NASHVILLE — Christian music singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb says the recent spate of popular Christian leaders publicly renouncing their faith should compel Christians to examine their own hearts and pray for mercy rather than pass judgment.
“I think it’s so easy to judge, but a good way to respond would be to fall on our knees and pray and ask God to have mercy because we all need it,” Holcomb told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview in Tennessee. “These situations should invoke within us the urge to pray and then also to repent from our own stuff. We're all human, and we're all broken."
“We all struggle and fail because of our sinful natures, but nothing is too far or too broken for the Gospel to cover,” she said. “We have to apply these things to ourselves and examine our hearts. We have to have a spirit of gratitude that His mercy is more.”
Recently, author Joshua Harris announced on social media that he no longer considers himself a Christian, and prolific worship music writer Marty Sampson, known for his extensive work with Hillsong Church, said he was "genuinely losing" his faith. Earlier, popular Christian alternative rock musician Michael Gungor revealed he embraced atheism for a full year.
Holcomb, a chart-topping solo artist and former member of the band Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, fronted by her husband, Drew, said that the pressures of the music industry can propel even the most humble individual toward self-worship.
“The lifestyle of being on a stage and in a fishbowl on display with a lot of people looking to you — there are some interesting hurdles and struggles that come along with that,” she explained. “The heart was not built for notoriety. I’m a huge fan of counseling because it gets confusing when a lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, you're so great.’ I think a good thing for all of us to do would be to stop and hear the Lord say, ‘Don’t look to the right or left. Focus your eyes on me. You look at me, and you’re going to be OK.’”
The “Red Sea Road” singer also cautioned Christians against idolizing Christian leaders, adding: “Our hearts were made to worship the One who made us, but we misplace that a lot of times. I would encourage people to not place those in the spotlight on a pedestal; to make sure that they’re worshiping the One who gave the gift.”
Even the most broken of individuals, she emphasized, can be redeemed. She also highlighted the need for transparency within the church, explaining it should be a “safe place” to explore doubts and questions of the faith.
“The church is meant to be a hospital, not a museum,” she said. “Sometimes it becomes this place where you're looking at everybody else who is so faithful and using their gifts, and really, it's meant to be a place where we come broken and busted up to the beautiful embrace of Christ.”
Holcomb also stressed the need for the church to become “comfortable” with the reality of suffering, doubt, and pain. She added that throughout the Pslams, David continually directed his questions and doubts toward the Lord — and Isaiah describes Jesus as a “man of sorrows. This, she said, demonstrates God has a “long leash when it comes to suffering and patience as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
“We need to hear from the pulpit that it’s OK not to be OK,” she said. “I think so often all that’s presented in both sermons and worship music is, the Gospel is about being good and loving God and other people. And that’s all well and good, but it’s not the full Gospel.”
“God isn't far away from our pain; He understands our sorrow and suffering. We can come to Him because of what Jesus did with all of it,” she said. “Just because you're suffering doesn't mean that the Gospel doesn't apply to that.”
Naturally afraid of pain, humans “want to skip over the hard things,” Holcomb said, but often, it’s “in entering those broken places that we see the power of the Gospel.”
“If we skip over from Jesus coming to the cross and Him being alive just to the Resurrection Day, you actually miss the power of the story of the Gospel,” she said. “Culturally, we have a hard time being vulnerable and sharing our weakness, but that is so central to Christianity.”
The Nashville-based singer revealed the title track from her chart-topping album Red Sea Road was inspired by a season of suffering and loss.
“We couldn’t make sense of what we were going through,” she recalled. “What I encountered in the middle of feeling that everything was falling apart, was the person of Jesus, a man acquainted with grief. It was such a comfort at that time to know that we weren’t alone and that we didn’t have to bury our hope because Jesus Himself was already buried for us and rose out of that grave.”
“When suffering happens, we're like, ‘God, we know you're good, but this does not feel good.’ What God says to us in that moment is, ‘You need only be still, and I will fight for you.’ He makes a way when there’s isn’t one. I still have questions about why those things happened, but I know God more not in spite of my suffering, but because of my suffering, because He suffered too.”
“God’s answer to suffering is, ‘Me too. This isn’t the end of the story, because I’m coming again,” she continued.
Now, Holcomb, a mother of three, is focusing her attention on sharing the Gospel with the youngest members of society: The catchy tune “Sing” from her children’s album was created to accompany her children’s book, Who Sang the First Song? She's now working on another book specifically to teach children about Jesus.
“There’s a connection that happens from your head to your soul into your heart when you learn to sing,” she said. “It’s been a gift to write music that will help children really make those truths their own. To have a personal connection to them at a really young age feels like a really powerful and beautiful thing to be a part of.”
Whether she’s performing for the seasoned Christian or society’s youngest members, Holcomb said she finds confidence in the belief that God’s word “will not come back void.”
“I’ve memorized Scripture for years, and it’s one of the most life-giving, powerful, potent things that I've ever done to build my faith,” she said. “I write from Scripture. Music is one of the ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. And I believe that if I’m writing Scripture into music, God’s word will change hearts and minds.”
“It’s funny,” she added. “I don’t care really about how many records I sell, or whatever. I don't really keep track of that. But whenever anybody listens to my music, the exciting part for me is knowing that God is going to administer His word to each and every person who hears it. Writing and performing songs that are grounded in God’s word is my rudder.”
Watch "Sing" below.