Recently, there has been a number of well-known Christian leaders who have very publicly abandoned their faith. Perhaps the most prominent was Joshua Harris, the well-known Christian author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In the span of a month he announced he was divorcing his wife, renounced his faith, and participated in a Pride parade. Joshua Harris isn’t the first influential Christian leader to renounce his faith. Charles Templeton partnered with Billy Graham on an early crusade, but later became an agnostic. Seeing leaders abandon their faith is scary (could I lose my faith too?) and demoralizing (how could such an important person abandon their faith?). So how do we guard ourselves? I believe there is a two-fold solution; we must put a preeminence on Christ to guard against being demoralized and second we must put a preeminence on the word of God to guard against losing our faith too. I will address the first now and the second in November.
The church has too often has made heroes out of influential leaders. The Corinthian church fell into this trap (I Cor. 1:11-13). Their hero worship led to divisions within the church according to their favorite apostle! One group then tried to trump the other groups by (falsely) claiming Christ was the leader of their faction. Church leaders are important. God gives spiritual leaders to help us become more like Christ (Eph. 4:11-16). Such leaders may be worthy of honor (I Tim. 5:17), but are still just servants of Christ (Matt. 20:26; Rom. 1:1). Leaders may influence us, inspire us, and encourage us, but they must never become our heroes (and that includes both pastor Joel and myself) because that is idolatry!
It is Christ who was tempted by Satan and yet lived a sinless life. It is Christ who every knee will one day bow before. It is Christ who died for our sins. It is Christ who is preparing a place for us. It is Christ who will return for us. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who is our real hero! Some church leaders may abandon their faith, but Christ, our true hero, will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
You may have never heard of Joshua Harris, but no doubt there are Christian leaders who have influenced and shaped you. Perhaps it’s John MacArthur, David Jeremiah, J.I. Packer, john Piper, Charles Swindoll, Joni Erickson Tada, Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Charles Stanly, Ken Ham or Al Mohler. Perhaps it’s someone else. Yet our hope is in the Lord – not on impactful church leaders. So, if a spiritual leader who has influenced you renounces their faith, remember, they are not the author and perfecter of your faith – Christ is.