There have been a number of high profile cases of Christian leaders who have walked away from their faith in recent days. The latest is a songwriter and worship leader for Hillsong Church. The Christian world was already trying to figure out Joshua Harris and his departure from the faith. 

What can we say about these departures? Several observations.

First, it should be obvious that fame, platform and spiritual leadership are dangerous combinations that must be carefully stewarded. Ego is always the enemy of spiritual transformation and these platforms and fame fan the flames of ego constantly. Power does not just corrupt in the political arena. It can also corrupt our spirits, souls and motivations in the ministry arena. 

Even the audacity of some of the statements that have been publicly made by these individuals sound more like ego and pride than they do humility and brokenness. 

Second, it is clear that these individuals did not guard their hearts through a close intimate walk with Jesus. In John 15, Jesus makes it clear that we cannot maintain spiritual health without being connected to the vine (Jesus). People don't walk away from God when they are closely connected. If we one day wake up and no longer love Jesus or want to follow Him it has much to do with the neglect of our inner lives. Period!

This ought to be a cautionary tale for each of us. It is easy to neglect God even while doing ministry in His name. Marry ministry with fame and prominence and it becomes easier and easier to think it is about us rather than about Jesus. The only antidote to this is more personal time with Jesus, not less. More intentional humility not less. The more time we spend in God's presence the more we realize how broken and sinful we are. The more time we spend with those who stroke our egos the more distant we will become from Jesus and the more we will rely on ourselves.

As Solomon said in Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." 

Third, I suspect that there is another factor that plays a part in these cases. In many of our ministries and constructs of Christianity we have substituted a system, even a system of theology for a personal relationship with Jesus. There is for instance far more interest in many quarters over slicing and dicing fine points of theology than there is in helping people experience personal spiritual transformation through Jesus. 

If our faith is primarily a construct rather than a relationship the relationship will suffer. Does theology matter? Of course. But our theological construct will never substitute for a heart relationship with Jesus. It was never meant to. As branches we need to be organically connected with the vine. Our systems of Christianity do not fill the heart. Jesus does. Our building of mega churches and social status don't fill the heart. Jesus does.  To the extent that we focus on anything in Christianity more than we focus on our relationship with Jesus we run the risk of developing empty hearts. Jesus says this clearly in John 15. 

Fourth, it is hard to believe that these individuals were living in authentic community with other close Christ followers. Living in community makes for natural accountability. We can be around others but not transparent with others. We can say the right things while drifting from God in our hearts. 

Josh Harris's church was caught by surprise by his developments. That tells me that he was not living in real community or sharing his real thoughts. I suspect that he left the church not because he wanted to go on to higher education but because he was already leaving the faith and therefore needed to leave his ministry. There followed his announcement of his divorce, then his departure from the faith and then his immersion in Gay Pride day in Vancouver. It is hard to see any of this happening if he had been living in authentic community. In the least, those around him would not have been surprised. 

Christian leaders are vulnerable. All who call themselves Christ followers are vulnerable to focusing on the wrong things. That much is clear from recent events. I suspect these three issues were pieces of the sad result. 

What should our response be? Quite simply to stay connected to Jesus. Guard our hearts that are fickle, focus on Him, not on any construct or cause no matter how noble and choose to live in authentic community. 

See also,
Christian Rocker Posts Stunning Response to Recent Apostasy of Christian Leaders
TJ Addington has a passion to help individuals and organizations go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.

  • Aug 16, 2019
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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