Many people assume that the origins of Hillsong originated from Charismaticism, Pentecostalism or the Salvation Army. This is not true.
This series of articles looks at the history of the New Order of the Latter Rain (NOLR) and how it overtook the AOG in NZ, the AOG in Australia and how Frank Houston, the founder of Hillsong/Christian Life Center, was instrumental in spreading Latter Rain influences throughout New Zealand and Australian churches.
In this article we will explore how Frank Houston portrayed himself to Australian Christianity as the New Order of the Latter Rain Apostle/Prophet, William Branham.
You can read our articles to see how Frank Houston was influenced by the NOLR cult through the teachings of false prophet and fraudulent healer William Branham and other New Zealand Latter Rainers in his church:
The origins of Hillsong (Part 1): The New Order of the Latter Rain
The origins of Hillsong (Part 2): Hillsong founder under the “New Order” cult
The origins of Hillsong (Part 3): Frank Houston’s takeover and makeover of NZ AOG
The origins of Hillsong (Part 4): Like dictator, like son
Even New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) apostates like Dr Michael Brown acknowledge that there were troubling aspects to Branham’s life and ministry. On this note, we encourage you to read the Part 1 article above to get an insight on Branham and how he influenced Frank Houston. In our first article (above), we mentioned Gordon Lindsay. Lindsay was inspired by the life of Branham and like many of Branham’s cult followers, saw him as an end-times prophet figure like John the Baptist. And no wonder – Branham would often make claims like this:
“And just then a whirl come from the heavens above, and here come that Light, shining down. Hundreds and hundreds of people on the bank, right at two o’clock in the afternoon, in June. And It hung right over where I was at. A Voice spoke from there, and said, “As John the Baptist was sent for the forerunner of the first coming of Christ, you’ve got a… have a Message that will bring forth the forerunning of the Second Coming of Christ.” And it liked to scared me to death.” [Source]
Firstly, this ‘Voice’ was the voice that led Branham into the supernatural (thus why his publication was called the Voice of Healing). It was this voice, light and his experience with this supernatural entity that led Branham to believe he was called by God (even though the sermon above (see ‘Source’ link) confirms that he was clearly being led by something truly demonic).
Secondly, it was this constant reinforcement that Branham was an end-times “John the Baptist” that made Gordon Lindsay title his book ‘William Branham: A Man Sent from God’. It appears that William Branham endorsed the title of this book.
Christians should have been furious with such a blasphemous title. The phrase ‘A man sent from God’ is taken from John 1:6:
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” John 1:6
It is still a common understanding in the eyes of the world that if people claim to be or portray themselves as biblical characters to their followers, (Messiahs, Elijahs, Moses’, etc.), they can be written off as a peculiar doomsday cult. However, Australian Christianity was at this time being infiltrated by the NOLR’s manmade Charismatic movement. Instead of rejecting ‘William Branham’, Australian Christianity embraced him. We are talking about this ‘William Branham’ being William Francis “Frank” Houston.
You may think we are going too far with this portrayal of Frank Houston. However, Frank Houston did read Gordon Lindsay’s book on Branham and this led to an anonymous publication in 1977 about Frank Houston titled ‘A Man Sent From God’.
Remember – at this stage, Frank Houston KNEW he was not called from God to go to Australia because of one of his unruly children getting pregnant outside of wedlock, and also because of his crimes of sexually abusing little boys in New Zealand and Australia.
Another cult leader of the NOLR movement who pushed their man-made Charismatic movement on Australian Christianity was Alan Langstaff.
He founded the Temple Trust and produced the Vision Magazine propaganda rag. This propaganda rag was designed to make Christians embrace the NOLR’s totalitarian Apostolic regime through the guise of the “Charismatic Gifts.” Unfortunately, when Christians embraced this false doctrine, they were forced to bend their knee to self-proclaiming Apostles and Prophets – (who cares if they were unrepentant serial thieves, liars, swindlers, paedophiles or adulterers).
Alan Langstaff allowed an ‘anonymous’ writer publish a piece in his magazine that allowed Frank Houston be seen as the “William Branham/ John the Baptist” figure of the southern hemisphere. However, we noticed that snippets of this article later turned up in the work of Hazel Houston’s book ‘Being Frank’. We assume this is Hazel Houston, Frank Houston’s wife – because she would have to have known the whole story.
Alan Langstaff published the following in Vision Magazine in 1978 (the time when Frank Houston started his ministry in Sydney, NSW).
A Man Sent by God
The story of how God led Frank Houston to commence a ministry in Sydney.
In January 1977, Frank Houston pastor of Christian Life Centre — an Assemblies of God church in Lower Hutt, Wellington New Zealand, had spent a relaxing day while his wife, Hazel was holidaying with friends. Before going to bed, he read a chapter from Proverbs, turned out the light and went to sleep.
But about midnight he was awakened from a very vivid dream. In it he had been transported to Sydney. Even as he awoke he could still see the scene quite clearly: the harbour bridge, the opera house, crowds on Bondi Beach and on the streets.
At the same time he had a strong urging to read Isaiah 54. Even though it was a passage Frank knew well, he just couldn’t remember what it contained. It was as though the Lord had deliberately blotted the memory of it from his mind to compel him to actually read it. As he went through the chapter slowly and thoughtfully, each verse seemed to be impregnated with significance and direction.
It was not the first time that Frank had known such a sovereign visit from the Lord. Although differing in detail, he had known three such experiences, all of which had coincided with major turning points in his life.
The first experience had occured in 1957 a few weeks after he had been baptised in the Holy Spirit. For years Frank had suffered from poor health. As a child he had contacted meningitis and double pneumonia, which had left him very weak and susceptible to nearly every virus and disease that came along. As an adult he had suffered two major breakdowns and at one stage had been hospitalised for about four months.
But one morning in 1957 Frank awoke with a strange sensation that, during the night he had come into the knowledge of something which he could not explain. He tried to share his feelings with his wife but it didn’t make any more sense to her than it did to him.
A young man who was staying with them at the time and who had been instrumental in leading them through to the Baptism in the Spirit came in with an early morning cup of tea. Frank tried to explain it to him.
“Oh you’ve had one of those experiences,” he said.
“You know what I’m talking about then?” Frank said relieved.
“Yes. God’s missed your head and hit your heart. God can often give revelation to our spirits which we can’t comprehend in our minds,” he explained, “sometimes even in our sleep. I suggest you start praising the Lord in tongues and ask Him for some understanding.”
Immediately he did this, the words “healing is in the atonement,” flashed into Frank’s mind. It was the first time he had ever heard it, but as the young man turned him to several passages in the Bible (Isaiah 53, Psalm 103, Matthew 8: 16, 17) he began to see it as a truth confirmed in scripture.
Straight away he lifted his hands and claimed Jesus as his healer as well as his saviour. A warm wave-like sensation flooded his body and instantly he was healed. From that day to this, he has never had any trouble or effect from this illness.
It was only a few months after this experience that Frank met the evangelist Ray Bloomfield, one of few men at the time, moving in the realm of healings and miracles in their ministry. Frank joined him in the work he had started at Ellerslie in Auckland and for the next six months they enjoyed revival, with capacity audiences, many healings and over a thousand decisions for Christ.
At the end of the six months Ray returned to North America, and Frank was left to pastor the Ellerslie (A.O.G.) church. He remained there for the next two years until he had another of those dramatic, turning point encounters with the Lord.
A small church in Lower Hutt, Wellington had invited him to be their pastor. But Frank was in the middle of revival and reluctant to leave. One afternoon he was alone in the sitting room of his home in Ellerslie, enjoying a time of worship with the Lord. It was a fine day and as Frank looked out the window he could see the sun shining down on the huge paddock of ‘cocksfoot’ next door. It was a beautiful sight.
As he looked however, suddenly, it was as though the whole paddock was transformed into people. A slight breeze caused a ripple over the grass. To Frank it had the appearance of a vast crowd with their hands raised, praising the Lord. Then, in what came as an inner prophecy to his spirit, the Lord spoke: “If you obey Me and go to Lower Hutt, I will raise up an evangelistic centre which will have an outreach to the world.”
Fulfilling a Vision
Frank obeyed, moved to Lower Hutt, and for the next eighteen years experienced the unfolding of that vision. When he arrived, the congregation totalled fifty to sixty. Immediately the Lord began to move. Every Sunday an average of six to eight people came to the Lord and before long the small Red Cross hall where they were meeting, had become too small.
Within three months of his arrival, Frank held a major evangelistic crusade in the Lower Hutt town hall. It was the first major breakthrough that the Wellington region had experienced. He bought a tent seating hundreds and for the next few summers conducted campaigns in the suburbs. They saw many coming to the Lord, wonderful healings and crowds being baptised in the Spirit.
Then in 1966 came another major turning point. Frank was on a six month, world tour and while in New York was spending some time in prayer when again the Spirit spoke in an inner prophecy to his spirit: “I want you to go home and start a bible college.” At that stage there were no Pentecostal bible colleges in New Zealand.
The first class of thirteen students started in February 1967. Today there are at least fifty-six male graduates from Christian Life Bible College in full-time ministry including many who are missionaries around the world. The vision was being fulfilled.
But then in September 1976, God began to speak to Frank about leaving the Lower Hutt assembly. Frank was shattered. After 18 years as pastor, he was so entrenched, that the thought of leaving seemed almost impossible. Also he had been the superintendent of the N.Z. Assemblies of God Council for eleven years. To pull up roots that were so established wasn’t easy. But God persisted, until finally Frank came to the point of committing himself to definitely leaving.
Call to Sydney
Then came the dramatic night in January 1977. The passage he had been impressed to read in Isaiah 54, spoke of enlarging the borders, extending the corners of the tent and breaking forth on the left hand and the right. As Frank read he grew more excited. There was a growing anticipation, much as a small child feels on Christmas Eve when waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. But although he had caught it in his spirit he still didn’t understand with his mind. What did it mean? What was the Lord trying to say?
Again, in one of those unique inner prophecies the Lord spoke: “I want you to go over to Sydney and start a work there which will be an extension of the work I have begun to do in Lower Hutt.”
In his mind’s eye the vision that he had earlier of Sydney began to extend up through Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and right on to India. This, he realised, was also part of the Lord’s plan. Needless to say, he didn’t sleep the rest of the night.
The next day as he shared this with assistant pastor, Jack Stradwick, and later with his staff, eldership, and finally the congregation, they all had a similar reaction. Some wept but all recognised that this was a clear call from the Lord.
It took six months before Frank and Hazel were eventually able to move to Sydney. God began confirming their call in a number of ways. Perhaps the most remarkable was the conversion of their eldest son, Graeme, Graeme had gone away from the Lord as a teenager and although there had been much prayer for him over the years there had been no change in his attitude. But one of the promises the Lord had given Frank from Isaiah 54, was that all his sons should be taught of the Lord and prosper. Late in 1977, after quite a remarkable experience, both Graeme and his wife Carolyn came back to the Lord.
Today Frank is pastor of a thriving,, growing church, the Christian Life Centre which meets on Sundays at the Sher-brook Hall in Double Bay. Evening attendances currently average around 145. But Frank is looking ahead. His ambition is “to put God on the main street of Sydney.” In other words, to see realised a move of God that will so impress the people of Sydney that they know God is alive.
Part of the fulfilment of this he believes, is for the church to go out into the community. One way they have already done this is to transfer their Sunday meeting, every so often, to a nearby park. They have also held public baptismal services in the area.
Throughout the Eastern Suburbs they have started six house meetings with the purpose that these miniature teaching evangelistic centres will infiltrate the local community. As people feel free to invite their friends and neighbours to an informal gathering, so from there they can introduce them into the larger Sunday gatherings.
With the opening of the Christian Life Friendship Centre at Bondi Junction, where Frank’s office is also situated, people have a place where they can come for counsel, help or just for fellowship. They have been thrilled at the initial response to this centre.
Life and Family Centered
But putting plans and schemes aside, Frank’s greatest desire is to be led by the Spirit and not be bound by traditional church ways. In his 30 years in ministry the one key lesson he has learnt is that Christianity should be a normal part of life. God has given us all things richly to enjoy, so whether it is going to the beach, swimming or playing ten-pin-bowls, he feels the church should be able to do it together as unto the Lord.
Another major emphasis is family life. Frank believes that a fault in the past has been over programming where the church has actually taken parents away from their children. The role of the church, he says, should be to bring families together, not separate them.
In looking ahead Frank sees a lot of hard work As a church, they have a long way to go. The needs of the people in the Eastern suburbs are great, not just because of the high rate of drug addiction, immorality and general wantoness, but because of the sheer density of population — so many people needing Christ and so little being done.
In many ways his specific goals have not been clarified. But one thing is clear — the Holy Spirit has led both he and his wife to Sydney and is going to use them to bring blessing to many people.
Source: Vision Magazine Issue 26 May, 1978, “VM26_05 A Man Sent by God [Frank Houston]”, http://webjournals.ac.edu.au/ojs/index.php/VMAG/article/view/577/574. (Accessed 08/05/2016.)