A documentary spotlighting the rise and fall of former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz debuted on Hulu Friday, alleging a “cultural problem” within the popular congregation and featuring the first interview with Lentz and his wife Laura.
“My wife and my children – I failed at that,” Lentz says in Episode 2.
The four-episode docuseries, The Secrets of Hillsong, includes interviews with members, historians and journalists. Episodes 1 and 2 are now on Hulu. The series also examines the controversies that have embroiled the congregation’s Australian mother church.
Lentz was terminated as pastor of Hillsong Church East Coast in 2020 due to an extramarital affair.
“When I found the Hillsong Church, it felt like I belonged somewhere,” a church member says. “It's not just church – it's an experience.”
Another church member called Lentz's sermons “life-changing.”
“At Hillsong there was an ensemble cast built around the star. Carl was the star,” still another member says.
A journalist in the series says of Lentz's fall, “At first, it was a celebrity scandal. And then quickly became a scandal having to do with the church itself.”
Lentz was known as the pastor of celebrities. He became the focus of entertainment stories when he baptized pop singer Justin Bieber. The two were good friends.
“It established Carl as a cultural force,” the series says.
Hillsong’s beliefs were rooted in “old-school Penetacolstalism” with contemporary worship and conservative theology, the series says. The series criticizes Hillsong for its pro-life beliefs and its affirmation of traditional marriage.
Lentz, in the series, calls New York a “place where churches come to die.” But Lentz’s church in New York City eventually drew such large crowds that the lines outside the doors snaked around the block. “We've dealt with a whole generation of people that have run from church,” Lentz says of New York’s culture.
The Secrets of Hillsong is rated TV-MA for language.
Photo courtesy: ©Boliviainteligente/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.