A response to headlines involving Marty Sampson and John Cooper.
If you attend a local church regularly, or even if you have never set foot in one, chances are that you have heard of Hillsong Church. The global megachurch based out of Australia has had much media attention, and many high-profile attenders such as Justin Bieber, Chris Pratt, and Vanessa Hudgens.
Recently, they have made Christian headlines again with the news that one of their long-time worship leaders and song writers, Marty Sampson, was “genuinely losing” his faith in a post on his Instagram earlier this week. He is yet another high-profile Christian whose faith is in peril. In response to this, John Cooper, who is the frontman of the Christian Rock band Skillet, took to Facebook and posted a long status calling for all to look to the Bible for answers regarding faith, not to Christian influencers. Shortly thereafter, Sampson took to Instagram to clarify and respond to Cooper. He explained that he wasn’t losing his faith, but that it was “on incredibly shaky ground.”
I have two thoughts on this exchange between Cooper and Sampson.
Firstly, it seems to me that Sampson has bought into the self-realization of our times. What I mean is that in the past, people looked for answers from their community whether that be friends, family, or church community (outward). In our post-modern, or post-truth, era we live in today, people tend to look inward at their own thoughts and feelings on a matter. Sampson writes, “I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.” He concludes by saying, “All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point.”
His honesty and authenticity are attractive traits and are to be commended, however I tend to notice that the “search” or “asking of questions” is more romanticized than the actual finding of answers and this is the sentiment I get with Sampson’s announcement. He makes his inward journey clear when he writes, “If the truth is true, it will remain so regardless of my understanding of it. If I search it out, surely it will become even more clearly seen as the truth that it is. Examining a diamond more closer reveals the quality of the diamond. As I am still breathing, I am still learning.”
To me, this is a contradiction. Here he explains that there is an objective truth, a truth that all can know, yet based on his comments above, he aligns himself with what is true to him right now. Which is it Marty? The Truth or Your Truth?
Secondly, and briefly, in his response to Cooper, Marty explains that he wrote his original post “to present [his] current state of mind/heart to explain to people why [he is] not coming back to Hillsong” or “when [he’s] going to sing on the next United song.” What is sad to me here, is that he is pulling away from his church community when it matters most; exchanging the outward for the inward.
In the Bible, Galatians 6:2 tells us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” I want to encourage those reading that this is how we ought to deal with a situation like Sampson’s should we find ourselves there. I have always found deeply satisfying answers to Christianity, and it was the love of my church community that kept me, helped me, and encouraged me in the faith in these times of doubt.
In the meantime, we can learn from Marty’s struggle and pray for him, yet never lose hope because of Jesus’ words: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33