Churches made of sand: Why people are leaving the faith
It’s only been a week or so since a prominent author and former mega church pastor announced he was leaving the faith. Suddenly, another highly public and popular Christian is leaving the faith, and the ripples of this will be seen for some time.
Marty Sampson was a key figure and songwriter and singer for Hillsong Worship and Hillsong United. His songs have been heard on Christian radio and sung in churches for years.
He announced his departure on social media, and his intellectual reasons for doing so are a reminder of just how little effort is put into sound theology in prosperity churches. He listed science, biblical contradictions, the doctrine of hell and science as some of the main reasons he is leaving his faith.
He states over and over that these are things people just don’t talk about in the church.
Wrong, they are things that THEY don’t talk about in his church.
You don’t have to look hard to realize that Christianity is defended in the highest of academic circles. From Oxford mathematicians to astrophysicists, great Christian thinkers and philosophers have been tackling the big issues for a long time.
However, if your entire faith is based upon feelings and emotions instead of solid truth then it’s easy to see how one or two hard questions could send you running for the hills.
In the book of 1 Kings, Elijah calls all of Israel together to make them choose their side. Evil rulers had dominated Israel for years, and their faith had been reduced to a tradition. They praised God when they felt like it, but they were more than willing to worship other gods as well.
Elijah makes them pick, “Are you going to worship the true God or Baal?” They suddenly become silent like statues, not realizing they couldn’t have it both ways. They don’t want to make a choice; they want to live with one foot on each side of the divide.
There is a truth about cracks in the ground that applies to cracks in our devotion. They only get bigger over time. Eventually you have to decide what side you are going to stand on.
Marty has spent much of his life attending Hillsong Church along with 100,000 people every week. It is THE mega church of Australia, and its theology is not biblical. Although its size is big, it’s a weak church that teaches a weak faith and makes weak followers.
As the cultural divide grows between Christ and the rest of the world, people are starting to fill the pressure to choose a side. This pressure is not necessarily bad; the world could use Christians who are not so lukewarm.
But it’s the younger generation that look up to this band that concerns me.
The church should be a place where big questions are asked. God is never afraid of our questions, and we shouldn’t be either.
We should encourage people to think deeper and longer about certain ideas. The world is asking these questions, and if we sit silent and preach a watered down gospel, they will just assume we have no answers.
If Marty would look hard at science then he would realize it points to God. If he would dive deep into Scripture, the supposed contradictions would melt away.
If your whole life has been skimming the surface of Scripture, and then you just skim the surface of the world, of course you are going to be confused. It’s understandable how one can be so dismayed after being fed spiritual junk food for so many years.
Although the prosperity churches will be among the first to fall, this will happen in your church as well. Pastors, we have to introduce apologetics and deeper theological discussions to our churches.
If this is beyond your comfort zone or calling, I and many others are willing and ready to help. Let us not get caught off guard, but instead begin to plant both our feet on God’s revelation and recognize the areas where we have tried to marry God and culture.