What if you went to church this Sunday, sat in your usual spot, sang along to worship songs with the usual worship team, then watched your pastor step to the podium and explain he now found it impossible to believe in the premise of Christianity?
What if he discovered his faith could not stand up to the evidence against it, or believing in a God that would allow cruel things to happen to loving people no longer made sense? What if he apologized but offered his resignation, effective immediately?
Would this shake you at all? Make you question what you believed?
I have often doubted my Christian beliefs, and sometimes just knowing the person standing up and preaching each week believes is the only thing preventing mine from unraveling.
I confess I can be dependent upon my spiritual leader’s faith.
But I’ve started to see this “dependency” differently. Rather than a sign of weakness, I see it as a model for strength. Because in a real way, this is the legacy Jesus left us. What I mean is, we aren’t independent beings. We do, in ways, deeply affect the beliefs of those around us.
I once believed this dynamic weakened the argument for Christianity. If we are all a bunch of people dependent on someone else’s faith who is dependent on someone else’s who is dependent on someone else’s… then who actually really believes? This would quickly spiral me into a tunnel of doubt and confusion. Then I would feel ashamed for thinking it, so I would put the thought away and hide it until it came back again.
The early church began not long after Christ’s death. They were close to Jesus, maybe some had seen him pass through their town or perform a miracle. Perhaps one guy told a few friends about his eyewitness account of Jesus, and then those friends multiplied into a crowd which turned the first guy into their leader–their pastor. He was simply relaying what he knew to be true to those who then relayed it to others. Until eventually, the church was just a group of people relying on each other, remembering, believing and encouraging.
These days, I can’t imagine having faith on my own—a fact that used to make me feel weak and question what I believed, but now I think has more to do with being the way Jesus intended his people to be: dependent on him, dependent on each other.
If your pastor gets on stage this Sunday and announces he’s calling it quits with the whole Jesus thing, maybe you will feel sad, confused, maybe scared. But I hope becoming independent in your faith will not be your reaction. Do not attempt to strike out on your own, that never goes well. Instead, look at the person sitting in the pew beside you and, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you, lean on them.