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Church Leaders Confessing They Are No Longer Christians

Updated on August 30, 2019
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Margaret Minnicks, an ordained minister and Bible teacher, is used to giving advice about life.

Source

Two well-known former Christian leaders recently admitted they have been struggling with doubt. They also confessed they have abandoned their faith and gave up being a Christian. They posted their decision on social media to share with their many followers that they are no longer Christians.

Joshua Harris, a Former Church Pastor

Joshua Harris made headlines when he announced that he is no longer a Christian. He is the author of the best-selling 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye about Christians and dating. He was only 21 years old at the time when he advised millennials about a biblically-based Christian approach to dating and relationships.

In 2018, Harris disavowed what he had written in his book and discontinued its publication. He apologized to people who said that they had been hurt by his teachings. He admitted that what he said in the book "contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry."

Source

At the age of 30, Harris became pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was the lead pastor for 11 years from 2004 to 2015. In January 2015, he resigned from that role because he had a strong desire to broaden his views. In July 2019, he separated from his wife and abandoned his faith and leadership as a Christian.

Harris revealed in an Instagram post that he has left Christianity altogether. He didn't beat around the bush. He posted, "I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. By all measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian."

Source

Marty Sampson, a Former Worship Leader

Weeks after Harris posted that he is no longer a Christian, Australian worship leader Marty Sampson said he was struggling with his faith. The 40-year-old worship leader at the Hillsong Church in Sydney had been writing music for Australia's Hillsong ministry since 1998.

His confession shocked the Christian community when he said, "I am genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn't bother me." He said he has doubts about the Christian faith when it comes to the existence of hell and why a good God allows evil and suffering in the world. Sampson concluded that he still loves Christians, but he is no longer one of them.

Since he renounced Christianity, the musician has been posting memes scrutinizing Christianity on social media.

Michael Gungor, a musician who started his career making Christian music, admitted in 2014 that he no longer believed in the Bible and he left his evangelical Christian roots

Gungor complimented Sampson in a tweet by saying he is not alone with his doubts. In fact, he called Sampson's doubts “beautiful.” He indicated that Sampson is brave and authentic and has not hidden his doubts like so many others in the religious spotlight do.

Reactions from Church Leaders

The public confessions of Harris and Sampson quickly went viral online which led to various reactions from many church leaders.

John Cooper

John Cooper is the leader of the Christian rock band "Skillet." He says we must value truth over feelings. In an interview with CBN News, Cooper put emphasis on staying true to God's word. He added that the church should invade culture with the truth about God and all things relating to Him. Instead, church leaders are allowing the culture to invade the church.

Dan Backens

Dan Backens is the pastor of New Life Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He believes there is a lack of biblical discipleship in the church. He says the songs young Christians hear are shaping their theology, but it is not deep enough to maintain faith in this secular age.

Dr. Corne Bekker

Dr. Corne Bekker is a professor of theology at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He indicates that people should become mature in the Christian faith before they are allowed to be on a platform to influence others.

He was referring to Joshua Harris who wrote his book when he was only 21. Now he has discontinued publication because he realizes that some of the information he provided did not line up with the word of God.

Franklin Graham

Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, accused Harris and Sampson of pulling publicity stunts and trying to draw Christians away from the Bible’s teachings. Graham is concerned that they made their decision public so others can follow in their footsteps.

Ken Ham

Ken Ham is the biblical literalist best known for building a replica of Noah’s ark in Kentucky. Ham tweeted that Sampson’s doubts are a reminder to the church and parents that they need to teach apologetics to counter today’s attacks on God’s word.

Jonathan Martin

Jonathan Martin, an evangelical pastor from Oklahoma, defended Sampson and others on social media who are struggling with their faith. Martin tweeted that he is "tired of hearing people berating others for leaving a faith system that was handed to them that was already rotting and full of maggots.”

Prediction in Bible

Harris and Sampson are examples that prove what is said in 1 Timothy 4:1 that in the last days there will be a falling away. Even those who once professed to have a strong faith are struggling and willing to give up Christianity.

The fulfillment of 1 Timothy 4:1 is coming to pass. More and more people will give up their faith unless the church does more than it is doing in some areas. "The Spirit clearly says that in the latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."

My Views About This Situation

Having been in church most of my life, I believe some churches are not doing a good job helping people grow spiritually. Some church leaders are more concerned with secular things than spiritual things. They seem to focus more on programs than teaching people how to bear fruit. Spirituality is lacking among many Christians who sit in some churches Sunday after Sunday and still do not demonstrate any spiritual growth.

There is no accountability in some churches among leaders and laypeople. They do as they please and make up their own rules as they go along. Nothing seems to be sacred any longer among some Christians. The church's mission should be to become a church that Jesus is coming back for, one without a spot or wrinkle.

It should be a wakeup call for the church when its people have doubts, struggle with their faith and give up on Christianity.

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    • Cheryl E Preston profile image

      Cheryl E Preston 

      6 weeks ago from Roanoke

      I've had trials in my life and unanswered prayer that made me feel as if God had abandoned me but I've never lost faith in Christ as my Savior. I'm wondering if these people were truly saved because if they were why would they choose eternity in hell?

    • profile image

      RTalloni 

      7 weeks ago

      So sobering, yet warnings are sadly dismissed.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      7 weeks ago from Richmond, VA

      Hebrews 6:4-6 New International Version (NIV) reads:

      "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss, they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace."

    • LeslieAdrienne profile image

      Leslie A. Shields 

      7 weeks ago from Georgia

      Wolves in sheep's clothing, drawing the lambs to the slaughter....

    • profile image

      Samson Tungnung 

      7 weeks ago

      By denying their faith they themselves have proved that the word of God is true but they have failed to realize the truth themselves...now they're the ANTI-CHRISTS of which the Bible truely speaks out loud and clear...dear believers beware of the false spirit out there...hold fast to your faith in Jesus Christ no matter what happened or what will befall in the days to come...

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      7 weeks ago from Richmond, VA

      You are exactly right, MsDora. You taught your children well. Knowing "what" we believe and "why" we believe are so much better than putting our confidence in church leaders who might end up doubting what they believe

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing these incidents. They make my head spin. I can remember warning my children not to become so attached to the church or its leaders that they suffer disappointment when these things happen. We must know why we believe what we believe.

    • profile image

      RTalloni 

      7 weeks ago

      In spite of the mega-church movement there are still many churches intentionally preaching and teaching the word in a systematic manner on a weekly basis. Most people do not want to attend worship services or classes regularly or often, especially if entertainment and/or refreshments are not provided and so they mock people of the past who did as well as those who do today. 2 Timothy 4:3 tells us about such times: ...for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions...

      People calling themselves pastors but who do not know what the Word of God says to them about being in that leadership position are heaping judgement on their own heads. His many warnings to them are sobering and yet by their living they deny that God means what He says. Still, there are faithful pastors leading congregations of people who do desire to know and live out God's Word. They are not celebrities in the eyes of the world, but that is not their goal. They strive to live quiet lives according to God's Word, prayerfully serving Him His way with eternity in view.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      7 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Margaret and Jason, I want to share a great story about pastors. As a minister in my church, I gathered togather a bunch of the flock and contacted a mission to work downtown feeding the homeless. While we were working, our pastor pulled up, walked over, and said: "Men and women of God, what do you need me to do?" We said we forgot to mention it over the week to him, and he responded, "I know my flock." It just goes to what you were saying Jason, a good leader of the church knows what his flock is doing, and he is willing to help. I felt like an uncle had dropped in to assist us. Thanks again, Margaret.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      7 weeks ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Jason, for more thought-provoking comments. These, like the others, are spot on. I am saving all those comments for future articles.

    • Jason Capp profile image

      Jason Reid Capp 

      7 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Tim and Margaret

      Those observations echo loudly with what I said about megachurches. There is a strange hierarchical structure within the church, and although it is not written on the walls like it is in Catholicism, protestant pastors are mostly seen as the centerpiece of the church. In Jesus' time, although he was clearly the leader, he often challenged his disciples and strangers on the spot to do something. He didn't just simply teach, he pushed for action too.

      Many modern day pastors seem to be completely content in preparing for and sharing a message, and much of the congregation only wants them to do that. When other congregants try to seek council and advice from the pastor, they are often neglected or passed on to someone they don't necessarily want to talk to.

      Knowing all of this, it is very easy to understand that people would want to walk away. My mentor here in Japan was supposed to meet with me once a month (Which is not much, in my opinion) for training and discipleship, but the reality was that he met 2-3 times a year. Most of our time together was just catching up, so there was little-to-no learning whatsoever. The importance of discipleship is that it needs to be consistent. Jesus literally lived with his 12 for a couple years, spending every possible moment together. The modern day Christian approach is way too lax, in my opinion, and it could benefit greatly from more intentional time together regarding discipleship and training.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      7 weeks ago from Richmond, VA

      Tim, thanks for your valid comments about this delicate subject. I am not a pastor, but I have said the same thing your pastor said in reference to knowing those in the congregation. People have shared with me that their pastor doesn't know them after they have been a member of the church for several decades.

      I also know a pastor who has an unlisted telephone number because he doesn't want parishioners calling him. My own pastor said he doesn't do visitations because that is the job of his deacons.

      What are these church leaders thinking?

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      7 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Margaret, I read your article and all of the below comments with several thoughts in mind. First, one of the individuals mentioned he had doubts about the Christian faith. That was the time he needed spiritual food from his supporters and deeper study of the Bible. After all, we know Thomas had doubts that Our Lord was who he claimed.

      Second, my pastor has a theory: when the church gets too big that he can't talk to each of his congregation by the end of the week, providing them spiritual guidance and love In Christ name, then his church is too big.

      Megachurches seem to be about numbers of attendees while the number of souls they miss in helping is astronomical. (This may not be true of all megachurches, but I certainly felt out-of-place until I found a middle sized congregation, and a pastor who was always willing to talk about everything to deepen my understanding and develop my walk with Christ.)

      Thanks again. Great article.

    • Jason Capp profile image

      Jason Reid Capp 

      7 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Margaret, it is always a joy to read your well-thought-out articles and participate in wonderful discussions with you. This is such a heavy and difficult topic, and I think you, me, and RTalloni are just scratching the surface still. I hope to continue this discussion and move forward in constructive and positive ways. Thank you for being such a light! Lots of love from Tokyo.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      7 weeks ago from Richmond, VA

      R Talloni, WOW! Your comments are good additions to my article. You have explained the topic very well. Thanks for that! Hopefully, other readers will scroll down and read the comments you and Jason Reid Capp made.

      If I ever write a follow-up article, I will include some of those points because they are so true!

    • profile image

      RTalloni 

      7 weeks ago

      Your closing is heart-wrenchingly true. Ken Ham's reminder that apologetics are needed is spot on. John Cooper points out the problematic methodology of too many churches and Dan Backens is correct about the lack of biblical discipleship in churches. Dr. Bekker's advice on protecting the immature from the pitfalls of leadership roles is important.

      Asking when the last days began is a good way to begin searching God's Word for what they look like, putting us on the path toward more of His truth surrounding them. Matthew 24 gives insight into the beginnings of earth's "birth pangs", reminding us that just as the people mocking Noah's obedience were surprised, so will mockers of God's Word be at His coming. It ends with a special warning to those who call themselves Christian but will not obey His Word.

      In Luke 21 Jesus tells us what the last days will look like, that we should not be alarmed as others are, but trustingly look to Him. It is another warning to believers to guard their hearts as they look for His return, calling us to heed the whole counsel of His Word. Acts 2 tells us that God's Word is far more than a love letter (though it is that) by reminding us of what the Old Testament has to say about "the last days".

      In 2 Timothy 3 we have more description, "For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power." As the unsaved wax worse and worse we desperately need to seek His help to be grounded in His Word.

      I am not familiar with the people listed here, but the telling statement "By all measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian" reflects a heart that was never walking in repentance, a heart and mind that was not complete so not equipped for what God calls His people to. "Learning but never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth" such a heart "opposes the truth", reminding me of something D.A. Carson wrote along the lines of how a good beginning does not guarantee a good ending. It is sad that with all his knowledge Harris is a man filled with himself, his own desires, not God's.

      Called to persevere even as signs of the times send those who worship the created rather than the Creator spiral into panic, believers need to encourage each other in God's Word. As believers see the truths of His warnings play out in those professing to follow Christ but who turn away they better understand the need of His people is to prayerfully study His Word. God's help in making His Word relevant to believers' lives is promised. It is a burden He placed upon Himself and He will not fail His people. His promises are as true as His warnings.

      Defining what a Christian is helps us understand what a Christian is not. It is a continual surprise to hear people who deny the deity of Jesus the Christ and the authority of His Word call themselves Christians. Within churches these basics should only be the beginning. The truths layered within His Word are intended to take Christians into a vibrant relationship that goes far beyond receiving His love at its surface. He gives us His Word to help us always strive to walk in humble repentance over sin and self before Him, in His victory and power by His grace.

      In Jesus the Christ alone we are delivered from the sad effort of working to try to be good enough to effect our own salvation, delivered from the deceptive pride of life. We are called to the opposite of celebrity status. Believers are called to magnify the Lord in word and deed. Proverbs tells us that the path of the righteous grows brighter and brighter. By seeking God's help to be more than just hearers of His Word we can apply His truths first to our own lives, then be equipped to teach others what we have learned.

      True believers will have bright growth, not picking and choosing passages from His Word for their own purposes, but embracing His entire counsel, including both promises and warnings. Believers need to pray for the body of Christ (His Church) as much as for the salvation of the lost. Thanks for a chance to look at God's Word with you.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      7 weeks ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Jason, for your comments. You brought out some very good points, and I agree with them. I especially like what you said about the Bible being "a love letter from God."

    • Jason Capp profile image

      Jason Reid Capp 

      7 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      There are a couple things to be aware of regarding this topic.

      1) Let's not be quick to label these days as "the last days". This prediction has been claimed time and time again for centuries. John in Revelation most likely referred to Nero as the anti-Christ (That is a topic of itself), and I think this mentality has never quite left the church since John penned those words. Every generation has claimed the current state as signs of the end times, and every generation has also pointed at certain figures as anti-Christs. But Jesus told us in Matthew 24, no one knows the day or the hour, not even Jesus himself. For this reason alone, I think we need to take these signs as a grain of salt and be aware, but let's not be quick to claim it is the end times.

      2) I think your views at the end touched on a very important point; many churches are not equipping new leaders to branch out and start their own churches. The mega church system depends too heavily on keeping as many people in the church as possible, including those who are gifted and equipped to lead. In many ways, there is a suppressing of skills and ability happening in the church under our noses, and for a lot of young people, it is growing more and more frustrating. I have personally faced this exact same problem with my organization, and it has made me want to walk away from Christianity more times than I can count (Notice the wording; I don't want to walk away from God or my faith, but from the establishment). I think more than ever, power has become a major desire among prominent Christian leaders, and the younger generations are just not interested in this.

      Personally, I think Christianity (As a religion) is in desperate need of a reset. There are just too many man-made traditions in the religion now, and we often veer away from the main topics of Jesus, love, forgiveness, and grace. We spend so much time debating the meaning of certain scripture, which I do not believe is a Kingdom value, and I think many branches of Christianity have turned things like the Bible into an idol (For many Christians, it is an answer book and not a love letter from God).

      Sorry for the long comment. This is quite the complicated topic, and I think there is a lot more to learn from this. What do you think?

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      7 weeks ago from Richmond, VA

      YES, Ryan, that's exactly what it says in 1Timothy 4:1.

    • Ryan Cornelius profile image

      Ryan Jarvis Cornelius 

      7 weeks ago from Hollywood Florida

      It's the last days. The bible says this will happen. Many will fall from the faith.

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