Corrupted Kingdom

New docuseries provides beautiful commentary on modern Christianity crisis

Kyle Morrison, Staff Writer

Ranin Karim, woman with whom Lentz had an affair with, comes forward in Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed. (Courtesy of Nikki Lichterman, Discovery+)

Sex abuse, classism, hypocrisy, cover-ups and money laundering. Churches worldwide have faced these problems since Jesus ascended into heaven some 2000 years ago, and Hillsong, one of the most powerful churches in the modern world, is a prime example of history repeating itself. 

On March 24, Discovery+ released the bombshell documentary series “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed,” which details the rise and fall of a Christian media empire that claims 150,000 congregates worldwide. Hillsong LLC is one of the most prominent writers and distributors of church music in the world; they are a global empire with profits in the millions filling their bank accounts—supposedly in the name of God. 

This mini-series has enough spicy moments to make a habanero pepper blush. By interviewing people who experienced shame and witnessed hypocrisy within Hillsong, the documentary manages to present the accusations and information in a humanistic, relatable way. Anyone who grew up in a Christian background and faced shame—whether sexual or otherwise—will find something to relate to in this three-episode experience. 

The documentary begins by covering the rise of Hillsong. It details how Brian Houston, the son of Frank Houston, Hillsong’s original proprietor, built the Hillsong empire across Australia. It quickly shifts focus to Carl Lentz, who became the head pastor at Hillsong New York, one of the church’s largest campuses and biggest moneymakers. 

Another victim of Hillsong’s abuse is Janice Lagata. She worked under Lentz in volunteer capacities and discusses various accounts of misconduct and cult-like control. (Courtesy of Nikki Lichterman, Discovery+)

Lentz makes church sexy again. Interviewees in the documentary explain being drawn to the fact that he looked more like a male model than a pastor, and although he vehemently preaches against sex before marriage, his physique and fashion sense reek of sex appeal. According to the series, Lentz’s new, zesty approach to Christianity is done intentionally to bring in younger, hipper audiences. 

Lentz grew Hillsong’s brand and brought it into American mainstream pop culture. He so expertly infused Hillsong into the culture that dozens of celebrities began to flock to his services, the most popular of whom was Justin Bieber. 

Hillsong New York gained its status as the celebrity worship hotspot with giant bands playing dramatic and compelling tunes. Their music is perfectly constructed to manipulate young worshippers into believing they are having an experience with God when they may just be having a visceral reaction to the music. 

As the church continued to grow, its leaders decided to create a VIP section. The exclusivity of this area was strictly enforced; Hillsong’s army of unpaid, exploited volunteers got scolded for daring to seat any middle-class commoner in the holy ranks of the favored few. 

Lentz was not giving up his possessions to serve the Kingdom anytime soon, either. He used the Hillsong congregation’s offerings to buy Gucci t-shirts and overnight stays at five-star hotels. Lentz used the age-old Catholic clergyman’s trick of taking offerings and lining his pockets. 

While money laundering is despicable, unfortunately, it is nothing new for pastors in major Christian organizations. The documentary does an expert job of providing evidence and context for these expenditures and tying it together with the timeline of events. 

Lentz’s obsession with purity culture contradicted his own image and cast fear and shame into the minds of unmarried Christians who may experience a sexual attraction to their partner. The documentary features individuals who Lentz shamed as far back as his pastoral assignment in Virginia Beach, Virginia. 

At the same time that the divinely ordained Lentz was making young people ashamed of their sexuality, he was cheating on his wife. It was this sin that, when revealed, finally resulted in Lentz’s termination from Hillsong New York. The church cited “moral failures” as the main reason for his termination. This statement is extremely hypocritical because, at the same time,  Brian Houston was actively covering up a sex abuse scandal committed by his father and other church members.

Hannah Frishberg is a New York Post reporter documenting Hillsong’s scandals. (Courtesy of Nikki Lichterman, Discovery+)

The series does an excellent job of releasing the information in a convicting sequence. By exposing Lentz’s history and revealing Houston’s concealment of illegal sexual activity, the series makes viewers fully feel the level of hypocrisy and moral double standards present in the Hillsong community. 

This Hillsong docuseries is yet another example of the Christian church causing horrendous pain through hypocritical crimes. Throughout history, countless Christian denominations have been complicit in causing suffering and diluting Christ’s message. Hillsong is not the first instance of this, and it will not be the last. Hopefully, one day, Christians in power will actually act the way Christ intended. 

“Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed” is available to stream at