The ministry established by Brian and Bobbie Houston, senior pastors of the dynamic Hillsong Church, has become a $1 million-plus business.
Financial returns filed for Leadership Ministries Incorporated (LMI) this week show the not-for-profit association posted revenue of $1.329 million last year.
LMI, which is registered as a ministry, derives its income from the couple’s teaching resources, books and international speaking engagements, and their wider national and international church commitments.
Statements for 2003 and 2004 show LMI’s revenue increased by more than 20 per cent in the year, indicating the growing influence of the Houstons. The $1.329 million revenue was offset by expenditure of $1.05 million, according to financial statements lodged with the Office of Fair Trading.
This included unspecified wages for the Houstons and two members of staff, donations to charities such as the Hillsong Church, the Hillsong Foundation and Opportunity International, costs associated with the production and sale of teaching resources, operating costs and administration expenses.
With more than 18,000 members, Hillsong is the largest Pentecostal church in Australia. Last year, Hillsong Church posted revenue of $50.8 million, of which almost half came from donations and offerings.
LMI is a separate entity from Hillsong Church through which the Houstons carry out their national and international ministry and make donations to the Hillsong Foundation and other charities.
The Hillsong Church pays LMI for the Houstons’ services and the Assemblies of God in Australia pays a stipend to Brian Houston for his role as its national president. The LMI management committee sets a wage for the Houstons and the two other staff. These are not disclosed in the financial statements.
Once costs were deducted, LMI had a net surplus of $273,086 in 2004, which was “primarily applied” to reduce the mortgage debt for two properties bought by LMI from the Houstons, the first in 2002 and the second in 2004.
These properties were used for ministry purposes in a manner similar to that of a church manse and for study, retreat and staff training for other pastors, LMI’s public officer, Stephen Crouch, said.
He denied any property deals between the Houstons and Hillsong Church. “In 2004, LMI received a net amount of $69,041 from Hillsong Church, after donations, for the provision of apostolic leadership and pastoral oversight for Hillsong, compared to just $12,739 in 2003.”
The general manager of Hillsong Church, George Aghajanian, said the Houstons received no additional remuneration from the church.