Former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz is reportedly entering into an outpatient treatment program for depression, anxiety, and pastoral burnout. Lentz was fired from his position at Hillsong’s New York City campus in November for “moral failures” and “leadership issues.”
“Over the years I did not do an adequate job of protecting my own spirit, refilling my own soul and reaching out for the readily available help that is available,” Lentz wrote in an Instagram post in which he admitted to infidelity. “When you lead out of an empty place, you make choices that have real and painful consequences,” Lentz wrote in the November 5th post.
According to an anonymous source who spoke to People Magazine, Lentz is heading to “treatment at an outpatient facility that specializes in depression, anxiety, and pastoral burnout.”
You may be wondering why People Magazine, which typically covers celebrity news, even cares what the former pastor of megachurch is doing. Lentz is known in a few celebrity circles. In addition to appearing on Oprah’s television shows, he famously baptized Justin Bieber years ago and counts professional athletes among those he’s mentored. His moral failing is of interest to those he personally pastored—celebrity or otherwise—as well as anyone who follows celebrity news.
Lentz has been dubbed a “celebrity pastor,” a phenomenon many in the church take issue with, but now his alleged “narcissistic” leadership style and moral failings have led to renewed criticism of the “cool pastor” and—most recently—the “hot pastor.”
And while pastoral burnout is a real and pervasive problem in the church today, some are hesitant to dismiss Lentz’s behavior as a casualty of ministry stress. Boz Tchvidjian, grandson of the late Billy Graham and an attorney who specializes in cases of sexual abuse in churches, addressed the development in Lentz’s story this way: “Another pastor exploiting his position and power to perpetrate sexual misconduct and when caught claims that he’s the real victim due to ‘depression, anxiety, and pastoral burnout’. Most troubling is that many will embrace this ridiculous false narrative.”
Other influential Christians, however, left encouraging comments for Lentz on his Instagram post admitting the infidelity, including sports commentator Emmanuel Acho and musicians Kari Jobe and Lecrae.
Still others see Lentz’s indiscretion in a more neutral light. Samuel James, the editor of the Christian blog LetterandLiturgy, wrote “I’m not sure there’s any grand ‘lesson’ from the Carl Lentz story. The trappings of cool church are there, for sure, but rural Bible thumpers commit adultery too. Prosperity-adjacent doctrine is bad, but Reformed guys get disqualified too.”
James went on to add, “I wonder if instead of trying to find the proverbial Reason It All Happened, anybody who encounters this story would be better off simply contemplating the very real, very daily war that sin wages on us. There’s no checklist you can complete to ensure it won’t be you.”