My Thoughts on Hillsong Marty Sampson’s Defection


by Rob Lundberg

I have been hesitant to post anything about Marty Sampson’s teeter tottering on the crisis of faith/defection from Christianity until he made a full blown decision. That decision apparently came this past Friday with his announcement that he has officially made a decision to leave the Christian faith.

Am I one of these blood thirsty individuals that was waiting for another person to renounce whatever faith they had in order to become a skeptic?  Can I put it this way:  May it never be, and absolutely not!

Whether it was Marty or Josh Harris, kissing Christianity goodbye, I believe this is points to a sad commentary on the condition of the American Church.  Having the public figure statuses that Harris and Sampson have had in their concentric circles of concern, I am concerned about the impact that these two will have in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead.

So with the defection of these two, and in particular Marty Sampson, allow me to speak into four major disconcerting issues that I see in this public defection.

First, I believe Sampson’s and Harris’ defections are showing a problem in the American church, where if it is not addressed, and if the pastors continue to ignore these issues, we will see a greater fallout from the churches in this nation.

The statistics are telling, where we have 66-88% of our young people leaving the faith during the first year out of the home and in college or university.  We have people in our pews, Sunday after Sunday, wondering if the pastor in the pulpit is actually believing the Bible that they are preaching and the message they are proclaiming.

Why is this?  I believe that there is a famine in the church for good biblical hermeneutics from the pulpits and in our church music. I have a series of blog posts coming that will show that many of the songs that are being played on our Christian radio stations by  Hillsong, Elevation and Bethel music are fueling unbiblical views and conveying  an anti-intellectualism and moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD) in our churches that the pastors and the church at large are blinded to or afraid to address in fear of losing people.

Second, I believe Sampson’s excuses for defecting from the faith were lazy and deceitful. Early in his crisis of faith announcing he was having a soapbox moment saying,

. . .  here I go … How many preachers fall? Many. (How come we don’t hear about them Marty?)  No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it.  (The reason is if miracles happened all the time they would NOT be miracles Why is the Bible full of contradictions? (Where are they?) No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet—they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. (Sounds like a judgmental statement Marty) But it’s not for me. . . .Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. (Science does not say anything scientists do with their philosophical underpinnings encouched in those deductions) Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real.  (Bold printed interjections are mine where the scope allows)

Posing these questions for him, Marty has really opened up subject matter that we apologists have been striving to share for some time with the churches through workshops and equipping seminars.[1] My friends, just because Marty thinks that no one is speaking into these questions, does not mean that that is true! In fact, it is totally false.  There are plenty of blogs, books, DVD’s, Youtube videos, and other resources which are available to answer Marty’s and those asking those same questions.

Thirdly, with all the rhetoric of Marty’s statements, I see a dangerous platform being created from two angles. The first is a dangerous platform in the church.

Let me speak to the first one. I am not sure how much soul searching will be going on after Sampson’s announcing his departure from the Christian faith. It is really certain, that his announcing his departure has reached many a Christian in the realm of the social media. It has also reached others who paid tribute to the impact he has had on their faith. Are people saved in the movements of Hillsong, Elevation and Bethel?  The concern is that when a new believer comes to faith in Christ, what kind of discipleship are they going to receive?

I believe there are many young believers who do not mature into a biblical worldview, but that their faith is based upon emotions, feelings, and experiences. Why is this?  Without playing Holy Spirit here, much of the discipleship is rooted and grounded in an experiential and emotional theology that mirrors how the mentors of how these new converts came to faith in Christ. The major tentacles of such a faith formation is that of an anti-intellectual foundation with the outcome producing a moralistic therapeutic deism kind of faith.

The second is a platform being created by the atheists who are peering through the window of the Christian websites and social media.  Some are relishing Marty’s defection right now.  With reference to atheist’s watching Sampson’s defection, one atheist, a professing former Christian himself, John Loftus tweeted on Aug 13, “Not a good pic of me but Marty Sampson of Hillsong posted it on Instagram as he announced his defection from Christianity. I guess my efforts are not in vain.“[1]  

Sampson’s reasons and Loftus’ reasons are totally different. Each of them have a culpability before the God they are walking away from, and the onus is not just on John and Marty, It is on the American church as well.  

Fourth and lastly, I believe this situation points out that it is high time to start a  evaluating our church music. The three groups I mentioned have created a “guru effect” that reflects a following looking much like a “cult of personality and movement” that has fueled a false theology rooted in the Word Faith theology, New Apostolic Reformation, and Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Please let me say again as I mentioned before. There are people saved in the movements of Hillsong, Elevation and Bethel.  But my question continues to be, what happens after that? Young people get saved and get excited about the Lord, but then they are “discipled” by those with a theology that is not biblical (NAR, Word Faith and an experiential “theology”). If this does not tell us that we need apologetics, good hermeneutics, and church music that is vertical and worshipful, I don’t know what does.

Conclusion.

The purpose of this post was not to play Holy Spirit or be condemnatory. It was strictly to point out four concerns that I see, needing to be addressed if the Church is going to stay relevant in the coming years. Ravi Zacharias was once asked about America’s problem. His response was that the problem with America is not America. Please click on this link and view the short video, on the condition of the church in America.  A shallow Christianity robs you of the best things to come.  If we continue to ignore this shipwreck happening in the church, Christians will continue to be robbed by their own lack of thoughtful theology.  We need to get back to an understanding of Jesus’ Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) in order to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).  We also need to understand that the inerrant Word of God calls us to defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15-17; Jude 3).  So, when are we going to learn from history, or are we too stubborn to continue this path and keep repeating our mistakes?
____________________________

Notes

[1] We apologists have been sounding the alarm and will continue to sound the alarm in the church. The problem is that the church has not been and is not listening. I am praying that will change, because with the recent defections, a tidal wave of more defections could be coming. If this does not say it loud and crystal clear that there is a need for apologetics in the church, I don’t know what does.

[2] Let me put this on the table that Loftus himself is one who had walked away from the Christian faith. I had the privilege of talking with him on his defection, and he was open with me on his reasons.  None of them were good reasons. 


Version 3Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a chaotic, “brave new world.”

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5 comments

  1. Everyone comes to a crisis of faith. The true believer, the one that has been born of the Spirit will come to the crossroad of decision and say, where am I going to go only Jesus has the words that are real. The person that has never really been born of the Spirit and truly is not a son when He comes to that moment of crisis will go beyond doubt, he will not believe.

    1. Oscar, thank you for your comment. I agree that one who has been born of the Spirit will stay in the faith, crisis or not. Let me also say that crises of faith are not bad, just like having doubts is not a bad thing. When it is bad is when we do not deal with the doubts and doubt the doubts. Marty Sampson stated during his crisis that no one was speaking into the tough questions (which was not true) and he did not really honestly pursue those answers that are available.

  2. I believe your assessment is fair and valid. What the Bible teaches us is that those within the Church (OT and NT) will constantly leave the faith. Even though the Israelites saw God with their own eyes, they worshipped a calf. This is just what has happened in the past and what will always happen in the future. We should not be shocked but expect it. What is equally true is that people enter the Kingdom whom were formerly bitter enemies. This just shows that God has created a world where we have freedom to make decisions and choose to either be with or without our Creator.

  3. This is what happens when people do not know the evidence behind their beliefs. I would encourage everyone to read the following books in their investigation of the truth claims of Christianity:

    Christian authors:
    –“The Resurrection of the Son of God” by NT Wright
    –“The Death of the Messiah” by Raymond Brown
    –“Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh and Sean McDowell

    Skeptic authors:
    –“Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman
    –“The Outsider Test for Faith” by John Loftus
    –“Why I Believed, Reflections of a Former Missionary” by Kenneth W. Daniels

    1. Gary, thank you for your comment. Thank you also for adding some of the sources you listed. Let me put a caveat out with reference to the skeptic writers you listed. I think it is good to read the skeptical writers, but I would recommend a little training on the subjects they write so that you can discern their errors, like Loftus and Ehrman. I am not familiar with Kenneth Daniels, but I would recommend the same for him as the other two sources.

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