Pastor Carl Lentz, who dons a leather jacket and tattoos, “looks more like a rock star than the head of a Pentecostal church,” according to a recent CNN profile.
But the so-called “uncommon pastor” of Hillsong Church NYC is attracting throngs of Christian worshippers into the fold each week to hear his sermons that are delivered with a modern approach.
Bright lights, vibrant music — the experience is much like a rock concert. And it’s growing in popularity.
Hillsong sees around 6,000 parishioners flock to a giant New York City ballroom each week for a total of five separate services. Among them, Lentz, 35, has attracted some big-name celebrities like singer Justin Bieber and NBA star Kevin Durant.
What these parishioners experience, he told CNN, isn’t what they’d find at many other churches.
“If you’ve ran from church your whole life, because you didn’t like the organization — well, we meet in a club and we’re not gonna to sing the songs you’re used to singing and we’re not gonna to preach a message you think you’re going to hear,” Lentz said.
The preacher, who could end up being the next Joel Osteen or Rick Warren considering his growing popularity, added that he doesn’t consider himself “religious.”
For Lentz, faith is more about forming a relationship with the Lord.
“You can be religious about being a car thief … but we have a relationship with God,” he added.
Lentz also spent some time during the CNN interview responding to critics who claim his church is cultish — or that he isn’t preaching enough of the gospel.
“A cult is when I tell you what to think and if you think any different, you’re gone,” he explained. “That’s a cult. We preach the opposite.”
Watch the CNN profile below:
As for Bieber, Durant and the other celebrities Hillsong attracts, Lentz said the church’s goal is to reach everyone, regardless of social stature.
“The goal of our church is from the nameless to the famous,” the pastor told CNN. “Our church should have celebrities, we believe, because we’re trying to reach everybody.”
TheBlaze first featured Lentz’s work last year.