Thoughts on Those Leaving Their Faith

I want to begin this week's thoughts with a disclaimer: I am not against contemporary Christian music.  I will be honest and say that, personally, I prefer many of the hymns from the past and I am rejoicing that many of those are being rediscovered.  Not every song that has been written is worthy of surviving history.  Of the thousands of songs written by Charles Wesley, just a few dozen still are part of our hymnody.  The remainder have been lost in the dust of history.  And I know that will be true of the contemporary Christian music being written today.  I have often said this, "Of the thousands of songs written each year, how many of them will the Church be singing fifty years from now? A hundred years from now?  Five hundred years from now?" 

I am also not opposed to the books being written today, although, again to be personally honest, I find many of them hardly worth the paper they are written upon.  In a world that is hungering for truth, instead we find opinions and partial truths.  We find those topics that have broader, more culturally-sensitive appeal.  Again, the same question is asked: "Of the thousands of books written each year, how many of them will the Church still be referencing fifty years from now?" 

Now what has gotten me thinking about music and books are the recent "public outings" from some prominent Christian writers, both literary and musically, stating that they either have or are contemplating abandoning their faith.  Joshua Harris, who wrote that best-seller "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" has renounced his faith.  And, most recently, Marty Sampson, one of the leader of the Hillsong Movement, announced to the world that "he was genuinely losing his faith." 

Now this is not the first time that people have abandoned their faith, but in this world of instant communication, these statements become more alarming.  Both Mr. Harris and Mr. Sampson have larger numbers of followers through Facebook and Twitter.  People read their books and sing their songs.  Now for them to announce that what they have written has been a lie, that they have found a new truth, becomes dangerous. 

In response to these statements, I read a podcast written by John L. Cooper, the lead singer in a group known as Skillet.  I would like to quote from that podcast: "Ok I'm saying it.  Because it's too important not to.  What is happening in Christianity?  More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once 'faces' of the faith are falling away.  And at the same time they are being very vocal and bold about it.  Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?) as they announce that they are leaving the faith. 

"My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians).  We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or 'relevant' people the most influential people in Christendom.  (And yes that includes people like me!)  I've been saying for 20 years (and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers,) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth.  We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word.  I'm not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak.  However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine.  Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of God we are singing to.  Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?

"I have a few specific thoughts and rebuttals to statements made by recently disavowed church influencers...first of all, I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance.  Basically saying, 'I've been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believer it...therefore I'm going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.'  I'm perplexed why they aren't embarrassed?  Humbled?  Ashamed, fearful, confused?  Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don't know where you are headed?"

Mr. Cooper concludes his podcast with these words: "It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word.  We need to value truth over feeling.  Truth over emotion.  And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth.  And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.

"Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart?  Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting 'now I've found the truth!  Follow me!'  Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers...I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape God's word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths.  But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God.  For He changes NOT.  'The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever.' (Isaiah 40:8)."

Friends, what a reminder to each of us.  As you are reading that book, ask yourself this question: Is the teaching of this book anchored in the Scriptures or it is just the opinions of the writer?  As you are singing that next worship song, ask yourself this question: Is the teaching of this song anchored in the Scriptures or it is just the emotional experience of the song-writer?  Remember, we are NOT to point people to ourselves, but we ARE to point people to Jesus.  I close with the words of John the Baptist: "He must increase, I must decrease." (John 3:30).


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