Recently Oprah Winfrey interviewed Carl Lentz, the popular and well-known pastor of Hillsong Church in New York City. Lentz is often referred to as the ‘rock star pastor’ with a ‘come as you are’ approach. He sometimes preaches in night clubs and theaters.
New York’s Hillsong Church is known for its passionate worship that draws people from all genres, particularly the younger generation.
Speaking of his church Lentz states, “we’re a cool church preaching an ancient message” and his mission is to transform the way people experience God.
His message is about God being interested in us as a work in progress. He firmly believes our faith involves a journey.
Justin Bieber’s baptism s a great example of what Lentz is talking about. Lentz along with Judah Smith, Justin’s pastor, baptized the pop star late one night in a friend’s seven-foot bathtub.
Lentz is proud of Justin Bieber wanting to be baptized in the middle of everything he was going through at the time. Baptism showed his desire to start fresh and begin pulling himself out of the mire, even though he still had a lot more to deal with.
Lentz describes baptism being an outward sign of what God is doing inwardly in a person’s life. I imagine this would have instilled hope in Bieber knowing that God cared about him as a ‘work in progress.’
For Lentz we are all on a faith journey and some of us are at different stages.
Yet, some people still have a problem with Bieber declaring his faith when his life isn’t completely straightened out.
Oprah shared her experience growing up in a church where love was preached but there was no trust among the congregation. When the church split, she watched her Sunday School teachers walk out of the church.
In her opinion, Hillsong Church was not “your grandmother’s church” and that it was not about ‘religion’ but a relationship with God. Lentz agreed that it was about people knowing who Jesus was and what He did for them.
When Oprah asked who Jesus was? Lentz answered:
“Jesus is the answer, He is everything. Jesus is God, the atonement and salvation. Admit your need for God. Bow your knee. There is a moment when your repentance matters. I can’t do enough. I’m not going to make it on my own. A rescue takes place and God’s grace takes over.”
This was salvation and both Lentz and Oprah agreed that “Jesus was the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
Lentz talked about religion not being a bad thing, but that the word did have a bad connotation. It’s about a relationship with God. It is not dependent on your background, how you dress or what you did Saturday night.
It’s about a soul transformation.
Every person’s journey is different. People are facing different issues in their lives. Some are dealing with emotional issues, addictions, and others aren’t. We are all heading in the same direction in God but it may take some longer.
Don’t despise people because they aren’t at the same stage in their journey as we are. We have no idea what they are dealing with. But the Holy Spirit is continuing His work to transform their lives.
Oprah talked about the Holy Spirit as Divine Energy and said she used both terms.
Lentz agreed but cautioned that we can hijack words like ‘faith’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ and make them ambiguous. As an example the Holy Spirit is a person and not the wind blowing. He had just preached a message on the Holy Spirit being our Advocate, Helper and Lifter of our Head.
Oprah’s conclusion was that the energy at Hillsong Church in New York City changed people’s lives.
Karl Lentz reiterates throughout the interview that Jesus is attainable any moment and every moment of your day. A relationship with God is not dependent on your behavior. It’s about soul transformation.
When your soul is transformed your behavior changes and you find rest for your soul.
“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7)