I am a positive guy, and I preach a positive message of the matchless grace of God. I am also a pastor, which means shepherd. And sometimes, the church needs some tough talk to chase away the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). I offer this in a spirit of [tough] love…
The rash of recent high-profile defections from Christianity only shows the insanity of how we have elevated unprepared men and women to leadership in the church.
Josh Harris made a name for himself by writing a book on dating, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This is a book he later repudiated.
However, it was a best seller, so, in today’s ethos, that gave him the skillset and theological acumen to actually lead a megachurch. I am sure there was more to it, but it’s the book that put him on the radar.
He then created a massive disturbance in the ecclesiastical “Force” when he recently kissed Christianity goodbye too. Along with his wife.
Aside from issues of compassion for him, and the pain his family, spouse, and church are feeling, what does his defection from Christianity say about the truth of Jesus Christ?
Exactly nothing. I will expand on this in a moment.
Because I also have to bring up Marty Sampson, a popular Hillsong worship leader who recently confessed, “I’m genuinely losing my faith … and it doesn’t bother me.”
This, of course, has sent another seismic wave through evangelical Christianity.
This fact is more a testament to how stunted we all are than to how important people like Josh Harris and Marty Sampson are or should be.
Faith-struggles happens to people all the time.
But when they happen to a high-profile leader, and the leader decides to get attention by blasting it out on social media, or in interviews, everyone scrambles the jets.
Which is ridiculous.
All of this makes the world more skeptical of our truth than ever before.
It makes Christians jittery about how solid our faith may be.
This insecurity, in turn, makes Christians double-down on being “relevant”, and adjusting the message of Christianity to suit the zeitgeist.
All of which makes the devil take a victory lap, and pop another cork of his Wine of Wickedness.
The power of social media, coupled with a theologically indiscriminate rise of an evangelical-media complex, has given us a generation of superstar celebrity church leaders.
But virtually none of them cut their teeth in the trenches of biblical and theological study. Or, if they did, they have not sunk unshakable hooks into the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
These leaders were good at speaking. They were good at firing up emotions. They were good at telling stories. They were good a “loving on” people. They were good at strumming a guitar. They were good at singing. They were good at “crafting experiences.” They were good at picking the right tattoo parlor to mark them with the emblems of coolness.
They mastered hipness.
They mastered leadership.
They mastered the art of drawing a crowd.
But they did not master the single most important skill that any person who would have the audacity to claim a role of leadership in the Church should have:
They did not master the art and science of in-depth biblical study with an emphasis on the deep things of God, both for themselves, and for their flocks.
[Josh Harris, now running a marketing firm, attended seminary after he resigned from ministry, acknowledging he did things backwards. Facts are here.]
They neglected the primacy of the inerrant, mighty Word of God, rightly interpreted and applied.
Instead, they gave us milk, not meat.
Actually, they didn’t even give us milk.
They gave us sugar. And it created a high.
And boy, did the church get addicted to that fast.
It’s the Word of God, not the masters of coolness, that gives us the truth we can bank our lives on.
It’s the Word of God, not signs and wonders, that gives us energy to thrive in this fallen world.
It’s the Word of God, not the song writer, that heals the broken places in our hearts.
It’s the Word of God, not the worship leader, that paints a picture of a God so glorious the worship just gushes out of us.
It’s the Word of God, not the charismatic speaker, that establishes truth and error.
It’s the Word of God, not the swoll preacher, where the church finds her muscle.
It’s the Word of God, not any current, fresh, so-called “word” of the Spirit, that is our authority for faith and life.
It’s the Word of God, not the recovery of any kind of prophetic vision, or of young leaders dreaming dreams, that teaches us to discern truth from error.
It’s the Word of God, not the false-promise of health and wealth, that leads us to riches and wholeness that money can’t buy.
It’s the Word of God, not the mega-hit singer, or stadium-filling worship band, that reveals where we find real life—sexually, relationally, morally, and in more ways than we can imagine.
It’s the Word of God, not the fads of the day, that is most relevant for both our daily lives and our eternal life.
All these substitutes for the Word of God are addictive — and they make us vulnerable.
Quit looking to fallible leaders and start looking to the Word of God.
Leaders come and go, but the Word of God endures forever.
What is wrong with us?
Are we that star-struck that a handful of celebrity-leaders should spout centuries-old critiques of Christianity as if they made them up themselves, and that we should actually take them seriously?
Oh, you’re having a struggle with where the church is at sexually? (or with Creation, or marriage, or money, or anything)
Let’s talk about it, but please don’t think you’re the first one to bring it up.
And don’t say the church isn’t talking about it, because we’ve been talking about it since the dawn of the Sexual Revolution, back in the ’60s.
And don’t think the Word of God is going to budge.
Every time a relatively young, theologically ignorant, church leader takes a swipe at Christianity, I cringe. “Why is no one talking about this?” they bleat, even as more seasoned pastors cross the nation talk about whatever “it” is every single week.
This doesn’t even count all the articles and blogs and books that have dissected all these “newly discovered” issues over and over again for centuries.
Prolific Christian author and blogger, Michael Brown has done a great job answering the [ludicrous] “No one ever talks about it” objection made by leaders whose superficiality is showing (specifically Marty Sampson).
John L. Cooper, of the band Skillet, has penned an amazing Facebook rant on this same topic, which every Christian would benefit from reading. With his rant, he has earned the spot of my favorite Christian music artist.
I love the church. I love the people of the church. I love Josh Harris. I love love Marty Sampson. I have a deep love and concern for anybody who struggles with their faith. I pray for them. We all should.
But a person’s struggle with faith says nothing more about the God and his truth than a plastic bag blowing the wind says anything about gravity.
God gave us leaders for a reason.
Paul says why:
“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).
God is on his throne.
His Word is eternal and his kingdom is unshakeable.
He will not let you go. If we are faithless, he remains faithful, and he will not deny himself.
No need to be tossed to and fro.
Right now I pray for Josh Harris, for Marty Sampson, and for every child of God struggling with their faith.
I ask that you would draw their hearts back to you.
I ask, Lord, by your Word and by your Spirit, restore them to the joy of their salvation.
Wherever they have believed a lie, show them your beautiful truth.
Wherever they have bowed to temptation, deliver them from the snare.
Wherever they have been proud against you, grant them humility and the grace that always comes with it.
I pray that you will soften our hearts wherever we resist you.
Strengthen our resolve wherever we feel weak.
And cause us to experience the victory and the peace and the joy that became ours the moment we became yours through Christ.
Restore your Church to the unchanging, Word of God, and to the faith delivered once for all to the saints.
Lord, revive your Church, I pray.
In Jesus’ name,
I’m posting a follow-up tomorrow if you want to check in.