NEW YORK – Progressive ‘pastor’ Carl Lentz of New York City draws thousands of followers—including Justin Bieber—to concert-like services each week, but many Christians are concerned that he seems to be concealing his stances on moral issues, including homosexuality.
Hillsong New York City is a popular Pentacostal congregation, which meets each week in nightclubs, theaters, and other venues across New York City. Trendy concert-like music, strobe lights, and Lentz’s unconventional messages draw thousands of attendees every Sunday.
Lentz, who sports tattoos, leather jackets, body piercings, and even a mohawk hairdo, says his weekly assembly is “awesome.”
“Our church is awesome; I love it,” he told CBN News. “It’s extremely imperfect and that’s why everybody fits in.”
In an interview last year with the Daily Mail, Lentz proudly described the “craziness” which unfolds at Hillsong NYC each weekend.
“Don’t be alarmed by the craziness you see,” he said. “One time somebody said, ‘Y’all are crazy in your church,’ and I said, ‘You ever seen you dance drunk? Don’t be judging us up in church.’”
“I’ve gotten used to seeing bar stools and club stuff in the place that we have church,” Lentz noted. “That’s church to me now.”
Some attendees say they feel “more comfortable” in Hillsong NYC’s modern, non-traditional environment.
“It’s unconventional but we’re not a conventional city,” one churchgoer told the Daily Mail. “This isn’t the Bible Belt. This is New York.”
Celebrities often stop by Hillsong NYC to experience Lentz’s unorthodox messages, which are often replete with street slang and modern lingo. Justin Bieber occasionally attends services and was reportedly baptized by Lentz last week after the young pop star came under fire for racist comments.
“I’m proud of Justin Bieber,” Lentz Tweeted on Thursday.
Despite Lentz’s burgeoning popularity, many Christians are concerned with lack of clarity on social issues, including homosexuality. Lentz says he does not like preaching about moral debates and once told Katie Couric that Jesus “very rarely” talked about “morality and social issues.”
“My Bible says, be attentive to individual needs,” Lentz told his congregation in a sermon, which was publicized by Huffington Post. “So I’m not gonna make polarizing political statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what, we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements to individual needs. Never.”
Some Bible-believing Christians say Lentz is an example of a megachurch leader who maintains lukewarm theology in order to attract maximum crowds and avoid offending anyone. As previously reported, both Rob Bell and Joel Osteen similarly refuse to speak out against homosexuality from the pulpit.
Ken Silva, a Christian minister who frequently writes on issues of concern surrounding the Church, observed that sin-less sermons from megachurch leaders are increasingly common.
“This is typical of the cult of celebrity megapastor because to grow their little kingdoms they cannot risk offending anyone,” Silva wrote in a Wednesday blog post.
Silva said Lentz’s decision to skirt around controversial topics is dangerous.
“It’s God’s word which judges (cf. Hebrews 4:12); but if [Lentz is] not telling people what the Lord has said in Scripture, then people are not going to know,” Silva wrote. “And if Carl Lentz isn’t going to do so, then he needs to stop pretending to be a pastor; stop calling what he does ministry, and just be a full-on entertainer.”
“Pastor Carl,” Silva concluded, “it is not unloving to tell someone the truth; however, it is actually hateful to withhold it from them.”