Evangelical Christianity has reeled as shock wave after shock wave of high profile Christians declare they are abandoning their faith.
And others who aren’t prepared to say that they are walking away, yet their beliefs defy the Word of God.
Former pastors now proclaim themselves as atheists, leaving us to wonder how it is possible to deny the same God whose Word you once preach from the pulpit.
The church hadn’t yet recovered from the shock of Joshua Harris’ announcement late last month when former Hillsong songwriter Marty Samson took to Instagram in a now-deleted announcement that he is losing his faith.
There is one thing of which we can be 100% certain – this did not happen overnight.
A dive into who Joshua Harris follows on Instagram and Twitter, as well as things he’s shared on social media, show that his transformation didn’t just happen.
It’s been a slow progression of away from the things he once taught.
And I suppose the same could be said for many of the others who once seemed to strong followers of Jesus Christ, but are now abandoning their beliefs…or at the very least biblical values.
Or were they as strong as they seemed?
4 Reasons Christians Lose Their Faith
Without a doubt, God is sifting His church.
And those who have either secretly denied the truth and principles of God’s Word, who have tuned into the voices of this culture, or who have embraced deception are being exposed…..and are exposing themselves.
Jesus addressed this in two separate parables that we find the Gospels; and these parables explain exactly what we’re seeing today in Evangelical Christianity.
They illustrate for us clearly how a person who once called themselves a Christ-follower, and possibly even preached the gospel through one medium or another, can suddenly utterly abandon their faith.
And embrace atheism.
The seed of the gospel didn’t fall on good soil – Jesus’ parable of the sower.
1. They didn’t really have faith to begin with
It is very possible that some of these who have lost their faith never had faith to begin with; but rather played the part of a Christian while secretly doubting all along that the God of the Bible is the only real, true God.
Doubting the authenticity of the Bible.
Doubting the exclusivity of Christianity.
Suddenly now, they have come face-to-face with the fact that they have been playing a role they don’t at all believe in and are coming clean with their charade.
2. The roots of their faith were too shallow
The roots of faith in our heart will only be as deep as we allow the Holy Spirit to weed out of our life those things that are displeasing to Him.
This is why we must have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us through the Word of God.
Even when it doesn’t agree with the philosophies we’ve been taught all our lives; and it is entirely possible that the Bible will go head-to-head with these philosophies.
For the past 100 years, we’ve been educated in new-age, pagan, and anti-Christ philosophies of feminism, materialism, new-age doctrine, humanism, and alternate sexual orientation.
If we’ve not allowed the Holy Spirit to dig out the rocky soil of our heart, filled with the philosophies of man, our roots will be too shallow and our faith will wither and die under the heat of disillusionment as we read about a God of the Bible who doesn’t align with what we originally envisioned Him to be.
3. Their faith was strangled by legalism
At one time or another, every Christian will face a crisis of faith.
It is at this very moment that it will be proved whether or not the faith they’ve claimed is authentic or a house of cards.
But, even if their faith is a house of cards doesn’t mean that they will lose their faith.
Many who have a house-of-cards faith discover true faith in this crisis and it becomes a defining moment for them when they truly met God and were changed for life.
But it seems that for others this is not the case.
For others, their faith is choked and strangled by the distraction of trying so hard to be holy enough.
Once you buy into the lie that you can earn God’s favor: His love, His acceptance, His thumbs up, His “Well done good and faithful servant” – you’ve entered the hamster-wheel of legalism, from which there is no rest.
There is no end to the “good deeds” you have to do to keep up.
Because there will always be another Christian to one-up you in the “holy enough” department, just as there will always be that day when you simply couldn’t out-deed your bad attitude or sharp tongue in a moment of weakness.
At some point, the hamster wheel of being “holy enough” will exhaust you until the fool’s gold of freedom from this so-called faith offers a peace you’ve never had.
The problem is, this peace is a trap in and of itself, because peace apart from God isn’t lasting peace.
4. They worshiped a false god, not the God of the Bible
They were never wheat at all, but tares in the church – Jesus parable of the wheat and the tares.
This is a common problem in the church, particularly today and particularly in mega churches where the pastor is more concerned about keeping people than preaching a whole gospel.
Instead being taught that the Bible says that we are born sinners, that without Christ we are nothing and doomed to hell, and that even our best deeds are deserving of a dung-heap…
We hear about how we can create our best life now.
We hear about how “enough” we are and how deserving we are of good things.
We are pumped up with sermons about self-love and self-care.
We hear all about God’s love, but never about God’s judgment.
We learned all about one side of God’s character without it ever being balanced out by the other side, and now we find an entire generation of young people who are growing disillusioned as they discover a God in the Bible that doesn’t at all align with the god they have formed in their imagination.
The god of their imagination is not God.
That is how Marty Samson was able to say in his now-deleted Instagram post:
How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it… Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God…All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point.
It is why Joshua Harris was able to apologize to the LGBTQ community and proudly march in the Vancouver Pride Parade last week.
These men’s imagination of god didn’t align with the God of Bible, and now they’re ready to walk away entirely.
So, how can we maintain our faith in this season of sifting?
1. Develop a strong discipline of staying in the Word and prayer.
John 1:1 says that in the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.
If we want to know God, we must know His Word – they are one and the same!
2. Study your Bible, memorize it, and meditate on it.
Don’t just learn about the Bible and pump your brain with information, but let the Bible sink deep into your heart. You do this by eager studying of His Word, and meditating on it so it changes your spiritual DNA!
3. Surround yourself with strong believers who will hold you accountable
Find a strong local church with a pastor who isn’t afraid to preach the truth of God’s Word, who doesn’t just “tickle ears”, or preach what the congregation wants to hear.
And then within that church find a community of sisters whom you can trust to hold you accountable in your walk with the Lord.
4. Regularly cry out for a personal experience with Jesus
I call these “milestones”.
We must have regular encounters with Jesus; experiences when we know that we met with Him face to face and our life was radically changed in that moment.
We must give Him time to reach past our intellect, past our hard-shell, and into our heart where He touches us deeply and emotionally.
Without these experiences, we will grow dry, religious, and Pharisaical.
Knowledge of God’s Word must be balanced with regular personal experiences.
It seems to me that potentially Joshua Harris had good knowledge of God’s Word without a personal experience with Jesus, while Marty Samson had experience without knowledge of God’s Word.
The two go hand in hand – experience moves knowledge from our head to our heart, while knowledge of God’s Word makes sure our experiences align with biblical truth.
5. Have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the church
We must allow the Holy Spirit to tear down the altars and “high places” in our hearts built to the gods of this culture so that we are able to read the Bible without reservation, without rationalization, and without explaining away passages – chalking them up to “cultural norms of the day” or “biases of man that muddied up God’s Word.”
The Bible we have today is as much God’s Word as it ever was.
If God is truly Almighty, He is mighty enough to protect His Word from being “muddied” and from cultural norms of millennia past from distorting it’s message.
Those are straw-man arguments that will not stand in the heat of God’s refining fire!
If we are to keep our faith, we must embrace all of God’s Word!
- Even the parts where it calls homosexuality an abomination
- Even the parts that call fornication a serious sin
- Even the parts that state that women should be under the authority of men
- Even the parts that teach that women should not have authority over men
All of it!
Dear friends, my heart is grieved – deeply grieved – by what I see happening in our culture. I am grieved that we have an entire generation that has never witnessed a genuine revival (I am not referring to a fringe-y, out of balance, highly televised and sensationalized event referred to as a revival, but a genuine move of God that changes a culture and advances God’s kingdom).
I am very concerned that what is being reported by high profile “exvangelicals” and “deconversioned” former leaders in the body will only spread among young people who are questioning their already shaky faith.
It is time to pray for God’s remnant to rise up in the strength and mighty of the Holy Spirit to speak the truth as a beacon of light in the fog of this confused culture!