Over the past couple of years, a number of high-profile Christians have left the faith. That has led to others of us wondering how they should feel and what they should do. Here are some ideas and advice from the Bible.
Another prominent Christian left the faith this week, this time one with a PhD in theology who was a well-known author of Christian articles across the Internet. This individual has purposely not been named here nor will any of the other high-profile Christians who have left the faith over the past couple of years. The reason for this is that the issue this article seeks to address is not the problems concerning any particular individual, but rather the general issue of abandoning the faith.
People like these have a lot of Christian followers, and it can be extremely troubling when they see someone they focus on as a leader suddenly abandon the faith. It leaves some people feeling lost and confused, and even some others feeling manipulated. It is important that we focus on God and remember that religious leaders, including ourselves, are all fallible human beings, which is why we need a savior in the first place.
People turn away from faith for number of reasons. Often it is a death or tragedy, personal challenges, and also quite frequently the lure of things in the world or worldly philosophies, social or cultural changes. Some people want to abandon what they feel are the constraints of living a godly life in order that they may embrace greater freedoms of a secular life, which often centers on pleasure. The reasons can be any and all of the most common above or a myriad of other things.
We are seeing more people than ever before abandoning Christianity. The Bible itself has told us that, as we come closer to the end times, this is going to be what happens.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,”
–1 Timothy 4:1
Many people these days are talking about “the world being upside down” due to changes that are happening in societies around the world. In such an atmosphere, it’s no surprise to see people losing their faith and attaching themselves to other philosophies.
The Bible also told this why this would be happening.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
–2 Corinthians 4:4
As Christians, our challenge is how to bring people back to the faith. We have three “weapons” for doing so: Preaching the word of God; being living and loving examples of Christ; prayer.
Before we talk about what we should do when Christians leave the faith, it’s important to start with what we should NOT do. We should not judge, ridicule, gossip or shun without an attempt to bring people back to the faith. Jesus words are very clear here:
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”
First, the person who is losing their faith may need a timeout. We may not know or understand everything that is going on with them. Sometimes they need a break to allow themselves to step back and figure things out.
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”
– 1 Peter 3:15
After we’ve given a person who has lost their faith some time and space, then we can try to engage them – without passing judgment – and listen. Be there for them to hear their reasons before trying to change their mind. It does you no good to talk until they are ready to listen. Therefore, listen to them first and you’ll be able to discern when they are ready to listen to you. By being a good listener, you’ll also have a better understanding of their feelings and concerns in order to help guide them.
When a Christian who has left the faith or is falling away becomes ready to talk about their struggles, remind them of everything great about faith in God – his love, grace and forgiveness. Do this through God’s word.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
If someone is being led astray by human philosophy, steer them back toward the gospel. Be prepared to compare such philosophies against the gospel, using prophecy to demonstrate the truth of God’s word.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”