Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.
I recently wrote a post about struggling with faith – about how one might get lost in the shuffle of expectations and end up just walking through the motions rather than living passionately for something. I wrote the whole post with adults my age in mind (mid-twenties) – but after having a few conversations with older adults, I’ve found that this isn’t just about my stage of life – it’s an epidemic running through the church. I might get sick.
Most notable of my recent conversations was one with a pastor who I’ve been an acquaintence of for probably 10 years or so. I ran into him at a Barnes and Noble shortly after writing my last post and without much prompting our conversation went in the direction of struggling with faith. It’s funny because he brought it up, not me. This is a guy who went out and planted a church a number of years ago with the hopes of, as he put it, “just loving people.” I think that’s honorable. I think loving people should be the primary action of the church and so it sounds to me like he went with the right motivation. I would also say that it takes a pretty big amount of faith, as it were, to go plant something new…whether it be a church or a pizza shop, it takes balls to put yourself out there to try and build something from the ground up. At the Vineyard they have a saying – that “faith” is spelled “r-i-s-k” because frankly, that’s true in any arena of life. But I’d like to take a closer look at the dilemma of faith. Yes, that’s right. Dilemma. Because it is one.
I would ponder a guess that this church plant has probably been around for 8 or 9 years now…maybe less. And I’m sure it took a lot of thinking and planning to put together a strategy to go out and do this new church. Most of all – Christians would say – is trusting that God is in it, having faith that God will make it work. So off he went, planted this church, and now all these years later he is sitting in a Barnes and Noble, talking to me about this dilemma of faith – not being sure that he did the right thing. Not being sure if this church plant was ultimately going to enable him to do what his heart desired all those years ago…you know, the whole loving people thing. His biggest complaint was that in church, you always have some kind of agenda. There’s always some kind of structure or goal or something that we’re trying to attain. I could relate, it was the same thing in my church and it’s the same in every church everywhere.
Example: Why do churches have bulletins? Powerpoints? Sound systems? It’s because they are trying to be attractive to outsiders. If they weren’t, and they were just trying to do community on Sunday, they wouldn’t need any of that stuff. It’s agenda-filled because that’s how you run a business. You have a product and you try to sell it to as many people as you can. But at some point, people who are really interested in trying to know God at some deeper level, see past all of the curtains and commercials and wonder if there is supposed to be more than this.
So ok, I’m fed up with church. So are lots of other people. How is this a dilemma of faith? Here’s how.
I feel like there are lots of sincere people out there just questioning, wondering where God is in the midst of their lives. How he is showing up and working and moving in them. I had a friend say that he thought God existed but that he doesn’t do anything with us or for us – we’re all on our own. I don’t agree. I still have some semblance of hope that God will show up, that he CAN show up if he will just choose to. Maybe I don’t see it yet, but I have hope that I will. But see, the Bible tells me that each person is GIVEN faith. I don’t earn it, I don’t make it, I don’t know where to find more of it, I am given it. Don’t believe me?
For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.
So maybe I have a problem with that. If God gives me faith and I don’t have the ability to somehow conjure up more, what if this amount of faith isn’t enough? At the small group I go to, I keep telling everybody there that I want God to just show up in my life in some tangible, real, unmistakable way. As I was being prayed for one night my buddy looks at me and says – what if God doesn’t do this for you? Will it be enough to just believe? And I’m like…that is stupid. STUPID! Frustrating! No, it’s clearly not enough for me right now! I’m effing struggling over here and could use a little encouragement! If God would show up to a putz like Gideon, who was a damn coward and had to ask God to do some miracles (yes, plural) for him before he would march in to battle – why wouldn’t he show up to someone like me? I’m just trying to figure this ridiculous joke of a life out and am looking for a reason to live my life with purpose. How about a little nudge, God?
So I most certainly am not being spurred on to more faith by the church – whatever the hell it is they are doing. And I’m not finding that God is showing up in my life when I ask. And apparently I’ve been given a measure of faith that is supposed to sustain me but yet I find I am drowning in my doubts. How is this not a dilemma of faith?
Even those who, by faith, walked out into something new – planted a church, moved all over the country to help others, gave of themselves towards something they thought they knew…here we are now struggling more than anything to rediscover that faith that spurred us on to start in the first place. I don’t want the faith I had when I was in high-school. I’d like a faith that is relevant to me right now.
But I guess I’m supposed to wait in the soup-line of faith, hoping, like Oliver Twist, that the mean cook will give me another spoonful because I’m still hungry.