Recently I filled in preaching in a church where I have filled in several times over the last couple of years. This was the sermon text:
What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
I’ve never had anyone complain about a short sermon, and this one was under 20 minutes, so it was well-received. It was purposely simple in its message about faith.
Afterwards, amidst the usual “lovely sermon Father’s” a man for whom I have a great deal of respect commented something like this: “You are clear, simple and consistent in your message. So why don’t we believe you?”
I think I responded by saying something like; “Well maybe that’s a better question for you than for me.,” and shook hands with the next person…
In the days that followed, that challenge kept coming to mind; yes, why is that? You see, I know they don’t believe me when I speak there of faith, trust, belief and relationship with God; they are looking for hard, complicated and philosophical answers. At one point, one of the leaders told me that they have been on “survival mode” for quite some time, and I must admit that I wasn’t surprised, but it was heart-breaking nevertheless.
“Why don’t we believe you?”
I know that it isn’t really possible to persuade someone to have faith, for faith is too deep a thing to be persuaded of. This is a much deeper issue for so many churches today, for so many are like this one, they believe they “do church right” and that should be good enough. Yet the result is that they are finding themselves in survival mode because their people are no longer growing; something is holding them back. Why?
My quick answer was that they don’t believe me because they don’t want to, but that answer is way too simple even for me. Why don’t they want to believe in the idea of Biblical faith beyond believing in God and His Son? Oh yes dear reader, they believe in God, but they don’t believe God.
I gave this a great deal of thought…
Believing God is counter-intuitive; it goes against everything we have been taught and everything that is going on in our world. Believing God is a risky business, for it carries with it certain implications, among which are things like the altering of lifestyles and behaviors. Consider Abraham: God told him to pack up the household, the wife, all of his stuff, servants and flocks and head out of town to a place God would show him when he got there. Now just before he left what do you suppose Abraham told his family and friends that he was up to? What do you think they said in reply?
“Oh Abraham (actually he was still Abram) what a wonderful opportunity for you”?
More likely they told him that he was an idiot! Yet off he went, because he believed God. You see, this believing God thing is a huge risk when viewed through the eyes of this world. Faith is when we believe the promises of God, and then behave as though they had already been accomplished, and the record of both Scripture and history shows us that most people have a very hard time doing that, at least at first. Having said that, I also know that for some, it isn’t hard at all and they move forward in spiritual understanding very quickly. If we are called to make disciples, then how do we help a group of people get from “Why don’t we believe you” to packing up the household and going “wherever God leads”?
The only way I know of to help our brothers and sisters move forward in the faith and come out from where they are comfortable is by personal relationship over time. The dilemma is that there are so many congregations out there where there is no mentor to get the ball rolling. Oh they have pastors (or whatever they might call the preacher) but they have no mentors because their pastor is the product of seminary that didn’t teach them to do this…
Yes, this is my dilemma; what about those congregations?
I have never thought of or heard anyone else give a viable answer to this; have you?
I know of congregations where awesome things are happening for Christ, and I have participated in congregations that have been transformed when there were a few who could lead them though the developing of relationships, but what about the ones that have no such leaders?