The senior minister and founder of Hillsong Church has given his first interview with The TODAY Show after a number of North American controversies have damaged the church’s reputation.

Houston, who recently left the shores of Australia to spend up to six months in the U.S., was interviewed by the programme’s co-anchor, Savannah Guthrie, who was not afraid to ask the hard questions.

Hillsong has been under fire over the last eight months, having to deal with multiple challenges in America. From firing their New York pastor, Carl Lentz, over an affair, to facing allegations of misuse of funds, through to having to close their Dallas church, Houston has come to America to add much needed leadership to the world’s most recognizable church name.

In addition to this, a creative director at Hillsong’s Montclair, New Jersey, campus resigned just two weeks ago after photos on Instagram caught him sending pictures of his crotch in white workout tights.

Earlier this year, Houston stated in a letter sent to members: “I am writing to you today because of several stories circulating online alleging a serious abuse of trust — the misuse of church funds by Hillsong Church employees.

“We are particularly grieved that, in many cases, inaccurate accounts in these stories have been reported as if they are true. Hillsong Church strongly refutes that our culture casually allows for such gross misuse of church funds. In fact, these stories are especially troubling since Hillsong has a record of excellence in financial accountability globally and an unwavering commitment to financial integrity.”

In a report published in the New York Post, pastors and staff apparently freely used debit-like “PEX” — or pre-paid expense — cards for whatever their hearts desired, several former members and staff told The Post. The source of the funds was money donated or “tithed” by members, said former Hillsong LA service pastor Nicole Herman, who personally loaded the funds onto the PEX cards.

Houston acknowledged that the church faces a long road ahead to regain trust and to re-build ts reputation, but that he and his leaders are committed to its future. “I’m acknowledging that mistakes have been made,” he says in this exclusive interview.

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