A friend of mine referred me to another public Facebook post from Beggar’s Daughter Facebook page. The author attended Covenant Life Church (then, a Sovereign Grace Ministries church) while Josh Harris was senior pastor.
I am noticing again and again that the people who are survivors of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) churches, survivors of the culture at SGM churches, survivors of the spiritual abuse there, are the ones who are extending an olive branch to Josh Harris in grace and love. They are not demanding apologies about the sex abuse scandal; nor are they saying dismissing the atrocities surrounding it. They are simply saying: let him heal first, give him time.
I agree 100%. I wonder if those who are upset (because he has not sufficiently apologized) have ever dealt with the trauma of spiritual abuse? It seems if anyone should be demanding apologies, it would be those directly affected by him when he was their pastor. But it’s not turning out that way.
On the About page at Beggar’s Daughter website, the blog owner, Jessica Harris (not related to Josh Harris), shares that she is an author, speaker, and former porn addict. Her ministry is to help women know they are not alone if they are suffering from pornography addiction and shares about “porn, sex, singleness, sexual exploitation, and grace.” I am grateful to Jessica for allowing me to share her personal story here. ~ja
I tried to write this yesterday but it got deleted and didn’t save. Given the latest “trending news” though, I wanted to try again.
Josh Harris (no relation to me, just a friend) recently announced that he’s no longer Christian days after announcing he and his wife are separating.
Perhaps this news confused you. Perhaps it disappointed you, made you sad, or made you question what you yourself believe.
For me, it made me sad, it made me hurt for him because the journey to this place for him couldn’t have been without pain and confusion and a lot of seeking and, honestly, the Christian community isn’t always the best at extending grace.
But there are a few things that are really important for us to remember:
1- People with platforms are not perfect
We tend to idolize Christian “celebrities,” placing them on pedestals high above ourselves. We do this with pastors, authors, speakers, singers.
I’m a nobody author compared to Josh, but I can assure you of this, anyone who stands on a stage bleeds red. We’re broken people. Our platforms are not cures for brokenness or proof we are no longer broken. We didn’t pass some master course in perfection that allows us the platforms we have.
What that means is, do not ever base your worldview or theology on the ideas of someone with a stage. You take that idea- no matter how warm, fuzzy, or revolutionary it is- back to Scripture. If it doesn’t match up there, it’s garbage, no matter how cool the can.
Basically, Josh’s walking from his faith should not be shaking the faith of so many others. We don’t base our faith on men.
2- Imperfect people can still speak truth
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water either. I remember watching this happen when Ray Boltz left his family and came out as gay. It was like his classic song “Thank You” which had been sung in churches for years, ceased to exist. Singing it would mean endorsing his new lifestyle.
Did the message of the song change? No. If there were truth in the song, did the truth change? No.
Truth doesn’t change.
I sat under Josh’s pastorship for several years and his messages on grace were some of the best I’ve ever heard. His messages on sex, some of the most grace-filled. The truths presented in those sermons, in his books, doesn’t change just because he walks away from the faith. I don’t care how big the platform, none of us are capable of untruthing truth.
That’s why point #1 is so important. Truth isn’t truth because a person says it is. Truth is truth because God says it is and if you’re always going back to that base, the messenger can go as rogue as they would like and it won’t change truth.
So don’t go burning all the Josh Harris books just yet.
3- Wanting to learn does not equal backsliding
I fear this fallout the most, simply because I’ve seen it. Just over a year ago, a documentary was released in which Josh essentially picks apart the message of his breakaway best selling book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”
This was a conversation that needed to be had. But now I fear it will be a conversation forever linked to losing faith. When teenagers or young adults question the standards of a purity culture, the immediate knee jerk overreaction will be that they are turning their back on God. Which, in a sense, lands us back in the same mess the documentary tried to clean up.
Don’t forget that every platform has a behind the scenes.
Josh is a person with a childhood, with a past, with a family of origin, who had the weight of an entire Christian movement saddled on him while he was still a teenager/young adult. Then he was tasked with pastoring a large church with little to no theological training and, from what I can gather, not the best mentors.
I watched him weather a storm of abuse scandals that hit our church, acknowledging where he had failed to protect the victims and acknowledging that he, himself, had once been a victim. That’s no light thing, and anyone around him could tell the situation was wearing on him.
So, his family moved to Canada where he went to seminary. My husband is a seminary grad and was the first to let me know that seminary messes with your head and heart a bit. He confesses that partway through his seminary career, he questioned if God even existed. He had been “deconstructed” down to nothing.
Josh was in seminary when he launched into his documentary, discovering that his book had unintentionally hurt a lot of people. The book that essentially laid the foundation for his entire life was deconstructed. In a sense, the framework of his identity was stripped down to nothing.
Any one of us would have an identity crisis or a crisis in faith when faced with that same situation. But here’s what we know:
1- Truth doesn’t change
2- God doesn’t stop being God
3- God isn’t afraid of our questions
We don’t eat our wounded.
Josh, just like each and every one of us, is in need of grace- a grace that allowed the prodigal son to wander away and squander a living, a grace that allowed Jonah to get on the boat going in the wrong direction, a grace that allows us to question, to wrestle with questions of identity and faith. We all need it, authors not exempt.
I have heard Josh speak on grace. His heart knows it. Even in his announcement, he has held to grace, and I firmly believe that grace will pave the way for truth that heals, restores, and sets free.
And Josh, if you read this, I love you, brother. And I pray that, in time, you will come to experience the Father the way you so clearly demonstrated Him to me. I was a new visitor to church, desperately looking for my pastor when I ran into you in the lobby, tears streaming down my face. You told me where he might be. The next week, I walked through the lobby, feeling lost and overwhelmed in a crowd of thousands. I was staring at the ground when these shoes stopped in front of me. You said my name and asked if I was ok because I had been so upset the week before. I felt seen and known.
It happened again last year at an airport in Chicago. As I waited for popcorn in a crowded corridor, I heard my name. That’s when we snapped this picture.
I am praying for you, brother, not that you would snap out of it or change your mind, but that you would continue searching, because He says when we seek Him, we find Him, and that you will hear Him call your name- not Josh Harris the author or Josh Harris the former pastor, but Josh Harris, a beloved son.