After receiving more than $42.5 million in general tithes and offerings from members, the Hillsong church also rakes in millions in royalties from music sales. The church’s income is also boosted by childcare and tuition services. However, a Hillsong spokesman declined to say how much they pay Whitney Houston or the salaries of the church’s staff. While the Hillsong pastors’ personal charisma and charismatic leadership were important for the church’s growth, the controversies surrounding the group have exposed the problems inherent in the business model and money management processes.
The Hillsong church self-released its 2017 annual report, which was independently audited. In 2017, the church earned over $14 million from music sales and other sources. This revenue is largely tax-free, which means it can be used for other purposes. Under the Charities Act, Hillsong must be a non-profit organization and its activities are charitable in nature. Their purpose is to advance religion in the community.
However, this is not always clear. If Hillsong does not have a strong financial foundation, it could simply become another McDonald’s or Starbucks. The alternative may not be very satisfying, and may only attract a small minority of its members. In either case, Hillsong has made the right decision. The money is tax-exempt, and the charity can continue to plant churches in big cosmopolitan cities.