Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. – Philippians 2:12
I just read where another Christian musician has stepped away from his faith. This seems to be occurring more and more frequently. In this latest case, anyone looking at the guy at any time up until his lengthy Twitter post would have sworn that he was just a solid Christian. Every youth leader on the planet would have had no problem driving miles and miles to see the band Hawk Nelson. Just about every Christian parent would want their kids at one of their concerts. Why? Because by all appearances, they said and did the right thing. They looked the part.
Despite the lead singer revealing that he no longer believes in God, there is one paragraph of his letter that I really like. It says this:
I’m open to the idea that God is there, I’d prefer it if he was. I suspect if he is there, he is very different than I was taught. I know my parents pray that God reveals himself to me. If he is there, I hope he does.
All that seemed to happen to the guy is that he felt he couldn’t ask some hard questions. When he did finally ask a preacher he thought could help, the preacher gave a terrible answer . . . at least in my opinion. It is the answer of a preacher who hasn’t wrestled with God and sought out really, really hard answers. The other problem is what terrifies me even right now. It terrifies me for my own children as well as the children of countless “church” people. It is the proverbial question of “How do we train up our children in the way they should go?”
It is very easy to “force” children into looking the part of a Christian. Once again, everyone would have thought that Jonathan Steingard, lead singer of Hawk Nelson, was fine. He was a pastor’s kid, he knew the church language, he got started by playing in the worship band at church, and even grew to be the successful singer of a Christian rock band who played all the youth conferences and Winter Jams. Everyone thought he was fine. Yet, in his own heart, he was struggling with some questions that he was afraid to ask. Questions that can all be legitimately answered. I read his questions and would love to sit down with him for a few hours and just give him the conclusions I’ve come to over the years. I’ve asked the same questions and wanted answers as well. Unlike him, I went straight to the source and said, “God, I need for you to answer me this!” Of course, my answers didn’t come immediately, but over time He has given me satisfactory answers that I can accept and that allow me to move forward in my faith. Here is the thing, not one time did God ever say, “How dare you ask me that?” or “How could you ask such a thing, do you even believe in Me?” He is the God of the Universe and of all time . . . You really think He is afraid of any question that man brings to Him?
I do believe that the church world suffocates a lot of children. If you don’t look like the majority believe you should look, or if you don’t fit the mold that many denominations want to put you in, then it is very easy to be excommunicated. At the very least, it is very easy to feel as if every eye is closely watching you, your life is on display, and everybody is airing their opinions of your every move. If you ask certain questions, you could immediately be judged and told that you “ought not ask such things.” If you misbehave, read Harry Potter, or listen to rock music that isn’t labeled “Christian,” then may God Himself help you because most religious church people will write you off very quickly. It will be interesting to see how the church as he perceives it responds to Jonathan Steingard. Will they simply pray for him? Will they send him “hate mail?” Personally, I’m going to pray that God does reveal Himself to him and that his faith does become personal. I’m also going to pray for what is probably a countless number of others who are struggling with making faith their own.