Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz has said that his church does not use the word "religion" because he finds it to be outdated, and says that he prefers the term "relationship with God."
"We don't use the word 'religion,' because it's hard to get people excited about religion," Lentz says in an article posted by New York Daily News on Monday. "Religion is dead. I don't know anything about religion, I couldn't help you. Religion has no power. But a relationship with God is a superpower."
Lentz leads the 6,000 member evangelical megachurch, which has grown to become one of the largest and most popular ones in the New York area.
"In church, people treat you like you have to change or else," Lentz added. "Our approach is, 'We love you, nothing else.'"
The pastor reflected that Hillsong, which often includes rock performances and giant-screen TVs in its gatherings, intentionally uses modern approaches to minister to people.
"A pastor who likes chess and orchestra, that's great," Lentz, added. "But we're from this generation."
"What you see around you can be a little unorthodox. You don't have to believe to belong here. We just talk about regular life. Regular marriage, what it means to be a Christian in New York."
Hillsong has attracted several celebrities to its worship services, including popstar Justin Bieber, actress Vanessa Hudgens and NBA star Kevin Durant.
Lentz, 35, has in the past explained that he will not take a public stance on hot-topic issues like homosexuality, because he has argued that is not the example Jesus Christ models in the Bible.
He is not the first young evangelist to announce his dislike of the word "religion," however, and in 2012 a video by spoken word artist Jefferson Bethke titled "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" sparked a faith debate online.
"What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish religion?" Bethke asked in the video. "If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?"
"Religion says slave, Jesus says son," he added. "Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free. Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see."
The evangelist, who described himself as a "messed up dude addicted to grace," claimed that Christianity is God's search for man, while religion is the opposite – man's search for God. He explained that this is why salvation is free for the taking – forgiveness is His and not something based on "effort, but Christ's obedience alone."
"So I know I hate religion, in fact I literally resent it," Bethke said. "Because when Jesus cried it is finished, I believe He meant it."