Responding to Those Who Leave the Faith


A former writer for Desiring God ministries has renounced his faith. Paul Maxwell, a former philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute, made the announcement on his Instagram feed that he was no longer a Christian, The Christian Post reports.

The news follows a growing list of evangelical leaders who are reportedly leaving the faith. In 2019, popular author, pastor, and speaker Joshua Harris said he was leaving his faith. Former Hillsong musician Marty Sampson made a similar choice. How should we respond to the news of Christians who later reject following Jesus?

The following ideas are ways to consider approaching those who have claimed to leave the faith.

First, consider whether the person ever truly believed. Most Christians realize that just calling yourself a Christian doesn’t make you a Christian. Knowing Christ is more than a label; it is a decision shown through a lifestyle.

In many cases (perhaps most), those who claim to leave the Christian faith never really had a genuine faith in Jesus at all. Jesus said there will be many people He will tell to depart from Him, for He never knew them. 

These people will include those who claimed to prophesy and heal in the name of Jesus. If Jesus taught there will be top faith leaders He will reject in eternity, we can trust there are some who renounce their faith today who are among those Jesus never knew. Such people are rejecting a faith they have never known rather than losing salvation.

Those in this category need salvation. Evangelism sometimes surprisingly occurs even among so-called Christian leaders. Every person must be saved in the same way, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Second, some people are not rejecting Jesus; they are rejecting Christian culture. For some, it is a denomination. SBC leader Beth Moore, for example, left the denomination she belonged to most of her life, but did not reject her faith in Christ. In other cases, a person rejects or leaves a legalistic version of Christianity, often replacing it with a progressive, liberal form.

Third, in some cases a person is still a believer, but searching or in rebellion. We’ve all been tempted to stop living for God at certain points. Some people publicly claim they are done with Jesus, but really still believe in Him. In these situations, a person has been hurt or is simply burned out and in need of help and encouragement.

Galatians 6:1-2 applies in such contexts: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Those God truly knows cannot lose their faith in Him (Romans 8:37-39). Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Those who renounce their faith either did not know Him, are leaving a version of the faith, or truly know God but are in a time of struggle. Our heart must always be to help people come back to the Lord, just as Jesus taught the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). When we extend hope to those who leave, we may sometimes see those truly seeking return and call upon the Lord


  1. R. C. Rochte on April 16, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    I can understand it, though I do not agree. The Church is stuffed full of hypocrites; the pressures of “professional” Christians are every bit as real as on those who do not believe; fame and notoriety always exacts a heavy price.

    I also understand the arguments for “once saved-always saved.” Yet I must respectfully disagree with Dr. Burroughs. One simply cannot dismiss (or ignore) the stern warning from the writer to the Hebrews that (in my paraphrase) if a mature believer who has experienced all that salvation has to offer still decides later to turn away, then there is no longer any salvation available for him/her. Hebrews 6:4-8 is clear. It does not speak of new or immature believers (regardless of physical age) who, like babies, children, and adolescents, sometimes get so frustrated or angry or confused that they lash out and wish they’d never heard of Christ (or Mom and Dad). No, this passage speaks to the fully mature believer who, knowing all and experiencing all, decisively turns their back on Christ – for them, there is no acceptable repentance, there remains no available sacrifice. Their end, as it says, is “to be burned.”

    Scripture could not be more clear.

    All the arguments in favor of once-saved-always saved are still intact, but only as far as Scripture allows them to go. Such persons as depart the faith even after coming to spiritual maturity have NOT been turned away by Christ, nor have they been “plucked from His hand.” They’ve not been “lost,” or any other synonym for it. Rather, they, themselves, have decided against Christ and His offer of salvation. Since God will not destroy Free Will, they are free to go…but under a dreadful penalty: they will have crossed over the point of no return. God the Father gives us many chances, but not infinite chances. You cannot “lose” your salvation – nobody can take it from you once you have come to genuine repentance and believed in the name of Jesus for salvation. But, Hebrew reminds us, we CAN decide to surrender it of our own free will.

    Of course, I like most don’t think very much outside of seminar classes about this aspect of the Christian Life…because I don’t want out!

    But, if these benighted souls genuinely – and knowingly – want to reject the salvation offered by the Father because of the work of the Son, then Hebrews tells us that they are free to go…but not free to come back. This is a tremendous loss both for them and for the Body of Christ, since Scripture also makes clear that God does not desire any to perish…but He will not force salvation on anyone. Pray for them, that perhaps they are not yet such as Hebrews 6 warns about; perhaps they are not so far gone that they will one day repent and return and be able to do so. But if they are such as are described in Hebrews 6, then waste no lament upon them. If they have experienced all the good that salvation offers, and still turn away, then they are lost and nothing we can do will alter that fact. Let we who remain do all possible to protect our own faith, so that we never ourselves want out. May God have mercy upon them at the Judgment. Jesus said “he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matt 10:22). Stay strong, brothers and sisters, because the end is not yet and our reward will be great. May God bless you all.

  2. Roderick Pinder on April 17, 2021 at 9:34 am

    It is a sad story when someone who claims to know The LORD JESUS, renounces his/her faith, as if something or someone can give greater joy or forgiveness than our Saviour. My life has not been perfect, but the failures have been mine. He has never, and can never, fail. We will pray for restoration, or should we pray for salvation, since, “EVERLASTING LIFE” cannot end.

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