Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hey Church, You Lost Me! Part 7


We've been exploring a new book on the decline of church participation among young adults: "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church," by David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Research Group.

The second part of the book examines the six most common descriptions of the church given by young adult church dropouts: overprotective, shallow, antiscience, repressive, exclusive, doubtless.  

Today we'll look at the final description: doubtless.

We all know that questions and doubts form part of the experience of faith.  We see doubt and struggle in the very Scriptures.  Yet, do our churches have room for the doubts of the day to be voiced safely?

Kinnaman distinguishes several experiences of doubt:

1) Intellectual doubt -
"Sometimes I wish I could just push the belief button.  I really do wish I could say yes to Christianity, but it doesn't work.  I can't get past some of these big questions about faith, about God, and about Christianity."
2) Institutional doubt - 
From those deeply at odds with expressions of modern-day Christianity, or disgusted by institutional scandals like the child abuse cover-ups in the Roman Catholic church. 
3) Unexpressed doubt - 
Fully one-third of young adult responders agree that "I don't feel I can ask my most pressing life questions in church."  This leads to patterns of pretending or increasing isolation from the church.
4) Transitional doubt - 
This has to do with temporary phases of serious doubt, for example, following the death of a loved one.  Oftentimes the Christian community was not supportive and encouraging during these times of struggle.
Doubting Turns to Doing: 

Kinnaman encourages churches to find opportunities for young adults to put feet to their faith.  
"We need to help young adults do something with their faith in order to contextualize their doubts within the church's mission."  
We cannot argue people out of doubt, but we can walk with them in the questions and encourage them to act in faith and service, even while awaiting the Holy Spirit to make faith a lived reality.  He concludes, 
"There are millions of young adults rethinking church and faith - and they have doubts about their doubts.  How can we help them act in faith, allowing their doubts to be "ants in the pants" of their quest for God?

How about you?  Do you consider church to be a safe place to express your doubts?  Leave a comment below:

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