Hillsong Church NYC: Cult of Celebrity

In 1 Corinthians 2:2, the Apostle Paul stated:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Paul was afraid that if he added his own wisdom or gimmicks to his message, he would detract from the central focus of the gospel, Jesus Christ and His substitutionary atonement.  It’s a shame our ministers today don’t have the same passion at heart.  I think if Paul were evangelizing today, he wouldn’t be hip enough to draw the young, entertainment loving, concert-going crowd.

In New York City, Hillsong Church’s NYC campus is pastored by Carl Lentz.  In an article on Yahoo, the first sentence reads, “Carl Lentz is not your typical pastor.”  (Online Source)  I knew it would only get worse from there.

The Hillsong campus in NYC is a megachurch, and their uncoventional pastor looks like every other culturally relevant, hip, expressive young upstart on the street.  He has his tattoos, and his really cool “half-shaved head and slicked-back mohawk.” (Source:  See link in paragraph above.)

When pastors and their sermons mirror the culture, the culture is what you see and hear in their churches.

People squeeze into whatever space they can find and take notes on iPhones as Lentz marches across the stage, peppering his sermon with Bible verses, jokes, pop music lines and street slang.

“If you’re new to our church, we love you,” said the 34-year-old Lentz. “Don’t be alarmed by the craziness you see. One time somebody said, ‘Y’all are crazy in your church,’ and I said, ‘You ever seen you dance drunk? Don’t be judging us up in church.'”

No, don’t judge – just hop aboard the crazy train and feel your way along!

Lentz is targeting the young, concert-going street crowd, which in and of itself is not a bad thing.  They need to hear the gospel!  Where the train jumps the tracks is where Lentz apes the culture in order to build a culturally relevant church that looks nothing like Christ.  How can it look like Christ when it looks JUST LIKE the world?   Put plainly, mirroring the culture will not produce godly converts, it will produce worldly, unrepentant sinners.

According to the article, most attribute the success of the church to its “young, unorthodox leader.”  In fact, the church claims to attract a crowd of approximately 5,500 to its Sunday services.  That is a lot of warm bodies in one place!  So, why all the attention?  What does this church offer that others don’t?  One simple thing:

Lentz has established himself as his own brand. He has more than 67,000 followers on Twitter and 59,000 on Instagram, where you can find pictures of him standing next to Jay-Z and NBA star Kevin Durant. Justin Bieber posted a picture of himself eating lunch with Lentz, “talking ’bout our savior Jesus Christ.”  (Emphasis mine.)

Hmmm… how important does one have to be to eat lunch with Justin Bieber!  (Not being mean, but unless you’re a 13 year old girl, no one will be much impressed with that.)  Should any pastor, who purports to be a minister of the gospel, exalt himself and establish himself as a “brand?”  Shouldn’t our desire be to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and bring glory to Him and Him alone?  We can make idols out of anything – even ourselves.

In closing, let’s take a look at one last point from the article that I believe reveals how Lentz holds up against the really relevant cultural question of the hour – gay marriage.

When asked his views on gay marriage, did Lentz take the straight and narrow path and stand on what God’s Word has to say about the issue?  No.  He declined to discuss the topic because he feels it is a polarizing issue that young evangelicals have said in repeated surveys that they do not want to be a focus of church.

What I read that to mean is that Lentz won’t stand up and be counted as standing for the truth of God’s Word because the issue would be polarizing to the point of repelling the culture he strives so hard to attract.  You can’t be a brand with no audience to sell it to.

But, is that really so surprising?

I leave you with this from Charles H. Spurgeon:

“An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.

From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.” No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.

Then again, “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers .., for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? Ye are the salt” (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy—something the world will spit out not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, “Let the dead bury their dead” (Matt. 8:22) He was in awful earnestness.

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, “Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow.” Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.

In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of this gospel of amusement! Their message is, “Come out, keep out, keep clean out!” Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, “Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.” If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God’s link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.”

26 thoughts on “Hillsong Church NYC: Cult of Celebrity

  1. Francesmarie

    Yes, I saw a preview of this so called “church service” nothing more than a cult…exalting one self instead of the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. Let us remain faithful to Our Lord and keep in prayer for we too need it much.

  2. syl245

    Sodom and Gomorrah out there..no where to turn and noone to trust the church is just as bad as the rest! Where is my Myrtle tree so I can pray, read and lath my head down!

    Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2013 23:42:45 +0000 To: jezreeel@msn.com

  3. unworthy1 - lyn

    “A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.” Spurgeon

    No need to even ask ‘are we there yet?’

  4. Nic

    I have no problem with how he looks but if you’re not expositing the bible, preaching law and gospel and directing the attention of the listeners to Christ then you should not be behind the pulpit.

  5. Mike

    I read this stuff about the charlatans calling themselves “pastors” and “bible teachers” when they wouldn’t know doctrine if it bit them on the butt and I get so very angry. I find myself relating to “vexed Lot” as my soul cries out daily for the return of the Lord. I know that people like this are “all that” to the world and they simply have flocks of people that leave “church” justified in their sin, knowing NOTHING of holiness and righteous living before a watching world. They live by a “both/and” philosophy instead of an “either/or” Scriptural worldview, just as Paul talked about in Colossians 2. I have the privilege of going to Thailand in September to teach at a mission conference in Bangkok and I’ve been asked to teach on false teachers, the Word Faith doctrine, and how to deal with that. I am extremely humbled by this and pray that the Lord will guide my thoughts as I try to prepare for the teaching sessions and workshops and I will using examples like this in my presentation. This kind of stuff just boils my blood.

    1. Chrystal Whitt Post author

      God bless your journey, Mike. I am so thankful you are traveling to Thailand combat the heretical monstrosities pouring forth from this country.

  6. Kiwi Dave

    “No, don’t judge – just hop aboard the crazy train and feel your way along!”

    You hit the nail right on the head Crystal! City Impact Church is just another offshoot of Hillsong, and after the blatant blasphemy being spoken that that “church”, I most certainly will never, ever return. Notice how Hillsong and it’s offshoots have “speakers” – never preachers! They also have Cafes in the foyer where preaching the word is strictly forbidden. The Cafe is literally known as a “God-free zone”. This is of course how our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ views such activity:

    “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Matthew 21:13 KJV

    “And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” Mark 11:17 KJV

    “And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Luke 19:45 & 46 KJV

    “And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” John 2:16

    A “crazy train” is the perfect way to describe their gatherings. These instructions from the Apostle Paul are in stark contrast to the craziness seen in Hillsong:

    “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” I Corintinthians 14:33 KJV


    “Let all things be done decently and in order.” I Corintinthians 14:40 KJV

    Of course, the excuse regarding imitating the world in order to be “relevant” to today’s generation is again in stark contrast to what the scriptures teach:

    “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. ” James 4:4 KJV

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” I John 2:15 & 16 KJV

    “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” I John 4:5 KJV

  7. Simply Casey

    Thankfully God can use anyone for his glory and I have to believe that people are hearing God’s word and feeling God’s love because he is all around. I was very impacted and influenced by a pastor that I once call my spiritual mentor. That was until we found out he was not only cheating on his wife but soliciting prostitutes. This MAN was nothing I thought he was, but the encounters I had with GOD through this man were real. I am thankful that God reaches us no matter what. I am sure this pastor has a lot to work on. But who doesn’t. And is it our place to judge him. I think not.

    1. Chrystal Whitt Post author

      Actually, the Scripture gives us the guidelines by which pastors are to be measured; they are to be above reproach. You can’t do that without comparing, rightly dividing, and judging righteously.

    2. Teresa

      What God and what Jesus?

      Apparently, some do not know the Word of God….. It is our place to judge from within, righteously by the word of God and if we do not, then we are foolish. this man hangs out with false teachers such as Steve Furtick, , T D Jakes. Louie Giglio, Bill Johnson, the Jesus Culture, and many other false teachers, come on.

      Not to mention, mix him in with the world and guess what? He looks like the world. Are we not to come out from among them, you know the world?

  8. RML

    I don’t know. It seems that you are judging the book by its cover. I attended a service there a while ago and although I was not impressed, the message was Christ centered. I guess it has a lot do to with the audience. I am in my mid-fifties and most people there were in their twenties and thirties. My daughter – 23 – liked both the service and the message and most people there were genuine in their worship expressions.

  9. Charles

    I’m located near Charlotte, NC and I’ve been to a church called Freedom House and also a church in Salisbury, NC called Cornerstone Church (which is actually United Pentecostal in their beliefs). I’ve never been to Elevation Church, but have found out the common thing around all 3 churches is that they all have a setting where

    1) There is a stage with bright lights and automatic “spot lights” with different colors that move around while the music is being played.
    2) There may be a place where you have a kind of “Starbucks” where coffee is served.

    I’ve went to Freedom House with a friend and was told I was being critical of the church because I said I like the music, but I have to look further into the church. I’m starting to believe that as long as you have a good band, choir, etc..you feel good leaving and that church is kind of a combination of coffee house/concert/and good speaker then that is great…is this the new “hip” model for churches now to make people feel comfortable whether they are saved or not? Call me critical or thinking too deep..but I would think that if an Unsaved person comes from a church thinking that they had a good time or it was great and yet didn’t mention anything about them coming to faith in Christ, then something is wrong…

    As a visitor I actually requested to be contacted back about two questions I had.
    1) Do they require members to tithe..
    2) Do they participate or involved with street preaching/evangelism.

    I still haven’t got a response back.😦 That was almost a month ago..

  10. The Narrowing Path

    Thanks for this article Chrystal. It sent me on a bizarre journey into who Justin Bieber actually is (I had a vague idea). Far out…as if that man is a Christian. Have you seen the photo of him wearing the hooded sweat-shirt that says” Smoke Meth and Hail Satan”? I am guessing God doesn’t think that is funny. Playing ‘devil’s advocate’ is a stupid and dangerous game.

    JB is every Bible-belt girl’s pop-star dream…”see Daddy, he is a Christian!” I know…I would have pulled that one on my Baptist missionary parents too. Heck, I would have even believed it! Did you see that there is a ‘bible study’ book to go with his latest movie? The world has truly gone mad.

    Mike and KiwiDave, your input and passion for God’s truth is very encouraging. I would love to hear your testimonies.

    KiwiDave, I wondered if I could post your review of the conference you went to (posted here on Chrystal’s blog) on my blog? Or if you would be willing to write an article on it that would be great!:-)

    1. Kiwi Dave

      Hi NP,

      I’d love to write an article about the Conference for your blog. It will certainly be an eye opener as to how much of an influence Hillsong has worldwide. Did you know that they’ve even managed to “infect” the UPCI? That’s the UPCI, even though a cult, have always held themselves as “separate” from the world and always were full of pride about their “holiness standards”. Well, not only are they a cult, but a worldly cult as well!!!

  11. Quentin Gibson

    My concern is the lack of discernment in youth these days, how teenagers do you know that are able to discern false teachers? This guy is clearly a wolf and has beeen on my radar for some years.

  12. mywordlikefire

    We just traveled through a few states and attended a service at a large church. During worship there appeared smoke and flashing lights from the “stage” … very sad.

  13. John

    Lentz is destroying anything left of the 30 and under crowds of Christian in the NY metro area. The guy is a bigger terror then this article even lets on he is doing great damage. They go to his church for him and the music. There’s some kids that go that even try to dress like him. stop Lentz he is a cancer !

  14. Robert Scarpati

    Yea, it’s true that God uses imperfect things for His purposes, but it’s still the church’s job to deal with those things. But what we’ve read about is off the deep end. It’s good to not want to judge hypocritically or self-righteously. That’s what Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 7:1-5. But not all judging is wrong. Jesus said to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24) and in 1 Corinthians 5:12 it says, “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?” God may have worked in you through that cheating pastor, but once his adultery was exposed was it not proper to confront him and judge him, not hypocritically or self-righteously, but for the sake of his own soul and the souls that may be affected through him? Please consider these things, and please don’t neglect all of the Scripture used in the above comments and the Scripturally- based truth of Charles Spurgeon, which certainly has relevance to this topic. True believers desperately need to speak the truth on love to each other. Please see 2 Peter 2:1-2, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Matthew 7:13-27, and Proverbs 12:14. Blessings in Jesus as you abide in Him and His Word abides in you – John 15:1-17. Final verses: Please see 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 regarding the importance of receiving the love of the truth, as well as 2 Tim. 4:3

  15. A. Brother

    Thank you for the truth. There is no compromise between the People of God and the world. There is only Truth, and Christ is that Truth. Truth is not our words, it’s the Word. Spoken into the world, believed on, and followed on the Narrow Road. Whoever quoted from James 4:4 has told the Truth that needs most to be spoken today. Friendship with the world is impossible for one who is in Christ. And I have news for that religious gathering, which is not of the Church, but of the world. There is no such thing in this universe as a God-free zone. If they only knew. We are the brief thought, the vapor, the mist. He is the Rock, the Reality. Please keep telling the Truth.
    I welcome you to hear the Truth as you speak it at thenarrowgate.blogspot.com. A. Brother.

  16. marilyn patterson

    If my hope wasn’t in the Lord Jesus Christ I would be scared to death………………………………


  17. Warren

    Yes i went to hillsong church city campus for 17 years until god started dealing with me, and showing me how wicked the church is since leaving hillsong my relationship with the lord has become awesome besides sin my biggest hinderence in knowing Christ was hillsong it self and why wouldn’t it be considering it is a different Jesus they worship not christ from the bible thats for sure 2corithians11:4

  18. Street Preacher

    Would Jesus Christ have tattoos? No it is forbidden under the Law, and Jesus kept the Law.
    Did Jesus Christ shy away from tough issues, like divorce or paying taxes to Caesar? No.
    Did Jesus Christ fear the opinions of men? No, He only seeked to please His Father.
    Compare these cool, hip, worldly “pastors” to Christ and there is NO comparison.
    Jesus is our Master and we are commanded to follow Him, so why do so many follow the world”s ways?
    The Christ that these modern, cool pastors follow is not the Christ of the Scriptures.

  19. Denise

    Love the Spurgeon quote! It seems the tradition of pragmatism has outranked the simplicity of Christ and Scripture more now, than ever before. The focus isn’t on Christ or perishing souls, but on boastful numbers and pats on the backs of do-gooders. None of which will honor the Lord, but to which God may count as wicked:

    Mat 7:22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
    Mat 7:23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

    And as for the rest….

    1Th 2:3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit;
    1Th 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.
    1Th 2:5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness–
    1Th 2:6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

    Gal 1:9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
    Gal 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
    Gal 1:11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.

    Rom 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
    Rom 16:18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

    Pro 14:15 The naive believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps.
    Pro 14:16 A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless.

  20. Betti Hindman

    We sure are in the last days. I read “Upside down gospel from Robert R.Congdon and “The millennial Generation, the coming Perfect Storm by the same, a must read for all who see there is something weird going on in the churches these days.. We need to preach the clear gospel, like they do at Quentin Road Bible Baptist Church in Lake Zurich, Illinois and other Clear Gospel churches. Satan hates the clear gospel and is trying hard to pervert it, since the Power of God unto salvation is only in the clear gospel..Other good clear gospel preacher is Dennis Rokser from Duluth Bible Church. We are to defend the gospel not to change it, or ignore it..Betti in Canada

  21. zephaniah

    Syncretism and Paganism dressed up in feel good psychology and sold as jesus seeker sensitive new age hypster….alive and well in sydney churches also….baptist-anglican and some uniting churches have seriously lost direction with false teachers in sydney.

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