The Hillsong Church and movement is led by Brian Houston in Sydney, Australia. They started services in a Public School hall with only 45 people and now they run over 21,000 people at their main campus alone, with several multi-sites around other cities in Australia.
Hillsong United worship band also organically spawned from the youth group at Hillsong led by Brian Houston's son, Joel. Hillsong United, now over 15 years later has become the most influential worship band of this generation and tours all over the world leading people in worship.
When Carl Lentz and Joel Houston were in bible college together over 10 years ago they had a discussion and playfully agreed that if Hillsong ever did a church in America that they would do it together and New York would be a great place to do it.
Little did they know that the friendly deal they made so many years back would actually come true.
Hillsong NYC, the Manhattan-based church, which meets at Irving Plaza near Union Square, kicked-off their weekly services on Feb. 13, 2011 following it's official launch on Oct. 17, 2010. They are now running over 5 services which usually result in standing room only. The church sometimes meets in the Gramercy Theatre and other different locations for their services which helps bring home the point constantly to the people that the church is about the community and people of the church, not a building to meet in.
If you see Carl and Joel, they don't automatically strike you as "church leaders" which is part of their appeal. On the other hand though, they are not just a "trendy, lets look cool and sound cool" and nothing more kind of people. And Hillsong NYC is definitely not that kind of church either. They are impacting the city and reaching new souls for Jesus every day.
If you follow either of them on twitter (@carllentznyc @joelhouston) or instagram (@carllentz @jtimh) they are constantly sharing about the church (especially Carl) and it's need to be involved in the community. They use the hash tags like #occupyallstreets and #churchinthewild to keep everyone focused on the reason that the church exists and its mission. Being one with the community and showing the love of Jesus Christ are their main focuses.
Lentz is a regular at New York Knicks games and as become close personal friends with Knicks center Tyson Chandler. Chandler is very involved in the community as well and he and Lentz do a lot of events together. Being close with the Knicks team has helped his platform grow even more and has even been seen sharing the book "Jesus Is ____" by Judah Smith with players among others. Smith is the popular pastor of The City Church in the Seatle,WA area and is also a close personal friend of Lentz.
The church and it's leaders have a pulse on the community unlike many churches, especially being in the largest city in the world. They know how to "be in the world but not of the world". They, as all Christians should, are working on walking that line closely and carefully, because that is what we are called to do. We are not called to be safe and stay out of harms way. We as Christians are called to reach the unloveable and the hopeless, with no one being out of reach and too far gone from God's plan to come back.
As a Christian, I am thankful they are doing such great work in New York City and showing how to balance Christ and culture together. I can't wait to see what God does through them next.