Finding Faith: Listen to those who have lost faith
"Many who think they are faithful never fully understand the practical implications of their beliefs, and what is actually demanded of them. And Christians are no less guilty of this than the faithful of any other religion."
Research tells us that one of the primary factors for so many — especially young people — who have lost faith in the church is their perceived hypocrisy of the self-professed faithful in the church.
A 2017 study by Lifeway Research, a Christian media company, found that 66% of Americans ages 23-30 said they stopped attending church on a regular basis after turning 18 because church members seemed divisive, judgmental or hypocritical. And I could name study after study that reaffirms this reality.
Unfortunately, rather than listen to the concerns and learn from them, I’ve witnessed enough gatherings of church folks to see just how defensive we faithful get when confronted with this information. “I’m a good person, who goes to church every week, and believes in God.”
But if we do care about the future of the church, and I’m talking about the whole church at large, then it’s far past time that we heed what those who are critiquing the church have to say.
None of this should come as a surprise to us. The Bible is filled with scripture that reminds us that just believing in God, or having faith, isn’t enough. We are told in James 2:17: “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
We are told over and over again in scripture that if we truly love God, and are faithful, we will be moved to love our neighbor as ourselves. But here’s the crux: Even as faithful people, we are motivated into new ways of thinking far easier than we are motivated into new ways of living. Meaning that it’s far easier for us to believe in the virtues of our faith than it is for us to live them out. And every single one of us who professes to be faithful is guilty.
Many who think they are faithful never fully understand the practical implications of their beliefs, and what is actually demanded of them. And Christians are no less guilty of this than the faithful of any other religion.
We are caught in this embarrassing predicament of wanting to benefit from God’s love, but rebelliously refusing to accept what he is asking of us in return. But if we truly understand what it means to receive God’s grace, we would be moved to extend that grace to our neighbor. And there wouldn’t be such a large disconnect between what we believe, and what we do.
Maybe it is those outside the church, tired of the hypocrisy of those of us who call ourselves faithful, who are doing us a favor by removing the blindfolds that keep us from living out what God had intended for us.
Maybe they really are the prophets we should be listening to.
Devlyn Brooks, who works for Modulist, a Forum Communications Co.-owned company, is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. He serves as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minnesota. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments and story ideas.