By Hannah Frishberg

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This scandalized church is doing some serious soul-searching.

The co-founder and lead pastor Brian Houston of megachurch Hillsong took to Twitter Thursday to announce that the institution is launching a formal investigation at the branch where celebrity pastor Carl Lentz, 41, was recently fired for adultery.

“We are launching an independent investigation into the inner workings of Hillsong NYC/ East Coast,” Brian Houston, 66, tweeted. “We need a solid foundation for a fresh start and new beginning. The best is yet to come.”

Reps for Hillsong confirmed to The Post that the church has “decided to appoint a New York-based legal firm that is not associated or affiliated with Hillsong to conduct an in-depth review and investigation into all concerns and any wider cultural issues. We are taking this extremely seriously and on the basis of this report, we will be better positioned to take whatever actions are deemed necessary to right the wrongs and see Hillsong East Coast move forward in a way that enables many more people to find hope in Jesus.”

Houston’s tweet followed an online streaming session Saturday in which Houston reassured East Coast members that, while the church is going through some changes, its leadership remained loyal to their mission.

“This is a season of transition. It’s a time when I’m so grateful for the team we have there, we’ve got such strong, committed and deeply loyal people who are part of the team,” Houston said in his digitally broadcast sermon, the Sun reported. “And I must say that not only [are] our key leaders in New York supportive of the decisions that have been made, but they have in fact been part of the process.”

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Houston referred to Lentz and his wife Laura’s firing, and Lentz’s subsequent admission of infidelity — with a NYC fashion designer who told The Post that their affair lasted for five months and was about more than just sex — as “rumor” and “gossip.”

“It’s always a time when there is speculation, rumor and gossip when change is made, and especially when radical change is made. But I just want to encourage you … stay close to Jesus, keep him your focus,” he said. “And let’s decide we’re gonna continue with our love for this great church and lean in. And you watch, there’s great days ahead, there’s good things coming.”

Updates to Hillsong’s leadership are likely in the near future, Houston added.

“Let’s be part of it together, be blessed, and we will definitely continue to stay in touch when it comes to the long-term leadership of our wonderful church at Hillsong, East Coast.”

Comments:

Really?

Although we have all sorts of communication tools, to announce such things on twitter for a church organisation to me doesn’t cut it.

If he placed a formal statement on the church’s website fine…

But why is he getting a legal firm to front up to look into infidelity? This church is low on morals, ethics and biblical instruction.

To me involving a law firm seems strange and odd in the circumstances?

And I am confused. Is Brian defending or disciplining the guy when he make this weird clarification,

their affair lasted for five months and was about more than just sex — as “rumor” and “gossip.”

Sounds like damage control.

Matt 18: 15 -18

The procedure for church discipline:

15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The Scriptures give the following steps:

1. A private meeting.

Matt. 18:15: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Usually it is better to go in person, unless you’re concerned for physical safety or for moral propriety. Don’t put yourself in a potentially compromising situation with the opposite sex!

Your objective is not to “set him straight” or to “get things off your chest” by telling him how wrong he is. Your aim is to get him to listen so as to win him back to the Lord. The Greek word translated “show him his fault” is a legal term that means to convince in a court of law. The best way of convincing someone of his sin is to take him to Scripture. Your opinion really doesn’t matter. God’s Word is the authority.

Jesus says that if you have knowledge of your brother’s sin, then you (not the pastor) are the one to go to him. While you should pray before you go, you should not call 15 people to have them pray. That just spreads gossip. You may need to seek confidential godly counsel, but limit it to one or two at the most.

Make sure that you get the facts. If someone tells you about someone else’s sin, tell the informant to go directly to the sinning person in line with these guidelines. Do not go to anyone on the basis of hearsay or gossip, unless you’re going to find out the facts. Go in gentleness and wisdom. Sometimes, there is a need for sharp rebuke (Titus 1:13; 2:15), but usually the best course is a brotherly, heartfelt appeal (Phil. 4:21 Tim. 5:1-2). If the sinning person knows that you genuinely care for him, he will be more likely to listen and respond positively.

How many times should you go to the person before going to the next level? Scripture does not say. If the person repents, the discipline process stops there. You have won your brother. The exception to this would be a situation where the person’s sin is publicly known. For example, if a woman gets pregnant out of wedlock, she and the man (if he is in the church) need to make a public confession, so that the church can openly forgive them and support them in having the child. Or if a Christian man is convicted of a crime that is made public, even if he repents, he needs to ask the church to forgive him for dishonoring the name of Christ.

2. A private conference with witnesses.

If the person does not listen to you, Jesus says to take two or three witnesses (Matt. 18:16). These may be others who know of the problem or it may include church leaders. The point is to strengthen the reproof and to cause the offender to realize the seriousness of the situation. Your goal is to bring the sinner to repentance and restoration.

3. A public announcement to the church.

Although Christ does not specify, other Scriptures indicate that this step should be administered through the church leaders, who have authority over the church (Heb. 13:171 Pet. 5:3). Before an announcement is made to the church, the leaders should make an effort to contact the offender and warn him that his sin will become public knowledge on a particular date if he does not repent before that time.

If the sin has to be made public, the church should be instructed in how to relate to the sinning person. Church members should no longer fellowship with the person as if there is no problem. Paul says not even to eat with such a one (1 Cor. 5:11). He tells the Thessalonians not to associate with such a one, but then adds (2 Thess. 3:15), “Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” In other words, all contact is not forbidden, but we aren’t to relate on a normal, buddy-buddy level that ignores the person’s sin. Any contact must communicate, “We love you and we want you back in the fellowship of the church, but we can’t condone what you’re doing and we can’t enjoy fellowship together until you genuinely repent.”

4. Public exclusion from the church.

The Lord says that the final step is (Matt. 18:17), “Let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” Paul says (1 Cor. 5:13), “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” Paul seems to bypass the earlier steps that Jesus outlines. There are differing explanations of this, but it seems to me that out of his concern over the Corinthians’ complacency about this sin and the danger to the church, Paul was exercising his apostolic authority to remove the man from the church immediately. If someone’s openly known sin is destroying the testimony of a church, he needs to be removed from the church quickly.

5. Public restoration when there is genuine repentance.

Sadly, some love their sin more than they love Christ and they will not repent. Others do not repent and find another church that accepts them in spite of their sin. That’s sad! Churches should not welcome those who are under the discipline of another church. But some will repent, which involves godly sorrow over their sin (2 Cor. 7:8-10) and restitution where appropriate (Philemon 18-19). A person’s deeds should reflect repentance (Acts 26:20).

If the person expresses genuine repentance, then the church should be informed and the person should be forgiven and accepted back into the fellowship (2 Cor. 2:8). Of course, there should be a time of testing before a repentant person is put into positions of ministry or leadership. Also, the restoration process should include discipling to help the person grow and avoid the sin in the future.