Discovery Plus will air a three-episode docuseries titled “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed,” detailing how the Australia-based global network of evangelical churches walked the “fine line between worship and culture,” according to the new release. trailer.
The trailer features several people who have had interactions with Hillsong and their “famous” pastors. The docuseries will delve into the controversy surrounding former Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz, who was fired for moral failings in November 2020.
The subscription streaming service has teamed up with The New York Post and investigative journalist Hannah Frishberg, who has written several articles about Hillsong and the former minister.
Ranin Karim, the New York-based fashion designer who has gone public that she had a five-month affair with Lentz, is seen speaking in the docuseries about her relationship with the pastor.
Others interviewed include PreachersNSneakers founder and author Ben Kirby, as well as Jaclyn Hayes and Janice Lagata, two women who volunteered for Hillsong to work under Lentz on a pro bono basis.
“There’s a fine line between cult and culture,” one woman says in the trailer.
“With over 150,000 members worldwide, Hillsong has recently been embroiled in a scandal. ‘Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed’ will feature many ex-church members who have come forward to share heartbreaking allegations of trauma, abuse, financial and labor exploitation that have created a culture of chaos within the church,” the project synopsis reads.
“The series will also examine how Hillsong was able to become a global brand, while uncovering the truth behind the headlines of recent scandals and illuminating the dividing line between culture, business and cult.”
Brian Houston, who founded Hillsong in 1983, recently resigned as Hillsong’s global senior pastor as he fights criminal charges in Australia. Houston is accused of failing to report decades-old child sexual abuse allegations against his father after he learned of it in 1999 when he was head of the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God.
“Hillsong’s story is an incredibly compelling story that we wanted to explore,” Howard Lee, president of TLC streaming and network originals, said in a statement. “‘Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed’ will take viewers on an eye-opening journey that will provide new insights into a controversy that continues to be examined.”
The docuseries is presented by The Content Group’s Breaklight Pictures and The New York Post.
“Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed” will also examine corruption within megachurches in general.
Lentz ran all Hillsong campuses on the East Coast and was often considered a famous pastor by secular media. His friends and church attendees included A-list stars like Justin and Hailey Bieber, Kevin Durant, Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner and others.
He is also credited with baptizing Justin Bieber in the bathtub of former New York Knicks player Tyson Chandler. But following Lentz’s public scandal, Bieber publicly distanced himself from Hillsong, saying he was never a member of Hillsong and his pastor was always Judah Smith of Churchome.
Lentz first admitted to the affair in an Instagram post after he was fired from Hillsong.
“When you step out of an empty place, you make choices that have real consequences,” he wrote. “I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship of my life and I have held it accountable. This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions.
In his post, Lentz said he and his family have given everything they have to serve and build Hillsong NYC over the years. At the time, he said he would focus his energy on rebuilding his family.
“I am now beginning a journey of rebuilding trust with my wife, Laura, and my children and taking real time to work and heal my own life and seek the help I need,” Lentz said.
“I am deeply sorry to have broken the trust of many people we have loved to serve and understand that this news can be very difficult and confusing for people to hear and process. I would have liked to say it with my voice, to you, in person because it is due to you. But this opportunity, I will not have it. So to these people, I pray that you can forgive me and that in time I can live a life where trust is earned again.
Hillsong said in December 2020 that it had investigated and taken action in response to a 2018 letter alleging inappropriate sexual relationships between Hillsong NYC staff and volunteers.
In addition to inappropriate sex, Hillsong NYC staff members have been accused of misappropriating tithing money to fund lavish lifestyles. Former Hillsong NYC pastor, Reed Bogard, and his wife, Jess, were among those charged with misusing church funds. They left Hillsong’s Dallas campus last year while under investigation for misconduct.
The three episodes ofHillsong: a mega-church on displaywill premiere on Discovery Plus on March 24.