Evangelicals have recently witnessed the defection from their ranks of two high-profile leaders, author and mega-church pastor Joshua Harris and Hillsong’s worship leader and songwriter Marty Sampson.
After publicizing resigning from his church as pastor and divorcing his wife of 21 years, Harris later posted, “The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”
Marty Sampson shared this lament, “This is a soapbox moment so here I go … How many preachers fall? Many, No one talks about it. How many miracles happen? Not many, no one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe?’ No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet—they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.”
David French in an article for National Review titled, “Another Pop-culture Christian Loses His Faith,” shared some perspicacious points.
Throughout the history of the church we have witnessed those who “fall away in the face of the pressures of the world, rationalizing their departure with words that ring true to everyone except Christians who know what the church is really like.”
French continues, “As our culture changes, secularizes, and grows less tolerant of Christian orthodoxy, I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away; they’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth, but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.
“In my travels around the country, one thing has become crystal clear to me. Christians are not prepared for the social consequences of the profound cultural shifts, especially in more secular parts of the nation. They’re afraid to say what they believe, not because they face the kind of persecution that Christians face overseas but because they’re simply not prepared for any meaningful adverse consequences in their careers or with their peers.”
French also wrote, “No one knows if he possesses any virtue until it is tested … Are you faithful? I’d submit you don’t know until that faith is tested, either in dramatic moments of crisis or in the slow, steady buildup of worldly pressure and secular scorn … The church has its faults, yes, but the blame will lie less with a church that failed to instruct than with a person who didn’t, ultimately, have the courage to believe.”
We cannot say why Harris and Sampson abandoned their faith; what we can say is, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us,” 1 John 2:19.