Friday, February 24, 2017

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise

            Let Hope Rise.  What a fitting title for a documentary whose purpose is to show the true peace, love, and hope that can be found through Jesus Christ.  The promise of joy is the message that permeates the film and is evident in the lives of the members of the band.  The documentary is centered on the Australian based church, Hillsong, and the incredible music that has come from its band, Hillsong United.  It follows the church from its origin and the journey of the worship leaders and instrumentalists who have dedicated their lives to spreading the gospel through song.  The documentary, Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, was prompted by the mega church, has a diverse audience and I would even argue has no specific target audience; its purpose is to outline the development of the church, its namesake band, and also to reveal Jesus to whomever is watching, and hopefully reach viewers in a way that would change their life forever. 
            The founder of Hillsong, Brian Houston, speaks on the history of the church near the beginning of the film and continues to tell its story throughout.  Hillsong was started in what is now a library with a very small stage and few followers, but an abundance of faith.  The founders completely trusted in God, through the good times and the bad; this is what lead to the church’s growth.  This faith also brought some of the band members to Hillsong to form its band, Hillsong United.  The lead female vocalist, Taya Smith, did not want to move to Sydney, Australia, where Hillsong is located because she thought it was a “dirty, smelly town,” but she followed God when He lead her there.  Taya is now one of the most well-known worship leaders in the world.  If she had not listened to God, she would never be where she is now doing something she truly loves. Some of the other band members have similar stories of faith.  The guitarist, Matt, has a family in Australia that he has to leave at the start of each tour.  It is hard on his family, but he and his wife believe that it is God’s calling for Matt’s life.  This faith is the only thing strong enough to get them through the hard times.  “When I am afraid… in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?” (Psalms 56:3,4).  Not everyone in the band has a story like this, but one thing is common throughout all of Hillsong United: a true faith and love for God that can bring peace in all circumstances.  With this understanding of the background and context for the church Hillsong and its band, the purpose of this documentary can now be understood.
            At first glance, it seems like the purpose of Let Hope Rise is just to be an outline of the history of the church, how the band was formed, a showcase of some songs (, the discography of Hillsong United), and the stories of each member of Hillsong United.  If you watched this documentary and saw this as the purpose, you would not be wrong.  But I would ask you if there is a deeper meaning to this film.  Is there a more important theme that Let Hope Rise is trying to convey?  I wholeheartedly believe that this documentary is also trying to show the love of Christ to everyone who watches it.  If you watch it closely, the only thing that every single person in the band talks about is the perfect love of Christ that He extends to anyone who believes in Him. In 1 John 4:10-16 it says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his only son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… God is Love.”  We all search for love and acceptance in our lives.  Sometimes we find what we think is true peace in a moment, but peace that is dependent on another person or situation is momentary and fleeting.  Nothing can ever satisfy us fully apart from God.  Nothing can fill the deep void within ourselves except Jesus Christ.  Let Hope Rise tries to convey this message in every scene, song, interview, and story.  We all need God’s love and are never too far to reach it.
            Let Hope Rise was mainly viewed by church goers, but appeals to many.  It was also viewed by music lovers, fans of Hillsong United, worship leaders, but in my opinion, has no specific target audience.  The makers of this documentary wanted to reach anyone who was willing to watch, believer or non-believer.  They wanted to spread the word of God to the ends of the Earth.  “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).”  The goal of Christianity is not just for one to make it to heaven, or to keep the love of Christ within the church.  The true goal is to share Christ’s love and sufferings with everyone around us in hope that all can experience the true joy received through God alone.  With this in mind, I do not believe that there was a target audience for this documentary.  I believe that I share the intent of all involved with Let Hope Rise when I pray that this documentary changes lives and brings people to understand that there is more to this life than physical, material things.  We can experience perfect love that fills us in all situations, the good and the bad.  Each narrator, interviewee, and worship leader present this information as well.  This documentary worked to convey the love of Christ through its point of view.  With a message this strong, criticism is to be expected.
            Hillsong: Let Hope Rise received a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, 6/10 on Metacritic, and an A on an A+ to F scale from CinemaScore.  Influx Magazine also reviewed the film ( with greater criticism.  The magazine rated it a D+ and described the documentary as “sloppy in structure.”  Personally, I give the documentary a 4 out of 5 nachos rating.  It convinced me well enough of its purpose and story.  However, I do feel like there were times when the documentary could have been more organized.  Although the worship was great, I felt like it was almost forced in at times.  But overall, the stories were touching and made an impact on my life.  I pray that Let Hope Rise reaches anyone who needs it.  If it can even draw one person closer to Christ, then it has ultimately fulfilled its purpose.  It is not our job to make others believe in Christ, but instead to be obedient to God and allow Him to use us whenever He calls us.  The makers of this film were obedient to His calling in my opinion.  Here is a link to the full documentary Hillsong: Let Hope Rise if you want to watch it and give it a rating of your own!

For more information on Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, here is a link to the official website.

Hillsong: "With Everything"
Open our eyes
To see the things that make Your heart cry
To be the church that You would desire
Your light to be seen

Break down our pride
And all the walls we've built up inside
Our earthly crowns and all our desires
We lay at Your feet

Let hope rise
And darkness tremble
In Your holy light
That every eye will see
Jesus our God
Great and mighty to be praised

God of all days
Glorious in all of Your ways
Oh the majesty the wonder and grace
In the light of Your Name

With everything
With everything
We will shout for Your glory
With everything
With everything
We will shout forth Your praise

Our hearts they cry
Be glorified
Be lifted high above all names
For You our King
With everything

We will shout forth Your praise

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