As the HILLSONG Australia Annual Conference kicked off this past weekend in Sydney, Australia, there was an extremely familiar face in the crowd of worshippers: Canadian pop superstar Justin Bieber.
A longtime attendee of Hillsong events on both coasts, Bieber has been known to drop by for a visit at Hillsong LA and Hillsong NYC locations. He also counts Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz as his personal spiritual mentor. Pastor Rich Wilkerson, Jr. of Trinity Church in Miami, has a similar relationship with Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West, especially serving the role of spiritual counsel for Kanye. And just a few weeks ago, Saddleback Church pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren stirred up controversy by getting friendly with openly gay music icon Elton John. While it is surely true that celebrities need someone to stand up and witness to them too, how close is too close when it comes to Christian leaders aligning their brand with stars that are known for their outrageous behavior?
In 2014, the New York Post ran an interview with Carl Lentz, examining his relationship with Justin Bieber in particular. A personal friend of Bieber’s since 2008, Lentz stated that Beiber was “like a member of our team.” The two are often photographed together taking in Knicks games, a well-known pasttime of Lentz, who also has close relationships with some of the Knicks players (Kevin Durant is one). Bieber has embraced the role that Lentz plays in his life, relying on him especially when he experienced trouble with the law and backlash from fans after a period of personal rebellion
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