Best-selling Christian authors. Platinum-record worship leaders. Mega-church pastors. In 2019, they all kissed Christianity good-bye as they virally denounced the faith they once followed. These announcements sent shockwaves through the Christian community: Where did they go wrong? How could they say such things? And what should I do with my own doubts?
As our naïve trust in our faith-leaders shatters at our feet, we can be left discouraged, confused, saddened—and wondering which way is up. In these moments, we look to God for hope and clarity.
If we are to truly follow Christ and serve as His ambassadors, we must disentangle ourselves from society's definitions of humility, love, and righteousness.
MISTAKING PRIDE FOR HUMILITY
Many of these former champions of the faith have undergone what is known as deconversion, the systematic letting-go of once deeply held beliefs. They have chosen to reject views that once defined their entire lives. To believers living in the light of Christ, what they have done seems unthinkable. But, steeped in darkness, the world rejoices that these leaders have finally "humbled themselves" and admitted that Christianity does not have the market cornered on love or Truth.
It's true that God calls all believers to walk in humility. After all, we are human beings with both a limited perspective and a sinful nature with which we still war. We must continually test whether or not our thoughts and actions align with God's Word. But, in Truth, rejecting the clear teachings of Scripture is the same pride that reared its head in the Garden of Eden. The world applauds the "virtue" of these former Christians' change of heart—whether about the exclusivity of Christ or the sinfulness of homosexuality—deeming their pluralistic and inclusive statements loving and righteous. But when people call God wrong or the Scriptures mistaken, do not be deceived—this is not humility, but pride. For, this is simply the created saying to the Creator, the clay saying to the Potter, "I know better."
Our Creator has shown us how He wants us to live through His Word. He has laid out the boundary lines necessary for human flourishing—and they are good. Thus, Christians must reject the notion that our cultural ideas are greater than the wisdom of God. He alone has the authority to determine right and wrong—and He is infinitely more loving, compassionate, and just than we are.
If we are to truly follow Christ and serve as His ambassadors, we must disentangle ourselves from society’s definitions of humility, love, and righteousness, choosing rather the enduring and unchanging Truth of Scripture. As we immerse ourselves in God’s Word and reject self-rule, His Holy Spirit will renew our minds so that we approach God humbly as we ought, submitting to His will even when it is awkward or inconvenient—even when we have doubts. Today, it is crucial to take this (humble!) stand, for many in our culture call evil good and then blast it across social media as the embodiment of love. But exaltation of self only brings destruction. People need to see Christians trust in the incomparable love of God. They need to see that there is no greater joy than to trust and obey the living God.
DO NOT BE SURPRISED
Jesus warned us that, in the last days, many will fall away, false prophets will arise, lawlessness will increase, and the love of many will grow cold (see Matthew 24:10-12). Therefore, we should not be surprised when another church leader falls. Satan has these leaders in his crosshairs, and he is dead-set on destroying the church through whatever means necessary. He knows that attacking the shepherds will scatter the sheep.
Thank God, our faith need not rise or fall based on the faith of our Christian leaders. Another scandal, another political debauch, is just a sign that there yet remains a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Therefore, may we not be moved when our leaders succumb to temptation or are swayed by popular opinion. Let us hold fast to the infallible Word of God, praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ and trusting that God will carry our faith to completion as our eyes are staid on Him.
PERSEVERE BY FAITH
When fellow believers lose heart, God calls us to take courage in this present darkness. We must shore up our faith by together fighting the good fight as we look to the only leader perfectly worthy of our trust: the Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of Dr. Michael Youssef's mentor, "If you ever want to stumble and fall, keep your eyes on church leaders. But if you keep your eyes on Jesus, you will never stumble."
However, if you find yourself self-righteously assured of your own doctrine, enjoying the fall of wayward religious leaders—watch out. If you find yourself thinking, "Thank God I am not like those people,"—reflect and repent (see Luke 18:9-14). No matter who we are, we must take the fall of another Christian leader as an incredible warning. We are more like our fallen leaders than we care to admit—and we are not immune to the influence of culture.
People are imperfect, Christian leaders fall short, but Jesus lived perfectly in our stead. So take heart, friend of God. No matter what happens tomorrow, look to Jesus. You will never be put to shame if you put your trust in Him. In Him alone is perfect love, complete compassion, ultimate Truth, absolute justice, incomprehensible mercy, and unending grace. May He lead you safely home into His everlasting arms.