From 2000 to the beginning of 2007, I was the college ministry director at my church. Transitioning from childhood to adult faith was one of the biggest hurdles for the students in the ministry. Those who transition are still connected to the church (meaning the universal church, not necessarily TFB), while those who did not transition often slip away into secularism. Why? Childhood faith belongs to someone else: parents, teachers, pastors, youth workers. The individual person has not take ownership and, too often, ministry leaders have not encouraged it.
In their book, Asking the Right Questions, Browne and Keeley offer a bit of wisdom that surely applies here. Now, they are writing with regard to critical thinking, but I think the same can be said of faith.
To regard anyone else except yourself as responsible for your judgment is to be a slave, not a free man.
M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley.
Prentice Hall (2009), Edition: 9, Paperback, 192 pages. p. 41
We must admit and exercise personal and corporate responsibility for our beliefs and practices. It is not enough to teach children, youth, and adults the right things; we must teach one another to think skillfully about the right things. This means allowing questions, even doubts, in our conversations about God and theology, for these are a sign of responsibility-taking.
To abdicate responsibility to another entity, whether a person or a community, is to remain immature and to subject oneself to unpredictable waves of doctrine (Eph 4:14). Hidden doubts and unasked questions only add to vulnerability. Mere compliance with a doctrinal statement is insufficient.
To take personal responsibility is to be mature and to take communal responsibility is to create a safe place for wondering, where the interchange of perspectives, always tending toward God’s truth, results in notional synergy. Too often, those with questions and doubts hide in plain sight, fearing judgment where there should be dialogue. If the Bible is true and God is real, we need not fear questions. Not only this, but in the free and open dialogue, all of us submit our beliefs to the community, receive correction and encouragement, and, as a result, help form a stronger communal belief than we had before.
How are you taking responsibility for belief?