Justin Bieber is leaning forward, eyes squeezed shut. “Jesus is God,” booms the pastor Judah Smith, standing before Bieber’s front-row seat in the ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire hotel. “He’s the relationship and the friendship you’ve been craving your whole life. If you believe that with all of your heart, every ounce of your being, I’m going to count to three, and then I’m going to ask you to lift up your hand.”
Bieber’s restless leg, which had been bouncing throughout the 60-minute service, goes still. “One! God loves you,” Smith announces, building to his big finish. “Two! You’ll never be the same.” And finally: “Three!” A smattering of palms shoot up in the 400-or-so-person crowd. Bieber keeps his down. The pastor, whom Bieber has known since he was 16, later makes clear to me, “This room exists to love people, surround people, encourage people” -- not to pressure them into declaring Jesus as their savior. As with many things in his life today, Bieber is sorting out what he truly believes and how he shows that to the world.