A Step-by-Step Account of How The Hillsong Money-Making Scam Works

A recent report in the Hillsong Document Trove explains how certain mega-wealthy pastors use tax-exempt church funds and resources to travel in the lap of luxury, generate personal wealth, and help their friends gain preeminence and riches.

‘Brian Houston was one of the creators of this scam known as the celebrity pastor speaker’s circuit. He also masterminded the concept of receiving a salary from church entities in different countries so the tax department of one country does not have a picture of the pastor’s entire salary.

  1. Brian and Bobbie Houston created their own personal ‘ministry’ charity. First it was Leadership Ministries International (LMI) (registered in AU), and then Maximized Leadership Inc (MLI) (registered in the USA). When the media attention on LMI in Australia became too extreme, they started Shiloh Ministries and eventually moved LMI and MLI’s assets across to it.
  2. The Houston’s also owned a business called Help Distributors which was the recipient of the royalties from Brian and Bobbie’s books, teaching CDs and merchandise.
  3. Brian and Bobbie invite their celebrity pastor friends to speak at a Hillsong Church Service or a
    Hillsong event (e.g. Hillsong Conference or Colour Conference).
  4. The celebrity pastor’s honorarium, which is usually around $10k tax free for one 30 minute sermon (sometimes it’s a sermon they’ve already preached at a different church), is paid by Hillsong Church from its tax exempt tithe income. This tithe income also pays for the celebrity pastor (and sometimes their spouse) to fly to Australia business class and then stay in top hotels and eat at top restaurants while they’re here. The celebrity pastor may also fly business class interstate (e.g. from Sydney to Brisbane) to speak at smaller churches where they also stay in luxury and see some of the great Aussie sights.
  5. In most cases, the honorarium is paid into the personal bank account of the celebrity pastor, or the bank account of their personal ministry if they have one (which pays them a salary).
  6. The celebrity pastor has usually written a book or produced CD or DVD resources. Those resources are heavily promoted in conjunction with the speaking engagement and available for sale. The celebrity pastor therefore makes extra income over and above their honorarium, from royalties from the sale of these resources. It is usually church or bible college volunteers who are working for free to sell these resources.

It continues:

  1. When the celebrity speaker preaches at an event, such as a conference, the amount of honorarium they receive is substantially more, as are the sales of their resources.
  2. Now it’s time for the celebrity pastor to reciprocate Brian and Bobbie’s speaking invitation and invite Brian and Bobble Houston to their own home church to speak. Brian and Bobbies EAs book their business class international travel and ship resources where relevant.
  3. The trip is even more fun for Brian and Bobbie when the people who invited them to travel in luxury to their church, and pay them for their visit, are also their life-long best friends – particularly when they haven’t seen each other for a while and catch up in style at a fancy restaurant with nice bottles of wine-all on the church’s credit card.
  4. Brian and Bobbie’s honorarium and travel expenses are paid from the tithes income of the celebrity pastor’s home church into the bank account of their personal ‘ministry’/charity, meaning that the income is tax exempt. Hillsong does not receive one cent despite the fact that Hillsong pays Brian and Bobbie a generous full time wage and they have had to use other resources to do Brian and Bobbie’s jobs for them while they’ve been traveling.
  5. Because Hillsong pays for the business class travel up front-usually on Brian or Bobbie’s corporate credit card(and then gets reimbursed by the church which invited them), Brian and Bobbie are not only earning frequent flyer points and status credits from the flight, but they are earning points on the church’s corporate credit card in their name. They are allowed to use these points for personal purchases.
  6. How does a wannabee celebrity pastor become part of the speakers circuit? A. They can use the tithes income of their church to buy their way into the Hillsong Family ‘club’. The pastor’s church (not the pastor personally) buys a ‘membership’ to the Hillsong Family. The membership fee is 3% of the church’s annual income. This $100k buys you an invitation to the Hillsong Family Gatherings (retreats) held twice per year in luxurious international locations where you are able to network with the celebrity pastors of the other Hillsong Family churches and tee up a date to speak at the church of your new friend-thus commencing a new reciprocal speaking arrangement.
  7. If you’re lucky, the Houstons might also invite you to host your own show on the Hillsong Channel. And don’t worry if you’re not the founding pastor of your own church. You can still participate in the lucrative speaker’s circuit if you are related to Brian and Bobbie or you are one of their favorite Hillsong pastor employees, because they will pay for you to attend the luxury Hillsong Family gatherings, social gatherings during Hillsong conference or the green room before or after church services so you can also network with the celebrity pastors from other churches and set up your own speaking engagements. If you’re a Houston family member or a pastor, your Hillsong EA will also do all the admin for this trip that you’ll benefit from personally.
  8. Conflict of interest in holding a conference – although Brian and Bobbie are not paid to speak at their own Hillsong conferences, they do make substantial income from the royalties of their products sold at these conferences, and they use these events to network with the other celebrity pastors and establish their future reciprocal speaking engagements. There have been many times when a Hillsong conference has made a deficit and this deficit is propped up from tithes income. The church carries the loss of the conference while the speakers continue to get rich from their honorariums and resource sales at the conference.”

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3 thoughts on “A Step-by-Step Account of How The Hillsong Money-Making Scam Works

  1. To think this is all being financed by well-meaning Christians’ tithes and offerings is sickening. Hopefully, this exposure is the Lord’s present-day overturning of their tables.

  2. I have yet to have anyone show me in the Bible where it says that Pastors can make up their own rules how they will live and run their churches.

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