Guest Post: The House of Doubt

June 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

I really hope this blog entry doesn’t get you fired if taken to heart. What I’m about to say might come across to some of you as mild heresy, or as a sign of weakness. Perhaps it might be exactly what you needed to hear, to know you are not alone in your doubts, but you think, “Werner, yeah I have my doubts, but if I bring this up to my supervisors or those whom I minister too, I am for sure getting fired!”

Let’s start of my admitting something, we all have our doubts. We all experience times of unbelief and vulnerability. There are times that we feel forsaken by God and feel completely alone. But we are in places of leadership and we best not show this weakness to those we minister too, right?

I remember being a college senior and talking candidly with other ministry majors about our doubts and struggles. It was refreshing to know that I wasn’t alone.  Then someone chimed in and said, “but we can’t talk like this to our Pastors or to our congregations, we would look weak.”  Which begs me to ask the question, is that such a bad thing?

We see many leaders in the Bible cry out in times of struggle and doubt.

 How long, Lord? Will you forget meforever?
How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)

Doesn’t even the Son of Man quote Psalm 22 during his execution on the cross?

 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)

We have plenty of examples in which brave people in the bible experience doubt and struggle, so why can’t we? Peter Rollins in his Book Insurrection argues that doubt is actually essential and should be part of our ministry.

In order to participate in the Crucifixion, we must find leaders who openly experience doubt, unknowing, and a deep mystery, leaders who see these as a part of Christian faith and important to our ongoing development of a healthy and properly Christian spirituality. The problem is not that there is a lack of leaders who have these experiences; rather, there is a lack of leaders who can admit to these experiences.[1]

Rollins reminds us that in 2007 there were letters that came into light between Mother Teresa and her spiritual directors in which it was revealed that even she had great experiences of doubt. She experienced great pain, loss, and an exceptional longing for God because she did not feel him near. She experienced great doubt, but still kept her ground. [2]

So let’s start something completely different, let’s not be afraid to be weak.  Let’s not be afraid to doubt, and let’s not be afraid to admit our doubts. For some of you, the establishments you work at might not allow for doubt, find some people you can vent too. Find some people that experience your doubts as well and can journey with you; we’re all out there! Let us not be afraid to be like father of demon posed son who was willing to admit his unbelief,

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)

I’ll close with this; let your ministries be places of doubt for your students.

Its ok, let them doubt, this is essential in their journey!

Be a presence to them as you walk with them in their doubts. Do not just tell them what you think they should believe, but actually listen to them!

The fine people at the Fuller Youth Institute and Sticky Faith have told us that about 70% of students doubt their faith in high school, but of those students only half of them actually talk to someone about it.[3]

I wonder if part of the reason that students do not feel comfortable talking about their doubts is because we as leaders are afraid to share our own doubts. Isn’t it time to set a better example? Isn’t it time to let our students doubt at our places of ministry? Instead of making students feel stupid for asking questions, instead of manipulating students into believing YOUR views and YOUR theology, instead let’s listen to what they have to say before they walk away.

After all, what a better place for students to express their doubts than at the Temple. And by the Temple, I mean the Church. And by the Church I don’t mean your fancy (or not so fancy) buildings, but the community of believers (and doubters) that make up the Church.

 

**Werner Ramirez is one of my best friends and favorite people on this planet. He is a great youth pastor at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Long Beach. 


[1]  Peter Rollins, Insurrection (New York: Howard Books, 2011), 65.

[2] Peter Rollins, Insurrection (New York: Howard Books, 2011), 77.

[3] Dr. Kara E. Powell & Brad M. Griffin, Sticky Faith: Teen Curriculum (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 59.

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