Stars Who Have Connections To Hillsong Church

Hillsong Church is a Pentecostal megachurch with branches all around the world. The church's flashy approach to worship rose to major prominence in the mid-2010s thanks to the charismatic pastor who ministered to celebs such as Justin Bieber, catching attention online for his fit physique and affinity for streetwear fashion. His name is Carl Lentz, and he admitted to GQ that Hillsong very much does intentionally make itself particularly attractive to stars. "People say we cater to celebrities. And I say, yes, we do," he explained. "Celebrities deserve a relationship with God. Celebrities deserve a place to pray."

That being said, celebrities who pray at Hillsong have found themselves at the center of controversies for their associations with the anti-gay church, not least because church leadership seems to be unable to avoid scandal. Lentz was let go in 2020 amid a highly-publicized affair; his celeb selfie-filled Instagram has not been updated since then, when he wrote, "I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and [have been] held accountable for that."

Senior pastor Brian Houston, son of the church's founder, has been hit with scandals of his own. He was charged in 2021 with concealing his father's child sexual abuse, and he was forced out in 2022 amid allegations of his own inappropriate behavior. As such, many celebs have quietly left the church or have simply stopped talking about attending; here's a refresher on who has been a Hillsong devotee in the past.

Justin Bieber was one of Hillsong's biggest devotees

Justin Bieber once had a much-publicized friendship with Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz, who frequently appeared shirtless in paparazzi photos of the two of them going on walks. According to GQ, Bieber lived with Lentz for a month-and-a-half as he got his life together after a period of extremely negative publicity, and Lentz helped Bieber get baptized. (Oh, just wait...) The "Sorry" singer shared a snap of himself and his pastor on Instagram, captioning the selfie, "THIS IS MY DOG TIL THE DAY I DIE .. he's the biggest Brodog, ride or die.. til the wheels fall off!!" Hillsong was even reportedly behind Bieber's decision to cancel some dates on his "Purpose" World Tour, according to sources who told Us Weekly, "Members of the Hillsong Church said he didn't have to go and that God will protect him."

However, TMZ reported in 2018 that the twosome had experienced a falling-out. They reached out to the pastor for comment on Bieber's engagement to model Hailey Baldwin, and were apparently told that Lentz would not be commenting on his former protege. According to a Hillsong statement obtained by People, Lentz was fired from Hillsong in 2020 following "moral failures," which seems to have been code for an extramarital affair, and it seems that soon after, Bieber followed him out the door. He announced on Instagram Stories (via Us Weekly) in early 2021 that he was no longer a part of Lentz's former congregation, writing, "BTW HILLSONG IS NOT MY CHURCH."

Hailey bonded with Justin Bieber over Hillsong

Hailey Bieber, née Baldwin, is a model who's married to Justin Bieber; just like her pop star husband, she was a devoted attendee of Hillsong. Hailey told Elle that she first found the church at age 16 while living in New York City, and that it appealed to her because it wasn't like other churches, which she said tended to be "boring." Hillsong, on the other hand, was exciting and appealed to young people. "It started to feel like my own little community of people who were also young and following God and just immersed in a church community," she said, adding, "Then I developed my own relationship to church and my own relationship with God, separate from being raised that way by my parents. That's been a cool journey for me."

In 2020, Justin shared photos on Instagram depicting a joint baptism, performed by Churchome pastor Judah Smith, though the singer was previously already baptized into Hillsong. "The moment @haileybieber my wife and I got baptized together!" the "Yummy" singer wrote alongside photos showing the Vogue cover model submerged in water. "This was one of most special moments of my life. Confessing our love and trust in Jesus publicly with our friends and family."

Like many other Hillsong celebs, Hailey has also appeared on The Hillsong Channel several times, discussing topics ranging from married life and shame to finding her purpose. Her husband no longer attends Hillsong as of 2021, so it's safe to assume Hailey has left as well.

Chris Pratt defended his association with Hillsong

Ahead of the release of "The Lego Movie 2," Chris Pratt appeared on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and mentioned having completed a 21-day fast patterned after the Biblical figure of Daniel. Pratt's outspoken faith wasn't a total surprise, considering he once spent an Easter Sunday building a giant cross, but this time "The Umbrella Academy" star Elliot Page called out Pratt's ties to Hillsong. "Oh. K. Um. But his church is infamously anti lgbtq so maybe address that too?" he wrote in a viral tweet.

After much discussion online, Pratt responded to the accusation, saying in a wordy Instagram Story (via Nine), "Nothing could be further from the truth." He noted that the church had been helpful to him during his divorce from ex-wife Anna Faris, even though divorce is frowned upon, and he tried to say that the church is accepting of all people. However, Hillsong's own since-disgraced founder Brian Houston admittedly excluded LGBTQ-identifying parishioners from holding leadership positions. In a blog post entitled "Do I Love Gay People?" Houston wrote, "Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles. Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid."

Pratt's membership at Hillsong has continued to follow him. Because of his association, he went viral in 2020 as the "worst Chris," prompting defenses from many of his "Avengers" co-stars.

Katherine Schwarzenegger-Pratt promoted her book with Hillsong

Chris Pratt is one of Hillsong's best-known attendees, and his wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger-Pratt, seems to have joined him. She is the daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, who is a member of the Kennedy political dynasty, who are famously Catholic. Shriver's uncle was John F. Kennedy, after all, America's first Catholic President! Though her action-star husband told Extra (via People) that the two met in church, it's unclear exactly which church he was referring to. The couple underwent Catholic counseling before marrying in that faith, Schwarzenegger-Pratt revealed on an episode of "Meaning Full Living," insisting that the Catholic Church's involvement was "just the most amazing gift."

However, now that the two are married, Katherine has increased her involvement in Hillsong along with her husband. The two have been spotted leaving Zoe Church — a Hillsong sister church — by paparazzi, and in 2020, she appeared on The Hillsong Channel on YouTube to promote her book "The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable." Schwarzenegger-Pratt did, however, note that her book relayed stories from "different people of all ages, from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all faiths."

Selena Gomez 'adored' Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz

Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber's on-again, off-again relationship throughout their early careers was the stuff of pop culture legend. Fans breathlessly tracked every paparazzi sighting and Instagram comment, noting when the two were together or apart based on their appearances in the media. One such tidbit about the status of their relationship came in 2017 from People, as sources claimed the couple was seeking counseling from Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz: "They don't want to repeat the same patterns as before. They've clearly had issues in the past, so they're receiving some guidance from Carl." 

In addition to referencing her friendship with prolific Hillsong worship artist Brooke Fraser/Ligertwood, Gomez herself sang original worship music at Hillsong. By 2019, however, a lot had changed. Jelena was done for good, because Bieber married Hailey Baldwin. Bieber and Lentz were no longer speaking to one another, per TMZ. Lentz himself was embroiled in scandal and was ultimately fired from Hillsong, according to NBC News, and it seems Gomez had enough. Sources told The Daily Telegraph (via the Daily Mail) that "at one stage she adored Carl," but "she doesn't want anything to do with Hillsong anymore." 

Gomez opened up about her views on spirituality to Vogue in 2021. "I'm very, very spiritual. I believe in God, but I'm not religious," Gomez clarified. "I've been a Christian for a while now. I don't talk about it too much — I want to, but it's gotten a bad rep. I just want to make it clear that I love being able to have my faith, and believe in what I believe in, and that truly is what gets me through."

Vanessa Hudgens thought Hillsong was 'epic'

Vanessa Hudgens grew up Catholic, but she told The New York Times she didn't feel particularly "connected" to religion until she and her then-boyfriend, actor Austin Butler, found Hillsong. They attended the New York City branch of the Pentecostal church — Hudgens was starring in a Broadway production of "Gigi" — and she found herself won over by Hillsong's flashy concerts. "It feels like Arcade Fire — it's epic like that," she told the newspaper. However, it wasn't just the megachurch's theatrics that drew her back to religion after years spent, as she described herself, "mean" and "fed up" with fame. Instead, she clarified, she liked Hillsong's approach to spirituality. "They really focus on you having your own personal relationship with Jesus, which is wonderful," she added. 

Hudgens doesn't appear to have spoken publicly about Hillsong since that 2015 interview, and she and Butler broke up after almost a decade together. It's unclear whether she's still a member; Hillsong has gone through numerous scandals and public-relations disasters since those early days, so it may make sense for Hudgens to distance herself from the church she once loved. In 2018, she told StyleCaster that she gets a spiritual feeling from music festivals like Coachella. "...In this day and age, people are so preoccupied and so easily distracted, and at a festival is one time where everyone is centered and paying attention to the same thing for an extended amount of time, and I think that's magical."

Carl Lentz was a fan of Austin Butler

Austin Butler, the star of Baz Luhrman's "Elvis" biopic, was once a devoted attendee of Hillsong Church, and he appears to have been a close personal friend of former pastor Carl Lentz. In an interview with The New York Times, his then-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens described attending church with her boyfriend. Though Butler doesn't seem to have spoken about his relationship to the church publicly, various photos across social media tell the story of his involvement with the much-hyped religious institution.

Years before Hudgens opened up about her "personal relationship with Jesus," a fan shared a selfie alongside Butler and Hudgens at what they said was a "Hillsong conference." (The church regularly gathers tens of thousands of devotees to worship together, several times a year.) Lentz himself posted a picture with his wife Laura alongside Butler and Hudgens in a car; in the caption, he wrote, "today is a fantastic day to thank God for what you DO HAVE and be mindful of people immersed in various trials." It also seems that, as much as Butler may have been a fan of Lentz's church, Lentz was also a fan of the "Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood" star's acting ability. In the caption of a 2013 photo with Butler, fellow pastor Judah Smith, and a Brooklyn photographer, Lentz wrote that Butler was "James Dean 2.0."

Like his ex-girlfriend, Butler has not publicly disavowed Lentz after the cheating scandal that saw him resign from Hillsong.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was a member

Though Hillsong Church's most prominent members are American celebrities, the megachurch was actually founded in Australia. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was a member before he took office, according to former Hillsong pastor Joel A'Bell. "[Morrison and his wife] were in our church as part of our congregation for years before he was the prime minister," A'Bell said in a video obtained by Crikey. "I remember having breakfast with him. He said, 'Joel I really feel like this is what the Lord wants... [He] wants me to become prime minister.'"

When Morrison was invited to attend a White House state dinner by then-President Donald Trump, the PM asked the Trump admin to invite Hillsong pastor Brian Houston as his guest. "I've known Brian for a long time and Hillsong church has a very big network of churches all across the United States," Morrison explained when questioned about the request on a 2GB radio program (via The Guardian). Houston was ultimately not invited.

After Houston's combined scandals broke wide in 2022, PM Morrison distanced himself from the church, insisting that he hadn't attended services there in more than a decade. "I must admit we were very disappointed and shocked to hear the news," Morrison told reporters, according to The Canberra Times. However, The Guardian reported that he spoke at a Hillsong conference as recently as 2019, so it seems he was not as distanced as he would now like people to believe.

Hailee Steinfeld was once associated with a Hillsong congregant

Like many other celebs who have attended services at Hillsong Church, it's difficult to know the current status of "Hawkeye" star Hailee Steinfeld's relationship with the controversial house of worship. Steinfeld doesn't discuss her personal life much, but back in 2017, she was rumored to be dating a certain infamous member of the congregation: Justin Bieber.

TMZ initially reported on the relationship, noting that Bieber had broken up with Hailey Baldwin, with whom he would later reconnect and marry. In the meantime, the tabloid reported, sources told them that he had been introduced to Hailee Steinfeld through Carl Lentz, the former pastor who mentored Bieber for a while. "They both attend his church," TMZ specified. The church in question would, of course, be Hillsong. Steinfeld's reps denied the crux of the article, insisting she and Bieber were only friends; they did not, we note, deny that Steinfeld was a Hillsong attendee. However, in an unusual move, TMZ did not redact the piece, instead doubling down on the insistence that this was an actual relationship and not just a friendship.

Tyson Chandler lent Lentz his bathtub

Carl Lentz, the pastor whose streetwear style GQ called "hypepriest," invited pop star Justin Bieber to live with him amid a string of public scandals. Lentz told GQ that one night, Bieber asked to be baptized. "Yes, buckaroo, let's do this," Lentz says he told the "Sorry" singer. He thought Bieber meant "sometime soon," but he apparently meant right then — at 2 a.m. Lentz needed a place to baptize a superstar, and when fans and paparazzi were crowding other venues, he decided to call on another superstar to help. "So I called my boy," Lentz said, referring to New York Knicks player Tyson Chandler. "I said, 'Bro, I'm in a jam here. I have JB with me, he wants to get baptized.' He's like, 'Done. Easy.'"

When they arrived at Chandler's Upper West Side building, the pool was closed, so they decided Bieber's spiritual salvation would have to take place in the 7-foot tall basketball player's custom-built bathtub. And it did! Lentz later told Oprah on "Super Soul Sunday (via Yahoo! News), "It was like, regular stuff for our type of church. And it was probably one of the most special things I've been a part of."

Chandler has been a public supporter of the megachurch, having appeared on The Hillsong Channel to talk about his relationship to faith. "I, my whole life, was afraid of God and thought he was literally in the sky to punish me," Chandler said, noting that now he sees connecting with people as his true purpose, not basketball.

Carl Lentz baptized Kevin Durant

Hillsong Church openly courts celebrities, and there are a number of actors and musicians who have been members of the church's congregation. However, they clearly pursue celebs from the world of sports, including Nets superstar Kevin Durant. The basketball player was making public appearances with Hillsong's pastor Carl Lentz as early as 2013, when the two did the rounds on Christian media to discuss the concept of "leaving a legacy." Pastor Craig Groeschel introduced Durant and Lentz on LifeChurchTV as "two special guests that I believe could help you grow spiritually as you know God better and better." Groeschel asked Durant to describe his spiritual journey, and he replied, "It's grown a lot after meeting this guy. There's so many different people in my life that's helped me grow spiritually, and I have to do it myself." 

GQ reported in a profile on Lentz that Durant was actually baptized by the pastor. Durant spoke to Lentz's Hillsong congregation in 2013 and described the moment as a pivotal one in his life. "When I came out of the water, I just felt different," he said, via The Christian Post. "Basketball is so important to me and I carry that emotion with me all of the time and before that I would be so mad at the smallest things. My coaches, my teammates, my fans. After that, I was just so positive."

Durant does not seem to have spoken publicly about Lentz's firing amid a cheating scandal.

Kyrie Irving sought career counsel from Hillsong

Another basketball player who turned to Hillsong Church in a time of need was Kyrie Irving, who has played for teams such as the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets. Back in 2017, Irving was unhappy with his career at the Cleveland Cavaliers and was considering asking for a trade, and Hillsong was there to advise him. TMZ reported that Irving and star pastor Carl Lentz had known one another for a long time, so when Irving needed guidance, he turned to the church. According to sources, Lentz didn't explicitly tell him to leave Cleveland, but merely heard him out, after which point Irving decided to go for it.

The outlet also obtained footage showing Irving and Lentz shooting hoops together at what appears to be an arcade, balling alongside fellow Hillsong protege Justin Bieber. Lentz told the Associated Press that it was simply a coincidence that Bieber had canceled his "Purpose" tour shortly before Irving left his team, insisting that Hillsong is not a cult. "It was really luck of the draw that I happened to be with Justin one day, Kyrie the next, and then we all went to Dave & Buster's together," Lentz said. "...It doesn't work like that. So, Kyrie is not coming to me, saying, 'What should I do with my life.' ...I had zero to do with Kyrie Irving having any trade desires, demands. My job is, 'I love you, brah.'"

Lil Wayne almost turned to Christian rap

During the height of Hillsong in the mid-2010s, many celebs stopped by the church to check out why so many of their peers had felt the calling. One such star was Lil Wayne, who appeared in a photo with Justin Bieber and Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz. "Because these individuals are 'well known', immediately it will elicit reactions..mostly harsh, because it's easier/lazy to classify that which you can't fully understand, than to pursue depth and reasoning," Carl Lentz wrote on Instagram, anticipating that the musicians would face backlash for linking up with him. Bieber shared the photo as well, choosing a different sentiment to convey. He wrote, "Not about what you do but who u do it with. Love these guys!"

Weezy may or may not have been a devoted Hillsong attendee, but shortly after posing for the pic, the rapper released a memoir called "Gone 'Til November," a collection of writing he'd done in his journal while incarcerated at Rikers Island. He wrote that he received a letter from a church that urged him to consider "rapping for the Lord," and he says that for a time, he did consider what his life might be like if he became a Christian rapper instead of continuing down the path that led him to prison. "I would truly have the power of pop culture turning to God," he mused. "I would have straight killers in church every Sunday." Ultimately, he decided against it.

Many Kardashian-Jenners have shown up at Hillsong events

Hillsong Church is controversial for numerous reasons, so many celebrity attendees tend to be pretty mum about their attendance. Still, that didn't stop several members of the Kardashian-Jenner family from going, or from posting about their experiences online. Back in 2014, pre-Justin, Hailey Bieber shared a selfie on Instagram, posing alongside Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz, and his wife Laura. "Great times with the best," she wrote.

When the KarJenners aren't posing with their Hillsong buddies for IG pics, they are frequently spotted by eagle-eyed paparazzi coming and going from the church's various locations around the country. Kendall was photographed attending a mid-week Hillsong service alongside her sister Kourtney Kardashian and her brother-in-law Kanye West, who The Mirror noted may have been inspired by Hillsong's music-centric approach to worship in starting his own Sunday Services concert series.

Kourtney seems to have taken a particular liking to Hillsong. People reported that she was attending church there in 2018 alongside a rumored boyfriend named Luka Sabbat, and early in her relationship with now-fiance Travis Barker, the two went to a late-night Hillsong session together (via the Daily Mail).