How did Apostle Frank Houston, (the founder of the CLC/Hillsong movement), rise to such prominent success in New Zealand? Was he really obedient to God the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth? Or was he simply a false teacher, following the desires of the flesh and scheming to get the things he wanted to make himself popular?
Frank Houston’s wife Hazel, recorded in her book ‘Being Frank’ – how Frank Houston continually lied to the local council about having the money for the Commonwealth Covenant Church. In fact, Frank said to the mayor, “We know that God has given us the building, so anything you do is by the way.”
So you can imagine how impressed they were with Frank and Hazel Houston’s ministry:
“When we had to tell the council the money was not forthcoming, they were in a predicament. If what they had done became known there would be a public outcry. If they evicted us the same thing would happen. They carried the finance for five years.”
Even in this excerpt below, Frank Houston was already behaving like a NARpostle. This was exactly the kind of person C. Peter Wagner was examining – one who was challenging the structures of church accountability. Remember, Apostolic Churches make sure that church elders or the church board are accountable to Apostles, it is never the other way round. That’s how this church “relationship” works.
Hazel also unwittingly observed Frank Houston’s apostolic mindset:
“There had been no time to consult the church board. Nor did he want to for the moment. He’s come to feel that God never works through committees: he chooses a man (though the man may need committees to help him). Besides, two of the board members had suffered at the hands of this church… When it was well under way, Frank tapped these board members on the shoulder…
… As they stood in the building, tears coursed down the cheeks of both men as they realised that God was giving them the opportunity to regain the building they had sacrificed so much to build.
Frank felt the first fence had been cleared, but there were other people with painful memories of the place. How would they react?”
‘Apostle’ Frank engaged in nothing more than cheap manipulative tactics and led his board to believe that God was moving. It’s interesting to notice that Frank “felt a little like Joshua leading his army round the city walls” since Apostles are also called Generals leading God’s Army. Joshua is often used as an illustration to describe the role of NAR Apostles to further the “Kingdom of God.”
Don’t forget that this was not the only form of corrupt behaviour Frank Houston engaged in.
Hazel Houston writes,
“It was unwise to go out and then return during a meeting for the heat and smells were empowering. We needed a building of our own. It had to be central and near transportation. Stan Carter, a board member, walked door to door calling on property owners in an area suitable for the church. He found a property with the correct zoning and a price we could afford ($10,000). We bought it. There was some cash in the bank but the rest was a step of faith.
An architect worked on plans which the council passed without any problems. We were ready to demolish the old house on the site when the council called a halt. “You can’t build on that land. We want to put a street through there. We’ll buy it for $14,000.” Sold. Two thousand pounds wasn’t a bad profit in six months, but now we had to find another site.
“God, what are you doing?” Hadn’t He made the whole scheme possible? Kate Wilmshurst, one of our prayer warriors, told Frank of a vision she’d had. “We were worshiping in the old Commonwealth Covenant Church.” That seemed an extreme idea, for that church would never sell to us. Our membership included a number of folk they had excommunicated and that didn’t make them very friendly. It was a big building right at the gateway of the city.
Then Charlie Wilmshurst discovered that the city council had bought it for road widening but had changed their plans. They had offered it to the Salvation Army. Charlie Wilmshurst, a former Salvationist, was sure the Army would turn it down as it wasn’t suited to their purposes. Within two days he phoned with the news that the Army had declined the offer. Immediately Frank contracted the town clerk. “I hear the Commonwealth Covenant Church is for sale. Is that right?” he asked.
“Are you interested?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I was about to lodge an advertisement in the newspaper as you phoned. I’ll hold it until you have seen the property”, the town clerk said. Frank didn’t waste any time in looking over church and the hostel which went with it.
“We will not accept less than $60,000”, the town clerk replied.
“Can I have the keys over the weekend to show my congregation?” Frank could hardly contain his excitement. There had been no time to consult the church board. Nor did he want to for the moment. He’s come to feel that God never works through committees: he chooses a man (though the man may need committees to help him). Besides, two of the board members had suffered at the hands of this church. Would it hold too many painful memories for Clarrie Potbury and Stan Carter?
That Friday night the church was engaged in a hall night of prayer. When it was well under way, Frank tapped these board members on the shoulder. “Bring your wives into the back room. I want to show you something.” Frank held the keys in front of the men. “Guess what these are.”
“Well, what are they?”
“The keys to the Commonwealth Covenant Church. It’s for sale and I believe God want us to buy it.” The two men looked at each other.
“Only last night we discussed how wonderful it would be to occupy our old church. It was built for the glory of God”, Stan said.
“Let us leave the prayer meeting to the Holy Spirit and go round to look at it”, Frank said. As they stood in the building, tears coursed down the cheeks of both men as they realised that God was giving them the opportunity to regain the building they had sacrificed so much to build.
Frank felt the first fence had been cleared, but there were other people with painful memories of the place. How would they react?
Frank told the congregation at the end of the morning service the next Sunday, inviting them all to come and see the property. He felt a little like Joshua leading his army round the city walls as we marched one hundred and twenty strong over the bridge leading to the building. It nestled on the river bank across from the main shopping district, an excellent position. A sense of excitement pervaded our little group as we stood in the empty church praising God.
It seemed so large, but we wanted it. We prayed that all obstacles would fall before us- mainly the $60,000 one. Old Brother Moeke knelt at the altar, letting his tears fall on a spot sacred to him before excommunication had forced him from fellowship in this place. Sister Wilmshurst shook as she praised God for her vision and its complete fulfillment. Frank saw his evangelistic centre and I saw engagement and wedding rings and other forms of sacrificial giving which had mad the building possible in the first place. We claimed it for our own, knowing it would be a challenge for our faith. Frank phoned the mayor on Monday. “We’ll take the church”, he said.
“You had better make an appointment to come and see me”, the mayor said. He was an astute businessman. “It will cost you $60,000. Do you have that much money?” the mayor asked.
“Yes of course we do.” Frank didn’t tell him it was still in the bank of Heaven. He believed God had shown him the city council would carry the finance themselves.
“We will probably have to call tenders as its public money.”
“You can do what you like but we will win the tender.”
“How can you know that?” The mayor looked astonished.
“We know that God has given us the building, so anything you do is by the way.” The mayor laughed.
Frank was leaving for America a few days later. Before his departure he met the mayor getting into his car in the town. “Mr Mayor, what are you doing about our church property?” Frank asked him.
“There is a council meeting tomorrow night and I will see what I can do.”
They offered us the building for $60,000. Some of the board members wanted to accept their offer, but Frank knew God had said pay $55,000 and that was what he offered them. They accepted.
With interest-free loans from church members, as well as some gifts, our finances stood at $28,000. With that amount of money in hand we felt the finance shouldn’t be hard to raise. Frank left for the States not knowing where we’d get the rest of the money. We didn’t count on the Government’s credit squeeze imposed at the moment. No one would lend us the money. Frank rested in the Word of God.
While we were trying to raise the finance, the council had allowed us to furnish and prepare the building for our opening. We’d been able to buy an organ the Seventh Day Adventists had ordered but couldn’t pay for. Frank didn’t tell them we had a church we couldn’t pay for.
When we had to tell the council the money was not forthcoming, they were in a predicament. If what they had done became known there would be a public outcry. If they evicted us the same thing would happen. They carried the finance for five years.
We had the centre. Now we needed five hundred people to fill it. The whole project was faith venture and to meet it wisdom from God was needed. Had this been simple mental assent to an idea, it would have been a very risky business.
“Faith is taking hold of the revealed will of God before it ever happens and believing it into manifestation. A revelation from God – a rhema out of logos,” Frank told his people. Thus there was confidence and action in the steps they took. God did not have to be talked into anything.”
Source: Hazel Houston, Being Frank: The Frank Houston Story, UK, London: Marshall Morgan and Scott Publications, Published 1989. pg. 118-122.
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