6. Challenge

CORe churches challenge young people to think and to ask questions about their faith.

Test everything; hold fast to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

After three days they found Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)


Additional Bible texts:

Genesis 18:16-33 (Conversation with God)

Isaiah 1:18 (Let's talk)

Numbers 13:1-25 (Exploring Canaan)

Galatians 1:6-10 (Which Gospel?)

A person’s faith matures on their journey with God. This is a journey of discovery: thinking and questions are an integral part of it. Too often there is no room for honest questions in churches. More experienced members frequently mistake these honest questions for criticism to authority and the faith.

CORe churches recognise the journey that everyone is on. They accept the need for questions, and intentionally assist young people to think independently and ask questions. They guide youngsters on their journey so that they may develop a mature, adult faith.

CORe churches do not shy away from questions, but seek them out.

CORe churches challenge young people to think and to ask questions about their faith.

Thought

Tom de Bruin, The Netherlands

Let me tell you about a friend of mine: Matthew. Matthew is a tax collector – no, just kidding – Matthew is a young person. I have known Matthew in my ministry for many years. Matthew has left the church.

I remember when I first started noticing that Matthew was drifting away. I called him up, and we went out for a hot drink. We sat in the little café and we talked. Matthew is good company, he’s smart, intelligent and funny. He went on to get a PhD, we had a lot of fun in that café.

After a while I breached the question: ‘What’s wrong with church?’ His answer was an eye-opener: ‘Church has no challenges.’

He went on to explain what he meant. He said everywhere he goes he is challenged. Challenged to think, to ask questions. At school, he is challenged to improve himself, to learn new things, to discover. Questions are encouraged, thinking is supported.

In church, however, it was the other way around. Whenever he would ask a question, it would be met with hostility. The members would quieten him down, or try to get rid of the question with simplistic answers. Confronted by his questions, they thought he was being critical.

Ultimately, Matthew did totally leave the church. Not because he wanted to, but because the church stopped his faith growing. The church did not allow any space for him to develop his faith, to explore it, to question it. Ultimately, Matthew lost his relationship with Jesus, because the church stifled it.

Looking at the life of Jesus, he questioned everything. One of the earliest events in his life was when he sat in the temple. Listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Paul advises the Thessalonians to

Test everything; hold fast to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)


In the case of Matthew, he could not test everything, so he did not know what was good. He had nothing to hold fast to.

A CORe church challenges young people to think and to ask questions about their faith. A CORe church understands how important questions are, and how important thinking about faith is. A CORe church knows that if they stop that, there will be no space to grow.

At the same time, the reality is that for many members questions are scary. They make us nervous. They are hard, and it’s no fun if you don’t have a good answer. There is a huge tension here, one that has no easy solution. Yet, we must face this tension head-on. We must make space for questions and thinking. We must challenge our young people and all our members.

So, how can we do that? What can you do in your church to challenge the members to think, to challenge them to ask questions? How can you make your church a place where the members can truly grow?

Discussion

  • What questions about God do you think young people struggle with the most? What questions do you struggle with the most?
  • Is it okay to ask questions?
  • Does our theological focus reflect the needs of the members and society?
  • How can we cultivate a spirit of present truth and openness to discovery today?

Implementation questions

  • What do you already do to challenge your members to think and question faith?
  • Are there elements of your church’s culture that need changing to allow more challenge in your ministry?
  • Can we implement at least 3 of the suggestions below?
  • What is achievable to create more challenge for your members to think within the next 12 months?

Suggestions for implementation

  • Create a Sabbath School class for questioning minds.
  • Get more people in the Sabbath School classes through novels methods, like a Sabbath School brunch.
  • Have a question box in the church, answer a question from the pulpit every Sabbath. Pick the hardest ones first.
  • Have an online question box.
  • Have each board member bring a question to every board meeting.
  • Organise Friday evening Bible Studies.