Hillsong: Let Hope Rise is billed as a “worship experience”. However, contrary to its press release, to me it didn’t feel like a part of a new genre. Let Hope Rise is, absolutely, a concert film, in the vein of Katy Perry’s Part of Me and Justin Beiber’s Never Say Never. Scenes that offer viewers a taste of Hillsong’s story are interspersed with shots of the band in concert performing some of their most popular hits.
I agree with one of the performers who stated that “God created music…”. Over the years I’ve enjoyed all sorts of music—including some of Hillsong’s more popular tracks. And yet, as I watched the musical segments I was torn. On one hand, I wanted to be free to love a particular song. On the other, I was reminded of what I hate about worship band performances: The idolatry. In a house of worship, when the people are gathered to sing together, they should be able to hear each other. In my opinion the only time the focus should be on a performer is when she sings a solo. Otherwise, it’s not always easy to tell who’s being glorified—apart from the singers on stage.
I know this idea flies in the face of what one of what Joel (one of Hillsong’s leaders) said: “These songs are written for people to sing, not just to listen to.” And in fact, that is something that speaks to Hillsong’s success. Hate them or love them, Hillsong has hit songs. Their lyrics tap into a religious narrative that’s revered by people throughout the globe.
Let Hope Rise isn’t necessarily a bore. It includes a few spare moments that revealed the musicians’ personalities. I chuckled at a line from a bandmate during an early tour: “Canada. We’re almost in America.”
Yet throughout the film I cringed at the sight of screaming fans. I know that within Christendom there’s a celebrity culture. But ideally, so-called “Christian celebrities” aren’t here to promote themselves. It’s their Creator—who gave them their talent in the first place—that should matter the most.
This movie also managed to include a glimpse into something that even heathen stars face: Financial challenges. Never assume that because someone has a hit album, he or she lives in the lap of luxury. Some of Hillsong’s members still live with their extended families.
If you come to this film looking for a thorough introduction to the Christian faith, be careful. Connecting with Jesus is not as easy as “[Finding] a local church!” This subject isn’t discussed in depth and the band’s advice shouldn’t be taken as gospel. I’m a firm believer in vetting a houses of worship before joining them.
Hillsong: Let Hope Rise offers them a look at the lives of one of the most popular worship bands in the world. Overall, I think viewers will enjoy it.