Hillsong NYC Pastor 'Encouraged' by Service Kick-Off

NEW YORK - During the kick-off of Hillsong Church New York's weekly services on Sunday, lead pastor Carl Lentz told his growing congregation that Christians have the responsibility to live out the vision and apply the unique gifts that God has given them.

Using Luke 12:48 as the main passage, the 32-year-old pastor encouraged worshippers to act upon their faith.

"To whom much is given much is required. Jesus said that just as we've (Christians) been given the vision, the vision is great but what are you going to do with it," Lentz told The Christian Post.

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"One day, we are going to be close to a day of reckoning where we're going to be asked what we did with the gifts, vision and resources that we've been given. And on that day, we are not going to be worrying about what our Twitter followers or what kind of clothes we had on but we're going to ask what we did with the gifts that God gave us."

Hillsong in New York City is the first U.S. location of Hillsong Church, the largest Pentecostal church in Sydney, Australia. The church held three services at Irving Plaza by Union Square Sunday, with a service every two hours after 4pm.

"We had three services and packed them out. I was really encouraged," said Lentz.

He said the church attendance has been "pretty consistent" but declined to specify how many people came Sunday. More than people attended each service back in November, according to an updated estimate by The Christian Post.

"We don't talk about numbers because we don't want people to get that running through their head that as far as what we are all about," commented the Hillsong NYC pastor.

Lentz delivered his sermon Sunday following a "Vision" video message that included a five-minute mini-sermon from Hillsong's senior pastor Brian Houston.

"He spoke about the cause of the Gospel, why we still believe in it and what it should look like if the church is still as we call it 'doing the Gospel," relayed Lentz.

"Our description of a church that is Gospel centered and Jesus centered would be reaching everybody it can, going out of the four walls of the established church building and making a difference in the community, and providing a church life that is welcoming of anybody no matter what they've walked through or been through."

The service also featured a guest appearance by Pete Wilson, associate pastor of Hillsong Church in London, who led the worship team.

Lentz, an American, was tapped to lead Hillsong NYC after he visited Joel Houston, Hillsong United frontman and son of Hillsong Church's senior pastor Brian Houston, in New York City last year during New Year's Eve. During their days at Hillsong College, the two had discussed working together one day on planting a church in New York City but never thought it would actually happen.

But after learning last year of Hillsong's plans to open a church location in New York City, Lentz felt called to fulfill their pact in Bible college.

"I said, 'Man, I'm going to pray about it but I can tell you right now I want to do it,'" recalled Lentz, who now leads the church along with his wife, Laura, and Houston.

In speaking with The Christian Post, Lentz said he has met some critics who asked whether New York needs "another church." But he said the question is like asking whether a city needs another restaurant.

Like different restaurants cater to different tastes, different churches cater to different types of people, according to Lentz.

"If it saves one person, that church is worthwhile," contended the Pentecostal minister. "We often use the analogy of a running lane. We are all running the same race with the same destination. We're not running your lane. It's not better or worse, just different."

He added, "I think the way that Hillsong does worship is appealing to people. And the way we teach the practicality of this Gospel is helpful to people."

The church doesn't have a target demographic and will welcome all who want to call Hillsong NYC home, whether they be city professionals, elderly, single moms, or CEOs, said its lead pastor.

"I think there is a hip, young factor that is wide open in this city, and we are part of a number of churches who are going after that group. But at the same time, it's not intentional. We don't sit there and go, okay, how can we appeal to the hip, young people. We just sit there and go how can we lift up the name of Jesus with how we see fit and let the chips fall where they may," shared Lentz.

Affiliated with Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God, Hillsong Church has four main campuses with 14 extension campuses across Sydney. In addition to New York City, the multi-site church has international branches in London, Kiev, Cape Town, Stockholm, Paris, Moscow.

"We're just believing that we are going to help more people than we've dreamed. I think our church is in a really strong place to begin with," said Lentz.

In addition to holding services, Hillsong NYC plans to hold Bible study classes and partner with an organization to reach out to the homeless.

Lentz reflected, "We just don't know all the ins and outs of where God is going to take this. We kind of wait with anticipation going, okay Lord, whatever you have in store, we're not going to limit it."

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