The Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz has denied that the evangelical church pays Justin Bieber to attend, after the world famous singer jetted in to an Australian Hillsong gathering for the third time in two years.
Lentz, 38, was asked on the Australian TV show Sunrise about Bieber's attendance at Sydney's four-day Hillsong Closer Conference. 'No, we don't pay him to attend. He comes on his own,' he said.
The New York-based pastor also spoke out about the 24-year-old pop star's faith. 'I think that Justin is a good Christian,' he said. 'I don't think his problems are behind him, but we all have to deal with other stuff to come. His relationship with Jesus is changing his life daily. It is one of those things where you never really get it, it takes a while to keep growing as a person. Every day he is getting older, and with each chapter comes new growth... This is what conference is all about.'
Describing Bieber's presence at Hillsong events, Lentz added: 'He sings, does what everybody else does. He does not perform. He is not on stage, he is just a face in the crowd. His face is really recognisable but for him, it is just a chance for him to be as normal as he can.'
Speaking to GQ in December 2015, Lentz described the moment Justin got down on his knees 'ravaged by loss' and sobbed: 'I want to know Jesus.' The 'Baby' singer asked to be baptised immediately and he was later that night.
Despite his youth, Bieber has had a chequered past.
In April, he posted on Instagram the mugshot from his arrest in 2014 after a drag racing incident in Miami, Florida, alongside a current photo of himself, with the caption: 'I love this because it reminds me I'm not exactly where I want to be but thank God I'm not where I used to be! The best is yet to come do you believe it?'
Following his 2014 arrest, Bieber subsequently failed a sobriety test and was found to be driving with an expired licence.
In July that year, he was placed on probation for two years following a plea deal for vandalising his neighbour's home with eggs. He then had to complete 12 anger management sessions, community service and pay $80,900 in restitution.
The previous month, a video circulated of the singer using the 'N-word' and singing about joining the Ku Klux Klan. At the time, he issued an apology, saying: 'I take my friendships with people of all cultures very seriously, and I apologize for offending or hurting anyone with my childish and inexcusable mistake.'
In 2015, Bieber was found guilty of assault and reckless driving after his vehicle collided with a minivan in Canada.
Bieber has in the past spoken out about his Christian faith. He recently told Complex: 'I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus – I could never – I don't want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins.
'Sometimes when I don't feel like doing something, but I know it's right, I remember, I'm pretty sure Jesus didn't feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don't have to feel what we should have to feel. What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, "You don't have to feel any of that stuff."
'We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn't need to be there. So all this healing that you're trying to do, it's unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It's time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I'm at a point where I'm not going to hold this in.'