The Bombshell Hillsong documentary details the Carl Lentz scandal and the church’s cover-ups

Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed is produced by Breaklight Pictures in association with New York Post Entertainment for Discovery+. Post reporter Hannah Frishberg stars in the documentary.

Under the famous pastor Carl Lentz, the international mega-church Hillsong became trendy and influential. Collect lively profiles in outlets like GQ and attract stars like Chris Pratt, Kendall Jenner, Nick Jonas and Justin Bieber.

But not everything was sacred. Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed, a new three-part docuseries premiering March 24 on Discovery+, delves into the breathtaking story of the religious institution and its founder Brian Houston, who is accused of all sorts of things embezzle church funds to Child abuse cover-up. Houston, 68, Resigned as church director in January (amid a court case accusing Houston of concealing his late father’s child sexual abuse — which the church has all denied), and he resigned for well March 23, according to an internal Investigations of Misconductwho found Houston had behaved inappropriately towards two women.

Brian Houston stood on stage smiling.
Hillsong founder Brian Houston, who resigned on March 23, 2022.
Getty Images
Carl Lentz’s aesthetic made the pastor appealing to younger audiences.
Annie Wermiel/NY Post

“It’s a culture of ‘protecting the brand at all costs,'” Elle Hardy, author of “Incredible: How Pentecostal Christianity Conquers the World,” says in the documentary. “And whatever it takes to make that happen.”

Hillsong originated in Australia in 1983 and was founded by Houston, who grew up in Father Frank Houston’s Pentecostal church in Sydney. In 2010, when Houston wanted to expand to America, he became aware of the charismatic young Pastor Lentz, now 43.

“It makes you feel like your belief system is valid in the modern world,” Hardy says, referring to Lentz’s cutting-edge haircut, tattoos, and clothing that attracted millennials and Gen Z.

Justin Bieber and Carl Lentz smile together.
Justin Bieber with Carl Lentz (right) in 2017.
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Kendall Jenner smiles.
Kendall Jenner is one of the many celebs who have been linked to Hillsong.

Lentz became Hillsong’s shining star and became so famous that he rubbed elbows with the likes of Bieber and Oprah Winfrey.

Ben Kirby who created the Instagram account PreacherNSneakerLentz caught her eye because of his expensive threads. “I posted a picture of him wearing one Supreme Louis Vuitton Hoodie‘ he says in the document. “This hoodie was on the resale market at the time for $10-$15,000. The prices were crazy.”

Haughty preacher

As revealed in the documentary, Lentz grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia and was a youth pastor at Wave Church in Virginia Beach from 2010-2020 before serving for decades as the leader of Hillsong NYC.

Jaclyn Hayes, a former Wave Church volunteer, describes in the series how Lentz spoke about sexual purity, the importance of fathers controlling their daughters, and his “rules” for dating — such as a dictate that a couple shouldn’t even kiss for the first year together and never have sex before marriage.

Carl Lentz stands on the stage in front of a sign with the inscription "always only Jesus."
Carl Lentz preached in 2013 with an aesthetic that appealed to a younger audience.
Nick Jonas stands smiling on a red carpet.
Nick Jonas is among the celebrities who have been linked to Hillsong Church.
Getty Images

When Hayes and a then-boyfriend had sex and Lentz confessed to her slip-up, she recalled their exchange: “Carl asked, ‘Did you use protection?’ I interrupted: ‘Yes, of course.’ And his next response was, “Huh. Well then it was intentional.’ I would have expected a different reaction from him. I just shared something so personal and . . . you use it to shame and judge me.”

Lentz told Hayes and her then-boyfriend to stop seeing each other, and they did, to their mutual heartbreak. But behind the scenes, he did not practice what he preached.

A former Wave Church employee, who appears anonymously in the documentary for signing a nondisclosure agreement, says onscreen, “I was with Wave for a couple of years before Carl left. I remember going to leadership meetings and he was pounding into our heads, ‘Don’t have sex before marriage.’ He was aggressive.”

Meanwhile, the employee claims, “I had a boyfriend . . . Carl tried to sleep with her. this [womanizing] was a very well known thing about Carl.”

Carl Lentz stands in front of a graffiti wall.
Pastor Carl Lentz had a style that made Hillsong trendy for a younger audience.
Annie Wermiel/NY Post

Ranin Karim, 35, claims she had a five-month fling with Lentz that eventually led to Hillsong ousting him in 2020, like her exclusively to The Post in November 2020. In the documentary, Karim describes how they met at a park and exchanged phone numbers. When she asked him his last name, “he said, ‘When people google people. . . it does not look good. It’s better to get to know the person before looking for them.’ That was the weirdest answer I’d ever heard,” she says.

Karim later found out that Lentz was married and she asked if there was something wrong with his relationship.

“He said, ‘I’ve never done this before, there’s nothing wrong with my relationship. . . but you have everything I want in a woman.’ It was very strange,” she says.

Ranin Karim.
Ranin Karim claims she had a “toxic” affair with Carl Lentz.
Photo credit: Discovery+
Chris Pratt smiles on the red carpet.
Chris Pratt is among the many celebs who have been linked to Hillsong.

According to Karim, Lentz cried in front of her throughout their affair, which she took as a sign of his vulnerability. But: “I later realized that it was cops – – t,” says Karim. “People in the church said he cried the whole time on stage. In the months that we saw each other, I began to realize that . . . it was always his way or no way. I started withdrawing and saying, ‘I don’t want this anymore, leave me alone.’ But the more times you say ‘no’ to him, the more times he comes back.”

Karim describes her relationship with Lentz as “the most toxic thing I’ve ever had to deal with. If I could go back and never meet Carl, I would.”

After Lentz’s alleged affair with Karim made headlines, Hayes watched the news and recalled how Lentz broke up with her boyfriend simply because they had premarital sex.

“When it all came out, I was really angry,” she says. “It just makes you very angry that what you were shamed for is the same thing [he did]. It’s literally the definition of a hypocrite.”

Carl Lentz smiles with his wife Laura.
Carl Lentz with his wife Laura.
Charlie Gallay
Ranin Karim smiles and sits in a church.
Carl Lentz’s rumored lover, Ranin Karim, speaks in this new Hillsong documentary.
Photo credit: Discovery+

scandalous scene

Lentz was fired by Hillsong in November 2020, with Houston citing his “moral failure.”

“There’s a rumor going around that Carl and his wife wanted to leave Hillsong and I believe that Brian [Houston] knew his profile was too high and that people would follow him. . . I think it was just a way of getting rid of him and trying to tarnish his brand,” speculates Janice Lagata, a former Hillsong student and volunteer who has worked with Hillsong NYC church leadership, in the document.

“You can blame Carl and not the culture at church,” she says.

Janice Lagata.
Janice Lagata, who has worked closely with Hillsong NYC leadership, speaks out in the Hillsong document.
Credit: Godhasnotgiven/Instagram

But according to the documentary, Lentz’s behavior was not an anomaly within the larger organization.

Anna Crenshaw, a preacher’s daughter who graduated from Hillsong College in 2016, appears in the document to describe a case in which she claims it was her attacked by a Hillsong employeewho groped her in front of other people at a house party. She reported the incident to church leaders in December 2018. But when questioned about it, Crenshaw said, “It was incredible[t] like an interrogation.”

“They were definitely looking for mix-ups or mistakes. All I was like was, ‘Okay, they’re not on my side,'” she says.

The documentary also includes footage of witness statements Brett Senstockwho alleges Frank Houston sexually abused him in the 1970s when Sengstock was 7 and 8 years old.

Sengstock claims that when he reported this to church officials, they tried to pay him off with hush money. He claims Brian Houston told him, “You know, it’s your fault that all of this happened. You tempted my father.” (Brian Houston has denied he said the abuse was Sengstock’s fault.)

Hillsong church building exterior.
The Hillsong Church scandals are explored in this explosive docuseries.

Houston, who is not interviewed in the documentary, has since done so pleaded not guilty Concealing his father’s child sexual abuse to the New South Wales Police Department brought charges against him in August 2021.

But former students at Hillsong College — the megachurch version of spiritual education — allege in the document that cover-ups were part of the culture, where they claim they were used for free labor and had to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Former Hillsong College student Yolandi Bosch says, “If you were an open and trusting church, why would you get your members to sign an NDA? Unless you’re hiding something.”

https://nypost.com/2022/03/23/bombshell-hillsong-doc-details-carl-lentz-scandal-churchs-cover-ups/ The Bombshell Hillsong documentary details the Carl Lentz scandal and the church’s cover-ups

Dais Johnston

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