Justin Bieber, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving all turn to Hillsong’s Carl Lentz for spiritual guidance. The pastor, who has more than 500,000 followers across all of his social media accounts, joined Cheddar to discuss his new book “Own The Moment," attracting millennials to the faith, and his star-studded church.
“Celebrities are really not that much different than the regular among us,” the pastor said Monday.
Hillsong’s churchgoers are not what you might think of as typical Sunday parishioners -- Lentz caters to hip and fashion-forward millennials. The service itself is more like a party than a sermon: lines outside are more reminiscent of what you’d see during a new product release at Supreme or the Apple Store. And all four of the Sunday services usually pack their portion of the 12,000-square-foot space in New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. There are lights everywhere and the music is booming.
But how is Hillsong’s fandom possible during a time that millennials are, overall, less faith-oriented?
Pew Research has reported that, compared with their elders, young people are much less likely to affiliate with any religious tradition or to identify themselves as part of a Christian denomination. Fully one in four adults under the age of 30 describe themselves as “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular.” Pew says Americans aged 18 to 29 are considerably less religious than older Americans.
Lentz says that millennials who gravitate towards him are seeking relatability in a world that’s becoming more and more cynical. He says that he wrote his book to give clarity to those who don’t know whether they should believe in God.
“People want genuine, authentic people,” he said, calling surveys like Pew’s “weird.” “I’ve never been interviewed by one,” he points out.
Hillsong is a Pentecostal “megachurch” affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches group. There are almost 1,100 institutions within the organization and more than 250,000 members.
Lentz, who’s the lead pastor at the NYC location, credits the city with drawing in celebrities to his church.
“If I was in Montana, we would have cattle ranchers in our church,” he said. “We live right here in the Mecca of the entertainment industry.”
Lentz says that the concept of faith to those like Bieber and Durant is no different than it is for the average American.