At the time of writing, we have only just heard the news that Marty Sampson, a popular singer/songwriter for Hillsong has given up on Christianity. This is just on the wake of hearing about Joshua Harris’s recent exodus from the faith as well.
When I hear news like this, my mind naturally goes toward how the church is going to react. We experience all sorts of different reactions—some more appropriate than others. But what I want to address, briefly, is the crushing feeling that this is the end. The church is failing.
Brothers and sisters, the church is much bigger than Harris and Sampson.
As sad as it is to say, people walk away from the Christian faith all the time. These are just two of them who happened to find popularity in the Christian scene. With Harris, he was a talented author who made it big through his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. With Sampson, he was a talented musician who made it big through Hillsong.
What’s difficult for us to swallow is that—at one time—it appeared like these people had it all together. As it turns out, the Christian “look” tells us much less about a person’s soul than we hoped it would. And when you find yourself suddenly thrown into popularity, there is strong pressure to play the part, even when you’re struggling on the inside.
When I assess the situation and the times we live in, it appears that the church is experiencing some growing pains. We have attached ourselves to big-name Christian “celebrities,” idealizing them inside our heads, and the church has oriented herself around these figures. But more of us are growing tired of throwing glitter on people.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having recognizable faces in the global church.
God calls each of us to different roles within his body, and some are more visible than others. But I want to be clear on this point as well: The church is and has always been those around the world who proclaim their faith in Jesus and gather together as a family to build one another up for the sake of His name. The church is the millions of nameless souls who have genuine love for Christ and have served him faithfully in all circumstances of life. This isn’t going away any time soon.
Perhaps what is most disheartening part of this is that Joshua and Marty denounced their faith in such a cavalier way, expressing feelings of freedom and resolve. Evidently, whatever they left must have been a very toxic aberration of Christianity. That’s not what Jesus offers us in life! It’s utterly foreign to the Gospel! So let’s not pray that they would return to their former faith, but that they would return to a better faith. A true faith. A faith grounded in knowledge, thought,84I say this intentionally because Marty Sampson complained that no one ever talks about the hard issues of Christianity. It’s simply not true, and I am perplexed that he would say this healthy communities, and genuine love for God.