Should we encourage people to challenge their faith? If so, how should we go about doing so?

Hi Michelle,

Can you share with us some insights from your “Mind the Gaps” talk? How can we break the silence on topics of faith and help people become more interested in Jesus?

1 Like

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for spending time with us this week. This is probably not the type of question you were looking for, but I’m going to ask it anyway. I got involved with a ladies’ Bible study that is made up of a group of very practical, country, old-style conservative Christian women with limited exposure to academia, intellectual debate, or association with people who would adamantly challenge their views. I find myself frustrated at the shallowness of the “study” - it is often more like reading a verse or two and then sharing personal stories that are somehow (sometimes) related - often very simplistic and cliche as well. Part of me realizes that these people will likely never have to face these questions, and are perhaps better off because their faith is so simple and every day. They simply don’t question much at all. But part of me feels like every Christian should be made aware of the hard questions that come any time we are actively interacting with the academic world, and increasingly, the everyday world, must face and answer. I know that looking at some of the hard questions has caused me to go through periods of questioning and doubt in my faith. Is it fair to create this potential for other people who are happy with their simple, unquestioning faith? Does facing the hard questions make your faith stronger in the end? Is there a gracious way to challenge this mindset, and initiate more in-depth study of the doctrines of Christianity? Or is it best to simply bow out and try to find a place/situation that is a better fit for my interests and experiences?

7 Likes

Hi Jolene,

Thanks for your honesty and for your great question. For me, one of the greatest joys of my home life is being an active part of our local church. My husband Peter is an ordained Pastor, and during our entire marriage, he has been in full-time pastoral ministry. In each of the churches, I have actively supported him in pastoral ministry, both at the start of our marriage when we were both employed at the same church, and even now as a full-time itinerant speaker at RZIM. Obviously, the levels of my involvement are much lower given my travels schedule, but I am still very much in touch with the type of church community you described.

The part of Florida that I live in is definitely classified as “the Bible belt”, and often I am surprised when members of my church community seem either uninterested or completely unaware of the big questions that I am asked in almost every other place I travel. It can be easy to get frustrated or withdraw from a church community when we feel like we are not on the same page as the rest of the members. However, I’ve learned that all people have to face the big questions in life, but most people do not know how to talk about these deep things with others.

@CarsonWeitnauer asked me to share about my talk “Please Mind the Gaps”, and I believe it links to the struggle you are facing. I have never been in a church situation where people didn’t have questions about pain or suffering, where someone wasn’t struggling with doubt, anxiety, sexual temptation…and the list goes on. But unfortunately, we as a church have often failed to created safe spaces for people to be real, open, and honest with how they truly feel or with what ideas they are struggling. Just because we all use similar language or quote similar verses, doesn’t mean we know how to practically apply the truth of the gospel to the reality of our lives. Equally, we can study deep apologetic topics, but it takes practice to learn how to build bridges in our everyday conversations so that these truths will link up with what might seem like someone else’s cliche story. The call to always be prepared to give an answer for our faith in 1 Peter 3:15-16, is also an encouragement to actively look for ways to build bridges in our conversations and relationship that make it easier for people think about, and eventually, ask the bigger questions of life.

Here are a few encouragements I’d like to give you:

  1. Be Proactive:
    -Practice finding ways to build bridges over gaps in conversation, knowledge or even silence to open up those deeper topics.

  2. Be Personal:
    -One of the best ways of building trust in small group settings is to be open and vulnerable yourself. Have you ever shared your journey with the big questions of life and faith? Where are you at currently, do you have any ongoing question you continue to surrender to the sovereignty of God? When we invite people into our stories, it makes it much easier for them to invite us into theirs.

  3. Be Prayerful:
    -Pray and ask God to show you how He sees these fellow sisters, and to teach you how to connect with them in ways that honor and value them for who he created them to be. Ask him to open up opportunities for personal conversations and for ways that you can humbly share God’s love and grace with them.

Give this a try for a while and watch what God can do. Once again, great question. I am praying right now for your next interaction with them. I pray that it would be full of love, seasoned with grace, and overflowing with the joy of His presence among all of you.

Keep asking,
Michelle

6 Likes

Thank you, Michelle. Your answer really goes to the heart of the issue, and I have been increasingly frustrated and withdrawing from the group. Your reflections are 100% accurate. I appreciate the list of practical suggestions as well as the encouragement to stay engaged and keep trying to build bridges. Thank you also for lifting us up in prayer.

2 Likes