Along with his half shaved head and slicked back Mohawk, he’s dressed in his usual Sunday attire: black jeans and an unbuttoned denim shirt with a tank top underneath. His tattooed arms, including one with two guns crossed, peek out from under his rolled-up sleeves.
His Hillsong Church NYC holds at least six sermons every Sunday in a ballroom-style concert venue that has hosted such bands as U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. People squeeze into whatever space they can find and take notes on iPhones as Lentz marches across the stage, peppering his sermon with Bible verses, jokes, pop music lines and street slang.
“If you’re new to our church, we love you,” says the 34-year-old Lentz. “Don’t be alarmed by the craziness you see. One time somebody said, ‘Y’all are crazy in your church,’ and I said, ‘You ever seen you dance drunk? Don’t be judging us up in church.'”
New York has become a magnet for startup evangelical churches in recent years. There are currently more than 200 in Manhattan alone, according to Tony Carnes of the research project, A Journey Through NYC Religions, and Hillsong is one of the fastest-growing.
After a little more than two years, Hillsong estimates it draws 5,500 people to Sunday services each week. Crowds lining up are a regular weekly scene at Irving Plaza near Manhattan’s Union Square. Hillsong often has to add additional evening sessions, which could last well into the night.
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