Darnell Barrett Hillsong
Darnell Barrett, the married creative director of Hillsong New Jersey, who resigned this week after posting revealing selfies. (Source; Facebook)

Another Hillsong East Coast Pastor Resigns, This Time Over Revealing Instagram Selfies

By Roxanne Stone

A pastor for Hillsong East Coast has resigned after sharing revealing photos of himself on Instagram stories. His resignation comes at a time when the global megachurch has been rocked by multiple scandals, including last fall’s firing of “celebrity pastor” Carl Lentz from Hillsong New York City after revelations of an extramarital affair.

Darnell Barrett, 32, resigned from his role as a pastor and creative director for the Montclair, New Jersey, Hillsong campus on Tuesday (April 27) after he shared two “mirror selfie” photos of himself shirtless and wearing white Nike compression leggings that left little to the imagination.

He included captions with the photos, describing a recent struggle with depression and anxiety and his pride in “getting to the gym today even if it was a cheap 30 minute workout.”

“One of the insidious things about grief is it’s capricious nature,” Barrett, who is married and has two children, wrote in the caption overlaying a photo taken in a gym locker room mirror. “I’m learning to give myself grace in how I deal with it.”

Barrett sent the photos on Instagram stories to his “close friends” — followers he would have manually selected — but he also included a 30-year-old woman who once volunteered for him at the New Jersey church.

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He quickly messaged to alert her what he sent was a mistake. “Hey! I think I might’ve added you to my close friends list by accident,” Barrett wrote. “I’m so sorry. Trying to figure out how the hell to edit it,” according to messages obtained by The Daily Mail.

“Got it. We’re good,” he messaged soon after, then followed up by letting her know he sent “some real raw s—” to his friends.

The woman initially seemed to shrug it off. “Haha that’s alright” she responded but then blocked him. Later, she came back to the messages to unblock him and express decidedly stronger opinions on the matter, saying she was “insulted that you would think I wouldn’t understand what you’re doing.”

She accused the pastor of sending her the explicit photos as part of a “fishing” scheme to see if she would bite and that she was “horrified by the thought of how many other innocent girls you’ve manipulated with this ploy of yours.”

“I’m going to assume you’ve sent this to gauge girls reactions to see if they’d take part in this weird-sexual-online-relationship fantasy you have,” according to the messages.

Barrett insisted to the Daily Mail sending her the photos was an accident and he had no intention of meeting up with the woman. “This was something that was just an honest mistake and I informed my wife as soon as it happened.”

“I was not at all trying to lure her,” he told the tabloid. “I get that she, within the context of what’s happening with Hillsong, that she would draw those conclusions.”

Even so, the Hillsong pastor stepped down from his role at the church, citing “infidelity” in his marriage, and said he and his wife are “working through it.”

“We thought it was best for me to move on. I don’t want to get into the details,” Barrett added.

In a statement, Hillsong confirmed that Barrett, “the creative oversight for Hillsong East Coast’s Montclair location,” had resigned on Tuesday. 

“We were disappointed to learn about choices he made that were unacceptable for any Hillsong staff member,” the church said, adding the church has “countless staff members and volunteers who carry their responsibilities with trustworthiness, integrity, and excellence. They represent the heart of Hillsong Church.”

Barrett’s resignation is the latest in a series of scandals, transitions and general tumult facing Hillsong, a global megachurch founded by Brian and Bobbie Houston in 1983 in the Sydney, Australia, suburbs. It now has locations in 28 countries around the world and, pre-pandemic, saw an average 150,000 attenders each week, according to its website.

In addition to the November firing of Lentz from Hillsong New York City, the pastors of the church’s Dallas location resigned amid leadership complaints in January. That church was shuttered indefinitely in April.

Since Lentz’s firing, the megachurch has come under scrutiny for its celebrity culture, with some former volunteers describing a hierarchy that treated pastors as “royalty” and favored celebrity attendees such as Selena Gomez; Justin Bieber and his wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber; Kevin Durant; Chris Pratt; and the Jenner sisters.

Roxanne StoneRoxanne Stone is the managing editor for Religion News Service. She formerly served as editor in chief for Barna Group, editorial director for RELEVANT Media Group, as well as at Christianity Today and Group Publishing. Roxanne lives in New York City.

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15 thoughts on “Another Hillsong East Coast Pastor Resigns, This Time Over Revealing Instagram Selfies”

  1. Faux-Pastor leading a faux-churc. The only concern the real Church should have is some people might confuse this for real Christianity and they need to make that clear that is isn’t, not by a long shot.

  2. And what are the “close friends” supposed to think of it and who are they and who do they work for and what should we think of them now? Is this “hedonism”?

    1. Unfortunately many people judge Christianity by hillsong and their ilk. Hillsong sells their “songs” to churches and you can hear them played on cable tv music channels. I hadn’t known that much about them before Julie started writing about them and I’m glad to have the info.

      1. Headless Unicorn Guy

        Listen to the guy with experience in Furry Fandom:
        HIGH-PROFILE CRAZIES HAVE A WAY OF DEFINING THE PUBLIC IMAGE OF A MOVEMENT. AND ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO STOP BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO LIVES AND CAN ALWAYS GET ON MORE MEDIA AND SCREAM LOUDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE.

    2. Jacob, the aberrant practice of grave sucking, a.k.a. grave soaking, is associated with Bethel Church based in Redding, CA, and the link you provided refers to them, not Hillsong.

    3. Jacob Van Halteren

      You posted a link about Bethel Church who are not Hillsong. Either your link is wrong or you confuse Bethel with Hillsong.

    1. Yes, their series of pincer movements is manifestly predestined for them to walk in. (I’ve worn the oversize T shirt myself.)

  3. Get. Out. Of. The. Megachurch. I don’t care which one. Go see your little corner church where nobody’s trying to impress anybody, nobody’s getting rich off the gospel, and people just try to love and care for each other.

    1. R., I couldn’t agree more. These kinds of churches can hardly have close fellowship even with the small groups, cell groups and bible studies. There must be so many people who fall through the cracks, who aren’t part of a disciple group (if one exists) and because the churches are so large, no one can know if a lonely, shy, hurting person is isolated. I’ve gone to megachurches and to small churches and the music, singing and performance may not be as grand as the megachurches but the intimacy is warmer and more sincere, IMHO, in the community church.

    2. Amen.

      One can’t slip through the cracks at a small church either …for the most part. We all need accountability.

  4. I’m torn. It could be an honest mistake, or it could be an attempt to groom. Without a pattern, I’d be tempted go give him the benefit of the doubt.

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