Reflections on Defections. I had intended to write this post last week after the announcement by Joshua Harris that he had left Christianity. Before I could even begin, the announcement that another high-profile Christian was walking away hit the news. Marty Sampson of Hillsong United announced on social media that he too was done with Christianity.
Since the initial announcement from Harris, social media has blown up with people posting their takes on what happened. Questions have been asked. How could this happen? Were there any warning signs? What does this mean for the so called “Purity Culture”?
Who Are We Talking About?
I must admit, if you had mentioned either of these two names to me in June, I would have had no idea who you were talking about. I was never engaged with the purity culture movement. I’ve heard of Hillsong United. To be honest, there name sounds more like an English football club than a worship band. I’m sure I’ve heard their music at some point but couldn’t tell you a song they performed.
I know many of my fellow Christians WERE familiar with both of these individuals, however. And for them, this comes as incredibly heartbreaking news. We’ve all had people we trusted let us down. But somehow, we fool ourselves into believing that our Christian leaders are somehow above this type of human failing. When we are confronted with the fact that Christian leaders are human too, it cuts us to the quick.
We’ll get into a deeper look at both of these stories at some point in the near future both in writing and on our podcast. I would just like to touch on a few brief similarities I see in these two men’s stories.
They Were Both Elevated To Positions Of Leadership At An Early Age
I was made an elder in my church at the time at a relatively young age, and as a fairly new Christian. I can tell you from experience that there are certain leadership positions that should be designated to older, wiser Christians. While we always want to include young people in the running of the Church, we shouldn’t be elevating them to positions they are not emotionally, spiritually or intellectually able to handle.
Our culture perpetuates a myth that younger people are automatically wiser than older people. Look at any current T.V show and see how the adults are portrayed vs. how the children are portrayed. Adults are always dufuses, and the children are wise and learned. This is in most cases completely backwards from reality.
Joshua Harris became the pastor of a mega Church with very little theological training. If your leader is on shaky ground theologically, then your entire congregation is as well.
They Were Both Faced With Questions They Couldn’t Answer
Both Harris and Sampson expressed that they had questions that the church wasn’t dealing with. We have heard this so many times from people that have left the faith that I am not even surprised anymore when I hear it.
One of the things that makes my skin crawl is when I hear Christians say they “Aren’t being feed” in their current church. Really? Does this mean if no one comes along and drops a Big Mac in your mouth you just won’t eat until you starve to death?
We as Christians have a responsibility to grow ourselves spiritually. In this day and age, it is not acceptable that we aren’t seeking out answers to our own questions. There are a multitude of online resources that do nothing but answer challenges to Christianity. Instead of letting questions linger, actively search for answers.
Christianity Stopped Working For Them
Both had lifestyles that relied on Christianity to maintain. Once Christianity became inconvenient for them, they walked away. Harris has been dealing with pushback to his book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” for years now. He even wound up renouncing the book a few years ago. If you hold to a Christian worldview, you ARE going to get pushback. It isn’t pleasant to be called names or be publicly attacked.
Sampson named lack of miracles as one of key reasons he was leaving. In other words, he wasn’t seeing the blessings he believed God should be bestowing on people. One has to wonder if Mr. Sampson has even read the Bible. While miracles did happen, the people of God still suffered. God does not promise us a life of comfort and ease. A brief look at what happened to the closest and most dedicated followers of Jesus should tell you that.
I’m sure as we learn more about these men’s stories, we will have more to discuss. I would ask you to join with me in prayer for Marty, Joshua and their families. All of them will have a rough road ahead. I pray that they get the answers they are seeking, and can be reunited with the One who knows and loves them best.
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