The recent rash of high profile Christians deconstructing their faith and/or walking away entirely is heartbreaking to watch. Whether a worship leader at a mega church, a career CCM singer songwriter, an author who had a profound impact on impressionable minds, or the lead singer of a band aimed at the “safe for the whole family” crowd; it’s unsettling to watch this trend seemingly accelerate. Chances are it’s been happening for years but the more recent rise of social media platforms has turned up the volume and wider awareness on issues once unnoticed and muted. Some of that is due to the modern oxymoron of “Christian celebrity.” Regardless, I’ve been following these “defections” with a high level of interest, empathy, anger, and sadness. As I examine the words of those walking away I see a few common threads I’d like to point out then address.

I’m interested because many of these artists have been, and continue to be important to me as part of coming into my own in adulthood, faith, and life. They’ve provided the soundtrack for so many of my life’s biggest moments. I have empathy for many of their stories because some of the same painful questions they are asking and grasping for answers to, I have also been processing/processed. Though far from being alone and isolated, I am grateful for a rooted community to do this in. I’m angry and sad because I see and hear other supposed brothers & sisters in Christ ripping them to shreds and putting words in their mouths. These keyboard warriors are mocking, defaming, name calling, and passing judgment with a gavel they have not been given on these fellow image bearers of Christ. And for what? Clicks, likes, attention, and monetary gain?! A reminder to us all, “you don’t always have to have an opinion on everything/everyone” and “you don’t always have to press send.” I need this reminder often.

We are shooting our wounded and it has to stop. We must take off our whistles, lay down our guns in favor of disciplined prayer and loving/continual engagement. I’m also sad for those who are deconstructing. It’s a misunderstood word by a vast majority and it’s a buzzword that I wish would die. Most often, a person claiming “deconstruction” is doing a biblical thing and sifting the good and the bad of religion. It’s the broken systems and bad theology that needs to go, and in an attempt to grow closer to Jesus (the heart of the Father in the flesh) much of it should be left behind on the dung heap. It’s not Jesus that so many are trying to leave behind, but toxic followers who have misapplied scripture and don’t reflect the heart of God in their lifestyle. It is lunacy to think we’ll ever win back those hurt by the church, confused by their own deceitful hearts (aren’t we all?) and those acting out by passing judgement and slinging arrows.

We are all to be continually working out our fear and salvation with trembling. (Phil. 2:12) there are manmade traditions, misreading/misinterpretations of the Bible, and many things that are straw which need to be burned away. So rather than the friendly fire of shooting our wounded, can we allow our loving Father to hold our faith, traditions, interpretations, and theology in His friendly fire to burn away what isn’t Kingdom?

A few more things if you’re still with me…

1. We have an idolatry problem.

Why do we keep aiming our cup at the wrong people?

The entertainment industry is made up of people just like you and me from all walks of life, levels of education, experience, successes and failures. The trouble with Christian music from its very inception was it unfairly blurred the lines of entertainment and discipleship. It may be a point of contention but no less true that Christianity and celebrity are not a compatible match made in Heaven, Christian Mingle or anywhere else for that matter. The common denominator comes from both angles.

First, we see performers deriving their identify from the applause of an audience. It would seem this only becomes more of a temptation the longer you stay in the game. How difficult would it be to remain grounded when you’re surrounded by people telling you how awesome you are every night? Without the utmost care, our artists can aim their affirmation cup more and more at the audience and become addicted to the performance high.

From an audience standpoint we aim our identify in our fandom of the artists that we think we know, when in reality we only know a snapshot of their life captured in song or album. We only set ourselves up for disappointment when we unfairly elevate these men and women as idols of worship instead of normal people like you and I. We aim our identify cup at other sinful humans who are invariably going to let us down, just as we too often fail to live up to our Father’s name.

2. Our entertainment diet is unbalanced and therefore unhealthy.

How’s your diet?

John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. I concur, and humbly ask then who is leading you? Our entertainment choices over time will shape our behaviors. What we allow to play on the theatre of our mind will begin the shape the pattern of our heart. Scripture is very clear that we are to guard our heart from from it flow all the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23) and that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Consequentially the words we speak are not neutral but either bring life or death (Proverbs 18:21).

The media we consume is not neutral in its worldviews or agendas either. With repeated viewing we become like the cliff side slowly eroding away over time. So too our standards and our sensitivity to sin and worldly philosophies. What we allow to play on the theatre of our minds will begin to shape the patterns of our hearts and we must no longer “conform to the patterns of the world but be (being) transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

3. Our faith muscles are underdeveloped and weak.

Where are you excercising your faith muscles?

A local body of believers is key, but I believe we are also seeing a result of an incomplete and shallow faith if even that is the totality if your faith life. The discipline of personal intimacy with God is an essential starting point…we become like who we hang out with most right? Our public displays of affection must stem from a personal and private connection or it is false, a show…hypocrisy. It’s the kind of “noisy” displays that God hates. He longs to see justice flow not just lip service. And not just social Justice for the sake of looking good or feeling better about ourselves but a kind of just living that could only be motivated and sustained from our total dependence on His strength in our weakness. God earnestly desires that good would flow from our lives, and it is this type of sacrificial living that makes the world curious about the God we claim to serve. He is the light of the world, but so are we! We are His hands and His feet, the salt and light, sent ones to produce light, flavor, and preservation in the world. Our faith should bit be shaken to the core when a favorite musician professes doubt. Doubt is not the enemy of faith, but an essential part of faith. The Bible is full of people who doubted were still useful in the hands of God.

For the artist on the road who isn’t connected to a body of Christ regularly, the individual relationship with Jesus is crucial and so are our prayer and financial support. I would love nothing more than churches to adopt touring artists and be a support to them as they travel and are faced with the decision to believe their own press (one way or the other) or begin to succumb to the patterns of the world. They need us, and we need them. We should think of them as missionaries, sent to spread the Good News and fiercely cover them in prayer, encouragement, and financial support. And when an artist begins to struggle or show signs of being human, instead of being disappointed, fearful, or angry, remember they are human and love them the way that Christ as loved (and still loves) each one of us.

4. We must be accountable.

Who have we given the right to call out our areas of unbelief?

First and foremost the spirit of God dwelling in us and if we listen will call us to account. Right and wrong is written on our hearts and any grey area can be discerned through the Spirit as well. Artists, and everyone else must submit to God first and secondly to the wise counsel of other brothers and sisters in the faith. We all must have people in our lives that have inside access to call us out in the areas of unbelief in our lives. This isn’t a comfortable thing but a necessary thing. It’s also quite lacking in American churches.

Many American Christians are discipled by their preferred media. Our thinking about life, politics, is either filtered through the Bible or the Bible is filtered through our consumed media. That’s scary in an age of knee-jerk 24/7 media/talking heads who care more about ratings and job security that actually being a solution to the worlds problems. Are we holding ourselves accountable to be solution-oriented (Thomas Edison, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr.), rather than problem-oriented? (Eeyore, Chicken Little, Debbie Downer)

That, and there’s a real temptation to justify sin, while taking an angry posture at God when He doesn’t conform to our human expectations. Basically, we throw a temper tantrum when God doesn’t behave how we want him to, or allow us unhindered to behave however we choose. This must be held to account, but I would think twice about being the person to publicly call out any artist I don’t have prior relationship with. I will draw no one back to Christ with an angry rant, shaming, or name calling.

What then?

What’s our responsibility? Contemplate and allow Christ to cleanse you. Pray for those you are “concerned” about. Write down your concerns in a journal or notebook. Keep praying for them. If you happen to know any of these people in person, keep engaging them in friendship. Each of us have different journeys, but commit to being a part of theirs for the long haul.

What you focus on grows, what you think about expands…so instead of focusing on your disappointment, fear, doubt, or anger…focus on the face of Christ and remember, his fire is a loving and friendly fire. The hands of the Father never leave us despite doubt, rebellion, and recklessness. He’s always waiting for those who turn their backs on Him and to turn back home. I’ll end with some lyrical encouragement for us all who claim a relationship with Christ or who just aren’t sure at the moment…may it remind us of His enduring faithfulness and our mission with every breath on this earth.

Cause I havn’t come for only you
But for My people to pursue
You can not care for Me with no regard for her
If you love Me, you will love the church

– The Church by Derek Webb

Other posts you might enjoy: Christianity: I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means, The 90’s, Carpet Walls, & The Illusion of Nostalgia