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Hillsong Pastor Says 'Relationship with Christ' Key to Outreach, Defends Justin Bieber

( [email protected] ) May 21, 2014 08:31 PM EDT

Carl Lentz
The ''Pentecostal Powerhouse'' is one of Hillsong Church's most popular pastors (Photo: Hillsong NYC)

Carl Lentz wants to spread the love of Christ to the world.

The Hillsong, NYC pastor, who has been dubbed the "Pentecostal Powerhouse" due to his far-reaching influence, recently opened up to Relevant Magazine about how he responds to critics, his relationship with celebrities, and why he refuses to discuss controversial issues from the pulpit.

"[Our] primary goal is not to create robotic Christians, our primary goal is to get people to fall in love with the Lord and have the Holy Spirit," he stated when asked about Hillsong's mission.

Lentz believes the church is losing popularity with today's youth because many pastors focus on morality instead of a relationship with Christ-which he describes as a "fundamental problem"

"We'd rather tell a young person what's wrong or what's right, rather than take the longer, better approach which is, "Well, what do you know about the Holy Spirit? What's God showing you? What do you think the Bible says? Why do you think it says that?" he stated.

"A conversation is a lot more work than a statement, and I think that's why churches like ours have an impact because we're allowing room for people to actually think for themselves and to actually learn," he said. "So we always say the way we want to teach to our church is not about right and wrong necessarily, it's about Jesus and it's about the Holy Spirit. Right and wrong has to come out of that because if you don't know the Lord and all you're getting is right and wrong, you're getting religion."

Carl Lentz
Hillsong NYC church pastor Carl Lentz is seen with recording artist and friend Justin Bieber in a photo shared by Pastor Judah Smith on Instagram. (PHOTO: INSTAGAM/JUDAH SMITH)
Carl Lentz
Jay-Z, Kevin Durant and Hillsong Church NYC Pastor Carl Lentz hang out. (Photo: Instagram/carllentz

Although labeled a "celebrity pastor" due to his close relationship with stars like Justin Bieber and NBA MVP Kevin Durant, Lentz says he focuses on the heart of the person, enabling him to relate with an open, ministerial love.

"[Bieber and I] talked last night and there were moments there where I just had to take a breath and say "I don't know how you do it, bro." I mean, people come up and put the cameras in your face, nonstop. They are horrifically rude. So, I think for us, we have never looked at what somebody does, we try to look at who they are-God has called us to talk to people. So whether you're a nobody or a somebody in this world's eyes, you should have a right to have love and to be pastored."

Lentz has come under fire recently for refusing to speak about controversial issues such as abortion and gay marriage from the pulpit. However, the pastor says he does not like to discuss "behavior modification" because it is typically received with a "shut door."

"The homosexuality issue ... this is not a new subject. Just because our culture wants to say it's a hot topic, it's not like there wasn't homosexuality in the Bible. It's not like they weren't dealing with this forever. But I think the way that we're doing it, we have to change something because we're not winning this fight. We are not reaching a whole segment of our community with any sort of information or love. It's a shut door because of the way we approach some of these things, and I just don't want any part of that," he stated.

Lentz says his church will try to "pick the right moments, the right times, with the right relationships to get new results."

Hillsong, NYC is located in Manhattan, New York City. The church's website states that their mission is "to reach and influence the world by building a large Christ-centered, Bible-based church, changing mindsets and empowering people to lead and impact in every sphere of life."

Carl Lentz
Pastor Carl Lentz leads a Hillsong NYC Church service at Irving Plaza in New York on July 14, 2013. Tina Fineberg/AP