Listen: Laura Bennett chats with Pastor and Author, Carl Lentz
In the heart of Manhattan, for the last 7 years Carl Lentz and his wife Laura have been lead pastors of Hillsong Church NYC. Born out of the couples shared experience at Hillsong College in Sydney and a desire to church plant, the campus is now across multiple locations with over 6 services on any given Sunday.
Over the years the profile of the church has risen not only because it attracts thousands in a city unaffiliated with Christian values, but because many of its congregation are local celebrity faces, (which in NYC means basketball players, popstars, models and more).
Hillsong NYC’s proximity to fame and appeal to young Hollywood has drawn curiosity from the press, who haven’t always been favourable toward Lentz and the motives of his leadership team. In a recent interview with American radio show, ‘The Breakfast Club’ Lentz was asked if there was any truth the rumours he convinced Justin Bieber to cancel his recent Purpose tour:
“People who speculate like that don’t have any context for what it means to have a Pastor, or a friend, and Justin made his own calls. He made his own decision. It’s not my role to tell [Justin] what to do. He’s going to do what he’s going to do and I’m going to sit there and say, ‘I’m with you’. If he asks for advice I would give it, but that’s not my primary role,” said Lentz.
As a mentor to stars like Justin criticism has become the norm for Carl and his church, which Lentz addresses in his new book, ‘Own the Moment’:
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“I think the truth is we are who we are. We do have an ability to reach people who sometimes other people don’t for whatever reason… and that’s not because we’re special. It’s because sometimes God gives you a certain grace to do things that there aren’t a whole lot of reasons for… We’re not a church that’s in love with celebrity or fame, we’re definitely not the negative spin that you hear as your platform gets bigger. And I think as long as we know who are, we can handle all that.”
Core to Hillsong NYC’s reputation, is also a desire to engage head-on with issues facing culture particularly that of the US.
At the height of the Black Lives Matter campaign Lentz appealed to his congregation reminding them of the value Christ places on ALL lives, and reiterated the church’s support of all races:
“I felt like because our church is literally super diverse, there are black friends of mine, minority friends of mine, that were in pain. I felt like this is stupid: for us not to talk about this and call it like it is we would be remisce… Our simple point was if you’re a minority in our church right now and you are fearful for your life, when you feel like there’s injustice you can do nothing about, we stand with you, and we’re not going to just take it as it is.”
Pastor Carl Lentz’ book ‘Own the Moment’ is available now.