Two high-profile Christian leaders recently went online to tell followers they are abandoning their Christian faith. The reaction on the internet was viral and has led to a conversation throughout the Church about what it really means to follow Christ.
Joshua Harris author of the best-selling 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, made headlines when he announced that he is no longer a Christian. Weeks later former Hillsong worship leader and songwriter Marty Sampson shocked the Christian community when he said he's struggling with his faith.
21-Year-Old Christian Celebrity
20 years ago, Harris' book on Christians and dating became a best seller and Harris became an instant Christian celebrity when he was only 21 years old. Harris served as lead pastor at a Maryland megachurch from 2004 to 2015.
He now renounces his earlier teachings on purity saying they "contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry." Harris has also apologized to the LGBT community for ways his "writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry." He recently took part in a gay pride festival in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Last month Harris revealed in an Instagram post that he has left Christianity altogether. "I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus," he wrote. "By all measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian."
"Losing My Faith and It Doesn't Bother Me"
Marty Sampson who wrote music for Australia's Hillsong ministry years ago also recently posted doubts about the Christian faith on issues such as hell and suffering saying, "I am genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn't bother me."
These online confessions quickly traveled the web leading to various reactions.
Truth Over Feelings
John Cooper, leader of the Christian rock band "Skillet" took to Facebook with his concerns, saying we must value truth over feelings. In an interview with CBN News, Cooper highlighted the importance of staying true to God's word.
"Everybody is so confused about what truth is, and the Church is supposed to be invading culture with the Kingdom of God. Instead, we are letting the culture invade the Church, and that's not the way we are supposed to do it. Jesus is the only thing in this world that will never change," Cooper said.
Some say what is playing out is a fulfillment of a prediction from the New Testament book of First Timothy, which says, "The Spirit clearly says that in the latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."
Part of the Problem: Lack of Biblical Discipleship
Dan Backens pastors New Life Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He told us, "I think this certainly fits into this falling away that the Bible predicts. But you know, there's been falling away throughout history and what's made this a little different is that because of social media platforms it's so easily talked about and shared."
Backens believes part of the problem is the lack of real Biblical discipleship.
"It's not as easy to disciple as it used to be. People don't like to be accountable. These songwriters, their lyrics are shaping the theology of a whole movement of young Christians. And it's not deep enough, in my view, to withstand the pressures of a secular age," he said.
Let Folks Mature Before Giving Them a Platform
Dr. Corne Bekker, a professor of theology at Regent University, one of the troubling things for him as an educator is that Joshua Harris rose quickly in the ministry, but never had any formal training. He was only 21 when he wrote his best-selling book. "We need to wait until folks mature a little bit before we put them on a platform," Bekker said.
Bekker adds that another troubling aspect of all this is the celebrity culture within Christianity. "It's deeply concerning to me, even when he makes this announcement. The way it was made it on Instagram with a mood picture of him contemplating a beautiful pool in nature."
Backens sees this as a wake-up call for the Church. "I think it's a call to intercession. We've got to pray for a spirit of revival in our churches and really go at this thing from our knees and crying out to God for this generation," he said.
Bekker encourages believers to hold on. "The glorious thing about the Christian faith is that it's not located in a human person. It's located in the faithfulness of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I would say to them, 'hold onto the Scriptures, hold onto Christ, your foundation is firm.'"