Last night I had the opportunity to hear Bill Lobdell speak, promoting his new book, Losing My Religion. Bill is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a born-again Christian who lost his faith while covering the Religion beat.
To understand his journey, you should first read his personal story, an eye-opening account written for the Times and posted in its entirety here. Bill became a believer at a local mega-church, and believed he was performing an incredible service as an investigative journalist – covering horrific stories of molestation by priests in the Catholic church, and scams and outright lies perpetrated by organizations such as TBN. For his efforts, he received mountains of hate mail, and Christians who denounced this fellow believer as “Satan.”
During the Q & A, Bill was unfailingly respectful of the Church. He was almost reluctant to criticize, other than for the glaring failures mentioned above. He did mention that he felt the mega-church teachings “weren’t deep” and clarified that for him personally, it wasn’t corruption in the church that caused his faith to waiver, “it was the lack of personal holiness.” There was simply no accountability in the leadership of these organizations.
I’m afraid “a lack of personal holiness” may be the tragic legacy of the waning mega-church. We’ve been so focused on collecting converts, “I believes,” butts-in-seats and other numbers that we’ve utterly failed at teaching people the hard work of discipleship. We’ve sent thousands of people out into the tempestuous sea of life without any oars, or even the knowledge that they’re required to row. Discipleship is hard. It’s not ever going to be popular.
In an editorial in my local paper a pastor wrote of Lobdell, “You can’t lose what you never had.” This is the trite, simplistic, and dismissive viewpoint of some believers threatened by the thought of someone choosing to give up their faith. But the challenge is, if people like this “never really had it,” what church will be accountable for “never really teaching it”? You can’t count them in your impressive number of converts, and then discount them for not really getting it, as thought that’s somehow their fault.
I realize this is long and, um… passionate. I think I’m writing from conviction. Meaning, I’m convicted. While I haven’t yet read his book, Lobdell is obviously a gifted writer, and I’d recommend it based on his warm and balanced attitude in general. It’s really a valuable, eye-opening experience to be able to see the exact things you cherish from another person’s entirely different perspective.
6 thoughts on “losing faith”
Thank you for this post. I sometimes wonder what I would know about God if my knowledge were limited to what I heard in the weekend worship services.
Some years back I was taking a knitting class and met an RN who did temporary assignments. She was one of the standby medical personnel at Benny Hinn conferences, and she (with no ax to grind) never saw anyone healed there. Not surprisingly, this makes no difference to the people I know who like Benny Hinn. They say that they feel the presence of the Holy Spirit at his conferences. I’ve been told that I need to be more open-minded about Jan and Paul Crouch. : – )
I don’t understand Bill Lobdell’s position in light of 1 John 2:19 and other verses, but I hope that the church is listening to him.
Interestingly, he talked about both Benny Hinn and the Crouches. He said the saddest thing at a Benny Hinn service was all the sick, terminal people back stage, not healed and only blaming themselves because they didn’t have enough faith…
Thanks for that verse in John. I guess it’s only God who knows a person’s real heart.
Jan, love your passion. Ultimately it is a relationship between Jesus and you. We would all be doomed if we let all the external influence shape our christian walk. Satan banks on this. Of course this is easy to write much harder to live out. This is a complex discussion but important. Thanks
WOW I’d like to say I’m surprised but sadly I’m not. In my 37 years of being a Christian I have found many times, that all too often “we” the vehicle for evangelizing the world with the “Good news” have somehow become “caught up” like Bill Lobdell suggests. It’s the “How we do church” that is up to debate! I believe his suggestion has the “mega-church” crippled by filling a seat rather than developing disciples….. the proof is in the eating, right? Time will tell. Judging peoples faith from a distance is shaking ground, but it is suggestive that at bare minimum, we should be more proactive about content than intent!
I know some assemblies that believe that your faith is challenged by how well you give, Others by how well you develop your giftings, and yet others by how well you evangelize the lost. I’m persuaded that it takes all of it!(And them some.) Each part has its part! So let each part play there role in the development of every believer. Now I know that not everyone likes everything, this is where I feel the church over-all suffers. We have become so concerned with what people think & feel that we have fringed perhaps on what God thinks or feels according to His Word! Sort of the people pleaser mentality rather than God pleaser mentality. Now I’m not suggesting that every mega-church is out of the will of God. I am saying that the “how” is as important as the why! The “why” nobody questions because people need the Lord, but the “how” is open for discussion. People say “The message is sacred not the method!” But one sets or establishes the atmosphere for the other! So I guess the real question should be is “What atmosphere does your church have, your home have, your job have, your family have because of your knowledge and faith in God?”
The conviction you spoke of is designed by God to reprove us and remove the finite areas of our lives that hinder our faith and seperate us ever-so-slightly from God. So it’s my contention that we yield and submit to His move in our lives thus hollowing out all the more, a place for God on the inside of us! His word say that the Holy Spirit convicts men of there sin… but it also says that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is Liberty so I believe the two go hand in hand. confession, forgiveness, release to go and sin no more! SO with that how do we respond to a God that says “Be ye Holy as I am Holy…!”
This really isn’t open for discussion, huh?
If losing his faith means He is losing the hold on the “how” and not the “why”, then maybe he’s on to something! If not then I need to know more but nevertheless we need to check ourselves as believers!
Thanks for the blog, sorry for the dissertation, but I’m passionate too!
As I understand Scripture, you can’t “choose” to give up your faith anymore than you can “choose” for God to offer salvation to you in the first place. From a scriptural perspective (which is the only true one), the pastor who said Lobdell “never really had it” would be correct. Take a look at 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (ESV)
Lobdell’s leaving the church is, in fact, evidence that he was never saved in the first place. Clearly this is sad, but it’s not the Church’s failure any more than it was the Church’s success while he was claiming to be among the elect of God.
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