Childish Faith v. Childlike Faith
Everywhere I go, churches and youth ministries are asking good - and hard - questions about discipleship. That’s part of why I’m glad that Duffy Robbins has a new book entitled Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples.
In the midst of the both deep and practical insights that Duffy shares, one of my favorite parts of the book was this table contrasting “childish” and “childlike” faith.
Childish faith says, “Good Christians don’t have pain and disappointments”. Childlike faith realizes, “God uses our pain and disappointment to make us better Christians.”
Childish faith says, “God helps those who help themselves.” Childlike faith admits, “God can only begin to help those who admit their own helplessness.”
Childish faith believes, “God always answers prayer.” Childlike faith realizes, “Sometimes God answers with ‘No’ or ‘Wait’.”
Childish faith believes, “The closer we get to God, the more perfect we become.” Childlike faith understands, “The closer we get to God, the more aware we become of our own sinfulness.”
Childish faith thinks, “Good Christians are always strong.” Childlike faith grasps that “Our strength is found in admitting our weakness.”
I thought of Duffy’s table when I read a quote in his book from my Princeton friend, Kenda Creasy Dean:
What if the blase religiosity of most American teenagers is not the result of poor communication but the result of excellent communication of a watered-down gospel so devoid of God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ, so immune to the sending love of the Holy Spirit that it might not be Christianity at all?
Maybe part of the reason our teenagers and our churches have childish faith is because we - their parents and leaders - have modeled and taught this faith to them. I want a childlike faith, and I think Jesus wants that for me. But so often my laziness, my sin, and my willingness to satisfy with Christian platitudes, keep me playing in the ministry and theological crib instead of on a journey of growth. I often tend to want to avoid suffering, seek a comfy life, and miss out on the depth of intimacy I could have through prayer.
Maybe you can relate.
If the teenagers we care about show childish faith, maybe before we try to lecture, teach or have conversations with them, we should look in the mirror.
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