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Pastors Who Lost Faith in Jesus

Christian Pastors and Influencers who lost faith, have fallen, or committed suicide

2022, Pete Wilson: “A cheating pastor.”

In 2014, Pete Wilson, who founded Nashville-area megachurch Cross Point Churchresigned as senior pastor. He is tired, broken, and in need of rest. In November 2022, his wife, Brandi Wilson, disclosed Pete’s multiple affairs on the “Let’s Get Real” 007 podcast.

Across their 20-year marriage, Brandi was aware of two instances of infidelity, later discovering more during counseling. After their divorce, several more instances of cheating came to light in counseling. 

Despite church members praising Pete’s character, Brandi grappled with feeling responsible for his actions in their marriage.

2021, Paul Maxwell: “I’m no longer Christian.”

Former ‘Desiring God’ writer Paul Maxwell renounced his faith in Jesus. Maxwell is a high-profile preacher with a Ph.D. in theology at Wheaton and a B.A. in Biblical language from Moody.

Despite writing several Christian books, he announced in 2021 on his Instagram that he was no longer a Christian. He also said, “… it feels perfect. I’m really happy.”

2020, Jon Steingard: “I no longer believe in God.”

Jon Steingard is a singer-songwriter and was the frontman of the Christian rock outfit Hawk Nelson. He is the lead vocalist of a Canadian Christian rock band who announced on his Instagram, “I no longer believe in God.” He explained it didn’t happen overnight.

Steingard supported legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015 and the theory of evolution.

2020, Tim Sledge: “Goodbye Jesus”

Tim Sledge has been a respected Christian pastor and writer for forty years. He read the Bible at nine years old and felt called to preach. His church grew significantly and was instrumental in converting thousands of people to Christ. He attended Wheaton and led summer revivals.

Sledge left the faith due to growing disillusionment with its doctrines and practices. His departure was gradual, and he came out with a full interview in 2020 with an “intellectual Hindu.”

He questioned fundamental beliefs and inconsistencies in the Bible over reasonable spirituality. Tim now values critical thinking, psychology, sociology, Unitarianism, and human evolution in shaping his moral compass.

In 2020, he wrote the book ‘Goodbye Jesus: An Evangelical Preacher’s Journey Beyond Faith‘ and inspired Christians to leave their faith.

2019, Joshua Harris: “I am not a Christian.”

In 1997, Joshua Harris wrote the widely successful book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” In 2019, he publicly renounced his faith in Jesus. During that same year, Harris also ended his 20-year marriage.

On July 25, 2019, Harris announced, “I am not a Christian…” He also spoke about what he sees as a destructive relationship between many Christians and his disdain for former President Donald Trump.

2019, Dave Gass: “I am walking away from the faith.”

Dave Gass was the lead Pastor at Grace Family Fellowship. “After 40 years of being a devout follower, 20 of those being an evangelical pastor, I am walking away from the faith,” in his now-deleted tweet. Gass left his family.

When I was in 8th grade and reading Greek mythology… the deity of the Bible and humankind sounded like ancient mythology. That seed of doubt never went away,” he said.

2019, Jarrid Wilson: “Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts.”

Church leader, author, and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson killed himself on September 9, 2019. He was 30 years old. He pastored at Harvest church in California, Highpoint and LifePoint Church in Tennessee.

His last tweet was, “Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts (depression, PTSD, anxiety)… But offer us companionship and comfort.”

2019, Marty Simpson: “Christianity is just another religion.”

Marty Sampson is a prolific worship music writer known for his work with Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United, Delirious, and Young & Free. He is an addition to the long list of scandals that hit the dark-themed church of Hillsong.

On August 10, 2019, he posted on Instagram: “Time for some real talk … I’m genuinely losing my faith … and it doesn’t bother me.” He also said that Christianity is just another religion.

2018, Andrew Stoecklein: “Severe mental illness.”

The 30-year-old vibrant and beloved young pastor preached about depression, then killed himself on August 25, 2018. Andrew Stoecklein was a megachurch at Inland Hills Church, Chino, California, and was a senior pastor.

He had panic attacks two or three times a week.” A psychiatrist diagnosed Stoecklein with depression. Stoecklein has a severe mental illness; he was a great husband and dad, his wife said.

2015, John Gibson: “Hopeless Shame.”

John Gibson never denounced his faith in Jesus. “My dad reached such a point of hopelessness and despair that he took his own life,” his son Trey said. The professor’s guilt and shame led him to suicide after his name was exposed in the Ashley Madison scandal.

Gibson was a renowned professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He had a secret life of sexual addiction and infidelity that led to depression.

Former Wheaton College Dean and Christianity Today contributing editor Ed Stetzer called what happened a “significant moment of embarrassment for the Church.” However, Stetzer’s political rhetoric also embarrassed the body of Christ for talking too much about politics.

2014, Isaac Hunter: “A hero who made awful choices.”

In 2012, Isaac Hunter, a prominent pastor who founded Summit Church in Orlando, resigned due to an extramarital affair with a church staff. He struggled with depression and was later found dead inside his apartment.

Insiders with knowledge of the incident reportedly conveyed to Northland Church staff members that it appeared to be a suicide. Issac was the son of Joel Hunter, a former adviser to then-President Obama.

2013, Ed Montgomery: “Pastor who shot himself.”

Pastor Ed Montgomery of Full Gospel Christian Assemblies International church tragically took his own life while grappling with the overwhelming grief from his wife’s sudden passing.

Montgomery shot himself in the presence of his son in the family home as police and paramedics waited outside. Despite the church’s support, ministry, and apparent anointing of the church, his wife, Prophetess Jackie, died of a brain aneurysm.

2013, Teddy Parker: “Medications didn’t save him.”

Pastor Teddy Parker Jr., deeply respected by his congregation at Bibb Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, ended his life while battling manic depression. Neither his faith nor medication helped him overcome.

Despite his caring nature and inspiring sermons, his turmoil remained hidden, shocking those who knew him. His unexpected death has sparked conversations about the hidden struggles faced by pastors and the need for support within religious communities.

Why do Pastors fall away?

  1. First, the Bible warns us that Satan seeks to kill, steal, and destroy those who bear the image of God. Jesus said that those who serve him will be tested.
  2. Secondly, Jesus did not say He would always intervene in every problem we face but assured us that He would never leave or forsake us. “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace,” Jesus said.
  3. Thirdly, many of us will doubt God, especially when we choose to live in sin. To those whose hearts do not belong to Him, Jesus said, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23).

1 John 2:19
“They went out from us but did not belong to us. They would have remained if they were, but their going showed that none belonged to us.”

Are you a struggling pastor?: If you are a Christian leader considering abandoning faith, join the Clergy Project. It’s an online community of current and former religious professionals.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve lost all faith in prayer. After a false arrest and imprisonment for 10 months for crimes I did not commit, I felt that God abandoned me. The trauma from that experience made me terrified to ever pray again. If God can’t or won’t justify an innocent man falsely charged, I felt that it was best to never pray. Praying gets one’s hopes up. I can’t deal with more unanswered prayers.

    • Dear Jim,
      I’m very sorry for your false imprisonment. I just can’t imagine what you’ve experienced. I don’t know what else I can say.

      I agree with you 100%. Currently, I’m in a situation that has no end (going on 25 years). There was a lot of ebb and flow of high hopes that turned into despair all the while observing God answer others’ prayers. It’s absolute cruelty. Evangelicals would pounce on my pain with verses and with zero compassion. My personal experience throughout my life has been that my prayers were like a rug that God pulled out from under me and I was left crying in despair. I think, the Bible has good guidelines for, overall, living but I just cannot pray anymore. Too. Painful.

      • I think the mistake we make as believers is that we assume that God is going to fix things in our lives. He often allows troubles and suffering to persist in our lives. The greatest apostles and believers have died horrible deaths and lived lives of being persecuted and mocked. Whatever happens to us in this life, we still have the choice to be faithful to the end, to be a witness for Jesus, whether it is from a prison or not. This life is but a drop of water in an ocean. Eternity is what we are preparing for.

    • Remember Jesus was also an innocent man, falsely accused of wrong doing, brought to trial, found guilty and was sentenced to a horrible death. Remember he too felt abandoned by God, Matthew 27:46.
      If anyone understands your pain, Jesus does.

  2. Don’t despair. Joseph was imprisoned for 13 years.Peter and Paul were imprisoned too. David was being pursued by Saul.

  3. Jim, please don’t be afraid – Prayer is a conversation that you have with Jesus Christ – He knows how you feel – He was wrongly accused – He was wrongly punished – He was disbelieved countless times – Yet because of His tremendous Love and compassion He has He became our Kinsman Redeemer – There are no easy answers but there is ONE who knows you and understands you completely and extends His hand 24/7

  4. Many stop believing after a scandal
    Or major destruction. I personally believe it’s because they never believed to begin with.

    • That’s horsecrap! How dare you add insult to injury. You won’t appreciate someone else saying that to you during your darkest hour. But someone will, because that’s how sanctimoniously cruel many christians are.

  5. Yes … even in birth (I was told in later years)
    I wasn’t going to make it. I have not been successful like other family members. I’ve been shot accidently, paralyzed twice and failed at 98 per cent of my endeavors so far. But I know the Lord Jesus and his Love for me when he hung on the cross. What he has taught me in the valleys of life have bolstered up my faith in Him and in eternity. He stood me up and got me going again. Nothing matters overall in terms of personal failure. Turn to him if you need Him, but if its done and in the past then ask Him to help you move on. It only matters that which you have in him. It’s time especially in these days to release it all to him. No struggle. Let it be and rest in him. Just ask and then rest. He knows in advance, but invite Him in …He is listening. Refuse to lean on your own understanding.Proverbs 3:5 A deep dive into the Word and the Spirit of Life (Romans) in our current times is the path to peace. The Lord does not sin and he does not make mistakes. That’s why you are so important to him. You are not a mistake or a failure. You are resilient…but only in Him. Put the past behind and draw near. The time is here. It has arrived.
    The blood of Christ has taken care of your forgiveness and the death of Christ will bring victory over your struggle in whatever sin is raising your mind and heart. The Holy Spirit was given to us to take care of this business..so stand down. The Battle is the Lord’s….

  6. I am one of those who left the faith. I encourage all that read this to have a real discussion with those who have left. There can be lots of reasons, but it isn’t normally because “they loved their sin too much”. It also isn’t because “they were never real Christians”. For me it was as real as it gets. Have a discussion. If you want to keep others from leaving, it is best that you at least understand the real reasons that people do and not the strawmen you shoot at.

  7. I was reading Psalm 44 and 1.Timothy 4:1 this morning. The psalmist said in essence, “Growing up, I heard about God’s great works, but the impression I have from my own experience with Him is underwhelming and disillusioning. I’ve toed the line, and what do I have for it? Rather than giving up on God, though, I’m going to continue to look to Him expectantly instead.” The long-term prospects of a person who gives up on God are very bleak indeed.

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