Carl Lentz says he doesn't identify with 'disgraced pastor' label

Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz(Photo: Hillsong)

Former Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz and his wife Laura have opened up about the terrible mental toll his cheating took on their family and the long and difficult healing process they have been on for nearly four years.

In the first episode of their new "Lights On" podcast, the couple, who have stuck together despite his adultery, talked for around an hour about the fallout of his headling-grabbing firing in November 2020. 

Carl said it was a "horrible" time and that even after a few years, it still feels "weird to even talk about it".

They lost their home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the day after the scandal broke and both Laura and one of their daughters needed intense therapy for betrayal trauma, with their daughter staying in a mental hospital for teenagers for eight weeks. 

"I found a therapist that specialises in betrayal trauma and I didn't realise the amount of work that I needed to do because I was a mess," said Laura.

"When you're gaslit the way you are in situations like that [ ...] it's more than just trauma. It's like torment, mental torment, physical torment on your brain.

"And so I had to unwind a lot of my own things that had gone on in my own head."

Carl, 45, said he struggled with a torment all of his own because it had been "torture" to live a double life for so long and hide "so many lies". He believes his scandal came to light because "God had enough". 

"The way I can articulate living a life where you have that kind of secrecy, it is torture [ ... ] and it's torture for the people that are not in the know. I don't care who you are, what you've done, nobody is created to live with lies," he continued.

He described living with lies as "adapting to dysfunction" but "there's no burying a lie". 

"I was really digging my own grave. And that's a hard reality to face," he said. 

Through their healing journey, he says he has experienced "the power of honesty in a totally different way" and that this has been "a really powerful part of our healing". 

He rejected any suggestion that his wife was somehow at fault for his cheating, telling her, "You had nothing to do with my hidden sin and hidden habits and hidden addictions. You did not know what was going on with me."

He went on, "And I know there's been some confusing reports where people can try to piece something together and say, you know, Laura, was she complicit? Did she know? And that's just not true. It's not our story.

"You didn't know anything about what I was doing because I became really proficient at making my life work despite a lot of pain."

Despite the scandal, he also rejects the label of "disgraced former pastor" and says that people who define him like that "don't understand what grace is".

"Grace is mercy and favour and forgiveness that you do not deserve but God gives it to you anyway. So if anything, I fell into grace. And if people could stop writing headlines like that, I would appreciate it because it's inaccurate," he said. 

"I'm not a disgraced former pastor. I am a human being that made huge mistakes. Mine were public, everybody got to see them. And now, I'm a human being that's trying to rectify my life and make wrongs right and to live completely differently. But disgraced I am not.

"I'm more filled with grace than I've ever been. Did I fall from grace? Absolutely not. I fell into it. And I'm really grateful for that."