Carl Lentz says he is not 'a disgraced pastor’

Former Hillsong NYC pastor, Carl Lentz.
Former Hillsong NYC pastor, Carl Lentz. | YouTube/ Liberty University

In the first episode of their new "Lights On" podcast, former Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz and his wife, Laura, discussed how his infidelity shattered their marriage and ministry and the work they have done and continue to do to recover.

Lentz, 45, was interviewed by his wife on the podcast and promised to share details about his relationship with Hillsong founder Brian Houston and the Evangelical megachurch network that fired him in upcoming episodes.

In the first half of the just over an hour-long show, however, Lentz made it clear that he didn't like being described as a "disgraced pastor" by media reporting on his story. He doesn't belive it is an accurate reflection of who he is based on his understanding of God's grace.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

"Every headline, typically would say, 'disgraced, disgraced pastor,' or 'pastor falls from grace, falls from grace, falls from grace, disgraced pastor.' What's funny about that is, God bless those people, they [media] don't understand grace," Lentz Lamented.

"Because you can't fall from grace. You fall into grace. It didn't make any sense to me. And I'm not mad at the tabloids who write … 'disgraced pastor.' Disgraced?" he asked with muted incredulity.

"You don't understand what grace is. The opposite of grace. Grace is mercy and favor and forgiveness that you do not deserve but God gives it to you anyway. So if anything, I fell into grace. And if people could stop writing headlines like that, I would appreciate it because it's inaccurate — disgraced pastor," Lentz argued.

"I'm not a disgraced former pastor. I am a human being that made huge mistakes. Mine were public, everybody got to see them. And now, I'm a human being that's trying to rectify my life and make wrongs right and to live completely differently. But disgraced, I am not," he insisted. "I'm more filled with grace than I've ever been. Did I fall from grace? Absolutely not. I fell into it. And I'm really grateful for that."

Lentz was fired from his post at Hillsong NYC in November 2020 over "leadership issues" and moral failures, including being unfaithful to his wife with multiple women, including a staff member at Hillsong NYC. Details from an internal investigation shared with The Christian Post in 2022 that was conducted on behalf of Hillsong Church by the New York City law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, alleged, among other things, that he manipulated some former staff and volunteers and caused them mental distress.

While noting that he understands people can feel "disgraced" by his scandal, Lentz maintains that it doesn't make him a "disgraced" pastor.

"You could say what I did was disgraceful. Maybe at times, sure. But I'm not disgraced because we're forgiven," Lentz said. "I have been able to feel God's grace more than ever, I understand the thought, but I just wanted to get it out there. That doesn't fit me. You can keep writing that headline if you want. But that's not me. I don't identify as the disgraced former pastor. No, sir. No, ma'am."

Lentz said he felt like ending his life when his indiscretions became public as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world and he got fired from his job. He revealed how things quickly went from bad to worse. The day after the news broke, he said they were kicked out of the home they were staying at with their three children in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The former Hillsong NYC pastor said they had recently sold their home and were staying in a friend's home.

"When all this stuff went down, we were obviously just shell shocked, really horrible. It makes me feel weird to even talk about it," Lentz said.

"I got a call from the person who lives there. And he said … you guys have to leave because the owner of this place does not want to be associated with you," Lentz recalled. "I remember we had to take everything we have in this apartment, put it on the street in Brooklyn. And then we got a U-Haul and a U-Haul van. And we're just throwing stuff in there."

The former Hillsong NYC pastor said he struggled to find help from his network until a friend in Connecticut allowed them to stay in her home.

Laura Lentz shared how she needed to get specialized counseling for betrayal trauma, and they both shared how when the scandal broke, their daughter Charlie was in a mental hospital for teenagers, where she ended up staying for eight weeks.

"I didn't know that was even a thing [betrayal trauma]. I found a therapist that specializes in betrayal trauma and I didn't realize the amount of work that I needed to do because I was a mess," she said.

"When you're gaslit the way you are in situations like that, it's actually, it's more than just trauma. It's like torment, mental torment, physical torment on your brain," Laura Lentz revealed. "And so I had to unwind a lot of my own things that had gone on in my own head."

Lentz praised his wife profusely for standing by him and their family and talked about how her sacrifice to stay with him after everything gave them both a chance to heal and be better. He said his wife was not complicit in any way in his personal failures and she did not know about his addictions until they became public.

"You had nothing to do with my hidden sin and hidden habits and hidden addictions. You did not know what was going on with me. And I know there's been some confusing reports where people can try to piece something together and say, you know, Laura, was she complicit? Did she know? And that's just not true. It's not our story," Lentz told his wife. "You didn't know anything about what I was doing because I became really proficient at making my life work despite a lot of pain."

Lentz said he believes his sins were made public because "God had enough."

When his wife asked him what it was like to preach while keeping his addictions secret, he called it "torture."

"The way I can articulate living a life where you have that kind of secrecy, it is torture, for the person living — me. And it's torture for the people that are not in the know, I don't care who you are, what you've done. Nobody is created to live with lies," Lentz said.

"If anything, we tell a lie, and we sit on it, and we learn to live with it.  It's like adapting to dysfunction. That's what it's like to live with a lie. And there is no there's no burying a lie. We think that's what's happening. … I was really digging my own grave. And that's a hard reality to face. But now, you know, I know the power of honesty in a totally different way. And that's been a really powerful part of our healing."

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.