Jon Steingard, the lead singer of the Christian rock band Hawk Nelson, is speaking out after announcing he no longer believes in God.
In a lengthy Instagram message posted Wednesday, Steingard thanks fans and well-wishers for their "love and support" as he navigates this "emotional roller-coaster," admitting that the "fairness and kindness" he's received has been surprising.
"Thousands of people from a wide range of belief and unbelief have reached out to let me know I’m loved. How could I have expected that? I could I have asked for more?" he says. "I have been inundated with your stories. Beautiful stories. Tragic stories. Stories of hurt and healing, of pain and release. "
He continues: "It’s clear I’ve struck a nerve, and that many many many of you have felt what I feel. We haven’t all landed in the same place, or reached the same conclusions but the struggle with the questions? That’s something we share.”
He poses the question, "What Now?"
"I don’t really know how to answer the question… with much certainty, other than to (say) that I’m ready to live," he writes. "Openly. Honestly. Curiously. Deeply."
Despite identifying as an "agnostic," Steingard says "it’s important for me to leave that door open" to forming a relationship with God.
"I certainly couldn't say for certain that God isn't there. I would prefer it if he was," he says. "My prayer in recent days has been 'God, if you’re there, please show up.' I mean it sincerely. So far, I don’t feel like I’ve been answered. My door remains open."
The initial announcement came Friday, when Steingard posted a lengthy declaration to Instagram about how he no longer believes in God and shared how he came to that conclusion.
"After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor's kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word 'Christian' in front of most of the things in my life - I am now finding that I no longer believe in God," Steingard wrote.
The singer described how his newfound belief did not occur suddenly, but rather "has been several years in the making." He said he's sharing his beliefs to be honest with his fans.
"Praying in public always felt like some kind of weird performance art," he said. "Emotional cries such as 'Holy Spirit come fill this place' always felt clunky and awkward leaving my lips. A youth conference I attended encouraged every teen to sign a pledge that they would 'date Jesus' for a year. It felt manipulative and unsettling to me. I didn't sign it."
When Steingard consulted the Bible for answers to his questions, he says he became more confused. Steingard's doubt in the Bible is what ultimately led him to stop believing in God, a thought that sent him "into a tailspin."
After suffering from depression following his loss of faith, Steingard said he's "emerged from that dark place now - because I've discovered that life really does go on."
Steingard said he hopes his story will let people experiencing similar doubts know they are not alone.
"Now I don't believe anything is wrong with us," Steingard wrote. "We simply didn't believe - and we were too afraid to admit that to ourselves. So in that sense, we have a tremendous sense of relief now. I am hoping that writing this contributes to that relief."
In a joint statement to USA TODAY on Tuesday, Steingard's Hawk Nelson bandmates Daniel Biro, Micah Kuiper and David Niacaris said their mission is to "inspire and encourage all people with the truth that God is FOR them and not against them."
"God is still FOR Jon & he still matters," they added. "Why? Because that truth doesn’t change just because we question it."
The statement said everyone is "called to Love one another unconditionally" and that people "should also encourage and challenge one another" on issues of faith.
"How we treat one another when they are at a different stage in their journey based on their life experiences is part of a bigger conversation," it said.
The trio capped off their statement with a Bible quote from Romans about how nothing can separate people from God's love, saying that they remain "thankful and grateful" to God for their band, their music and their relationships.
Contributing: Cydney Henderson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hawk Nelson's Jon Steingard doesn't believe in God; bandmates react