‘What in God’s name is happening in Christianity?’

This post was published on Thursday 15 August 2019.

I came across this post by John Cooper (lead singer of Skillet) this morning. It is written in response to a number of high-profile ‘influencer’ (i.e. pop culture famous) Christians announcing that they are losing their faith.

I’m less interested in what Marty Sampson said (see below) - sad though it is when someone loses their faith (if that is what has happened - than John Cooper’s analysis of modern Christian culture:

My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): 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!) I’ve been saying for 20 years (and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. I’m not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character? ...

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. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.

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? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting ‘now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!’ Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers...I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods 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)

This is spot on with conversations we are having at our church right now about how and what songs we choose to sing. Recently I’ve not been hugely impressed with most contemporary ‘worship’ music - especially the Bethel / Hillsong style stuff. Some of the tunes are great, but the words seem empty.

However, I had been content for them to be sung in our church - until Reckless Love became so popular. We sing it, but as ‘Perfect Love’ because God is not (and could never be) reckless - unless of course you change the definition of the word.

The two key truths John Cooper identifies are:

  1. ‘We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word’
  2. And therefore... ‘we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth’

The truth we have is Jesus - he is ‘the truth’ - and the witness to that truth, the way we know that truth, is through Scripture. Therefore, for teaching to be true it must (1) direct people to Jesus, and (2) be faithful to Scripture, not twisting it to suit my or modern culture’s sensibilities.

On the one hand, as a church leader I don’t want to be prescriptive about what we sing in church; yet on the other, if singing is the primary way people learn about who God is, then what we sing should be guarded as much as what is said in the sermon. Plus, I am the one person in the church who has had years of theological training, and it is my role / position / responsibility to keep calling the church family back in holiness and faithfulness to God’s Word.

Some interesting conversations are ahead...

The latest famous Christian to renounce their faith, it seems, is Marty Sampson (of Hillsong United fame); he posted (though the original Instagram post is now deleted),

I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. ... [Christianity is] just another religion.