*By Jonathan Merritt In 2010, Barna Group released a poll indicating that 4 out of 10 non-church Americans claim they do not attend due to negative experiences with churches or congregants. Seven years later, I doubt the numbers have improved. Countless Americans have been hurt by a church’s negative teachings, oppressive policies, immoral leaders, rigid expectations and misbehaving …
We must not stop doing the necessary and much needed work of charity, but we also must not stop there. We must push on, risking ourselves, risking ridicule, risking our places of privilege, and reclaim the biblical and prophetic voice of justice. We must stand in the footsteps of the likes of Dr. King, Dorothea Day, and Gandhi for without justice, charity falls short.
Because, you see, charity and justice? They are a matched set. It is time to let justice roll.
The church has an opportunity to really make a difference in our lives but sadly, that isn't happening. It's not an easy task, but I believe it is what Jesus would do. Many times churches invest all their energy and time on evangelism, which is important, but fail to see the hurting people right in front of them. A lot of churches begin the new year with fasting and prayer. They're asking God to give them direction and vision for the future. Maybe it's already there just waiting for you to open your eyes and do something. Maybe you're on the verge of walking past the Wounded Warrior as you travel the road to Jericho. Maybe it's time to take the parable of the Good Samaritan seriously...
Advent, which is the beginning of the church calendar, begins in stillness and the dark, with us facing our deepest fears, cultivating our hope for the light. In the silence and the darkness, we hear our own heart’s cry, our own flame of desire, our own longing for God.
I know first-hand how difficult times of doubt are and how complex the questions can be. Just like the father in Mark 9:24 , I've stood at the intersection of faith and doubt and cried out, "Help my unbelief!" Reading his story, I can understand his pain. You see, I wanted to experience the power of Jesus, but all I could see was my doubts.
After walking the road of doubt, leaving my faith, and returning I've learned a few things along the way. One of the most significant was discovering that a lot of the "heroes of the faith" struggled with faith and doubt. Over the next few posts, I'll share their stories with you. So let's dive in with none other than...(drum roll please) John the Baptist.
I don't believe as I did in childhood or as a fundamentalist, but I do believe that there is something more, something spiritual. I'm ok with not being able to define everything, not in a blind faith manner, but with an honest belief where questions are a part of the experience. For most of my life I believed that doubt was the opposite of faith, but that's not true. I agree with what philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich said about faith and doubt,
"Doubt is not the opposite of faith: it is one element of it."