“I wanna start a party up in heaven,” I sang along with my cassette tape. The cliche 90’s beats and synthesizer sound filled my headphones. And I loved it.
I was in fifth grade, and my parents had just returned home from a long weekend at Praise Gathering with more than 10,000 other people in Indianapolis. It was a weekend full of concerts from Christian music’s greatest artists and was hosted by Bill and Gloria Gaither, two of Christian music’s elite.
My mom always returned with gifts, and this particular year, one of them was an autographed Michael English cassette tape. I was an instant fan.
Michael, whose song “In Christ Alone,” (not to be confused with the modern praise song by the same title), was an anthem for Christians across the globe, became my favorite Christian singer. I loved the lyrics from “In Christ Alone” that were, “My source of strength, my source of hope, is Christ alone.”
But it became clear, not just in 1994, but many times after, that often my source of strength and hope wasn’t in Christ alone. It was in people like Michael English.
Just two weeks after winning the biggest awards in Christian music at the Dove Awards, Michael English announced that he was leaving Christian music. He was a married man who not only had an affair with another Christian music artist, but he also got her pregnant.
My world exploded. How was that possible? How in the world could my favorite Christian artist do something like that? He had an obligation to all of his fans to be pure and godly! I almost felt personally victimized. I felt like his songs no longer held meaning. They were a waste.
A few weeks ago, I saw a Christian man and recovering addict post a photo of him and his girlfriend with a caption that read, in part, “I am so grateful for the hope you have given me!”
My stomach dropped. When I hear statements like that, I’m always brought back to Michael English. To Amy Grant. To Jim Baker. To more recently, Bill Hybels. I’m reminded of some people I personally looked up to in churches I’ve attended.
Our source of strength and hope CANNOT be in any human, because humans sin. Humans fail. Humans make mistakes. If you find all of your strength and hope in a person, you WILL be disappointed. They will let you down.
It’s ironic that the words in Michael English’s song so perfectly sum up how we’re supposed to live: “My source of strength, my source of hope, is Christ alone.”
Don’t put your hope in people. You can love people, they may even give you hope, but they cannot be your SOURCE of hope. That can only come from Christ.
“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'”
Luke 4:8 (NIV)