Hillsong’s Naked Cowboy Fiasco, and the leadership quandary.

The internet, a least the internet that cares about such things, blew up last week when someone posted video of a youth pastor from Hillsong New York jumping around on stage dressed as “the Naked Cowboy” (who by the way, wasn’t naked but certainly was appropriately dressed.)

“Ah ha! See, we told you Hillsong is apostate!”

“Further proof of the decline of our impact as the church.” My social media feed was a blood induced shark feeding frenzy.

Then Pastor Huston from the mothership in Australia has to come out and issued a statement. I read, and not totally behind the lines, that he was not amused. And his wife was not amused. The statement wasn’t strong enough for some. Others flat out called him a liar. But hold on….

Some youth pastor and his buddies apparently pulled a prank that didn’t go the way they planned. SHOCKING right? That a youth pastor would do something stupid. That his buddies would go along with it.


A few years ago, the church I was leading at the time put on a fashion show. “Classy not Trashy” was a theme and the goal was to promote beautiful and still modest clothing for young men and ladies in Dar es Salaam. The goal was to be light hearted, and the “models,” who were just young people from our church, were encouraged to have fun with it.

Classy not trashy Poster

One particular young man walked down the runway, did a little Micheal Jackson move, and proceded to grab his crotch, right in front of me, the pastor! Not all, but most of the eyes in the room of our church attendees, flashed to me. And my people knew I was not happy. So I ran up on stage and screamed at the young man right there! I stood an apologized to all our unbelieving guests, and stopped the whole event right there.

NO, of course not.

The event concluded and in the private of the back room, I made sure that once and for all everyone involved was completely aware of how embarrassed, angry and ashamed I was. Over the line, completely inappropriate and stupid.

Anytime you have young creatives, who are still learning what it means to use their gifts and talents for God, you are going to get stupidity. 

But catch this. It didn’t make our church apostate. A kid made a stupid move. That’s what it was. And in the midst of it, the event had to go on.

Anytime you have young creatives, who are still learning what it means to use their gifts and talents for God, you are going to get stupidity. You are going to get immaturity. And with the internet, you are going to get outrage.

There are 2 sad outcomes to this HIllsong story.

First, no one is talking about the conference. Did it do any good? Were lives touched, women encourage, ministry empowered? The righteousness police have made the outcome over one stupid move.

Secondly, no one is talking about this kid. This brash young man who went on to stage trying to be funny and instead caused an uproar that impugned the integrity of his church, his pastor and the whole heart of the event.
Ever done anything stupid yourself? Ever regretted a stunt you and your buddies pulled? He is now the target of people who ought to be praying for him. He’s got a name. Diego Simila. I’ll bet he has parents, and a family, and feelings. Naw…. he’s an internet meme. Sarcasm. please read the sarcasm.

I think Hillsong has done some stupid stuff. Their Silent Night thing was an exercise in group stupidity. But it doesn’t make them apostate. It means that common sense didn’t prevail. I don’t justify what that young man did at our church event. But neither did I stand in front of the church or the world and throw him under the bus. I took the heat as the leader. That’s what leaders do. Create environments for people to try, and yes, sometimes fail miserably.

Let he who has never sinned throw the first stone. Because he will be a person who has never tried anything.




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