Recently, two well-known Christians publicly renounced their faith: Joshua Harris, the author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Marty Sampson, the lead singer and songwriter for Hillsong. Both have had a huge impact on modern-day Christianity. Harris helped many Christians reconnect with a biblical view of marriage, dating, and sex. Sampson was instrumental in shaping modern-day Christian music.
But both recently told their large Instagram audiences that they are no longer Christians.
My first reaction was sadness. These men were so influential in my walk with the Lord. I’ve read Harris’ books, and I’ve listened to Sampson’s music. Their work has shaped my faith in Christ.
My next thought was, How could this happen? How could such influential leaders not just fall from grace but totally renounce their faith?
I don’t know exactly what’s going on with Harris and Sampson. It’s not that they gave some airtight argument for God’s nonexistence. They just seemed to say that they no longer like the God of the Bible.
In that way, Harris and Sampson continue to be leaders in culture. Today many young people are leaving Christianity, not because of some new evidence but because they don’t like God anymore.
So, what can we do? How might we begin to help those who are struggling with their faith?
Here are three things that could help us hold on to our faith in Christ.
1. Learn to enjoy and participate in the narrative of Scripture.
There’s a great debate around the first pages of Scripture. The devil has aimed all his arrows at Genesis chapters 1-3. He has led many to question the origins of the universe, the institution of marriage, and the reality of evil. Because these first three pages are under such attack, many miss out on the incredible story that God is writing through history and how we’re a part of this dramatic narrative.
We must rediscover the beauty of God’s story. Only Christianity says God created a good world with good people for a good purpose. Only Christianity accurately explains the origins of evil. Only Christianity has a victorious hero who completely rescues his people. Only Christianity gives hope for a better future through the resurrection of all things.
No other worldview even comes close to making sense of this world and our part in the story.
2. Discover the goodness of God.
In the past, the big debate was between empirical facts and spiritual ideas. So 30 years ago or so many Christians tried to prove the reality of God with evidence. But Harris and Sampson show that the discussion has changed. They are not so concerned with whether or not God exists. They are more concerned with if they can “like” the God of the Bible.
More often I hear people say, “Even if the God of the Bible does exist, I won’t follow him because I don’t agree with him.”
Therefore, instead of putting all our energy into proving God’s existence with evidence, I believe we must show the goodness of God. The most frequent description of God in the Bible is a compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. Somehow, we’ve let our society define God as a judgmental, quick-tempered dictator.
We must take control of the dialogue again and present the real God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, a God who willingly sacrificed himself for us.
3. Normalize doubt and difficult questions.
At the end of the book of Matthew, after Jesus rose from the dead, he met with his disciples to give them his final instructions. Matthew records that even after they saw the living Lord, “some doubted.” Matthew recognized that even the strongest of God’s people go through periods of doubt.
We need to recognize this as well, even prepare God’s people for their own dark night of the soul. When God’s people see that doubt can be part of the journey, they may not jump ship at the first sign of struggle.
I’m still grieving over the fact that many Christian leaders are wandering away from the faith they so strongly defended.
Lord, be with them!
Lord, be with us!
Lord, show us who you really are.
Lord, lead us to follow you no matter what.
Pastor Ben Sadler has served as a full-time pastor since 2010. He began his ministry at a Spanish-speaking congregation in Florida. From 2014 to 2019, he served at Goodview Trinity Church in Minnesota. Currently, he is at Victory of the Lamb in Wisconsin. He is married to Emily, and they have three children. Ben loves to spend time with his family, ride his road bike, read, write, and preach.
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