In recent weeks, two formerly influential advocates within the Christian community stirred controversy when they released statements renouncing their faith. In response, John L. Cooper, the long-time lead singer of the Christian rock band “Skillet,” wrote a lengthy Facebook post encouraging Christians not to bend to cultural influence, but instead to embrace Biblical truths.
Both former pastor Joshua Harris and former Hillsong singer-songwriter Marty Sampson recently wrote online that they are letting go of the Christian beliefs they had long promoted in favor of becoming more in tune with secular culture.
Harris, best known for his popular Christian book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” announced that he is not only walking away from his faith in Christ but also divorcing his wife and apologizing for all the ideals he once fought to protect.
“By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian,” he wrote on Instagram.
Similarly, Sampson wrote in a since-deleted post that faith is “not for me.”
“I am not in any more,” he said, according to Relevant Magazine. The Hillsong veteran added, “all I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like any other religion at this point.”
While many were surprised and upset by the announcements, Cooper read the troubling circumstances as just two examples of a growing and dangerous problem.
“Ok I’m saying it,” Cooper began in his Facebook post. “Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity?” the singer demanded.
“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.”
“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,” Cooper continued. “Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?”
“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?” he added.
I wrote an article on my FB and insta page today as a result of the sadness of disavowed christian leaders. https://t.co/JgMLohLdWO
— John Cooper (@johnlcooper) August 13, 2019
The musician, who has been a part of Skillet since 1996, rebuked Christian influencers for their part in leading others astray, calling for a higher level of accountability within the church. He urged Christians to turn to the Bible for truth rather than relying on “cool” believers as a source of sound theology.
“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!)”
“We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine.”
The singer-songwriter also alluded to Sampson’s statement, in which the former Hillsong member listed the harsh reality of hell as one of the reasons behind his leaving the church.
“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?” Cooper said, adding, “brother, you are not that unique.”
“Everybody talks about it. 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.”
As this sad trend of falling away reminds us, doubt is a very real part of the Christian walk.
When someone steps away from faith, we have to wonder: Why? And the scary thing is, often we don’t have to look as hard as we might like for the answer. Life is full of struggles, confusion, and injustice — all of which are enough to make even the strongest believer doubt from time to time.
However, we also know that the testing of our faith should not come as a surprise to us (1 Peter 4) and that often the moments we are most tempted to walk away from God are the moments he is most actively seeking to draw us closer to him.
It is not doubt, then, but how we respond to it that determines where God will lead us.
— LEDGER (@JenLedger) August 13, 2019
Cooper’s passionate call to action should remind and encourage followers of Jesus that the Scriptures are a powerful tool — not only in helping ourselves but in helping to build others up, as well. We have no greater resource in battling the voices of the world than the Word of God.
“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,” the Skillet singer continued, urging fellow believers to pursue firmly rooted faith and to remind one another of who God really is, and how much his Word can teach us.
“Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers,” he wrote. “I implore you, 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.”
“But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For 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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