Worship music in church often comes from what seems an exclusive group of songwriters that includes worship leaders Chris Tomlin, who grew up in Texas, and Matt Redman, who grew up in Britain, and Australia's Hillsong.
Hillsong started as a local church in Sydney in an area known as the Hills district.
Its founder and pastor Brian Houston said the church started small and “kept getting smaller for awhile. … Now Hillsong is a church with a global footprint."
“We see it as a single church but many locations,” Houston said.
That single church holds about 250 church services in 19 locations every weekend, Houston estimated. And it has its own music label, TV network and college.
“We’ve got a big and diverse church,” Houston said.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Hillsong will share its big and diverse reach in Baton Rouge when the "There is More" tour comes to Bethany Church-South Campus. This is a change from previous listings, which said the concert would be at the Baker campus. Early in the week, general admission tickets were sold out and less than 100 premium tickets remained.
The list of well-known music from Hillsong is lengthy.
“Here I Am to Worship,” "Shout to the Lord," “Oceans,” “Mighty to Save,” “From the Inside Out” and “Touch the Sky” are all songs known to Christian radio listeners and those who attend church or concerts that emphasize worship music.
By the numbers, when CCLI, which is the Christian music licensing group similar to ASCAP and BMI, lists its top 100 songs, Hillsong’s various groups have 18 songs on the list, 12 of those in the top 50.
Houston said he grew up in church and was passionate about the type of church he wanted to one day pastor. “Songs of ageless lyrics” was part of his goal.
“People have embraced it, and people have sung (the songs) on pretty much every continent in the world,” he said.
As a musical entity, Hillsong has three parts.
“Hillsong United, which started many, many years ago as the youth band,” is the first part, Houston said. He joked that they are all in their 30s and have children now.
“Then you have Hillsong Young and Free, which is pretty self-descriptive. It’s edgy for young people," Houston said. “The overarching band is Hillsong Worship, which is everyone pulling together. The (current) tour is Hillsong Worship, so we’ll have people from Hillsong United and Hillsong Young and Free.”
The tour’s name comes from the theme being used in many ways by the church.
First, it is a book Houston wrote released March 20. A copy of it is included in the price of every ticket on the tour.
On the day of the Baton Rouge show, a new live Hillsong album will be released with that name.
“And our conferences this year are themed ‘There Is More,' so this is the 'There Is More' tour, and it is the best of Hillsong Worship with brand-new worship songs, which are incredible and powerful, plus a lot of the old favorites,” Houston said, who will also be speaking on the tour.
Houston said he hopes people find the book encouraging as it addresses people’s potential and God’s will. He added the book addresses hope as well as life’s challenges, and that something he loves in it is the idea of “less about you, more about others and all about God.”
Houston did name a few Hillsong pieces that are favorites: “Obviously, everyone loves 'Oceans.' I love 'Oceans.'"
He also points to “What a Beautiful Name,” which he also enjoys because “a local church in Australia won a Grammy” with it.
Houston adds to the list a couple of the new songs that people haven’t heard yet.
“One’s called ‘I am a Child of God.’ It’s an incredible song.
“It’s a real affirmation of who you are in Christ. … It’s a victorious song,” he said.
As far as the future, Houston and Hillsong are in the middle of a busy season.
He had just finished a four-day walk following Jesus’ footsteps from Nazareth to Capernaum, flown back to Australia and then to New York for a book tour before the music tour.
Hillsong, the music group, will have another U.S. tour late in the year.
And Hillsong, the church, is expanding its global reach.
Houston said it is always starting new locations, including this year in Toronto, Canada, and Monterrey, Mexico.
And “we’re really just getting on the ground and starting Hillsong Israel in Tel Aviv,” he said. “So there’s always plenty happening.”