look, it’s no secret that i’m at odds with the role of the modern-day, preacher, prophet, let’s-sit-at-the-feet-of-our-spiritual-authority-figure, pastor, boss thing that goes on in most churches these days. even so, i still believe preaching and teaching play an important role in our church family.
normally, preaching at north point is pretty predictable. i talk, people text. i talk, people get up and go to the bathroom. i talk, people talk to each other. i talk, people talk back to me. i talk, people laugh. i talk, people watch what other people are doing.
i’m not saying people don’t listen to me. i think they do on most sundays. i’m just saying our group usually does some serious multi-tasking during that thirty minutes…and i always have the best seat in the house.
but yesterday was different.
from the moment i started, people were quiet. attentive. there was no texting (that i could see)…nobody got up and left. there was no talking and none of the usual banter i get. eyes were straight forward. heads were motionless… almost like people were afraid to be the first ones to break the silence.
even my few funny statements or attempts to lighten the moment were greeted with nothing more than smiles and subdued chuckles.
it’s not like i don’t understand why. i actually anticipated the moment to be serious. i hoped people would be attentive and introspective. i knew my sermon was going to be out-of-the-ordinary. but the response still caught me a little off guard.
i’m pretty sure most people were not expecting me to stand up in front and confess to my own doubts. i’m definitely sure nobody was particularly ready to hear me say there are times i don’t believe everything i say at a funeral or at somebody’s hospital bedside.
“owning” my doubts in such a public fashion has a way stripping you. as i stood and talked, i felt naked and defenseless. but i was still convinced i needed to do this. i certainly didn’t feel authoritative. i didn’t feel like a shining example of spiritual strength and determination. truth is, i felt pretty weak.
when i retold the story of confessing my doubts and spiritual struggles to my closest friends nearly 25 years ago…only to be told not to go down that road again as their leader…i started to feel some of the same insecurities. i began to question my decision to be that honest.
did people understand? would the risk of admitting my intellectual frailty make connections with people who were having similar thoughts and struggles? or would my honesty just undermine my credibility and push people even farther into darkness or despair?
ultimately, i’m at peace with what i said. it is my prayer that people were encouraged, not discouraged in their spiritual journeys. my hope is that people will not see doubt as an enemy…but rather a close ally in the pursuit of truth. doubt and questioning are the fuel of intellectual integrity, because without them, we will never own the answers we find. they will always belong to someone else’s pursuit and wholly inadequate for our battle.
finally, if my doubting and my questioning and my struggle to make everything line up perfectly in a world that requires faith is a stumbling block to you, i would say i’m probably the least of your problems!
my faith will not make you right with god. my faith will not be sufficient in the storms that you have to face. my faith will not answer the skeptics where you walk. only you can own your faith.
…and the same is true for your doubts.