A few days ago another prominent Christian came out as questioning and denying his faith, Marty Sampson of Hillsong in Australia. For some reason the ins and outs of his Instagram confession have been reverberating inside of me. My own questions arise: As the church, how have we missed it that we have not addressed the issues he struggled with: “Preachers fall”, “Miracles don’t happen”, “Bible contradictions”, “a loving God sending people to Hell”, “Judgemental Christians”, and “Just Believe it- never doubt” ?
I think most of these questions are rooted in a much deeper issue than one of an individuals “crisis of faith”. I believe they come from a disillusioned parishioner of a well oiled, performance machine/ business that we commonly call “the church”. It’s an oh too common scene in our modern church world. How can we get more people, build larger facilities, create a more exciting atmosphere, have the best programs, be the “church” that has a name everyone knows? In the meantime the ones within the machine bear up under the weight of trying to be producers and workers instead of what we were meant to be “the bride of Christ”; a “family”, instead of a multi level marketing scheme that we buy in on in hopes of creating some kind of profit in our own life- the benefits of association I guess…
My heart aches for this man that I don’t know. Because all the questions he listed are questions that many struggle with and instead of reaching out with loving answers, we point our fingers and doubt the sincerity of all the years he tried to be what he says now he is not. It is sad to me that the weight of the lies he has struggled to overcome have now outweighed the truth in his life and now he finds himself on the outside of the church and his relationship with God and he is “fine with that”.
The Newsboys released a song in 1996 called “Lost the Plot”. The lyrics are a haunting reminder of where we land as a church:
“Out among free-range sheep
While the big birds sharpen their claws.
For a time we stuck with the Shepherd
But You wouldn’t play Santa Claus
Let’s be blunt.
We’re a little distracted.
What do You want?
Once we could follow,
Now we cannot.
You would not fit our image,
So we lost the plot
Once we could hear You.
Now our senses are shot.
We’ve fogotten our first love.
We have lost the plot.”
Is the gospel really reduced to an hour/ hour and a half production on Sunday that we can come in, go through the motions, and then go home, having checked off the box that we went to church on our “What Christians Do List”?
“We’ve forgotten our first love. We have lost the plot.”
I’ve been looking at accounts of the early church in Acts quite a bit lately. Trying to sort out in my mind and heart what we, as the church, should be looking like. I guess a lot of the picture I had in my mind of what it should be has become what it should not. Like the people in the time of the Tower of Babel we’ve ignored the order to go out and influence the entire world by multiplying in it and spreading out. Instead we’re content to build ourselves a tower and make a name for ourselves. We don’t want to be scattered we want what’s comfortable and convenient. Once again, we’ve “lost the plot”.
I keep wondering if there was some place and time in Marty Sampson’s life where his “religion” was more about “relationship”. Not only between himself and God, but between sincere believers that lived as family and not a business. That maybe within that time there was a seed planted of what it is we were supposed to be by now. Not all the trappings of a performance, music label, organization, etc. But an organism a living, breathing body that exists for so much more than building a name for itself, but as the bride, to know her groom, Jesus, in the most intimate way possible; as a family to laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry; as Jesus body to glorify God, not ourselves, in all we do with humility and love.
God grant us the grace to return to our first love.