An Open Letter to Pastors and Youth Leaders

Friends,

Two weeks ago, I would not have been able to pick Jon Steingard out of a line-up. Hawk Nelson was not on any playlist that I had. However, both burst upon the scene when Steingard announced in an Instagram post that he no longer believed in God and was no longer a Christian. This is not the first time we have heard of a Christian figure who has professed non-belief. But, I do believe that there is a profound lesson for us as believers and leaders.

Questions lead to doubt if left unanswered.

Let’s look at this with Steingard’s statement in mind and ask some pertinent questions.

Questions. According to Steingard’s Instagram post, his questions began during his youth. The problem of natural evil, the picture of God in the Old and New Testaments, and Bible contradictions plagued him.

What if someone in your congregation brings you a substantive question about the faith? Does your ministry, both from the pulpit and the counseling office, make room to answer the kind of questions that Steingard asked?

Doubt. Questions arose in Steingard’s mind and grew into doubt. He described his loss of faith as “like pulling on the threads of a sweater, and one day discovering that there was no more sweater left.” Doubt does not jump on us all at once. It grows from day to day. Steingard said that he was “terrified” to write his Instagram post. He felt afraid at speaking as he did. Perhaps it was family pressure or the idea that he was the lead singer for a Christian music group. We don’t know. From his own words, Steingard and his wife felt more an obligation rather than a calling to read the Bible, go to church, praying, and worshipping God. These are the end results of doubt.

How do you treat those who have questions which grow into doubt? Are they “terrified” to speak to you? Would you say that there is something lacking in their faith?

Unanswered. Satisfactory answers were not forthcoming to Steingard’s questions, though. This situation persisted, it seems, throughout his Christian life. Because of this, he kept his thoughts, questions, and doubts under wraps until the sweater became totally unraveled. Therein lies a great problem. Christianity has a rich intellectual tradition. I don’t know how much of it was became available in Steingard’s case. Christian thinkers and apologists such as Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, and Hugh Ross have developed substantive answers to the questions that were raised by Jon Steingard. Others, like Lee Strobel and Jim Wallace became believers after starting in places of disbelief and examining the mountains of evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

Do you, as pastors and leaders, have access to and value that intellectual tradition? Have you studied apologetics? Are there individuals in your churches who have studied apologetics? Have you employed them in your teaching and discipleship ministry?

Jon Steingard and his wife have “a tremendous sense of relief now.” For us as pastors, teachers, and leaders, we should not be relieved. We should be distressed.

But there is hope. The resources are there. The apologists and teachers are either in or near your church. God can use all of us as we work together to minister to those who have questions and doubts. I’m asking that you prayerfully consider the case of Jon Steingard and the question that I have raised and take action for the sake of the church and those like Jon Steingard.

For the church,

Mark Riser, Christian Apologist

www.markriserapologist.com

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