I finished You Lost Me by David Kinnaman this last week. There is so much good information in that book that I’ll probably have to read it again. I know in a previous blog I talked about my thoughts from just reading the first half of the book (Current Reading: You Lost Me). Now I would like to share something that resonated with me from the second half of the book.
The book is divided up into three parts. The first part focuses on the dropouts – who they are. The second part looks at where they are disconnecting from the church. While I could comment on each disconnect studied, I’m going to share with my thoughts on the final disconnect entitled “Doubtless”.
The lost generation views the church as a doubtless place. A place where doubts are seen as shameful. A place were answers are not found. A place were questions are not asked. I think for a long time we’ve used simple cliches and slogans to keep people on track. However, there are some complex questions out there that can’t be answered simply. We need to acknowledged this instead of pretending to know it all. We don’t. At least, I don’t.
I started to dream as I read this chapter. I thought about what the church would look like if we really partnered with the next generation. What would it look like if they could really come to us with their questions, with their doubts. Instead of giving them a lecture using our trusted slogans and simple answers, what if we wrestled through the issues with them. What if we did the research alongside of them instead of just giving them the standard answer. What if we took off the mask of having it all together. What if we didn’t act like we knew it all. What if the church wasn’t a place where doubt was seen as the opposite of faith.
As I was reading this chapter, I was reminded of a season of doubt in my life. I haven’t talked about it much because honestly, I didn’t want to freak anyone out. I was the good Christian girl, at the good Christian college and I was engaged to a pastor. So you can guess why I kept my doubts to myself. At the time I was in my sophomore year of college at Multnomah Bible College. I loved my classes, but my relationships at the school were lacking. I knew I was getting married that summer and that I wouldn’t be returning the following year. Instead of engaging in deeper friendships, I had pulled back and focused on getting through school so I could get home. My heart was really in Chehalis. I wanted to be close to Jeremy. I wanted to be serving the girls that I had fallen in love with the summer before. My weeks were lonely. I lived for the weekends when Jeremy would come down to visit or I would head home.
I was also interning at the church attended in Vancouver, WA. The year before I had worked in their youth department, but I had moved out of that role into more of a pastoral internship. I met weekly with the senior pastor and the youth pastor (their entire pastoral team). While it was great to poured into by these men on a weekly basis, the expectations of my internship were very unclear. They wanted me to create a database for them and work on assimilation. The word assimilation is a big word that means keeping people in the church once they start attending. At that time my church leadership experience was all youth group based and one summer as the Bethel Church receptionist. I was 19-20 and trying to figure out things that pastors with degrees are still trying to work through. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the task at hand. I appreciated being seen as an equal and treated like one, but I was young and inexperienced and it showed.
The combination of stress and loneliness really did a number on me. I started to feel like I was losing my grip on sanity. I started to doubt why I was doing this. What if this whole Christianity thing wasn’t real? What if there was no God? What if I’m wasting my life on something that might not even exist? I wrestled with a lot of questions and doubts. I wrote out a huge list of all my questions (pages long). Things that I wanted answered. Things that I didn’t understand. The act of just writing them out really helped get them out of my head. I could see them. I knew they were real. I also knew that unless God sent me an email or dropped me a letter, I was probably not going to get my answers.
Because I was a good Christian girl, I didn’t feel like I could share my doubts. What am I supposed to say? I’m taking all these classes on the Bible and ministry and now I’m doubting why. I was engaged to Jeremy and what would people say if one of the pastors was going to marry a girl who was losing her grip on faith. I was honest with Jeremy during this season and I expected him to run for the hills. But he didn’t! Praise the Lord. I was already on a lonely path and I felt like I couldn’t be real because people would freak out.
How did I come back from this experience? I realized that with all the stress and loneliness, I had placed myself in a situation where I wasn’t in a healthy place. I realized that a lot of my doubts were induced by stress. I didn’t feel God in those moments because I was drowning my own mess of emotions. I was able to look at my past and know that God really did show up in my life. I hadn’t made him up or followed him blindly. I learned a lot about staying the course even when my emotions didn’t feel like it. As I kept moving forward, I felt like God peeled back the layers and allowed me to be me. My mess didn’t scare him, even though it scared me.
This season of doubt probably won’t be my last, but I know that it’s okay. I know that my doubt doesn’t mean I’ve lost my faith. I can see from that time until now has God has shown up big in my life. He hasn’t left me and I know he won’t. Even when I feel like I’m lost, I know that I’m not. I hope that I can be more honest about my doubts so that way when the arise I’m not battling them alone. I desire people who will walk alongside me and journey through the mess with me. I also deeply desire to that person for others. I don’t want to give simple answers to complex questions. I want to get into the trenches and wrestle with the doubts of others. I want to help them walk out their faith in a real way, an expressive way. There is no shame in searching, wondering, and doubting.