Anyone who knows me and has spent any significant time with me would not hesitate to label me a “cynic.” While I’m not sure that I would say that I wear the label proudly, I certainly don’t avoid or evade it either. I am not easily convinced but I would define myself as loyal, once you gain my trust and respect, I will go to the mat for you.
In preparation for a message that I gave this past weekend at my church, I read some statistics from David Kinnaman’s book, “You Lost Me.” As president of the Barna Group, a leading research organization, Kinnaman has focused much on what keeps people from engaging in church. He has written a book with Gabe Lyons about what the younger generations really think about Christianity. In “You Lost Me,” Kinnaman talks about the exodus out of the church of young people in the 18-29 age group who have grown tired of many things that the church does (and doesn’t) offer.
One striking statistic for me was that nearly 40% of young people who were polled for the Barna study admitted a period of significant doubting of their faith during their short life. Kinnaman says that a large number of those that doubted did not feel that their faith community was open to this kind of doubting and even made some feel uncomfortable that they would even entertain thoughts of doubt. To that, I say, “What a shame!”
Whenever I meet someone with an overconfidence and self-assuredness in their beliefs, I am suspicious. I am mostly suspicious as to whether or not his person has experienced any real difficulties in their lives. I wonder if they have really had their faith challenged, questioned, and even tested. While faith challenges can lead to a strengthening of one’s faith, they more often than not will result in a crisis of faith, a questioning and doubting of one’s long held beliefs and philosophies.
I certainly don’t think that doubt is disrespectful to God. After all, if he is sovereign as many Christ followers claim that he is, than this kind of doubt should come as no surprise to him at all. The Bible is full of those who have expressed their doubts, who have questioned even the sovereign hand of God in the midst of their struggles and crises. The psalmist, David, was renowned for expressing his doubt and disbelief, but he always came back to the place where he remembered what God had promised, where he was able to see God’s hand at work on a larger scale than the immediate and current.
It’s no wonder to me that so many young people would be turned off to the idea or notion of church when they suddenly find themselves in a season of “question everything” and the church will have nothing at all to do with it.
My hope and prayer is that the church would be open to skeptics. Jesus met many skeptics, but he never left them where they were, he always brought them along, invited the along on the journey. I hope that the church can do the same thing and invite others into the journey and dialogue, allowing for healthy doubt and wrestling. There are so many people that I know who would have benefited from such an environment and I hope and pray that I can be part of something that can create that kind of culture and atmosphere.