Justin Bieber and Dan Kimball

Justin Bieber and Dan Kimball January 11, 2012

From Christian Post:

In a coming of age cover story photographed by Inez & Vinoodh, the soon to be 18-year-old pop singer discussed his rising fame, paternity suit controversy, and his views on faith and religion.

Bieber, an unabashed Christian, is known not to shy away from his beliefs in public, seen in his candid declarations of faith in Jesus, whom he believes died for his sins, to his visits to the holy land of Israel.

Most recently, the Canadian star turned heads again with a new tattoo – the face of Jesus Christ adorning the back of his calf.

With more to say about his faith, Bieber, who is currently recording his next album Believe, told V Magazine, according to the New York Post, “A lot of people who are religious, I think they get lost. They go to church just to go to church.”

“I’m not trying to disrespect them … but for me, I focus more on praying and talking to Him. I don’t have to go to church.”

Pastor Dan Kimball’s response:

Responding to his statement, Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif., told The Christian Post that he agreed and disagreed with what Bieber was saying.

“[E]very Christian according to the New Testament is to be in some form of structured local church, whether a house church or large church,” the pastor stated. “We are not meant to be following Jesus without being in a Christian community, where if we are not there part of it, we are missed and noticed.”

“I do agree with him that some Christians can see ‘going to church’ as the basis for their faith, and that then becomes incorrect theology too,” Kimball noted.

“We aren’t Christians based on whether we go to a church meeting or not, that is based on our faith in Jesus. So I agree with him there, but having faith in Jesus then means we should then be functioning in a local church according to the guidelines of Scripture. It would be sad thinking of a Christian living out their faith on their own without being in a faith community.”



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  • Chris Miller

    Kimball shows wisdom while Bieber has some maturing to do in the faith.

  • Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    He is just eighteen years old.

  • Kristen

    I am glad that nobody was publicly dissecting the theological musings I was spouting off when I was 18.

    Which isn’t to say that Dan Kimball was doing anything wrong here. He didn’t insert the initial statement into the public square. He’s not attacking. It’s a measured response that includes things he can affirm in the initial statement. Well done Dan Kimball.

    But OF COURSE Bieber has some maturing to do, in the faith and otherwise (I’d expect). He’s 18.

  • J Williams

    What does Kimball mean by the “guidelines” as they pertain to ones involvement in a community of faith?

    How does biblicism inform those guidelines?

    How do other interpretative systems determine those guidelines?

    I agree with the substance of what he is saying, but I wonder how local church/world travler dynamic might look for someone in as unique a position as a Justin Bieber or Bono (pardon the comparison)?

    For an interesting radio segment on faith and the music industry NPR just had a segment today with the lead singer from One Republic, Ryan Tedder. He was raised a Christian in Tulsa, OK, attended and graduated from Oral Roberts, and continues to openly model & speak of his faith. His story is very interesting with respect to this topic. He does not necessarily deal with the issue of church community though.

    My apologies for not having a link.

  • Amos Paul

    I don’t see this as Kimball ‘correcting’ a kid in the faith, either, but more like Kimball encouraging the kid to re-think his position and consider becoming more serious about going to church.

  • My question is, wouldn’t the accountability of his christian parents, mentors and peers be enough? Do they cease to operate as the church when they are not tied to a local non-profit?

  • Hello!

    You have to read the full article http://www.christianpost.com/news/justin-bieber-i-dont-have-to-go-to-church-66775/ as I repeatedly said in it that I can’t make a conclusion on Justin’s ecclesiological beliefs based on a single quote of his. I was responding to the question the Christian Post asked me about the theology of “going to church”.

    I did add this in the comments of the article too:

    We have to remember Justin is only 18 years old. He is much more articulate about his faith, than I ever could have expressed at the age of 18. He may not understand a full theology of what “church” is at his age – and we only saw one sentence of his interview here, so we can’t make conclusions about what he thinks of church.

    I tried to respond to the theology of what church is in my quotes here, not what Justin actually believes theologically or not about church – as I don’t know. It’s only one sentence we are looking at. I hope we too can celebrate that an 18 celebrity is so public about his faith which is a wonderful thing in today’s culture.

  • DRT

    DRT at 18 – duh, faith, ya, go to church, um, don’t sin…um…

  • scotmcknight

    Well, I’m not sure I’d be as gentle as some of you are…

    First, Bieber’s big. I don’t know that culture but when a culture icon of that level says something like this it is worth pondering and responding to.

    Second, Bieber got this disposition toward the church from someone: and it is colossally against what the NT teaches. Church and discipleship are inextricable.

    Third, I like that Bieber likes to talk about his faith, though I don’t put any stock in what any celebrity says about the faith (or what they say about politics).

    Dan Kimball’s response is as good as it gets pastorally. When the media call on something like this it is not easy to say something clearly that is quotable, and it is not easy to get what you say put into print! The editor of the article decides what is said.

    Good on you Danny!

  • J. Williams and Eric Michael Saye –

    I based my response to the question about what “church” is with appointed leaders based on Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:17; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-13 etc. which indicates that in churches there was a structure of designated leadership in a church. So a formal (although organic like a family) structure of all Christians being in a local church, whether a house church or a megachurch – is indicated in Scripture as what “church” is as it functions in a healthy way. We are the church 7 days a week, but we then are part of a local body of Christ where we have accountability, shepherding, teaching etc. as we see as the pattern in the New Testament.


  • Tim

    What Bieber articulates is “mainstream thinking”. I hear people inside and outside the church suggesting that the “assembly’s gathering” is unnecessary. Many people believe that following Christ is an individual sport. Dan’s teaching is right on. Following Jesus is something we do together. Justin’s thinking is understandable and commonplace– and needs gentle correction. How do we help people rethink this?

  • Tim –

    In general for all people, I believe we have to be teaching “what is church?” to elementary age, junior high and high schoolers so by the time they do graduate they have a theological understanding of church.

    When I was youth pastor for many years, we had a really large youth ministry and we taught about so many things, but regretfully we didn’t teach about what church was. So a youth might not even have an understanding of ecclesiology, even though they were raised in a Christian home or became a Christian in high school. In the church I am part of now, we intentionally bring in all children 4 times a year to the gatherings, we have youth in regularly and are making attempts to ensure that when a teenager graduates they do not define church as the Sunday meeting, or the youth group.

    I think this is one of the reasons we see people saying “I don’t need to go to church” or be part of any formal church community, whether a house church or megachurch. We are Christians based on our faith in Jesus, not whether one goes to a Sunday meeting. We are “the church” 7 days a week and we cannot “go to church”. But as Christians we then should function as a family member and active participant in a local church body which has appointed leaders etc. according to the Scriptures. To not do that, in my opinion means we are not experiencing biblical “church”.

  • discokvn

    wow, both dan and scot have responded to the posts here… any chance of getting the bieber himself to respond???

  • Cal

    Nice response Dan.

    I have to complement you on have a patient and kind tone.

    I find it just sad that if Justin is what he says he is then all he is doing is acting as a cog in the consumerist, oversexed culture pumping machine called the American music industry. I’m not saying run to a “christian label” (those industries can be just as brutal and worst still since they operate under a different pretext), but reconsider where he is at. All I can do is pray.

  • Fish

    What do we expect when so much Christian messaging boils down to salvation coming from “having a personal relationship with Jesus?” There is nothing communal about that.

    I think what we are hearing from Bieber is what I hear from a lot of people: a rejection of organized religion.

  • Mike Sangrey

    I think the vast majority of Christians define ‘church’ by what they as individuals do on Sunday morning. They don’t get their definition from a Systematic Theology book. They don’t even get the definition from some form of discipleship. The action of doing church speaks too loudly. For most, ‘church’ is a noun naming the action for which we don’t have a verb. Think about the question, “Where do you go to church?” and how common such a usage is. That usage shapes our ecclesiology.

    I’m not saying that is right, wrong, or otherwise. I’m just describing what I see. For Bieber, I appreciate the tone Dan has voiced. We don’t know what Bieber refers to when he used the word ‘church.’

    For me, I’ve raised my children to use the expression, “church meeting.” That helps break the hold such a usage has in forming my children’s actual ecclesiology.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    I do not mean any disrespect, but I am skeptical. I agree with those who do not want to be too critical of an 18 year old (we were all there once). But because of some particular jobs I have done over the past three years I have seen Bieber emerging for several years in programs on the Disney Channel. This Christianity thing fits so neatly with Disney’s carefully crafted image of him (like others before him) and with American popular civil religion that I am skeptical of his expressions being more than good PR for another carefully constructed youth entertainer to attract that early teens white “evangelical” audience.


  • When I was something like 16 I looked at the people surrounding me in a Sunday “worship” session and I thought, “If these are what Christians are, I don’t want any part of it.”

    I’m 72 now. I’ve been around the block. For the most part I still feel the same way. I still carry the dream of finding a gathering of Christians where I would not only fit but could learn and teach. Halfway thru my journey I taught Sunday School to high school students. We loved each other but increasingly as I grew it became apparent that I could not be honest with these kids and avoid offending church doctrine at the same time. With young people, honesty takes precedent over “correct” doctrine.

    Dan Kimball strikes me as honest and sincere as does Justin Bieber. To be honest, which is the point of my post, there is always a red flag that goes up when someone who makes their living as a professional religious leader speaks of the necessity of attending church. You know the rest, I won’t belabor it.

    My heart is not with those who are comfortable within the religious establishment. They are sincere, for the most part, and make the world a better place, for the most part, God bless them. But my heart is with the young people who look at this establishment, look at the world bent on self-destruction, and look within to a faint spark of light shining in the maelstrom.

    Gotta go with Justin on this one. Would be glad to meet with him. According to a different proof text, that would constitute a church, or at least a place where Jesus joined the gathering.

  • Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    I agree with Scot above where he says that Dan Kimbal’s response is ‘as good as it gets pastorally’.

    The tone was not condemning toward the Biebs but gave a clear corrective to the culture that informed him.

  • TSG

    There are two dynamics pulling at “church”.

    (1) There once was a world where people stayed in one place an entire life. You saw the same people, and church truly evolved patriarchially. There was a mediating time, it evolved with an inner balancing, a Holy Spirit era. Proposed by some as a model for today. However, we have evolved to a place where friends and others are only for a season. This is the defintion of existential. The past was different. The future is open. For the present to be non-participatory in any aspect doesn’t work.

    (2) Church in truth is family. It must be inclusive to be so. Homogeneity is a clue to exclusivism. In functional families you are known for being unique and encouraged accordingly. Dysfunctional one’s assign roles- “So now I see the whole design, My church is an assembly line, The parts are there, I’m feeling fine, I want to be a clone” Steve Taylor, 1987.
    Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” is more about inclusivism than it is about universalism. The controversy is cutting edge in respect to our inclusive/exclusive church nature. Most believe inclusivism to be about who is in or who is out. But it truly is more about how God works, and our traditional systematized church has been too closed(or bounded is a better word).

  • There’s no such thing as an individual in isolation. Isn’t describing a church as an organized assembly limiting? What about the people around a person (think spokes of a wheel which is indeed a form of organization) that pray together, support each other, grow together? Is this not “church”? Is a teenager’s family not a “church”?

    Just wondering.

    I mean, if a teenager is this open and apparently solid in his faith then might that mean that he must be supported somewhere, which would lead me to say there is a fellowship of believers in this person’s life. There is church.

    “You don’t need to go to church” is not the same as “you don’t need the church”. That’s a different story, and not one I’m willing to say is the heart of the mainstream notion of Jesus being different than the institutional religion of Christianity.

    Oh brother, I’m laughing that of all the times I’ve wanted to comment on this blog, I choose a Bieber post to do it.

  • Perhaps Justin doesn’t ‘go to church’ as in the building. But I think he and his community get the idea that they ‘are church’.

  • Tim Seitz-Brown

    “Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God.” – Stanley Hauerwas from “The Gesture of a Truthful Story” in Critical Reflections on Stanley Hauerwas’ Theology of Disability

  • CJ

    Justin Bieber…

    1) Is 18 years old.
    2) Holds his hands in a cute little heart above his head.

    I’m gonna bet that he’s not a theological authority.

  • Mike

    I see no indication that Bieber is not in a faith community. Does one have to go to a building every Sunday to be involved with a community of believers?