Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz said he was simply trying to "point people to Jesus" while speaking "speaking a language the world can understand" after coming under fire for failing to condemn abortion as sinful.
"A lot of Christians that don't know who we are say things like 'You're a coward' and 'Truth is truth' and 'You need to speak out,'" Lentz told Relevant Magazine of the criticism he's faced over the past few weeks. "I just say, 'I think me and you-first of all-might know a different Jesus.' I think I did what I would always do, which is try to get to know a person. To me, I'm going in there with the intent of pointing to Jesus and hopefully speaking a language the world can understand."
The controversy began earlier this month after the popular pastor and author was asked about his views on abortion during an appearance on "The View."
"So, it's not a sin in your church to have an abortion?" pro-abortion host Joy Behar asked.
Lentz responded: "That's the kind of conversation we would have finding out your story, where you're from, what you believe. ... I mean, God's the judge. People have to live to their own convictions. That's such a broad question, to me, I'm going higher. I want to sit with somebody and say, 'What do you believe?'"
"So it's not an open and shut case to you?" Behar asked.
"Some people would say it is," Lentz responded. "To me, I'm trying to teach people who Jesus is first, and find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I'd like to know your name."
After coming under criticism from many for sidestepping the question, Lentz took to social media to clarify his stance on the issue.
"I do believe abortion is sinful," he asserted. "Our prayer is that we can continue to help and love those that deal with the pain of regret from personal choices, rather than cast further shame and guilt on those already carrying so much and create a church that can teach people how to form convictions based on God's word, that will be the driving force in all their decisions."
Speaking to Relevant, Lentz explained he entered "The View" interview prepared to speak boldly about abortion, but wasn't given the opportunity to fully address his point.
"The host who asked me the question is not a Christian, doesn't believe in God, doesn't believe what we believe and she asked me about sin. So I felt like a higher question would be 'Let's talk about who Jesus is before we go there,'" he explained.
"I just felt like the best thing I could do in the moment was point to Jesus," he added. "My answer was, 'Before I tell you about what I think sin is, I would like to know your name.' I still stand by that. I'm still gonna do that.It doesn't mean I'm not going to get to the truth; it doesn't mean that I don't have anything to say. My point is, 'You want go there, before we do, [I want to exercise] my right as a human to say: 'What's your name? Where are you from? Why did you get an abortion? Who is the other factor in this? Where were you raised?' Just so it will be more effective."
According to a 2017 Pew Research Survey, there continues to be staunch opposition to abortion in all or most cases among evangelical Protestants. Seven-in-ten (70%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while just 29% say it should be legal.