Megachurch Leader Fudges Vital Social Question

Place: London
Date: October 30, 1817
Occasion: Interview with the London Times
Subject: Should the church take a stand on slavery?

Here is how the newspaper began with this story:

“Hill Christian Church is seen as this hip, progressive church that’s drawn huge crowds, but it’s still evangelical,” co-author Sara Haines stated to Pastor Carl during the Oct. 30 interview. “So, where do you stand on social issues that young people are particularly passionate about, like slavery? Like, how do you address those types of things?”
“I think our job is still to help people—not necessarily change how they think—but try to point them to what God has said, what we believe the Bible [has] to say,” Pastor Carl replied. “We believe that God is good, that God loves everybody, that Jesus was here to set people free, and that’s still the good news of the gospel.”
He said that he tries to allow everyone who would like to hear the message to come to Hill Christian Church because sometimes evangelicals and others shut out those who disagree on the issues.
Bringing Carl back around to the question, co-author Joy Bahar then asked, “So, it’s not a sin in your church to have slaves?”
“Um, that’s the kind of conversation we would have—finding out your story, where you’re from, what you believe,” Carl replied.
“Work through it,” Haines interjected. “Like, talk about things.”
“Yeah, I mean, God’s the judge,” Carl answered. “People have to live with their own convictions, and I think if I have to tell you…”
His response drew applause from the listening audience.
“That’s such a broad question to me. I’m going higher,” Carl said. “I want to sit with somebody and say, ‘What do you believe?’”
“So, it’s not an open-and-shut case with you,” Bahar observed.
“Some people would say it is,” Carl replied. “I think, to me, I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first [and] find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”

Story Updated

The above story is fictional. But if you change just a few words, you have a perfectly true story that just took place. Simply replace these words:
‘Hill Christian Church’ with ‘Hillsong New York’
‘Pastor Carl’ with ‘Carl Lentz’
‘Slavery’ with ‘abortion’
‘The London Times’ with ‘ABC’s “The View”’

With those few changes you have an actual interview that has now been published far and wide. You can read all about it here:

If Christians today would be a bit bothered and upset that an evangelical pastor 200 years ago was so utterly weak and wishy-washy on the issue of slavery, how much more today on the issue of abortion? With vitally important social issues, should not Christian leaders be speaking out clearly and unashamedly?

The parallels between the two times and the two issues are very close indeed. Sure, back then there were folks who called themselves Christians who either were weak as water on the issue of slavery, or worse yet, supported the slave trade. Christian champions like abolitionist William Wilberforce would be appalled of course.

In the same way, today there are Christian leaders who refuse to give an unambiguous signal on the issue of abortion, or far worse, will seek to justify and condone it somehow. And in my books, what we had Carl Lentz doing was pretty much a blatant example of the former: refusing to speak clearly and solidly on this issue, but just equivocate and try to keep everyone happy.

Now before Hillsong groupies want to burn me at the stake, let me say that I have done many hundreds of interviews over the years with the secular media. I know full well how hard it can be, and I know that you have to walk carefully in such interviews.

And I would have done plenty on the hardcore issues like abortion and homosexuality. And that is exactly what co-host Sara Haines asked Lentz about: “So, where do you stand on social issues that young people are particularly passionate about, like gay marriage [and] abortion? Like, how do you address those types of things?”

I fully get trying to be wise, diplomatic, and cautious in such interviews. As I said, I have done heaps of these over the years. But fudging on the issue, seeking to evade a direct question, or trying to water down important social issues like this is NOT how a Christian leader should proceed.

I would not have done that, neither would so many other Christian leaders, be they a Franklin Graham, an Al Mohler or a Ben Carson. An opportunity like this is not to be missed, and a thoroughly biblical Christian would have spoken clearly and decisively on such issues, and not evade the question or try to talk around it.

Yes, pastors need to know their own flock and hear their stories and extend open arms where possible. But that is never something to be done without also clearly affirming basic Christian teachings on the hot potato social and ethical issues of the day. A Christian church should be known for what it believes and what it affirms.

Such matters should be clearly stated from the pulpit, so that when a non-Christian comes in, or a new Christian, they can sense that church people are there to reach out to them, but that the church also has certain standards and values that are non-negotiable.

Thus if you have been going to a church for 4-5 years, and have no clue as to where they stand on things like abortion or homosexuality, then that church has not been doing its job. It has NOT been proclaiming biblical truth, but has simply sought to please men and not rock the boat.

This is not what the church of Jesus Christ should look like. The church should be known as a place where sinners are loved and cared for, but also where truth is unflinchingly proclaimed – both doctrinal and moral truth. And when a Christian leader has a perfect opportunity to share such truth on national television, it is appalling when they do not do so.

Again, I am not just picking on Hillsong here. Plenty of other megachurches are doing exactly the same thing. Many are refusing to speak out on the vital issues of the day, and many Christian leaders seem far more interested in keeping people happy than in proclaiming the whole counsel of God.

Lentz himself has been guilty of this before. See these pieces for example where we find Lentz being a serial offender in this regard:

Whether it is cosying up to New Age guru Oprah Winfrey or refusing to offer a biblical stance on the issue of homosexuality, this has been happening far too often I am afraid. And as I said, he is not alone in this. But since he and Hillsong are so extremely influential and so very public, we have an obligation to call this out when we find it occurring.

I realise that for doing this many Christians will hate on me and want nothing to do with me. Well, what can I say? Sadly, some believers are far more concerned to defend to the death a particular church or leader than they are Christ and Scripture.

Sorry, but I must always side with the latter. Human leaders will get it wrong at times. They will easily be swayed by the crowds, and the pressure will always be on to water things down, to never rock the boat, and to keep people pouring into their churches.

Thus we must pray for Lentz and other such leaders. Those in the megachurches can especially be prone to these sorts of temptations, so they need a lot of prayer support to stand strong and affirm all of God’s truth, especially when given a chance to do so on a silver platter, as Lentz just was.

We must always stand with God and his truth, and never let the fear of man or the desire to please men become our main mode of operation. Indeed, just compare Lentz with an Elijah, or a Jeremiah, or even Jesus. Did Elijah have a “conversation” with the Baalists, or Jeremiah with the idolaters, or Jesus with the Pharisees?

Why do I suspect that if roles were reversed, John the Baptist for example would never have chewed out Herod for his sexual sin, but would instead have sought to have a friendly “conversation”? Why do I suspect many church leaders today would find their confrontational and direct style to be unloving and even un-Christlike?

Let me conclude with some wise words on this issue. A. W. Tozer once put it in this way:

The desire to please may be commendable enough under certain circumstances, but when pleasing men means displeasing God it is an unqualified evil and should have no place in the Christian’s heart. To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.

Or as Spurgeon rightly said:

You and I cannot be useful if we want to be sweet as honey in the mouths of men. God will never bless us if we wish to please men, that they may think well of us. Are you willing to tell them what will break your own heart in the telling and break theirs in the hearing? If not, you are not fit to serve the Lord. You must be willing to go and speak for God, though you will be rejected.

And Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks to the extreme version of this, but his words must be taken seriously:

That is the only way to understand rightly this picture of the false prophets. The false prophet is a man who has no `strait gate’ or `narrow way’ in his gospel. He has nothing which is offensive to the natural man; he pleases all. He is in ‘sheep’s clothing’, so attractive, so pleasant, so nice to look at. He has such a nice and comfortable and comforting message. He pleases everybody and everybody speaks well of him. He is never persecuted for his preaching, he is never criticized severely.

The actual interview is found here (from 20- to 30-minute mark roughly):

[1709 words]

21 Replies to “Megachurch Leader Fudges Vital Social Question”

  1. Yes Dale the similarities are certainly there:
    -smile a lot (complete with dazzling pearly whites)
    -try to keep everyone happy
    -never deal with anything controversial
    -refuse to speak out on the issues that matter
    -talk a lot about “love” while refusing to speak of sin, repentance and judgment to come
    -etc, etc

  2. My pastor told us that people often ask him, “What do you think about …?”
    His reply is: “What does the Bible say about it?”

  3. If is is possible for folk to access this debate on the BBC Nolan Show, Northern Ireland , about the decriminalisation of abortion , I highly recommend they do so. People might have to register with the BBC but this is a very simple matter and can be done in just a few steps.
    I don’t know how long the show will be available, so please try to watch it now. Susan- Anne White, an anti- abortion campaigner, is totally fearless and no respecter of feelings. For this she is criticised by the Church for her lack of grace and insensitivity. I leave it to you to come to your own conclusion. For my money she is worth a thousand men.

    David Skinner UK

  4. The growth of this mantra that is coming out of the mega church movement is changing the way non believers, and believers, look at church. It is stronger and more far reaching than we realize. Whether, as Hank Hanegraff states. the Osteenification of the church, or the Rick Warren “Chrislam” directive, the American church is in trouble. We who have been raised, taught,believed, in the truths of the bible, see it for what it is. Like Bill is doing here, we all need to be more active in our areas of influence, proclaiming the truth in love, and not wavering from the truths of the Bible. As Francis Chan realized within the growth of the church he started, bigger is not better, and when he was hearing his name spoke more than the Holy Spirit, he knew something was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there are some large churches who have God fearing leaders, but the voice and influence of the feel good mega churches is becoming louder and louder. It seems that when the secular world has a social issue they want a church to speak out on, they search out the largest, most socially known church with a dynamic leader. These leaders are, socially accepted, socially appealing, and socially amenable through the news media’s eye. That does not describe Jesus and should not describe shepherds of the church. So, I commend you Bill for hitting this head on with truth. It should spurn us all into action. If we know the Truth, we are commanded to proclaim the Truth, Jesus Christ, and not through our own self empowerment, but through the Holy Spirit in us.

  5. Isn’t Carl Lentz the one that had a professing homosexual as music leader and was caught drinking “shots” with Justin Bieber? ( Being a “respecter of persons” is quite sinful according to James (or Jacob) Chap. 2 as, of course, is the promotion of homosexuality. I see the quoted article mentions the drinking and, apparently, his sing-along with a profane song. He says he wants to teach people about Jesus but it looks seriously like he needs to find out, himself, about Jesus first.

    Hillsong has made an art-form of avoiding issues and has proven time and time again that their main motivation is financial. It really is not a church in any functional sense and from what I have seen of Hillsong devotees, their teaching is quite pathetic. Don’t address issues and don’t offend anyone and you can continue to make money from them. Of course Jesus mentioned the problem with serving mammon instead of God. (Mat 6:24)

  6. David Skinner. Thanks for the link to the Nolan Show (and the many other links that you place on this site). The link below worked for me. Although the entire show is worth listening to, Mrs White starts at about the 14th minute.
    And Bill, I’m one of those silent readers of Culturewatch who over the years have been taught and encouraged by your thoughtful and challenging articles. Many thanks, John.

  7. “… let it be your constant endeavour to retain before your mental eye, that bright assemblage of invisible spectators, who are the witnesses of your daily conduct, and “to seek that honour which cometh from God.” You cannot advance a single step, till you are in some good measure possessed of this comparative indifference to the favour of men. We have before explained ourselves too clearly to render it necessary to declare, that no one should needlessly affect singularity: but to aim at incompatible advantages, to seek to please God and the world, where their commands are really at variance, is the way to be neither respectable, nor good, nor happy. …” – William Wilberforce, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity, (1797), p. 321, [ ]

  8. The Bible is interesting on the topic of slavery, as it states that if a person is a slave then they should try to gain freedom;

    1Cor 7:21 Were you called as a slave? It does not matter to you, but if you are able to become free, use it rather.
    1Cor 7:22 For he who is called a slave in the Lord is a freed man of the Lord. And likewise, he who is called a free man is a slave of Christ.
    1Cor 7:23 You are bought with a price, do not be the slaves of men.
    1Cor 7:24 Each in whatever way he was called, brothers, in this remain with God.

    Yet Paul tries to console those trapped in slavery

    Eph 6:5 Slaves, obey your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ;
    Eph 6:6 not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
    Eph 6:7 with good will doing service as to the Lord and not to men
    Eph 6:8 (knowing that whatever good thing he does, he shall receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or a freeman).
    Eph 6:9 And masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in Heaven. There is no respect of persons with Him.

    Col 3:22 Slaves, obey your masters according to the flesh in all things; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God.
    Col 3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men;
    Col 3:24 knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve the Lord Christ.
    Col 3:25 But he who does wrong shall receive justice for the wrong which he did, and there is no respect of persons.

  9. Bless you, Bill.

    Yet again when I’m going through a period of second guessing myself, you’ve written an article which describes my heartfelt response to those who advocate a more popular “wide road” approach.

    You are so much more articulate than I am, but I am not disheartened. Indeed, I am greatly encouraged.

  10. Bill, you are exactly right. Pastors are not faithfully, nor clearly teaching the Word of God. They are misleading many. Bill, back your article with Bible verses. Hosea 4 v 6 KJV My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou has rejected knowledge. John 8 v 32 KJV And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Psalm 87 v 11 KJV Teach me O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

  11. John Dekker, but I am sorry but I cannot open the link in Susan-Anne White.
    John Wigg many thanks for that marvellous link to Wilberforce.

    David Skinner UK

  12. Yes……so true…..Lord help us all…….So terribly sad….Maybe 10% of the churches are standing up for Jesus and the Word…..maybe less…….Lord help us…..I love Hillsong and am praying for them.

  13. Greg Simpson’s listing of NT verses regarding slavery is helpful although I note that he does not include a single verse from the OT. I wish he had, for the OT is very instructive as Willard Swartley points out in ‘The Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics’ (Baker Academic 2011). I quote from Swartley’s article. ‘Three types of slavery existed in Israel: by birth or purchase Hebrews served fellow Hebrews as security against poverty, Hebrews took non-Hebrews as slaves through purchase or capture in war, and Hebrews sold themselves to non-Hebrews as security against debt. In the first type slaves were eligible for sabbatical and Jubilee benefits (Exod. 21: 2-6, Lev. 25:10, 38-41). In the second type slaves were circumcised and sworn into covenant membership (Gen. 17: 9-14, 23; Deut. 29:10-15) but were not eligible for sabbatical and Jubilee benefits (Lev. 25:44-46). In the third type slaves could be redeemed; freedom was mandatory in a Jubilee year (Lev. 25:47-55). Participation in Sabbath rest and religious festivals was normative for all slaves.’ Needless to say, we should follow the good advice given by Malcolm’s Smith’s pastor when he is asked ‘What do you think about …?’ His answer? ‘What does the Bible say about it?’ Not just the NT, mind you, but the Bible. Disclaimer: I do not own any slaves.

  14. To paraphrase Martin Luther: when the Gospel is under threat the time for subtlety goes out the window.

    Mick Koster

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