Inside Out 251: Engaging Young Doubters

07.11.12 | Martha Manikas-Foster

I want everyone to love Jesus. I want everyone to hear God’s great news, throw their arms around God’s neck and then never let go.

Of course it's not so simple. Because if we are going to own a rich and informed faith, we will probably--in fact we must--ask difficult questions about God, faith, and the claims of Jesus Christ. And in the process of asking those questions we may begin to doubt God: doubt that He is loving, doubt that He is good, and maybe even doubt that He is.

Many young adults are doing just that. Doubting, and then leaving the church. And, perhaps, leaving the Christian faith entirely.

Until recently you could anticipate that while a certain percentage of teenagers would stop attending church after high school graduation, many would return once they were married and had begun raising children. But that's not what's happening now. They’re not coming back, and one of the reasons they cite for not returning to church is that they don't think the church is a place that will welcome their questions. It's not a place where they feel comfortable expressing their doubts.

But doubts are part of faith, according to today's Inside Out guest, author and documentary film producer Andrea Palpant Dilley. When Andrea was 23 she stood up in the middle of a sermon and left the church. She was gone for two years. Now that she is back she has written the memoir “Faith and Other Flat Tires: Searching for God on the Rough Road of Doubt.” Her counsel for the church--and for parents—is to create church and home environments where young adults can feel connected enough to explore their doubts—so connected, in fact, that they don’t feel that they have to leave the church to ask the hard questions.

“It gives young people a strong base, and a way to think about their faith as soon as they’re rooted and grounded,” Andrea says about healthy church environments in this Inside Out conversation. “That doesn’t prevent them from leaving the church, but it’s a wonderful foundation and a way to kind of send them out into the world saying, ‘Hey, we’re behind you’ and I certainly felt that in my own story.  Again, it didn’t prevent me from leaving the church. I still ended up leaving anyway, but that community mattered. I ended up coming back . . . I think for reasons that, in part, had to do with . . . feeling really connected to that church body.”

In our conversation Andrea directly addresses those who are doubting God and faith right now:

“You’re not alone. All you have to do is open the Bible. Look at Job, Lamentations, the Psalms, and think, ‘Wait! This isn’t new. “Nothing new under the sun, ”’ right? not even doubt. I really believe that. I believe that doubt has been an integral part of the Christian experience since the dawn of Christianity. That verse in Mark 9:24, that says, ‘I believe, help my unbelief.’ The writer Flannery O’Connor calls that the foundation prayer of faith, and I really believe that.”

Andrea has more to say and you can listen to our full conversation by clicking the "Listen" button above, and we hope that you will. Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

You can read Andrea's her.meneutics blog post "How to Smartly Engage with the Young Doubters in Your Midst," by clicking here: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2012/05/how_to_smartly_engage_with_the_1.html

You can learn about Andrea's memoir “Faith and Other Flat Tires: Searching for God on the Rough Road of Doubt” by clicking here: http://andreapalpantdilley.com/books/

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Inside Out airs Wednesdays at 12:20pm EST during the Family Life Noon Report.

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