Have you been stunned by any of the recent defections from the faith? I was stunned to learn that Joshua Harris of I Kissed Dating Goodbye fame and nationally known pastor and speaker had renounced Christianity. I also learned recently of a similar falling away by Jon Steingard, the frontman for the Christian rock band Hawk Nelson.
As a parent, such defections can cause a chill to run up your spine. Both men mentioned seemed to grow up in a solid Christian home and church. So what gives? One might wonder, “If that kind of upbringing can’t keep kids safe, then what hope do I have?”
I had a chance to listen to an interview with Jon Steingard and Sean McDonald. As the two men drilled down into Steingard’s loss of faith, it seemed that his faith was based more on an American-dream-based Christianity rather than a Biblical one. Steingard was blown away when he saw unspeakable suffering of children in Africa. He was shaken. “What kind of God would let a child suffer like that? Where was God in this?” he asked himself. And he had no answers.
Listening to the interview, I wanted to step into the podcast and kindly point out — “God was with you in that situation. You were there and had an opportunity to use your presence, your camera, your film documentary and your voice, so that the injustices could stop and the circumstances for that child and many others could be dramatically reversed.” Perhaps he had been sent to that heart-breaking situation “for such a time as this,” just like Queen Esther, for the saving of many lives.
Somehow, his church and family focused on the wrong things and built up the wrong expectations. He described his faith as being built on experiences and feelings. He was unprepared for stark reality to burst into his Christian bubble.
What are you doing with your children? I remember when our children were little, faith was pretty superficial. Hope wanted a jean jacket to be cool, but we couldn’t afford one. “No problem,” we told her, “if God wants you to have one, one will come into the thrift shop.” And so one came in a short time later. But circumstances like that left alone, can produce an idea that God is a magician to meet my personal wishes.
Fortunately, my children were able to experience lack and witness some harsh things in the lives of others. They saw that bad things can happen even to good people following the Lord. From the testimony of these sufferers, they learned that hardship is a part of life. Hope had the chance to work in the inner city of Chicago and Abby got to go to the bush in Kenya. It was a stretch of faith for Mom and Dad to let them go. But we trusted them to God’s care and discussed with them that there was no guarantee of safety, only of the Lord’s presence. Of course, we had that conversation with each other as parents often while they were in harm’s way.
I still have no guarantees. Life is challenging and spiritual forces are always bombarding them even now as adults. When Joshua Harris fell away, Family Life wrote this:

As the beloved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” says,

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

We are constantly at war with ourselves, our sin nature, and Satan himself. Satan wants nothing more than to blind us into no longer believing the truth. What happened to Joshua Harris can happen to anyone. He’s just as human as the rest of us. We need to remember that before we rush to any judgment.

It takes a daily dying to ourselves and living for Christ to keep our hearts and minds from wandering. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).

We need to give our children a robust, resilient, grace-based theology to keep them from falling away. Not a superficial, feel good theology where the problem of evil is avoided and God’s love is reduced to giving you the parking place you wanted. That is why our children read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, to disabuse them from the concept that suffering and persecution can be avoided as long as you love Jesus and obey Him. That is why we look for ways for our children to serve people whom others would rather avoid.
Our children are God’s children first. Place them in the Lord’s hands daily. Trust that the hardships that come their way are the trials that will make their faith stronger like metal tempered in the fire. Lord, give us wisdom and faith so that they can grow in the same things. Christopher
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