‘God uses our finances’: How Hillsong makes its money
One of Australia's largest megachurches has built its global business by leveraging people's faith for money, telling them to donate before paying off their debts.
C3, which was founded in Sydney in the 1980s by Phil and Chris Pringle, boasts a global weekly attendance almost 100,000 and 579 churches worldwide, as of June last year.
More than 100 C3 campuses are located nationally across all states and territories.
In 2018, C3's various churches reported more than $45.5 million of combined income, according to documents filed with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC).
More than $35.7 million of that revenue came from donations, with followers urged to give to the church above other financial commitments.
"If you are in 'out of control' debt, after your tithe (donation to support the church) the debt should be your next priority," its website reads.
Seemingly newer guidelines, on its 2019 Vision Builders fund page, tell followers: "If you are in significant debt, paying this debt should be your first priority, along with your regular tithe."
Tithing is the multi-denominational concept of donating 10 per cent of your annual income to the church.
A C3 spokeman told News Corp the church had "never compelled our church members to give - giving is always optional".
"We strongly advise members in debt to be responsible and not to overextend themselves," he said.
"We believe the concept of tithing has its foundations in the bible and we base our church on its teachings."
C3's website features testimonies from followers who were "blessed" by donating to its Vision Builders fund above the standard tithe - some facing financial uncertainty in the process.
Money from Vision Builders funds the church's weekly C3 Cares Community Lunch which "feeds thousands of homeless and marginalised" each year as well as purchasing new buildings, maintaining current facilities and online media broadcasting.
"As a movement, C3 has been very active in supporting a diverse group of organisations through C3 Cares. This has included: centres offering counselling, training, foodbanks and meals," a church spokesman said.
A woman by the name of Kristine wrote she had made a financial pledge to the fund, despite not having enough money to pay for her student visa which was about to expire.
She was "blessed" with eventually being able to afford the visa once her sister fronted up the cash.
One couple, Henry and Genevieve, enthused: "We believe that God uses our finances to build us into people who can think, dream and act bigger".
A C3 spokesman said the centre of the church was "faith, hope and love".
"Our goal is to support people from all walks of life to grow deeper in their relationship with God. Our services are Bible-based and Holy Spirit empowered with dynamic messages and powerful worship."
C3's largest reporting entity C3 Church Sydney brought in $14.8 million of revenue in 2018, with the majority being spent on employee benefits ($6.26 million), followed by hiring and leasing expenses ($2 million).
It also reported $46 million in total assets.
Among C3's New South Wales assets are a $5.5 million property purchased in 2015 which is its Silverwater campus and a $1.8 million block of land which was turned into its Oxford Falls location.
While donations make up the bulk of C3's revenue, music, events and an educational institution also raise funds for the church.
C3 has a band - albeit far less successful than rival Hillsong's offerings - which has released 40 albums since the early 80s.
More than $35,000 in royalties was made by the church in 2018.
Yearly conferences are also big events for C3, which refers to its Presence Conference as a "pilgrimage".
It will go global for the first time this year when it visits 20 cities with the goal of reaching "1 Million Worshipers".
Tickets to the event cost $49 for the Sydney leg, $25 for Brisbane and Adelaide and are free for Perth.
C3 College - which offers both arts and ministry courses - has seen more than 8000 graduates since its inception in the 80s.
It's unclear from C3's financial statements how much revenue is generated from the college, but a three year Advanced Diploma of Christian Ministry and Theology costs more than $14,500 to complete.