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'There's Another Side to It': Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Talks About Bieber, Lentz to NBC's Today

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In an exclusive interview which aired Wednesday on NBC's Today Show, Brian Houston, the founder of the Hillsong Church, spoke about the recent scandals which have troubled the worldwide Christian church, including the firing of high-profile Pastor Carl Lentz for "moral failures."

"I do think that we did allow a culture to develop where it was one rule for celebrities and a different rule for other people," Houston told Today. 

But he also told program host Savannah Guthrie "there's another side to it."

"One person who's obviously been well reported is Justin Bieber," Houston said. "If you think back several years now when he was wrecking hotel rooms and basically on the edge of getting deported to Canada. And look at Justin Bieber today. Anyone who's being fair could see a radical change, and so not everything about it is bad."

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Houston rejected the idea that he was more tolerant of Lentz due to his friendships with Bieber and other celebrities. 

"I find it annoying that people thought that it was important to me and my wife, Bobbie, to attract famous people to church," Houston said.

As CBN's Faithwire reported, Lentz, a spiritual mentor to the young singer, first baptized Bieber in 2014, using NBA player Tyson Chandler's oversized bathtub. Years later, in August of 2020, Bieber and his wife Hailey Baldwin were baptized together by Seattle-based Pastor Judah Smith, another personal spiritual mentor to Bieber.

Last November, Lentz admitted he "was unfaithful" in his marriage to his wife Laura, whom he married in 2003. 

"People described Carl Lentz as somewhat aloof and removed from the actual ministry. Does that bother you?" Guthrie asked Houston. 

"It does to a degree, for sure," he responded. "Carl was Carl. He's a unique character. There's a lot of things I miss about Carl. But having said that, there were leadership issues that I believe included lying, included what I would call narcissistic behavior."

Houston also told Today he had "concerns and many conversations over the years with Carl" about his behavior. 

"I think there's a lot of things I should've known earlier, and hopefully, moving forward, we'll make sure we have far better systems in place and better accountability," the founder of the Hillsong Church said.

When asked if the problems facing the church had come from growing too large, Houston noted, "I'm not sure a church can be too big. I just think we have to grow into ourselves."

As CBN News reported in February, Houston announced Chrishan and Danielle Jeyaratnam have been appointed to serve the Hillsong East Coast church in its New York City location following the removal of Lentz.

During his announcement, Houston also said the investigation into Hillsong East Coast had made him realize the Hillsong leadership "need to put much more structure in the church globally."

Houston also indicated in his email to the Religion News Service there would be other changes coming to Hillsong East Coast. 

"In addition to cultural changes, we will be implementing significant structural changes and enacting new policies and procedures in order to rectify the issues we've uncovered," he wrote.  

Then in April, another Hillsong pastor resigned from his post over immorality. Pastor Darnell Barrett admitted to infidelity in his marriage and the sharing of explicit photos on Instagram.  

Earlier that same month, Hillsong announced it had decided to "pause all operations" at its Dallas, Texas church campus for the time being. 

"Many factors, all amplified by the pandemic have resulted in the difficult decision," the Houstons wrote in an email, which was obtained by The Daily Mail

The original Hillsong church was founded by Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston in 1983 near Sydney, Australia. Besides having church locations in 28 countries around the world, the church is known for its worship music and conferences.

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