Wake Up

Something is in the water. Well, not quite but if this continues, there might be. In late July, Joshua Harris, the guy who wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye said farewell to his faith and no longer considered himself a Christian and was separating from his wife. He was later spotted at a gay pride parade. Weeks after that announcement, Hillsong singer Marty Sampson brought his faith into question on Instagram. Days after posting, he attempted to dull the sting of his initial rant by saying that he has not “renounced Christianity” but anybody who read his initial post would think that he did. After those two, another Christian singer, John L. Cooper from the band Skillet had a few words to share. His post, however, is one that echoes what many people, believers especially, are feeling during this bizarre time of backpedaling. I’ve chopped up his words into lessons we can glean from the experience of others. The statement can be read in full at the bottom of this post.

Influence

We are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20-year-old worship singers as our source of truth.-John L. Cooper

Could it be that these faithful followers who are now saying ‘no’ to Jesus are being stripped away like the wheat referenced in scripture? Possibly but let’s remember too, that these influencers, these ‘faces of the faith’ are as flawed as the rest of us. This is certainly not the first unfavorable attention paid to the One who paid it all and it is lightyears from the worst.

What happened after the truth of the Bible got pulled into question is a bit odd at least, from a believer to believer perspective. Cooper wrote; “Shockingly still, they (the former followers of Jesus) want to influence others (for what purpose?) as they announce that they are leaving the faith.” What does that say about the church, meaning followers of Christ-not a building-if we treat the words of an entertainer with such respect? Shouldn’t honor like that go to God, not the man singing about Him? It’s easy to see why it should when things like this happen. We can’t put our faith in people, no matter how pretty or powerful they appear, they’re just people and people are flawed. Jesus however, does not change like shifting shadows. Cooper went on to point out the negative effects of misplaced adulation, writing “we now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word.” You can’t learn from what you don’t know. The people in this world unconcerned about Jesus and those that sing for Him don’t know much about idolatry and are not held to the same standard as those who do acknowledge God. As for those who do know who their worship belongs to, what does that mean for us?

Accountability

“I have many friends who disagree with my religion and that is 100% fine with me.”-John L. Cooper

With other Christians, other believers, those that know the Truth, Cooper wrote; “there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God.” A weak comparison of following God’s plan for your life, one that promises hope and a future, would be like working for a company. You’re told to familiarize yourself with the handbook because the handbook will be your lifeline and the policies written in it are for your protection. If another employee, one who follows instruction, sees a fellow worker self-destructing, they have the authority to call the handbook into question and remind them of the policies that are being willfully ignored. Accountability is a mission of love designed for success.

Seriously?

“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.” John said, elaborating, that these once faithful people are now “basically saying, “I’ve been living and preaching boldly for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it. Therefore, I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong, while I boldly and loudly lead people into my next truth.”

No embarrassment? No shame? No humility? What is this attitude? Nobody likes a hypocrite. John asked, “why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?”

The Attitude

The attitude of the author (Harris) and the singer (Sampson) is neither apologetic nor ashamed but more so, asking for a reward for their newfound take on “being real” whatever that means to these two men now. As if this ‘real’ approach covers a multitude of sins. “As if someone is courageous simply for telling the Internet every thought or dark place.”

That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier.”-John L. Cooper

What about the aftermath of this earthquake?

In his Instagram post, Marty Sampson asked one of many questions nonbelievers struggle with that followers of Christ have reached a resolution on. Cooper wrote out Sampson’s common question along with a well-known response; “how could a God of love send people to hell? No one talks about it.” As if he is the first person to ask this? Brother, you are not that unique. The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally. Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.”

Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic.-John L. Cooper

Don’t Trust People

“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 the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that is untrue of His character?”

Cooper continued, “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!)”

What Now?

“These influencers that disavow their faith always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’ words. It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature…Those are biblical principles taught by a prophet/Priest/King of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore, if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’ teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman.”

What is not absolute is subject to change. Why lead others down a broken path? “I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the Kingdom of God with the caveat that they themselves will be the king.” Cooper added, “we need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. 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. Now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly away from the truth.”

Is it any wonder that the lives of these people; influencers, teachers, preachers, etc. fall apart after?

“I implore you,” Cooper said, “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. Rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. He changes NOT.

The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever-Isaiah 40:8

In conclusion, I’d like to thank author Joshua Harris, singer Marty Sampson and those who forsook their faith before them. This is not the first of sorrow like this, it is certainly not the worst of it and it probably won’t be the last. Even if this is the start of a domino effect, all these people do is strengthen my belief and reaffirm how strongly I need to approach the pages in between the binding of my Bible. My respect to John L. Cooper, a true rockstar for Jesus, thank you for saying what needed to be said.

John L. Cooper full statement as posted on Instagram August 13th, 2019:

@johnlcooper @skilletmusic

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. I’ll state my conclusion, then I’ll state some rebuttals to statements I’ve read by some of them. Firstly, I never judge people outside of my faith. Even if they hate religion or Christianity. That is not my place and I have many friends who disagree with my religion and that is 100% fine with me. However, when it comes to people within my faith, there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God.

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 the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that is 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 believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people into 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?

My second thought is, why do people act like “being real” covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier. Have they considered the ramifications? As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying “I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.” So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.

Thirdly, there is a common thread running through these leaders/influencers that basically says that “no one else is talking about the REAL stuff.” This is just flatly false. I just read today in a renown worship leader’s statement, “How could a God of love send people to hell? No one talks about it.” As if he is the first person to ask this? Brother, you are not that unique. The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally. Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

And lastly, and most shocking imo, as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are biblical principles taught by a prophet/Priest/King of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman. A lunatic who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He also said that he was alive before Abraham, and to see him was to see God because he was one with God. So why then would a disavowed Christian leader promote that “generosity is good”? How would you know “what is good” without Jesus’s teachings? And will your ideas of what is “good” be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, popular opinion, etc and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute? I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the kingdom of God, but with the caveat that they themselves will be the King.

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 Gods 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. He changes NOT. “The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)

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