We have managed to find a miniature biography of new Hillsong Pastor, Carl Lentz.
Carl recently wrapped up 7 years of ministry at Wave Church. Before that, he had moved to Australia to pursue biblical training at Hillsong College, which quickly turned into the pursuit of his now wife, Laura, an Australian. Carl claims that Laura is the second greatest Aussie import of all time, only topped by Tim-Tam cookies. Both Carl and Laura embrace a simple, dedicated faith in Jesus and are passionate about delivering the gospel in a method that makes sense to a generation that is desperately seeking a cause that is greater than themselves. He counts it as an honor to lead the first ever Hillsong Church in the United States of America and plans on spending the rest of his life loving life, loving Jesus, loving people and building Hillsong New York City. Carl and Laura have three children under the age of 7, all of which feel a call to play professional basketball and make millions for their father, although it is not clear as to whether the children are aware of this yet. Be sure to follow him on Twitter via (@carllentzNYC).
Source: Events, Premiere Productions, http://www.premierproductions.com/artists/carl-lentz,
We thought it was worth to inform our readers about Carl Lentz’s ministry work at Wave Church. The Hampton Roads reports the following in their ‘Community News’ section,
Local Pastor saves souls to a hip-hop soundtrack.
So it’s Thursday night, and a pastor walks into a bar.
No, really. It’s Thursday night, and a pastor, Carl Lentz, walks into a bar. Specifically the bar wxyz, inside the hip new hotel aloft in Chesapeake during the invite-only party for its opening. The lobby has been transformed into a nightclub. A sea of alcohol flows, and a DJ blasts house music and hip-hop to a mix of corporate types and young socialites.
Olympic runner LaShawn Merritt is here. Todd Askins, who created the clothing line Shmack. Rapper Fam-Lay. Radio jocks Nick Taylor from Z104 and Pavar Snipe from 103 Jamz. Lentz, his dark hair in its trademark state – like he’s just sprinted from the shower – wears an intentionally distressed tweed blazer festooned with patches. He sees friends and joins little clusters of conversation.
“Is that Shay?” he asks about Shay Haley, one of the members of the rock group N.E.R.D. “He has a kid, doesn’t he? I’ve been trying to get him to come out to the church.”
Over the din of the music, Haley is briefed on the guy asking about him, the guy who looks as though he’s just sprung from a fashion magazine’s centerfold.
“Really?” Haley asks, his face twisted in disbelief. “He’s a reverend? What’s the church like?”
And there’s the punch line. A reverend walks into a bar; when he leaves, somebody else knows about his church.
Except it’s not a joke, it’s Lentz’s mission: He’s a man of the cloth and a man about town.
Lentz, a 30-year-old pastor at Wave Church in Virginia Beach, is likely one of very few reverends who’ll go to see rappers Redman and Method Man at The NorVa one week – he’s an ardent rap fan – and deliver a sermon to an audience of 1,000 the next.
He’s an evangelist in skinny jeans, driving a black Cadillac Escalade and saving souls to a hip-hop soundtrack.
“There’s a stereotype,” Lentz says. “A lot of people think of Christians as out of touch. But I say the gospel shouldn’t make you weird. We’re not like those people standing outside the clubs with the posters and the bullhorns. God is bigger than that.
“Jesus was doing the same thing, he was among the prostitutes…. I’m not crazy. I’m not weird. I don’t want to hide my identity as a pastor. I pray those days are over.”
Carl Lentz began making a name for himself when he was a basketball player for Cox High School in Virginia Beach. He was, by his own admission, slightly temperamental, at least on the court, something he attributes to being the sole white guy on a team full of standout black athletes.
He was good enough, however, to draw significant attention to himself, even if it wasn’t all positive. His coach, interviewed for a Virginian-Pilot article on Lentz in 1999, called him “cocky”; he was once accused of using a racial slur on the court, a charge he denies. Nonetheless, Lentz’s talent for playing basketball, talking a good game or a combination of both landed him a spot as a walk-on at North Carolina State University – and all the perks of being a popular athlete.
“It was like in the movies times ninety,” he says one day over coffee at Starbucks on Shore Drive.
He looks like a rock star as he pulls up in his Escalade with its shiny rims. He’s wearing a houndstooth trench coat over a tank top, and a Yankees cap turned sideways. His grandfather’s ring dangles from a chain around his neck.
He’s reluctant to paint a vivid portrait of a college debauchery, but suffice it to say he had fun.
“I was living the life,” he says, uncharacteristically turning his eyes away from the conversation. “Not hardcore drugs. Obviously the opposite sex.”
He looks down.
“That whole world.”
He looks up again.
“The big advantage now is that I know there’s nothing there. You can’t tell me I don’t know what it’s like.”
Lentz grew up in a Baptist church but didn’t connect with the church experience. He didn’t see many people his age there.
One weekend home from school, his parents urged him to go to church. He had nothing against it per se, and he’d always obeyed his parents, so he went. What could be the harm? He chose a service led by Steve Kelly, an Australian minister who came from a church known for a unique music ministry – modern songs appealing to young people.
Kelly remembers that day.
“After the service, I ran up to him and said, ‘Hey, I know your parents.’ And he was expecting, ‘Oh boy, here we go. I’m playing basketball, not walking with God, and he’s going to judge me.’ And I said to him, ‘You play ball? That’s awesome. I’m proud of you. It’s a gift.’ And it blew him away. I just accepted him where he was, and I have no doubt that made him want to reconnect with God.”
At that service, Lentz accepted Christ as his savior.
He went back to college but felt something was missing. In his sophomore year, he transferred to Virginia Wesleyan.
Then he studied at the Hillsong International Leadership College in Australia, but, slightly overwhelmed by all the sudden life changes, he returned to the United States and joined a Bible college in California, “the porn capitol of the world,” he points out. He got his first tattoo, a sword on fire, on Sunset Boulevard. He worked at the Gucci store part time.
After about a year, he headed back to Australia. There he met Laura and married her in 2003.
Four years ago, Carl and Laura moved to Hampton Roads, expecting their first child.
Right away, Lentz went to work for Kelly, who is senior pastor of Wave Church on Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach, in the church’s burgeoning youth ministry.
“I saw the call of God in his life,” Kelly says. “Mind you, I don’t think that people should always give up their profession. Not everyone’s got to be a preacher. I do think there is a call of God to be an athlete. But I saw that in him.”
Lentz served as an intern for a year, reporting to the youth minister and assisting with a Wednesday night service geared toward college-aged adults. He then became, to employ the church parlance, “on fire for the Lord.”
Using his gift of gab and his personal connections, he gradually increased the attendance at the Wednesday night service, which he dubbed “Soul Central.” Fifty people turned into 80, 100 to 150, due almost entirely to what Kelly calls Lentz’s evangelical gift – his ability to be a one-man “buzz factory.”
“Within no time at all,” Kelly says, “I told Carl, ‘You run Wednesday night. I don’t want this to be another church service. We don’t have a lot of money and a lot of resources, but what I want you to do is make this a kicking service for college students. I want to walk in there and feel old.’ And Carl just blew it up. I said to my youth pastor, ‘You now work for him.’ “
At a “Soul Central” service last fall, pull-down projector screens played clips of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” and a band on a stage did a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” At one point Lentz, ever the showman, encouraged people to lift their Bibles in the air and use them to high-five one another. He told them to turn to the book of Zachariah.
“Don’t act like you know where that is,” he said. “There is no shame in using the table of contents.”
Roughly 500 people filled the room, a drafty annex of Wave Church’s old building at the same location.
Cut to this year.
Wave Church resides in a stunning Frank Gehry-esque monument of glass and steel; curved walls and high glass panels give the building the airy, cold and modern personality of an airport.
“Soul Central” takes place in a theater-style auditorium with stadium seating, carpeted floors and those tiny aisle lights. The pull-down screens have been replaced by enormous, state-of-the-art monitors.
On Wednesday nights at 8, just as hump-day happy hours across the region are winding down, the flock arrives to strobe lights and stage smoke in the church lobby. Girls appear right on trend in tights and heels; the guys, in their plaid shirts, shaggy hair and slim trousers, look like members of a band.
As the service opens, the rapper Mims’ song “Move if You Wanna” plays, followed by Lady GaGa’s “Just Dance.” It’s very pop-urban Z104 music, and so it’s little coincidence that most Wednesdays you’ll find that station’s music director, Shaggy Stokes, perched on the front row with his wife, Nikki. They are two of roughly 1,000 people who come every week, an audience that seems to grow with every service.
Stokes has known Lentz since ninth grade; Lentz played basketball with Shaggy’s older brother.
Like Lentz, who was torn between his lifestyle and a longing to openly serve God, Stokes felt as though his job would somehow make worshipping the Lord inauthentic. Until he really got to know Carl.
“When I went to lunch with him last October,” Stokes says, “he pulled up on a motorcycle with a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt on.
“I didn’t want to be fake. Like, go to church and then go on the radio and play top-40 music. I still wanted to listen to Young Jeezy and not wear a suit. But he showed me that when you become a Christian you don’t die. I can still be me. He knows about hip-hop, but he’s not afraid to stand there and say, ‘I love Jesus.’ It’s not like it’s a front either, like he comes to church one day and then goes and does another thing. He’s the same dude.”
Not everyone finds this approach completely appropriate. Lentz has been criticized for sometimes going too far in toeing his line between secular and spiritual. This is, after all, a guy with a growing collection of tattoos. Body art, many Christians say, is in direct defiance of Leviticus 19:28, which states: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”
“Somebody at Wave Church once said to me, ‘You need to look more like a pastor,’ ” Lentz says.
He’s been turned away from ministering men at prisons because officials didn’t believe he was a reverend.
“I was pretty taken aback by that. I talked to Steve about it, and he said, ‘Don’t change a thing.’ “
Lentz points out that Leviticus also contains verses prohibiting men from shaving their temples, but most Christians don’t regard haircuts as a sin.
“At the end of the day, it’s a nonissue,” he says. “The heart is what’s important.”
Lentz has limits. He’s not going to a strip club. He might have a glass of wine with dinner occasionally, but he doesn’t drink for sport the way some people his age do.
Sometimes the lines get blurred, and he has to retreat. Not long ago, he went to see the movie “Notorious” about the slain rapper who produced the first album Lentz ever bought. On the album, you can hear the rapper making noises that suggest he’s having sex, but Lentz couldn’t stand watching a scene depicting the Notorious B.I.G. and Lil’ Kim.
“It just went into straight porno,” Lentz says. “It was a good movie up until that point. They had to mess it up with that. I had to leave.”
He hopes the people in his flock would exhibit the same kind of discipline and self-control, but he avoids evoking fire and brimstone if they fall short; his style is to encourage people to do better.
“Everybody is on a journey and at a different spot,” he says. For example, he preaches against premarital sex but knows that some of the young people in the audience do it, or even live together.
“Those are the people you want in church. We want them to have a revelation so they can change. We don’t pull punches. We preach the truth in love. I’m preaching against a lot of what our generation stands for but letting people know that God loves them.”
At a Wednesday service for Wave Church officers preceding “Soul Central,” some people are texting with their Bibles open. Even Laura, Carl’s wife – who is also 30 and a minister at the church, and is expecting their third child – occasionally looks down to tinker with her iPhone during the sermon and take notes.
“Don’t text me saying you’re not coming to church,” Lentz says to the crowd. “That’s some bullshiznit.” And then, parenthetically, “I can get away with that. It’s legal.”
Back to the script.
“I don’t want to hear your excuses…. You should be taking notes. You know if you don’t have a certain amount of notes, you won’t get into heaven.”
The sermon he’s giving is about making it out of a valley, a theme he’s expounded on in various ways in recent weeks, given the state of the world today.
“Psalm 23. That’s a Coolio song, remember?”
Lentz repeats the words to the psalm with the same cadence of the Coolio song.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of death… ” On cue, nearly everyone in the room starts to sing along. After a few bars, they all crack up.
“That’s not Coolio,” Lentz says, “that’s a promise.”
Ten minutes later, he reinforces the idea that Christians need to stick together.
“Stick to the plan. And stick to your peoples. Yes, we’re using ghetto language. Peoples. Turn to your neighbor, say, ‘Lean on me.’ ” And then, somewhat predictably, the audience begins singing that song. They crack up again.
The mood is decidedly less silly a few Wednesdays later, when Lentz has just finished delivering another sermon to the “Soul Central” crowd about traversing a valley. At one point he limps around the stage with a crutch, a metaphor for trials like bankruptcy or abortion, and then tosses the crutch into the front row.
He has a friend dressed as The Fear Beast – a fuzzy, orange monster meant to personify the bad people you meet when you hit a life valley. Lentz asserts that you shouldn’t get involved romantically with people while you’re at an emotional low point, because when you wake up, you’re stuck with someone who is no good for you. This is a provocative enough idea on its own, but one made all the more entertaining by watching Lentz’s trippy demonstration. Lentz finally breaks free from the beast, and the audience applauds.
“Don’t forget to tell your valley stories,” Lentz says to the audience, roughly equal to three sold-out movie theaters. “It could save someone’s life. But be sure to highlight the part about after Jesus saved you.”
He concludes the service as many pastors do, calling for those who feel it’s time to come to God to make their way to the front as the band plays soft, moving music. A distinct vibe washes over the room, and though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly, it’s there – peace, clarity, renewed purpose, gratitude, something – living and breathing and charging the room.
Dozens of people go down to the stage. The band begins packing up. A large group waits to speak to Carl. He focuses only on the person talking to him, as if there’s no one else in the room.
Lentz talks with each until everyone is gone.
Then he, Laura and their two children decamp to Just George’s, the late-night sister restaurant of Captain George’s on Laskin Road.
When Lentz and his family settle into a booth in the sports bar, they are apparently the last of the Wave crowd to arrive. A table that looks as long as the disciples’ is in the middle of the restaurant, with a cluster of nearly 20 from Wave. A few others sit in a booth, and there’s another group of church people by the door.
Four-year-old Ava and 2-year-old Charlie are allowed to roam around; everybody in here knows the little girls. Nobody comes to Lentz’s table to chat. The family is left alone to eat.
“We’re pretty religious about the time we spend together,” Lentz says.
He and Laura have weekly date nights.
“We go to the movies. We go to random parties. We went to the Wu-Tang show.”
They have a stable of baby sitters from the church who’ll watch the girls until they get back home to their modest two-bedroom townhouse in Virginia Beach, decorated with chic Ikea and Target-styled modernism – and little juice stains and toys on the floor.
It’s pushing midnight; the girls’ crankiness and alligator tears indicate that it’s probably time for them to go to bed. Laura and Ava leave. Charlie has decided to ride with her dad. But before they can get out the door, a guy from the kitchen pops out. He and Lentz talk; they went to high school together.
“He’s a good guy,” Lentz says. “He comes out to the church sometimes.”
Finally, the pastor is off duty. He walks out of the restaurant, Charlie cradled in his arms. He moves the worship CDs scattered in the back seat of the Escalade, loads Charlie in and takes off for home.
Source: Malcolm Venable, Local Pastor saves souls to a hip-hop soundtrack, Hampton Roads, 23/03/2009. (Accessed 15/08/2013.)