During a recently-aired episode of Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday,” hipster Hillsong NYC leader Carl Lentz replied in the negative when asked by the popular talk show host if he believes only Christians can be in a relationship with God.
The episode was recorded earlier this year, but aired this past Sunday as per the Super Soul Sunday webpage.
“Do you believe that only Christians can be in a relationship with God?” Winfrey asked.
“No,” Lentz replied. “I believe that when Jesus said that ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’—the way I read that, Jesus said that He is the road marker, He is the map.”
“So, I think that God loves people so much that whether they accept or reject Him, He’s still gracious, and He’s still moving, and He’s still giving you massive red blinking lights, for chances to take a right turn where maybe you’d take a left,” Lentz continued. “But I believe God loves people, and that’s what this whole gospel is based on—it’s love. You take the love out of it, we’ve got a moral book.”
Moments prior, after Winfrey advised of a friend who is enamored with Hillsong NYC, Lentz remarked that he hopes his assembly is “hopefully a place where you won’t feel a certain way because of how you’re dressed, what your past is, what you might have done on Saturday night, [or] your background.”
“I think it’s a place where you can come in and actually hear and be safe,” Lentz said.
As previously reported, concerns had been raised in May after Lentz posted a photograph on social media announcing his upcoming appearance Winfrey’s television broadcast.
“I really enjoyed my time with @oprah filming for her Super Soul Sunday show,” he wrote on May 18. “She is truly a special woman and a culture changer. To come from absolute poverty in Mississippi and reach the point where she became the first African American multi-billionaire takes a passion and drive that is exceptional and tireless.”
While the photo generated thousands of likes on social media, others raised concern over the Hillsong leader’s appearance with the television celebrity, who once said, “There are many ways, many paths to what you call God. … Does God care about your heart or does God care about if you call His Son Jesus?”
“Oprah is a pagan with New Age beliefs. For many years she has stated that there are ‘many paths to God.’ She denies that Jesus said the way is narrow,” one wrote.
Lentz replied to the comments on Instagram, remarking that he doesn’t like followers arguing about the Bible on his page.
“I don’t check these comments often, and the further I read on this thread, I’m reminded to do it less and less!” he said. “I will say that I can no longer allow people to use my comment section as their own personal theology blog! Can’t do it. Wrecks my picture and becomes almost embarrassing.”
This week, Bobbie Houston, wife of Hillsong Australia leader Brian Houston, also defended the appearance, opining that it was a “God-honoring, Spirit-breathed and Jesus ‘front and center’ interview.”
“And sadly the God-haters and Hillsong-haters and Oprah-haters will be frothing and manifesting,” she wrote on Instagram. “We love you but your unrelenting contempt and hatred is only going to make us love you more fiercely.”
As previously reported, Hillsong NYC is a popular 8,000 member 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.
Celebrities often stop by Hillsong NYC to experience Lentz’s unorthodox messages, which are often replete with street slang and modern lingo. Pop star Justin Bieber occasionally attends services and was reportedly baptized by Lentz.
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 the 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.”