Culture

Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz confesses that he was unfaithful in marriage, leading out of an empty place

by Gabriel Ong // November 6, 2020, 12:29 pm

CARL LENTZ

Image source: The New York Times

A day since Hillsong released its official statement on the dismissal of Pastor Carl Lentz due to “moral failures”, the latter has come forward with his own statement on Instagram.

Revealing that he was unfaithful in his marriage, Lentz said that he had not done an “adequate job of protecting [his] own spirit”, and that his leadership out of an “empty place” had resulted in “real and painful consequences”.

Lentz, who led Hillsong’s church plant in New York City, grew in prominence as pastor to the rich and famous, including the likes of Justin Bieber and the Jenner sisters. 

Accepting “full responsibility” for his failings, the 41-year-old father of three said that he is beginning a “journey of rebuilding trust” with his wife and children.

Lentz then apologised and asked for forgiveness from family, friends and followers, admitting that while his family does not know what the “next chapter” holds in store for them, they would walk into it together “hopeful and grateful for the grace of God”.

A quick trawl around the many sites shouting up this debacle is all you would need to realise the online world is a hard place – crueler still for those caught out by moral failures like Lentz. 

I was struck however, by the grace permeating Hillsong’s official statement concerning the future of Lentz and his family. I saw it in a few of the things Hillsong Church’s Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston wrote:

  • His thanksgiving for the Lentz family’s work over the years.
  • His belief that Carl would continue to be used by God.
  • His refusal to wade into and stir up sordid waters surrounding Lentz’ scandal (without shying away from the facts of the matter).
  • His desire to honour God and care for the church community – as well as the Lentz family.
  • His grief towards Carl and Laura’s situation (they are humans too, suffering because of sin).
  • His hope in God’s new season for the church and region.

So much grace and hope. 

Our hope doesn’t come from the goodness within man, but from what we know of God’s heart and character.

I feel a bit shameful that I had not been nearly as kind, even when Lentz was in good graces, so to speak. 

My own view of Lentz before such news came to light was not a charitable one. I shook my head at yet another flashy, celebrity pastor, dragging the rest of us in the mud for his fancy sneakers.

I don’t mean to say Lentz’ failings should simply be dismissed, I just want to look at things a little less gracelessly from now on.

So in that spirit, here are a few comments on things Lentz has said, from an angle of grace. 

1. “When you accept the calling of being a pastor, you must live in such a way that it honours the mandate. That it honours the church, and that it honours God.”

As I reread these words by Lentz, I thank God that He is just.

Justice and accountability are actually not things often seen in a world where wrongdoers frequently go unpunished and get off scot-free. But I’m thankful that there is accountability in the Church, that we have this system where no one is above the law.

Justice, mercy and grace: What’s the difference?

Because He is the God of justice, He acts to set things right, bringing things of darkness into the light. 

But God doesn’t stop there. His justice is restorative. 

God disciplines those He loves. He dispenses justice and yet lavishes love over His children, including Lentz.  

The cross is where love and justice meet.

2. “I did not do an adequate job of protecting my own spirit, refilling my own soul and reaching out for the readily available help. When you lead out of an empty place, you make choices that have real and painful consequences.”

When Lentz talks about “protecting [his] own spirit”, he’s not talking about vacations or me-time. He’s chiefly talking about being refreshed by God.

Just last night, I was with my mentor and we were talking about this exact same thing. Not about Lentz, but about a relevant question: Are we leading from the well of Jesus? 

If we don’t go back to the source, what are we leading out of?

Some of us lead from within our dry and broken selves, or draw water from broken cisterns or poisoned wells. And then we pour that stuff into the lives of others!

An empty place. That’s a dangerous game we’re playing, and I’ve been there before. In a sense, I could have been in Lentz’ shoes right now, but for the grace of God. 

Truly, God is the fount of every blessing – He is the source. And if we don’t go back to the source, to that spring of living water, what are we leading out of?

3. “I now begin a journey of rebuilding trust”

In the “real world”, you would probably be finished if you were found out and brought to task like Lentz was. Your career and whole life would be over – those would be empty words.

But in the Christian world, it’s a little different. We were “finished”, but God sent Jesus to save us so we could have eternal life. Because of that, we have a real and living hope.

If we believe in this hope, we can believe God still has plans for Lentz: disciplined, but loved; taken down from leadership, but surrounded by a community seeking to point him back to God. 

“I have treated relationships with women far too casually”: In John Crist’s fall, a call to sober talk and living

Because of what God did for us on the cross, I can believe that Lentz’ “journey of rebuilding trust” isn’t PR mumbo jumbo, but the words of a repentant father seeking to rebuild his family. 

I have this expectation because our hope doesn’t come from the goodness within man (not much there to be honest), but from what we know of God’s heart and character.

That’s the reason why I’ll be on Lentz’ side, cheering him on as he rebuilds his life by God’s grace, for His glory.

And honestly, it doesn’t look I’ll be the only one.

If you want a taste of hope and an idea of what Christian restoration means, just head on over to the comments under Lentz’ Instagram post. 

Christian rapper Lecrae wrote, “God restores.” 

Worship leader Kari Jobe penned: “Tear filled post. You are loved by many. Praying for your sweet family and that the presence of God would feel more tangible than ever”.

And notably comedian John Crist, who himself has previously stumbled in similar failings, lent Lentz a word of encouragement: “Takes a real man to write this. Respect”.

There are myriads more. But it is perhaps Pastor Louie Giglio, who has also stood in pits and firing lines of life before, who sums it up best: “There is a cross and an empty grave in the middle of our story.”

So even as one of our brothers in Christ picks himself up by the grace of God, let’s remember that we’re not all that different as people. 

But as one in the bond of Christ, let’s all extend a little more grace and compassion to each other – in life’s crests and troughs – as we walk with our God, pointing our world to Him.

THINK + TALK

  1. Is there something you need to bring into the light and seek repentance/restoration for? 
  2. What are you leading out of? Are you plugged into the right source?
  3. Who can you extend more grace and compassion to?
About the author

Gabriel Ong

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.