Three words you need to hear from your students and congregation
Photo by greg pths.
I hadn’t heard or preached a sermon about Jesus' transfiguration before, and it sounded like fun.
I approached the passage nervously though. I’m new to frequent preaching, and our church is just a little over a year old, but it’s growing with lots of people new to the faith. What would people think of this story that even I found a little odd? Jesus on a mountainside with clouds, a booming voice, and two guys show up who have been dead for centuries?
Instead of just wondering what people were thinking, I asked them to text their thoughts and questions and, in real time, they would appear on the screens during the message. The questions were good, but nothing I hadn’t expected:
Why Elijah and Moses and not someone else?
Why did Jesus just take Peter, James and John?
If Jesus is God, why is he hearing God’s voice distinct from himself?
All good questions, but then there was this:
I have to be honest. This story just seems like a fairy tale to me. Is it okay to doubt?
Three words stick out in this text message that should haunt every pastor and youth worker alike:
“Is it okay…?”
They are pleading words. “Is it okay…?” are words that reveal deep struggle. They are words that underscore a key ministry premise I’m convinced about: People are dying for permission to doubt.
The truth is that doubt hits all of us. It lands somewhere on a spectrum ranging from unrelenting force at one extreme to a nearly imperceptible subconscious soundtrack at the other. Doubt exists in every human being. We spend our lives either allowing doubt to come to the surface for air, or neatly locking it away in a hidden cage.
After that transfiguration sermon, I decided that I am going to talk about the importance of healthy doubt until these people fall over and scream, We get it! Stop!
As a senior pastor, I assure you that adults need to hear “It is okay…” just as much as teenagers. They almost can’t receive enough “doubt permission” from us because, somewhere in our hearts, it seems too good to be true that God would be so good and gracious as to allow unbelief without retribution.
The teenagers you work with may have another barrier to processing doubt. That barrier could be you. Ask yourself: Are you okay with doubt? Or are you threatened by it? If so, why? What does that say about God? What does it say about the church?
If we take the words “Is it okay…?” seriously, we’ll create an environment of questions. People of all ages need a church culture where the words, “I’m doubting God” are never met with shame.
The people around you are dying for permission. So lean in. Don’t wait, but instead be the instigator of the toughest questions, and see what surfaces. You hold the key to something unbelievably valuable—the key to give permission and affirm, “It is okay...”