Unless you haven’t been following the news at all, or simply don’t care about happenings in Christendom — which is a good possibility for many — then you’re probably aware of the scandal involving former Hillsong NYC pastor, Carl Lentz, who has admitted to at least one affair and has now been accused of multiple affairs.
Carl Lentz has been one of the most popular pastors among millennials for the last decade. In 2010, Lentz co-founded Hillsong Church NYC with Joel Houston, son of Hillsong’s head CEO, Brian Houston. In that decade, the church grew in attendance to over 9 thousand and has been a popular spot for holiday specials, including its annual Christmas special.
The church has also been the center of criticism for conservative Christians as the church is known for its theological progressivism and proclivity toward debauchery. Hillsong has been very unclear on the stance on homosexuality, with leftists accusing them of being anti-gay while conservatives accuse them of being pro-homosexual. All Hillsong churches, including Lentz’, have been squishy on this topic. Lentz told CNN earlier this year that he may be open to affirming homosexuality in the future, signaling that his decision would be based upon wherever the culture leads him.
While Hillsong’s music still rings through many Evangelical churches on Sunday mornings, I’ve been trying to convince Christians that this is dangerous. While Hillsong music is pleasing and tickling to the ears, is it really a good idea to have a church or organization that is so given to the culture be the primary provider of worship music in conservative Christian churches? Nonetheless, despite “moral failure” after “moral failure,” — and even one prominent worship leader who completely renounced his faith — Hillsong still reigns supreme in churches around the world.
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All of this to say; many in the Hillsong movement are as much a victim to the false church as they are the culprit.
Many, like Marty Sampson, the Hillsong worship leader who renounced his faith, didn’t receive any support at all from the church when they were struggling. In fact, they were affirmed. In fact, when Sampson published his renunciation of his faith on social media, CEO Brian Houston’s daughter “liked” the posting.
Churches that are true to the biblical calling shouldn’t be affirming any of its members who are struggling with sin and letting them walk away. Churches should be disciplining these people. Marty Sampson should not have been allowed to just walk away from the church. Step down from leadership? Absolutely. But to allow your members to just walk away after falling into sin is equivalent to excommunication.
While Sampson actually renounced his faith — and perhaps the leadership did attempt to walk through it with him — that situation is a little more cut and dry. Church is for Christians, and if you’re convinced you’re not a Christian, then you shouldn’t be a member of the church. However, it is unclear how much effort was put into figuring this out with Sampson. It appears he made the announcement and then just walked away as the other members cheer on his decision as though he’s choosing another sports team to be on.
But with Lentz, who has not renounced his faith to my knowledge, Lentz is actually being victimized by Hillsong by being allowed to walk away without discipline. If Hillsong Church, and Brian Houston, loved Carl Lentz, he’d be held to the biblical standard of church discipline outlined in Matthew 18. Instead, Lentz went to secular media to proclaim that he intends to fix his marriage by avoiding church — and apparently, Brian Houston is okay with this.
Churches do not abandon their members. However, Carl Lentz should be sitting in the pews of Hillsong NYC listening to someone who can rightly exegete the Scriptures proclaim the gospel to Him regularly. Lentz should be counseled by the leaders of Hillsong who can walk with him and his family to repair his marriage and restore his relationship with the church. If Lentz, who says he truly wants to fix this, is left to walk alone in this — abandoned by his friends and fellow Christians — what does this say about the Church and about Jesus Christ?
Lentz, who has been preaching a watered-down gospel for a decade, should actually hear what the gospel has to say about the sin he’s engulfed himself in right now. Repent and turn to Christ. Believe in Him. His church should hold him to that standard — they should insist on it. They should practice the discipline that leads to repentance. And only then, if Lentz remains obstinate and unyielding in his sin, should he be excommunicated.
Carl Lentz has no business preaching and teaching. But if Hillsong Church loves him, they will see to it that he has every opportunity to be restored to fellowship.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… — Romans 3:23
Hillsong put an unqualified man on stage as the face of the church in the largest city in America just to tear him down when he has fallen. The gospel is for Carl Lentz, too. Hillsong, do not withhold that from him. Otherwise, you too are in sin.