Marty Sampson, a well respected Hillsong musician recently announced in social media that he has either lost or is losing his faith. The original posts have been deleted, so it’s hard to find the exact message.
I’m not here to condemn anyone, but there is a long list of ministry fatalities in Hillsong and other mega churches.
I suspect that most mega churches are great leadership raising machines that spit out amazing people, but it seems the fatalities are also amazing. My observation from attending years of Hillsong conferences was that there is a huge amount of pressure put on people to perform to a high level of excellence. Some thrive, and others crash and burn.
Looking through Scripture I don’t see that model being promoted anywhere. There is pressure, but the pressure is from persecution rather than from driven leadership.
In fact, Jesus demonstrates a very laid back approach. Jesus made this very laid back invitation
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I feel that the church in many places has lost track of something important: our primary task is to love God and love people. If only we can love extravagantly, then many of the issues that come from burnout, disappointment and unrealistic expectations could be headed off.
I have been reflecting a lot on the parable of the lost son. It seems to me that Jesus is trying to show us a God who loves us abundantly (prodigally) despite our poor performance. If only we can get our heads around that kind of love and start living from that place.
The trouble with love is that it takes time to pursue. Loving God is more than a 5 minute devotional. Loving people means investing ourselves into them, and that takes time, empathy and sometimes money. In our culture, time is too precious a commodity that we are reluctant to give it away.
This isn’t just a city phenomenon. Country people can often feel pressured by long commutes or the pressures of surviving in drought.
Churches must develop a culture of love, investing in solid relationships that strengthen over decades. We have found cell church is an effective way of doing this- combining large group and small group worship. The advantage of cell church is that people are weekly encouraging each other to go deeper in their walk with the Lord and to share the gospel in little ways as a part of normal discipleship.
If any of the big name falling away christians were to turn up in our church, we would encourage them into a cell group and help them to find their way back to Jesus. We would find ways of loving them until they can see Jesus again. It isn’t a formula or a process, just what Jesus calls the church to do.