How Justin Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ Era Allowed Me To Find My Faith

Megan Armstrong /
Jul 31, 2017 / Music

Justin Bieber unexpectedly cancelled the remaining 14 dates of his Purpose World Tour on Monday afternoon, July 24, abruptly ending his record-breaking Purpose era.

Bieber and his team performed 154 dates worldwide from March 9, 2016, in Seattle, to July 2, 2017, at BST Hyde Park in London.

His official statement reads as follows:

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, Justin Bieber will cancel the remainder of the Purpose World Tour concerts. Justin loves his fans and hates to disappoint them. He thanks his fans for the incredible experience of the Purpose World Tour over last 18 months. He is grateful and honored to have shared that experience with his cast and crew for over 150 successful shows across 6 continents during this run. However, after careful consideration he has decided he will not be performing any further dates. Tickets will be refunded at point of purchase.”

I’m not here to talk about how Purpose Tour has ended, though—getting into the weeds of speculation, how much artists owe fans, prioritising self-care and mental health. There will be plenty of chat, but none of us know what is best for Justin Bieber better than Justin Bieber and those closest to him.

Instead, I’m here to pen how Bieber, Purpose Tour and those involved in catapulting me toward God and what is bigger than us all. I know. By itself, that sentence reeks of idolatry, and initially, I worried that’s what this was, but that is not at all what this has turned out to be. Quite the opposite, in fact.

On Sunday, a day before he cancelled his remaining 14 tour dates, Bieber was seen hiking, as he often does. According to one woman who surprisingly met him there: “We just met Justin Bieber himself while hiking The Wisdom Tree trail in the Hollywood Hills. He was extremely kind, shook all of our hands, chatted with my boys, asked them questions, then suggested that they leave a note by the Wisdom Tree to themselves or to God. It was a surreal and awesome moment to share with my boys, considering how big of fans of his that they are.”

Well, JB, I decided to write an open thank-you letter to you.

Witnessing Bieber’s Purpose era and Purpose Tour has shown me just how small I am, in the greatest way possible. There is a Bible verse, Psalm 119:32, which in one interpretation means, “I’ll run the course you lay out for me, if you’ll just show me how.” God promises us each a plan for our lives, a purpose for our souls, a course for each of us to run—he does not promise any certain way in which you will discover these promises. He will show you how, if you remain open to receiving instructions in any form. For me, my form seemed to come as a 23-year-old tattooed pop star with multiple hair styles and even more talent. Bieber and his Purpose era introduced me to God, Jesus and a faith I had long ago left on the curb.

Quick background: I, like Bieber, am 23 years old. When I was little, my family would inconsistently go to a local Methodist church, where I was baptised and confirmed. It was OK, a nice church with nice people, but I never felt a particular connection. I struggled immensely with faith and viewed it strictly through the prism of religion and rules. I never felt that I measured up. I had sort of internally come to terms with the fact that maybe God didn’t want to know me. Maybe it all wasn’t for me.

Track 2 on Purpose, “I’ll Show You,” Bieber croons: “It’s like they want me to be perfect/When they don’t even know that I’m hurting/’Cause life’s not easy/I’m not made out of steel/Don’t forget that I’m human, don’t forget that I’m real/Act like you know me, but you never will/There’s one thing I know for sure/I’ll show you.”

Is Bieber the only celebrity with a public relationship with faith? Certainly not. He’s just the person I have unexpectedly connected with. I have never met him, I do not know him, but I do know him in spirit. We’re both children of God. And I have truly begun a relationship with God because he is the first person who has shown me a way to be Christlike in a way that makes sense and feels natural to me.

Bieber’s personal photographer, videographer and friend, Rory Kramer, who co-directed the “I’ll Show You” music video, said on The One & Only Podcast in January 2016, “When Justin Bieber went to my family’s house over Labor Day, back in Indiana, we were shooting pool, drinking the beers, and I was like, ‘Man, it’s really cool that you came here.’ It just really showed that he was more than himself. He was just a person. He showed that interest and wanted to come because he was my friend. And so he looks at me and says, ‘Dude, I don’t think I’m here by chance. I really think we’re put in each other’s lives for a reason.’

“And, you know, I’ve learned a lot from him. I thought I was close to God before, and I thought I was going to be the person bringing him closer to God, but he was actually—I think he brought me closer to God.”

Obviously, I have never had a conversation like this one with Bieber at my family’s house. But I had an epiphanous experience like this one when my mother and I attended the Kansas City stop of his Purpose Tour on April 6, 2016. Not only did I hear nods to God in his lyrics throughout the Purpose set list, I felt like I was at an iteration of church. An introductory course. A particular energy.

Everything, from the accompanying merchandise designed by Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God to the people accompanying Bieber to his tour dates around the world, about this album in Bieber’s life discography is woven in faith. Just a few cities in, last March, Bieber announced that he would no longer be taking photos with fans and cancelled any future meet and greets as a means of putting his mental and emotional health first. He was, of course, scrutinised by some.

Look at what he’s doing instead, though. Praying with people. Conversing with people. Influencing people in human-to-human interactions that linger longer than a selfie to put as your Twitter avi. Is he perfect? Nope. That much is well-documented and admitted by himself. But that’s what makes him so relatable—that’s what makes a true man of faith.

On June 5, at the One Love Manchester benefit concert after the terror attack at an Ariana Grande show in Manchester on May 22, Bieber played an acoustic set—”Love Yourself” and “Cold Water.” But it was his spoken words that shone through, something of a sermon:

“God is good in the midst of the darkness,” he said fighting back tears with his hands to the sky. “God is good in the midst of the evil. God is in the midst, no matter what is going on in the world, God is in the midst. And he loves you. And he’s here for you.”

I now follow Hillsong Church and City Church because of him. I follow people in his inner-circle who also follow Christ: Carl Lentz and his wife, Laura Lentz, Joe Termini, Josh Mehl, Ryan Good, Rich Wilkerson Jr. I read Judah Smith’s book, How’s Your Soul? But I know that I am not doing this in pursuit of Justin. I am in pursuit of Jesus, who just happened to truly be introduced to me by a young man, a Son of God (so says his torso), named Justin.

I talk to God. I pray for people, places and things. I pray with people and talk about God with people in my life. Yes, I even pray for Justin Bieber. Maybe one day we’ll meet and pray together, maybe not. No, I’m not crazy. Yes, I feel reborn. I don’t have a clear picture of what exactly my purpose is, what God created me to carry out, but I have a clearer picture than before. The Purpose era didn’t introduce me to Bieber, but it did help introduce me to the real me and my creator. And I know I am not the only one.

So perhaps it’s only right that this era should end unexpectedly and imperfectly with a TMZ video in which Bieber is throwing up a peace sign and telling everyone to “have a blessed day.”

On behalf of us all,

Thank you.

Words by Megan Armstrong

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