Ex-Liberty U worship leader details long journey in overcoming dark season of unbelief

Justin Kintzel
Justin Kintzel - Good Good FatherRecorded at Life.Church - Oklahoma City Campus 2016 |

Dove-nominated singer Justin Kintzel says he regained his faith after struggling with unbelief and that experience led him to write his new single, “In All This We Know.”

Kintzel, a former worship leader at Liberty University, says he and his wife, Ashley, were faced with an unexpected transition in their lives when staffing changes meant he'd no longer be employed by the university after years of service. 

Uprooting from their home and the community of friends they had in Lynchburg, Virginia, was a catastrophic change for their family. 

Kintzel told The Christian Post that he went through an "incredibly dark season of doubt" for years following that move. 

"In my anger and bitterness after being unexpectedly pushed out of my dream worship pastor job and the subsequent dismantling of my budding music career in 2014, I began resisting God, the church, and Christianity altogether. I had found my identity in the platform I had, and when it disappeared, my faith crumbled with it," he admitted. 

His unemployment also led to financial and marriage struggles. 

"I began to self-medicate, and I found myself angry toward God. I gravitated toward leading worship in a large seeker-sensitive church in Oklahoma where good theology is rarely taught, the Gospel is missing critical elements as not to offend, and the culture was one of obsessive excellence," Kintzel told CP.

Although he led worship at a seeker-friendly church out of rebellion, it was there where he felt God reaching out to him at a time when he considered himself to be agnostic.

"I was trying to let go of Him; He wasn’t letting go of me. I had been struggling since my forced resignation with the notion that God was either indifferent to my plight, or worse, not even there at all. It scared my wife at times," he said.

On top of all of that, his daughter, Nora, had been diagnosed with a “handful of health complications,” he revealed in an Instagram post at the time.

"We were leading seven services together every weekend while I sank deeper and deeper into theological confusion and even apathy. The thing that held me back from just leaving the whole thing behind was this notion of false teaching."

Kintzel said he felt an intense discomfort with prosperity gospel preachers who were teaching "false theology on purpose for gain.”

"My thinking was, if there was just nothing to this old book, it’s strange that a lot of the things in it still apply," Kintzel told CP. "To me, if the whole thing was fake like other religions, it would be far more benign, and the predictions wouldn’t be accurate."

"Jesus said that Christians will be hated for His sake. And in fact, they are both in this country and are being killed around the world. I also thought that it was strange that there were these 'super teachers' who were incredibly famous and teaching the Bible wrong on purpose for obvious financial gain, and there were thousands of people buying into it. The Bible predicts and warns against the idea of false teaching all over the New Testament."

The disenfranchised psalmist then began to research famous Word of Faith teachers. "The ones who ask for a $1,000 seed to receive a blessing and fly in $65 million dollar jets," he said. 

The "In All This We Know" singer started watching YouTube preachers who taught against prosperity preachers and while he was just doing it out of interest, the truth of God's Word was being embedded in him. 

"I had never heard that kind of rich theology of God’s Word before from God-fearing men who were faithfully warning the body against wolves. And even though I was beginning to discern the difference between truth and lies according to Scripture, I was still struggling to understand how it all fit together," Kintzel said.

He finally pulled out of his rut after his seeker-sensitive church held a yearly vision casting meeting. He recalled walking out of the meeting and having an all-out shouting fit against God, hoping for a sign, and then walking back into the church and receiving a sign. 

"I demanded God either perform a sign in front of me or I was finally walking away," Kintzel told CP. "I felt alone on that dark, grassy hill, and after waiting about a full minute, He did nothing. Defeated and with a fresh sense of crushing reality that God didn't care about me or wasn't there, I went back inside. Right as I sat back down, the worship band was going off and the lead pastor of the church was walking on. The first thing out of his mouth was an excited announcement that one of the major false teachers that I had been researching was coming to speak for two weekends, and something snapped within me.

"It was as if the Holy Spirit smacked me in the head with a spiritual 2x4," he continued. "And rather than some cheap sign given when I angrily demanded it, God had been working on something so much better over the course of the last several months that all came together at the right time. It was then that God showed me that this seeker-sensitive empowerment gospel of how awesome I am came crashing down. The spell was broken, and I returned to Jesus empty."

After that reality check, he began to "passionately" read the Gospels and Jesus came to life for him in a new way that replaced his prior "cultural-Christianity."

"It was like the scales fell off my eyes, and I saw the Gospel in a brand new light."

After a five-year hiatus from music, Kintzel and his family moved back to his home state of Colorado where he and his wife lead worship together at a church he describes as a "Bible-believing, God-fearing, Christ-exalting, Gospel-preaching church."

Kintzel and his wife presently lead worship at Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge. His new single, “In All This We Know,” features vocals from his wife, Ashley.

“Releasing even just a song after a five year hiatus has been incredibly life-giving, vulnerable, scary, awesome, and all the emotions in between,” Kintzel said on Instagram

“It's funny, I’ve been faithfully writing all along, but to actually record any of it was a place of vulnerability I just wasn’t ready to go back to since my time as worship pastor at Liberty.”

He confessed that after being let go from Liberty he thought “nobody wanted to hear anything” from him anymore. 

“Through pain, struggle, hardship, and loss, God lovingly destroyed me and built me back up,” he said. “God sometimes does that to those He loves; He brings pain into our lives, not to punish or revel in our pain, but to lovingly wean us off this world.”

If it wasn’t for the pain, Kintzel would have continued to believe that his success was linked to his platform. The worship pastor ended his post by declaring openly what he now believes about God. 

He is now working on music that will "tackle issues of doubt, rejection, pain, loss, and how ultimately, God is good," Kintzel told CP. "Thematically, the rich truth of biblical theology is something I want to always make sure these songs are built on. If it’s not true from the authority of God’s Word, we shouldn’t be singing it!"

In July, former pastor and best-selling author Joshua Harris announced on social media that he no longer considers himself a Christian. That revelation was followed by prolific worship music writer Marty Sampson, who's known for his extensive work with Hillsong Church, announcing that his faith is on “incredibly shaky ground.”

Kintzel noted that Harris' and Sampson's journey "definitely could’ve been me."

God used the "struggle, the pain, and the confusion to ultimately bring" the singer closer to Him.

"He destroyed my life to remove my doubt. He dismantled my idols to place Himself as Lord of my life," he said. "In His mercy, He ground me into a powder to rebuild me into a broken man who is now striving to live for Him in gratitude for saving me.

"It’s not a story of how well I hung on to God, or somehow figured it out. If it were up to me, I’d be completely wayward. Embracing the world, rejecting the truth of Scripture, and ultimately living for myself. My story is one of how He didn’t let go of me, not because of anything I did or could’ve done, but simply, only because of His surpassing grace and mercy upon my life."

Kintzel offered two points of advice for anyone struggling with their faith.

"No. 1, don’t forsake God’s Word. And No. 2, in your doubt, ask the Holy Spirit to help you believe what is true. I avoided the Bible for so much of my journey which led to so much confusion. I desperately asked for months for the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth, to help me believe what is true. And I was pointed back to His Word time and time again.

"Please Christians, continue to seek Him with all of your heart. It’s so incredibly worth it. He’s real. It’s true. God made us. We are in bondage to sin. Christ died to free and forgive you and then He rose again. He’s coming back. Believe and give your life to Him. Jesus is the treasure." 

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