I’ve had writers block. If you’re a writer, you know all about that. Anyone in any regular creative endeavor has found themselves at one time or another stuck with seemingly no way to proceed. Undoubtedly, something always jars loose the obstacle in the mind that won’t let you proceed. I’ve come to recognize the source of my writer’s block as a combination of two seemingly disparate situations that are surprisingly connecting in my mind around the theme of faith crisis/doubt.
My daughter’s best friend has been in a 14-month battle (yes, I chose that word) with grade 4 glioblastoma brain cancer. She’s 25. In the midst of this, my prayers have consisted of begging, bargaining, and pleading. And I’ve asked the “Why?” questions that are so unanswerable. And I’ve shaken my fist at God. And, I’ve found myself in moments of faith crisis. I have places to bring my doubt and my anger. And, while I’m dismayed that, rather than being able to lean deeply on my faith in this time, I have found myself at times in crisis, I know that it’s normal and it will be ok.
The second situation is one I’ve been pondering as I’ve been studying mission and leadership at Luther Seminary. That being that the United States is in an institutionalized religion crisis. These two situations are intersecting for me in this moment at this point of doubt.
These situations intersect at doubt because we (“the church”) are told that institutionalized religion isn’t cutting it for the “seekers” and the young. It’s not a place that welcomes the “Why?” questions or the doubt. We don’t dig deeply into the mucky stuff and the hard stuff of faith; we are afraid to discuss the theological wrestlings for which we have no answers; we sugarcoat theology to make it palatable; and so we’re losing the up and coming generations.
I don’t know if we know exactly why people are rejecting church these days - certainly there isn’t one single reason and there isn’t a simple fix. And none of us will have the answers to some of our theological WHY questions while we walk this earth.
But here’s the leadership thought of the day: if we as leaders aren’t making space – a lot of space – for talking about the hard stuff; if we aren’t welcoming the “Why?” questions; if we aren’t loving people through their doubt and their faith crises, and being vulnerable enough to share our own, then we are missing a big piece of the command “love thy neighbor.” We are also missing a great opportunity to lead. So I ask you, what is your church doing (better yet, what are YOU doing) to make a lot of welcoming and loving space for conversations of doubt and really hard theological questions? When was the last time you shared your own questions/doubts with others?