I mean I was surprised I was told it was someone’s baby and we were going to look after it, and so sure enough that’s what happened for I don’t know how long, maybe a year we looked after this baby in our house.

At the time my older sister was in Melbourne, what I didn’t know was that she had been secretly sent off to Melbourne, because she was pregnant. And then without anyone knowing she was brought back to New Zealand, and then across the Mountain range, close to where we lived was a little town and quietly, on her own, she had a baby there. And ahh in that era, in that landscape, there was so much shame attached to it. So much shame was put on her, that it affected her for many, many years.  And a lot of people, they allow things to become shame and then it rules you, it robs you. You see, one of my favorite verses is Proverbs 15:24, it says ‘the way of life winds upwards for the wise’.

Sadly instead of winding upwards, some people want a steep decline downwards, a spiral downwards. Because this is what happens, sin leads to guilt, then guilt leads to shame and ultimately, shame leads to condemnation and condemnation is death.

If a building is condemned, it means it’s unfit for use, it’s disqualified, it’s only good for being pulled down.”

Source: Brian Houston, My Salvation – My Freedom from Shame, Hillsong Church, 12/10/2014. (Accessed 12/10/2014.)


When Brian told the story about his sister, he stated that his mother said to him one day that they were “going to be looking after a baby for awhile.” According to Brian they had the baby for an entire year, not knowing who the baby belonged to.

In his sermon, he deliberately avoided connecting the dots so that he could make whatever point he wanted to about shame. He said he “didn’t know” that his older sister “had been secretly sent off to Melbourne because she was pregnant.” Then he said that he somehow found out, (“without anyone knowing”), that his sister who, “was brought back to New Zealand,” was hiding “across the Mountain range.”

Brian’s conclusion, of course, was that his sister “had a baby” outside of wedlock and experienced ”so much shame” during that time. “So much shame was put on her, that it affected her for many, many years.” These comments, then, lead us to believe that his sister moved around a bit in order to deal with her sin, guilt and shame.  What is very interesting about this story, however, is that Brian’s very own mother has a different account.


Hazel and Frank Houston



In 1989 Hazel Houston wrote a book about her husband, Frank Houston,  entitled “Being Frank: The Frank Houston Story”.

In her book Hazel writes,

“That God is more merciful than people was proved in the experience which almost shattered our world. We were sitting comfortably by the fire one night when our daughter and her boyfriend came in.

‘Do you want a cup of coffee?’ I asked.

  ‘Sit down Mum, I’ve got something to tell you.’ Her voice contained an unusual gravity. There was a long pause then she continued, ‘I’m pregnant.’

For a moment we had no reaction. Then deep unreasonable anger swept through me as I realized the implications. Fingers would be pointed at us and we would have to resign from ministry. Twenty years ago a pre-marital pregnancy in any circle was regarded as the ultimate disgrace.  There would be some ready to accuse the pastor of this inability to control his children.

  ‘You better leave,’ I told the boy.

  ‘Don’t be so hasty,’ Frank reprimanded me.

  ‘I’ll have the baby adopted,’ our daughter volunteered.

  ‘I’ll pay for her to go to Australia,’ her boyfriend offered.

  After they had left we discussed the situation. Should we tell the church and the other children or just Trevor Chandler. As our associate pastor he should know. We didn’t tell anyone but we should have done. Someone else eventually told the children.

  ‘We will have to resign from the church,’ Frank said.

  A day later when the heat of the moment had passed I began to ask myself had God removed the call to the ministry at this time or was this an attack of the devil designed to smash our ministry. We fell on our knees before God. I voiced my thoughts to Frank.

  ‘I don’t think we should resign. God hasn’t lifted the call.’ Frank agreed.

  Our daughter went to Australia but a noted trouble-maker in the church asked people at the next prayer meeting to pray for the Houston’s family situation.

  Did she suspect something and was spreading gossip in a spiritual guise? We never found out.

  Our hearts continued to ache and our daughter suffered extreme homesickness as she sheltered in a Salvation Army home from a hostile world. We decided she must come home.

  We arranged for her to go as companion to an elderly lady over the mountains from our valley. Within us there was a monumental struggle between the desire to keep the baby and face the consequences or proceed with the adoption.

  ‘Frank, I think we should keep the baby. It might be another statistic to the Government but it is our grandchild and I want it. I can look after it.

  ‘I’ve been thinking the same thing,’ he said. We hurried over the mountains to tell our daughter what we had decided.

  That day we saw a light in our daughter’s eyes which had been missing for a long time and God removed the ache in our hearts. But people are not so forgiving. Months after the baby was born, some by their attitude screamed condemnation at the young mother until an agonized cry fell from her lips.

  ‘Mum, when does God forgive?’

  ‘As soon as we confess our sins from a repentant heart.’

  ‘Then why don’t people also forgive us?’ Why indeed.

  ‘Unfortunately, people are not like God.’ Frank and I both would have carried her pain but she had to work through it herself.

  ‘Do you realize the times I longed to sit on your bed and talk after an evening out?’ she asked one day years after she was married. No I hadn’t realized.

Source: Hazel Houston, Being Frank: The Frank Houston Story, UK, London: Marshall Morgan and Scott Publications, Published 1989. pg. 165-167

Comparing Hazel’s account to Brian’s raises some questions.

1. Was Brian being honest?

2. Why did Brian put his sister’s journey back in public focus, using it as an example of his idea of shame? (He has mentioned his family feeling the pressure of recent public scrutiny.)

3. Brian’s account is very different to his mother’s and he leaves out significant information related to the point he is making. The practice of cover-up was plain in Hazel’s account. If this did not happen, would his sister’s journey have been different?

4. Is Brian ashamed to give an accurate/more complete account? What does he know? Did he ever discuss with his parents their decision to hide his sister’s pregnancy from the public, including their church and children, largely to avoid being stood down from ministry? What did Trevor Chandler do with this information? (You would assume Brian would have discussed it with Frank and Hazel at some stage as, either from a family point of view or from a ministerial responsibility perspective. After all, it is a significant family event.)

5. Brian made the point that his sister was “sent” to Melbourne. So who “sent” his sister?

6. The timing of him saying this was a few days after his public hearing at the Royal Commission (RC) into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. So why did he talk about this issue right after the RC?

Last year, the Royal Commission revealed a tendency for cover up within Brian Houston and Hillsong’s dealing with Frank Houston’s pedophilia and not being forth-coming with the “whole” truth. However, after Hazel Houston’s account, we are noticing that cover up appears to run in the Houston family. And the more we seem to uncover – the more we realise Hillsong is founded not on Christ the rock but on the sifting sands of man.

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2 replies

  1. Hazel’s Houstons own words regarding this event are concerning to say the least. When the daughter revealed the unwarranted pregnancy, by her own admission Hazel was more concerned with how she and her husband would have “fingers pointed” at them and that they would have to resign from ministry than they were about their daughter’s predicament! What an insight into the priorities of this family! Glad Hazel wasn’t my mother. There is not even a hint of compassion or concern for her daughter in Hazel’s Houston’s own account – just anger about how her daughter’s error in judgement might impact on her and Frank’s lives.
    If this was an example of the level of compassion which Brian Houston witnessed in his own family growing up it is not difficult to see why he appeared to show so little compassion to his father’s victims when the time came. Hazel Houstons’ own words condemn her. The question arises as to how long Hazel “covered” her husbands’ disgusting paedophile behaviour because she was more worried about people pointing fingers at them and being forced to resign from the ministry than she was about Frank’s victims. Subsequently the Houstons contrived to keep the whole matter secret. This family had a habit of keeping secrets apparently! For Brian Houston to then play the “sympathy card” and roll this sermon out following the revelations of the Royal Commission is a testament to his poor judgement and self interest! As one who has personal experience of Brian Houston’s seemingly disgraceful lack of compassion, I now have a better understanding regarding his behaviour.
    The question MUST continue to be asked……….. is Hillsong just a “family business” or a truly annointed church established by our sovereign God? I lean heavily towards the former. Given the Bible’s instructions about the church and its leaders how could anyone possibly think otherwise? And Brian Houstons’s continual claims that “he didn’t know” during serious events in his life seem to have a very hollow ring.


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