Judah Smith is the lead pastor at City Church and the author of spiritual self-help book, How Is Your Soul? Why Everything that Matters Starts with the Inside You. More than just a preacher, Smith has been noted for his bringing of millennials back into the folds of Christianity, and for his close connection to celebrities ranging from Tim Tebow to Justin Bieber.

JUDAH SMITH ON BELIEFS, BIEBER [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]

Smith is the first to admit that his celebrity friendships are somewhat of an anomaly. “People say, ‘Wow! You pastor celebrities,’ and well, there’s only a few,” he said jokingly.”Most of the people that I get to encourage and do life with are not known at all, but yeah, Justin [Bieber] is literally like family to me. We would talk almost every day, talk and pray. And I’ve said it before, but I feel like I’ve learned more from him than maybe he’s learned from me.” Smith emphasized the old saying: celebrities are people too. “Celebrities have the same needs and essentials for living that we do,” he stressed. “We all need faith, we all need hope, we all need love. We all need connection, relationship to feel like we matter and we’re known and we know somebody. So we talk about a lot of the stuff that we’d be talking about right here, and you would talk about with your friends.”

Smith has recently looked at new approaches for connecting with people’s spiritual lives, which is the focus of his new book. “I realized I was asking, ‘How are you? How are you doing?’ and the answers were kind of the prepared, culturally acceptable answers,” he said. “So I started mixing it up and texting friends and asking them just like, ‘How is your soul? Like on the inside.'” Smith was surprised to find that simple change in prompt opened the floodgates to deeper responses and honest concerns. “All of sudden I get this long text and I’m like I don’t know if I had all this time!” Smith says that his definition of the soul pulls from universal themes of heart and mind, offering a window into how someone is doing overall.

It’s this more holistic approach to spiritual life that has captured the attention of millennials, perhaps stereotypically known for their aversion to organized religion. Smith says he understands the hesitation. “They’ve done a bit of their research and maybe understand the history of religion and God and Jesus, and a lot of horrible, deplorable things have been done in the name of God,” he said. “I encourage that [hesitation], I welcome that, and I think Millennials generally are looking for what’s genuine, authentic, and real. Which I celebrate and trumpet.”

Smith’s main goal and the heart of his religious teaching is to live well, which in scriptures translates to loving well. “Do we live a lifestyle of love?” he asks. “Am I willing to feel the pain of another? Am I willing to move towards the pain of others? For me, the model is Jesus.” For others, he stresses, those feelings can transcend religious identification. “You don’t have to believe that [Jesus is God],” he said. “There is some common ground for all of us. And that is: we all have a soul, we are all human beings on Earth at the same time, trying to make sense of kind of a painful existence…what are some kind of ancient concepts and truths that maybe I can hold onto to find some inner buoyancy.”

How Is Your Soul? is currently available to order online.