The Daily Telegraph reports…
“Hillsong Church rakes in $100 million a year from its tax-exempt Australian operations as its weekly flock of 34,000 supporters hands over their hard-earned cash.
The church that started in suburban Sydney in the 1980s has expanded to 15 countries and now boasts an A-list of celebrity followers and “rock star” pastors.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the Hillsong brand increased its revenue by more than $10 million last year as it expands its business operations.
Hillsong, which receives tax breaks as a religious charity, employs 584 workers and has thousands of volunteers.
Senior pastor Brian Houston — son of alleged pedophile Pentecostal Christian pastor Frank Houston — said weekly attendance at its churches had grown by 8.5 per cent.
“We have been encouraged this year with the number of new people joining our church,” Mr Houston said.
Hillsong, which has opened new churches in LA, Hobart and the Gold Coast, was merged with his father’s Christian Life Centre in the 1990s. Mr Houston has described his father’s sexual abuse of boys as “repulsive”.
Through its music label and push into the lucrative US market, the Hillsong brand has become a magnet for celebrities, including singer Justin Bieber, NBA star Kevin Durant and NRL/NFL player Jarryd Hayne.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal more than $42.5 million was collected by Hillsong from “general tithes, offerings and donations”, according to the group’s most recent financial disclosure. It also collects millions from music royalties and its childcare and tuition services, which are put back into the church’s operations and expenses.
A Hillsong spokesman would not reveal how much Mr Houston was paid, citing a church policy to “not divulge personal details including salaries of its staff”.
“Pastor Brian Houston is paid a salary determined by the Hillsong Church board, as are all of our Australian staff of over 400 people,” he said. “His salary is determined independently, a decision that he is not a part of.”
The spokesman told The Daily Telegraph while the church believed in the “biblical principal [sic] of tithing (giving a percentage of income to God)” it did not force followers to make financial donations.
Hillsong is a member of the Australian Christian Churches (formerly Assemblies of God), which operates 1100 churches across the country attracting more than 250,000 followers.
Mr Houston oversees a board of 12 directors, including LA-based son Ben and millionaire Gloria Jean’s Australia founder Nabi Saleh.
The spokesman said Hillsong’s charity operations had helped build “schools and homes in Africa, sponsored thousands upon thousands of children” and “rescued and rehabilitated” trafficked sex workers.
The church runs youth and children’s programs, family and marriage counselling, and hospital visits.”