The pastor who pals around with Justin Bieber and a bevy of A-list athletes while ministering to thousands of lesser-knowns at his megachurch says he’s ready to speak truth to all those tabloid headlines.
Like reports, for instance, about that time Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC moved the pop star into his suburban New York house for 18 months a couple years back. It wasn’t 18 months. It was about a month, at a time when Bieber sorely needed some downtime, Lentz told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
“Yeah, there was a period where he just needed to get out of dodge, his regular life, and lived with us,” Lentz said ahead of Tuesday’s release of his inspirational Own the Moment, the pastor’s first book. “He’s got an amazing mom and dad but in this regard we thought maybe it would be cool for a little bit just to check out of the grind that you’re in as one of the biggest stars in the world and just be normal.”
Why this alarmed some people is beyond Lentz.
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OWN THE MOMENT…AVAILABLE OCT 31st!! Im excited about this book and My prayer is that it encourages many..The goal of this life, is to help other people. To do that, we have to own the moments! From the mundane to the miraculous, it all matters. I wrote this book, for anybody who wants to make the most of what they DO have! I think we all have more opportunities to impact people, than we may think.. you can pre-order it now, link is in the bio. LOVE YOU LAURA LENTZ..#occupyallstreets #iwroteabook #nowmyinstacaptionswillbeshorter #OTM
For the record: Lentz is the Bieb’s friend, not his pastor. Bieber had one of those already — Judah Smith, based in Seattle. Also, Bieber was playing Uno with Lentz’s kids when the tabs had him trashing a New York City nightclub, Lentz said.
How does Lentz counsel the reformed bad boy on how to maintain his cool in the face of all that TMZ and paparazzi attention, especially after alarm bells rang when Bieber recently cut short his latest world tour to rededicate himself to God?
“It’s the same way I would try to handle criticism in my own life. You never want to get to the point where you’re so callous that it doesn’t register but you do want to get to a place where you can control what it does to your spirit,” Lentz said.
“For him, he’s so used to that kind of thing that we try to change what kind of reaction he had. On his own accord, he just said, ‘Look, I don’t like stuff like this but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. It’s not going to rule me so I’m not going to think about it.'”
Bieber has infamously mixed it up on occasion with the photographers who stalk him. He has left fans waiting at concerts for a couple of hours. He has been caught in a slew of other, less than sterling activities and brushes with the law, including egging his neighbor’s house and urinating in a bucket. So forgive him if he wanted to chill privately in Montclair, New Jersey, with Lentz, the pastor’s co church planter and wife, Laura Lentz, and their three children.
“We pulled it off for like two days and then the word got out and it was kind of annoying, but overall it was like a pretty special time,” Lentz recalled. “Yeah. Uno, card games, Bible studies and just sneaking into coffee shops in Jersey, just hanging out.”
Bieber’s publicist declined an AP request for an interview with the star.
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This photo from last Sunday is a glimpse of what has been hard to articulate with words, @hillsongnyc… every week, feels like we take a step forward in faith and passion and depth of community. 7 years in, it's the same story. Week in, week out. The faithful, not the famous. The shadows, not the spotlight.. that define the ppl that build the local church..although some heroes, like Juliet, a single mom fighting cancer, while raising two epic sons, who seems to serve on every volunteer team we have, sometimes end up front and center because some battles need to be fought out in the open. Our church praying for healing, in this moment, might be my favorite moment yet.. it's an honor to call this church "home". See you tonight at 5 and 7:30!! #occupyallstreets #ownthemoment #churchinthewild
Bieber isn’t the only young star to embrace Hillsong. Vanessa Hudgens is an attendee, as is the occasional Kardashian (Kourtney) and Baldwin (Hailey).
Lentz, an affable Virginia Beach, Virginia, native, scoffs at his frequent moniker of “pastor to the stars” and his church’s reputation as the cool church, a magnet for celebrities.
Lentz and Smith baptized Bieber three or four years ago in the custom extra-long bathtub of basketball star Tyson Chandler after the singer declared at 02:00 one frigid New York night that he was ready. NOW. They couldn’t find a place to get it done until Lentz called his buddy Chandler.
“That man got out of bed. His wife, Kim, they opened up their house and we went in there and we just made it happen, and it was awesome,” Lentz said. “It was a credit to Justin for being so passionate and relentless in his pursuit that that night to him was a must. It wasn’t a maybe.”
Over the years, there have many brushes with criticism. Of Bieber. Of Lentz. Of Bieber and Lentz.
A photographer caught the two earlier this year doing shots while at a private gathering at a New Zealand bar, where they were attending a Hillsong conference. Shots of what? Lentz wouldn’t say, noting that he’s a grown man at 38. And Bieber? Well, he’s 23.
“There’s context to that, and I enjoy not giving it,” Lentz said of the incident. “I would say the bigger question for people to ask is, ‘What’s the issue?’ Is the issue drinking alcohol? That’s one topic. Is the issue me drinking with Justin? That’s another issue, so I always say which issue are you mad about? Is this about me? Is this about Justin?”
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I realize there is an insta flood of insta preaching and I love that! This is different though..because our @hillsongnyc creative gurus are hilarious and @therealmikeq is a quiet genius… MY POINT was that anything that God deems special? Will have a standard and boundary attached to it.. otherwise what is EXCEPTIONAL becomes COMMON…standards are not burdens! They are blessings..love you @hillsongnyc … shout out to @kanekeatinge for "always giving me props". Shout out to @coryfridayrobinson who once told me "Carl I'm BLACK. And I LOVE IT." #had2BEthere #occupyallstreets