Losing Our Religion

“Time in erodes awareness of.”

Andy Stanley uses this description in his great new book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, to describe church facilities. We who have been part of the same congregation for months or years often grow insensitive to the first impressions our facilities make on guests. We become immune to ways our facilities might seem dirty, unsafe, and unwelcoming.

As I listened to this 7 minute interview in the NPR series on “Losing Our Religion”, the erosion of awareness created by exposure and familiarity came to mind.

In the interview, NPR’s David Green speaks with six young people who are wrestling with the role of religion in their lives. Many of their concerns are not that surprising, including their discomfort with the idea of “hell” as well as with the church’s response to homosexuality, and the way they have wrestled with why a good God would allow suffering.

Yet there’s one short interview that brings a different twist to why young people walk away from the faith. A 33 year-old who was raised Muslim describes how even as a child, stories (such as the story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac) seemed unbelievable. As this former Muslim points out, if a father today said he needed to sacrifice his son because God said to do it, he’d be “locked up”.

We who have come to accept the Bible as the inspired word of God may at times lose sight of how downright strange it can seem. Donkeys talk. Seas part.

We recently hosted a Sticky Faith Cohort Summit at Fuller in Pasadena and spent a large part of one afternoon talking about the powerful role that doubt can play in young people’s formation when they have the opportunities and feel the freedom to express those doubts. Doubt in itself isn’t toxic; unexpressed doubt is.

As we expose young people to the Bible, let’s not lose sight of how extraordinary certain passages are. Let’s use those passages as opportunities to invite students to ask tough questions about God and life (theirs and others’). I’d rather have them ask those questions in our homes and in our churches now than other environments in the future.