Justin Bieber is a believer. And he has a spiritual guide to prove it.
Evangelical pastor Carl Lentz, a self-proclaimed “hipster pastor” who wears a mohawk, 10 tattoos and YSL sneakers, says he has become one of the 20-year-old pop singer’s best friends. The pair met in 2008 when Lentz participated in a backstage prayer service at one of Bieber's concerts. In the last two weeks alone, Lentz and Bieber have been seen together twice: at a pregame prayer gathering with the Pittsburgh Steelers in New Jersey ahead of the game last Sunday, and at the 40/40 Club in Manhattan for Lentz’s birthday last Thursday, the New York Post reports.
“I have a special role in Justin’s life, spiritually, but … I’m not a life-motivational guy,” Lentz said. The 36-year-old pastor preaches at Hillsong NYC, an evangelical megachurch founded in Australia but now in New York City and New Jersey. “We’re talking about making sure his life remains a blessing, not a burden.”
A couple weeks ago Lentz and Bieber were spotted together in Glen Ridge, N.J. -- the New York suburb where Lentz lives with his wife and three children. While Hillsong NYC hosts services in Manhattan, the megachurch also holds services at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey, on Sundays.
When Bieber first appeared on the Billboard charts several years ago, his teenybopper image made young girls swoon -- and his faith remained a part of that.
“I pray all the time," Bieber said in an interview with the Guardian in 2010. "I pray two to three times a day. When I wake up, I thank him for my blessings. I thank him for putting me in this position. And at the end of the day, I get out my Bible. At home-school my tutor is Christian, so we go over Bible verses. It's something that keeps me grounded."
Lately he doesn't seem that grounded, given recent antics that show a different side to his character. In October 2013, Bieber allegedly disrespected the Argentinean flag during one of his concerts. In November, reports said he slept with a Brazilian prostitute. In January, he was arrested in Miami for driving under the influence and in Calabasas, California, for throwing eggs at a home in his neighborhood. In September, he was arrested and charged with dangerous driving and assault in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario.
"I love Justin, he's a good kid. He's trying to figure this out," Lentz told the Christian Broadcast Network in August about Bieber’s recent behavior. "People who are like, 'Is he even a Christian?' With Justin, I tell people grace and acceptance does not mean approval. I can accept you as a human being and not approve of your actions. That's how we've been loved. We love because we were first loved.”
Besides praying with Lentz, in Los Angeles Bieber was spotted attending Bible study with Pastor Judah Smith. Smith, who preaches at a Seattle-based megachurch, confirmed he counseled Bieber after his run-in with the law in Brazil where he allegedly slept with a prostitute and vandalized a hotel wall.
"I don't envy the scrutiny that he carries," Smith told Christian Post. "He lives a very blessed life, but with those blessings comes a lot of responsibility and expectations from people."