Joseph Solomon, a poet and musician with a large Christian following, recently announced his departure from Christianity on his podcast Flights & Feelings. Responding to Christians who were in dismay about his announcement, he said, “Whatever you believe, you have to own it. You can’t lease it from anybody, you can’t rent it . . . . If you borrowed it from someone else, now is a good time to see what truly belongs to you.”
There is something to heed in Solomon’s honesty. Do we truly own our faith in Christ or lease it from elsewhere? Because a lease, no matter how efficient or beneficial, always ends.
Don’t Lease Your Faith
I have no vendetta against leasing or renting property (I get it, I live in Silicon Valley), but I fear we’ve taken a similar posture with Christ. Many of us don’t work out our salvation (Phil 2:12) but instead rest on the laurels of pastors, authors, institutions/tribes, or even publications like TGC to work it out on our behalf.
When we lease our faith, it’s easier to pay less attention to our spiritual health. If you’re like me, you give leased property much less upkeep than if you actually owned it. A crack in the walls or a rattling heater is fine as long as you get your security deposit back. Yet as Jesus warns, when the storms and floods of a broken world come crashing in, a leased faith will often struggle to stand.
For those living on a leased faith, deconstruction is inevitable. But what’s really happening is less deconstruction than a complete reconstruction of spirituality because there was nothing there to begin with.
Who Are Your Landlords?
When you lease any property, it can give the appearance of something owned. Just as Jesus warns that houses built on rock and sand may look similar externally (Matt. 7:24), we have to read the deed to our souls to see if Christ’s name is there.
Don’t Lease Your Faith to Celebrity
As John Mark Comer noted at a conference I recently attended, “Evangelicals have traded saints for celebrities.” Celebrity culture, social media, sermon podcasting, and personal branding have led many to stake their faith on distant celebrities whose “brand” of faith appeals to us.
But what happens when that celebrity’s ministry falls apart? The type of faith leased from an array of online sources—content disconnected from your context—is often shaky. In an age of excessive content and platformed faith leaders, pastors should encourage their congregations to build a sturdier faith from reliable materials closer to home: God’s Word, the Spirit, the church, and Christian community you can know and grow alongside.
We have to read the deed to our souls to see if Christ’s name is there.
This also rings true for preachers and teachers. In the age of the sermon podcast, it’s tempting to lease (or straight up plagiarize) a sermon or teaching from a celebrity. Why would we be surprised if people in the pews deconstruct when many are being fed a leased faith?
Don’t Lease Your Faith to Tribes
One appealing aspect of joining a theological tribe is that it provides a packaged bundle of doctrine and culture. But in our current moment, we tend to prioritize finding a tribe that fits the culture, language, politics, style (even clothing) that best fits our tastes, and then borrow whatever theological stances come with that familiar comfort.
But when cultural conveniences and an affirming tribe start to outweigh the hard work of constructing faith on our own accord, any tribe will be fair game as the cultural tides shift (even those outside of the orthodox faith). Ensure that your theological stances (especially on flashpoint issues: justice, gender roles, race) aren’t rooted only in your tribal preferences, but in the Word of God.
Don’t Lease Your Faith for Profit
Sometimes we lease a house or car because there are financial incentives. While this might be a shrewd move for your budget, it’s disastrous when we do the same with Christ. Some Christians who leave the faith describe coming to a moment of realization that they were only in it for profit. Sometimes this is financial profit (for a CCM artist or celebrity Christian author) but often it’s other forms of profit.
The benefits of community, the pride of leadership/authority, the emotional consolation of certain theologies, or the cultural status and power of tribal membership can each be appealing reasons to lease a faith. To be sure, there are blessings and benefits to Christian faith. Yet, when these incentives are more important than the presence and glory of Christ, we’re really no different than the celebrity using Jesus’s name for personal profit.
Own Your Faith
I’m not advocating for an individualistic reconstruction of faith that happens totally devoid of community. When you try to purchase a house, you rarely do it on your own. Real estate agents and other advisers help us navigate the painstaking complexity of mortgages, escrows, and offers. And once you own the house, you can rarely maintain it on your own.
A network of plumbers, electricians, and handy friends and family is essential to the health of your home. A healthy faith is not a totally autonomous, DIY endeavor in which you build your “dream home” from the ground up, exactly as you like it and on your own terms. A healthy faith, like a sturdy home, trusts and leans into the help and expertise of others.
The church should be a vital part of cultivating an authentic, owned faith.
In the same way, the church should be a vital part of cultivating an authentic, owned faith. Far from an entity merely handing out faith leases, a healthy church is a community that walks with members as they genuinely own their faith and work out their salvation.
Owning and ultimately building a house requires more than enticing blueprints and financial payments. It requires actual construction with hardhats, sweat, and a team.
So it is with our faith. Faith is more than a composite of books, podcasts, YouTube teachings, quippy Instagram quotes, and other information about Jesus (although these can be helpful). Faith is a call to follow and obey Jesus. Let’s ensure we don’t simply rent the words of a famous teacher or appealing tribe, but genuinely own the words of Jesus by building our lives on authentic faith.