The Hillsong Church brand has been virtually synonymous with contemporary Christian praise & worship music, generating dozens of CDs and DVDs that have been bestsellers not only in their native Australia but abroad as well. A Pentecostal ministry based in northwest Sydney, Hillsong Church was founded in August 1983 by New Zealand natives Brian and Bobbi Houston. First known as Hills Christian Life Centre, at launch its congregation counted just 45 members, but grew to 900 within four years. As the church's music ministry evolved, in 1986 the Houstons founded the Hillsong Conference, an annual event created to teach and nurture contemporary Christian musicians. A live CD titled The Power of Your Love hit retail in 1992, featuring singer/songwriters Geoff Bullock and Darlene Zschech, both mainstays on the myriad Hillsong albums to follow.
By the end of the decade, the Hillsong brand was so well-known that in 1999 the Houstons renamed the church Hillsong as well. Around the same time, Brian's father, the famous Pentecostal pastor Frank Houston, was embroiled in controversy when he confessed to molesting a teenage boy some three decades earlier. Hillsong remained a lightning rod, facing concerns from government leaders and journalists alike over its extreme political stance and reliance on donated funds. The juggernaut surged forward, however, and in 2004 the live Hillsong release For All You've Done topped the mainstream Australian pop charts. A year later, more than 30,000 people attended July's Hillsong Conference. By early 2006, the Houstons counted more than 19,000 parishioners attending services each week. ~ Jason Ankeny