The Rise and Fall of Carl Lentz, the Superstar Pastor of Hillsong Church

Mr. Lentz, who was raised in Virginia Seaside, spent years on the lookout for his calling. He performed basketball at North Carolina State College earlier than dropping out. He labored as a greeter at a Gucci retailer on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. However within the early 2000s he made his strategy to Australia, the place he attended a faculty operated Hillsong Church.

Mr. Lentz interned for Mr. Houston, who based the church together with his spouse, Bobbie, and befriended his oldest son, Joel. By 2010, Hillsong was opening its first church in america, and Mr. Lentz and his spouse, Laura, moved from Virginia to New York to assist Joel Houston lead it.

Round this time Mr. Lentz grew to become buddies with Mr. Bieber, the younger pop star. The 2 grew to become so shut that Mr. Bieber moved in with the Lentz household quickly in 2014. They had been photographed collectively typically: at a recording studio in Beverly Hills, a go-kart racetrack in Los Angeles, and — ruffling feathers in conservative Christian circles — apparently doing photographs at a bar in New Zealand.

Mr. Lentz was recognized for his look: tattoos, edgy glasses and never simply type however style. Girls’s Put on Every day described Mr. Lentz’s “uniform” as a Saint Laurent leather-based jacket, ripped denims and a low-cut T-shirt. He typically sported a Rolex, too. Pastors and different workers members who arrived at Hillsong sporting conventional fits and ties typically regularly began to decorate like Mr. Lentz, and even imitate his Southern-inflected accent.

Thanks partially to Mr. Lentz’s excessive profile, Hillsong’s New York department appeared to thrive. A church that began as collection of small group conferences in flats throughout the town started gathering on the downtown live performance venue Irving Plaza, then on the bigger Hammerstein Ballroom, after which at United Palace, a venue that advertises itself as Manhattan’s fourth-largest theater.

The New York church, which reported a weekly attendance of greater than 7,000 individuals final 12 months, quickly began outposts in Montclair, N.J., Norwalk, Conn., and Boston. These 4 areas grew to become often called Hillsong East Coast, and the Lentzes had been accountable for all of them.

Hillsong’s mannequin is what is named “seeker delicate,” a consumer-oriented strategy that goals to draw individuals cautious of or unfamiliar with conventional church. As a substitute of outdated hymns and dry sermons on Sunday morning, Hillsong and the church buildings prefer it supply a slick live performance punctuated a “message” that always sounds extra like a self-help seminar. Mr. Houston’s guidelines for leaders in Australia instruct {that a} Hillsong sermon “leaves individuals feeling higher about themselves than they got here.”

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