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Own The Moment

How to Live a Spiritual Life in a Secular World

About The Book

This engaging and inspirational book by Carl Lentz, the rock star pastor of Hillsong NYC, shows us the way toward a more connected, spiritually-grounded, and fulfilled life.

When you think of a Christian pastor, you probably don’t envision a tattooed thirty-something who wears a motorcycle jacket, listens to hip-hop music, references The Walking Dead and Black Lives Matter in his sermons, and every Sunday draws a standing-room only crowd to a venue normally used for rock concerts—in godless New York City, no less.

But then you clearly have never met Carl Lentz.

As lead pastor of the first United States branch of global megachurch Hillsong, the former college basketball player is on a mission to make Christianity accessible in the 21st century. In Own The Moment, he shares the unlikely and inspiring story of how he went from being an average teenager who couldn’t care less about church to leading one of the country’s fastest-growing congregations—how one day he is trying to convince a Virginia Beach 7-Eleven clerk to attend his service, and just a few years later he is baptizing a global music icon in an NBA player’s Manhattan bathtub.

Amid such candid personal tales, Lentz also offers illuminating readings of Bible passages and practical tips on how to live as a person of faith in an increasingly materialistic world. How do you maintain your values—and pass them onto your children—in a society that worships money and sex and fame? How do you embrace your flaws in this Instagram era that exalts the appearance of perfection? How do you forget about “living the dream” and learn to embrace the beauty of your reality?

These are just a few of the many important questions Lentz answers in Own The Moment—a powerful book that redefines not just Christianity but spirituality as a whole.


Own The Moment Introduction
OWN THE MOMENT. The concept seems simple enough. There are literally millions upon millions of moments in our lives that we will either maximize or that we will miss. Whether we are more efficient with the former or the latter has a huge impact on what the final picture of our lives will ultimately look like.

I have never been a big “puzzle guy.” And by that I mean I despise puzzles. But when you have children, you have to put up with some pain, like watching them slowly piece together what will at some point or some year—depending on the attention span of said child—turn out to be a picture. Some pieces are small, and some pieces are larger, and you can skip one or two if you feel like it, but at the end it will look like it’s missing something. Worse yet, you can sit there and look at all the pieces and expect or hope that somebody, someday, is going to come make sense of all this and put it together for you.

I think our culture—which is built on quick gratification, shortcuts to success, filming events we are actually at so we can record them to watch later if ever, and a victim currency that is so robust that when things don’t happen that we like or want it’s rarely our fault—is setting us up for the ultimate hustle. Which is to be in this life but never actually live it. To be present in body but absent in mind. To live and breathe achievement and success and accomplishment, to continually gather these things only to find out they were not what they were advertised to be.

You know what my goal is? I want to own the moments in my life. I want to, yes, take a photo of my son riding his bike . . . but I also want to put my phone away and actually see him do it. Yes, I want to work hard and save money and make sure my children leave my house someday and walk into a setup that will help them win in every way. But I don’t want them to walk out of my house total strangers because I was so intent on working for their future that I missed their present.

I believe in this book, with my entire being. Because it’s not always life or death when you miss a moment. If you hesitated to ask somebody out that you like, and somebody else owned the moment and you are still single? There will be more moments, relax. If you missed an anniversary and remembered a day later and your spouse said, “Thanks but no thanks,” you may have to get acquainted with your couch for a little while, but you can make next year’s anniversary count. Missing moments happens to us all. My greater concern in my own life, and for anybody who picks up this book, is that if you build a pattern of missing moments that don’t appear to be significant, you will miss out on what builds a life that leads to many huge moments, connections, relationships, and experiences. And some moments? You’d better believe they are life and death.

Our first few years in NYC planting this amazing church were very much like a whirlwind. We didn’t have a lot of experience,1 but we had a lot of passion. And the people and the pace that make up NYC require every bit of passion you can muster up. Learning how to own the moment can be the difference between a taxi you do or don’t get, a sliver of space on a subway that you have to be on, a mix tape or a movie script or a business idea that you just had to share. Because in NYC? You run into difference makers everywhere you go. Split seconds can equate to multi-millions. When it comes to other people, owning the moment can also mean saving a life. Since we have no idea what somebody else might be going through, taking a moment to say hi, send an encouraging text, make an extra phone call just to let somebody know they are loved could be everything to an individual. Moments matter.

Two of my best friends and I had been working with a friend who some would say was “vintage NYC.” He was a model, a clothing designer, and made some really good decisions in the stock market that enabled him to have and spend a lot of money. I don’t know how many businesses he owned, but I am aware of how many millions of dollars he spent on things that didn’t really matter. So let’s just say he was very, very good at what he did. He also had a wicked cocaine and heroin addiction that had shadowed him for almost twenty years. I had heard of “functioning addicts” before I got to NYC, but I always pictured people from the movie Joe Dirt in some backwater town that was just barely getting by. Little did I know that not only could you function while being highly addicted to deadly narcotics, you could in fact still thrive in some areas.

My friend was clean for a solid five months, but I noticed some odd things over the course of two weeks that made me concerned. I checked with my two friends, who loved this person as much as me, and none of us had heard from him that whole period of time. When this guy is clicking on all cylinders, he’s a ten-texts-a-day type of guy. So the difference is stark. We all landed on the same conclusion: He was most likely bunkered away in his gorgeous penthouse apartment, on a binge. This is problematic because when this happens with addicts, you never know if this will be the one that takes them out completely. They don’t know either. But after two or three days of mainlining heroin, you tend to lose your logic.

We went to his apartment, and we could hear noise, so we knew he was in there. I called his phone. I could hear it ring. And he picked it up and said, “I’m not here.” I started beating on the door, saying, “I can hear, my brother. Open this door up. I love you. I just want to talk to you.” That was a lie, and he knew it was a lie, because I wasn’t going to talk to him. I was going to ask once if he wanted to go to rehab. And if the answer was no, I was going to punch him in the face and drag him out. He and I had been together in this situation before, only he was on the other side of the door with me. So he knew better.

We knocked for a while, reasoned with him, and realized it was hopeless. We thought we had a moment, we did what we could, and dejection set in. And then another moment presented itself. My friend Joe—who is as relentless about his friends and people in general as anybody I have ever known—said, “You know what? Screw this. He’s not dying tonight.” His brother John—who is equally insane when it comes to never giving up on anything—said, “Yeah, I’m with you.” Joe said, “We can climb that fire escape. John, I can hang there and pull you up, and then you can get on my shoulders, and we can throw this cinderblock through his giant bay window. And Carl, we will open the door for you and the three of us can drag him out.”

Sometimes you are faced with moments in life that literally scare you to death. But if what you love or believe matters enough? You will own it. So we reluctantly, together, owned this moment, huddled like a football team, prayed that police would not see us and arrest us, and that none of us would die. You know, the essentials. And the two brothers went to work.

It was exactly like a scene out of a movie. Joe somehow climbed up the fire escape. He hung his arm down, and John was almost catapulted up by him.2 The cinderblock was by the window, and I gave my friend one more chance.

“Bro, please. Open the door. Trust me.”

“I won’t! Leave me alone! I don’t want help!”

I gave Joe the thumbs-up, and next thing you heard was glass breaking, a bit of a tussle, and the front door flew open. Joe had my friend in a very loving headlock-hug. John was out of breath. My friend had given up at this point.

“I’ll go,” he said.

My friend lived to see another day, to fight that hellacious addiction for at least a few more rounds.

When I think back to that scene, I love the memory. I love all the factors involved. But my mind lands back on Joe. He felt faith for a fleeting moment and owned that moment. And it led to a few more moments, which now, as we look back on them, are an epic memory that will stay with me forever. But that puzzle didn’t just come together. It was pieced together.

I wrote this book because I don’t care who you are, what you do, or how good or bad it may seem today: I know we can all do a better job of making the most of what we do have. Focusing on what we can do. Maybe, just maybe, there is a cinderblock lying around somewhere that you can throw through the glass barriers that surround your life. It won’t happen right away, but the process can begin whenever you want it to. Day by day. Step by step. Choice by choice. Piece by piece. If you own what’s right in front of you, I do believe that someday, when you sit down to tell the story of your life, it’s going to take a while. Because you have so many moments that deserve their own microphone.

1 Actually, none.

2 I do believe this was not the first time either of these boys had done something like this.

About The Author

Mark Seliger

Carl Lentz pastors Hillsong Church NYC, a thriving Christian congregation with locations in Manhattan and New Jersey. Born the youngest of four in Williamsburg, Virginia, he was raised in a Baptist household but struggled to connect with the denomination's strict message. At age twenty, he discovered his calling and enrolled in the Hillsong International Leadership College in Australia, where the Hillsong Church was founded in 1983. While completing his pastoral training, Lentz met his wife and co-pastor, Laura. In 2010, they helped launch Hillsong Church NYC, the first US-based branch and one of the fastest growing churches in America. Known for reaching “the famous to the nameless,” the couple now lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with their three amazing children. Own The Moment is his first book.

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