Wed, Nov 01, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Pastor to Durant, Wilson draws stars to his church

AP, NEW YORK

Pastor Carl Lentz speaks during an interview on Oct. 23 in New York.

Photo: AP

Carl Lentz speaks openly about his friendship with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and other star athletes, and he happily tells the story of how he baptized Justin Bieber — in NBA player Tyson Chandler’s bathtub.

The preacher knows that A-list stars draw attention to Hillsong, the congregation he has helped grow into a multi-location megachurch, and he thinks that is a good thing.

Minutes into a hour-long interview, he choked up talking about a single mom fighting cancer who volunteers at Hillsong, which draws about 10,000 people weekly to its locations in Manhattan and Montclair, New Jersey. He said she is “a star.”

“When people say I’m a pastor to the stars, I just assume they’re referring to that woman,” he said.

Lentz really started taking off on social media as some journalists credited him for helping Bieber clean up his act, others blamed him for convincing Durant to leave Oklahoma City to join the Golden State Warriors and rumors flew that he forced the Irving-LeBron James breakup in Cleveland.

“My job as a pastor is to pray, to support, to give wisdom when asked and I had zero to do with Kyrie Irving having any trade desires,” Lentz said. “It was fun to watch the fake news cycle. Kyrie’s an amazing man on his own. He doesn’t need help navigating his career.”

Durant said he considers Lentz a “life mentor” and spiritual guide.

“He wants me to see the difference between who I am as a basketball player and who I am as a man,” Durant said.

NFL star Russell Wilson met Lentz through Judah Smith, a Seattle-based pastor who leads a megachurch with a campus in Los Angeles — and introduced Lentz and Bieber.

Lentz is “my guy,” the Seahawks quarterback said. “I think you see his love for people. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what they look like or whatever.”

Lentz played 11 basketball games at North Carolina State in the late 1990s. He scored eight career points as a walk-on, but his time, however limited, in the vaunted Atlantic Coast Conference gives him credibility with athletes.

“Understanding the psyche of an athlete has been huge,” Lentz said. “I feel like God put me through that season so I can translate some of that into what I’m doing now. You work hard when no one watches. You put in the time when no one else is putting in the time. You go over and above to make your team better. All these things are not athletic traits. These are Jesus traits, so if you take even half of that effort you did to be the best athlete in the world, you’re gonna kill this.”

“Jesus looked physically a lot more like Colin Kaepernick than he did Tom Brady,” Lentz said. “Jesus didn’t put on any fronts, he didn’t try to be anything other than who he was. We might be cool today, but the truth is we’re not really cool. We’re just who we are.”

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