Saints and Sceptics
“God has said,“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13 v 5
It’s easy for a young Christian to doubt if you have been failed by a Christian leader who you followed or admired. Usually, the underlying fear is that if you have made a mistake about a specific Christian leader, perhaps you have made a mistake about Christianity in general. The following points might be helpful:
1) Doubt can become particularly acute if you came to faith under a failed leader’s ministry. But your faith is in Christ and you were called by God. God uses the weak things of the world to defeat the mighty; the Cross and an empty tomb teach us that much! Now, is it so terribly surprising that God could use your mistakes to bring you to him?
2) Don’t reflect so much on how you came to faith – reflect on how you know the Christian faith is true!
3) Don’t be demoralised. When Christian leaders fail in courage or judgment, you should not be surprised. What did you expect? Christian leaders have been making colossal, embarrassing mistakes from the very beginning of the Church. Indeed, one argument for the reliability of the Gospels is that they contain so much information which would embarrass the early leaders of the church!
4) To take specific examples: Peter betrayed our Lord and then refused to believe eye-witness testimony that Jesus rose from the dead. Thomas refused to accept excellent eyewitness testimony and an empty tomb as evidence for the Resurrection! If you thought your Pastor, or an evangelical super-star, was more “spiritual” than the Apostles you were bound to meet with disappointment!
5) You are also bound to experience disappointments if you believe that there was a “golden age” of the church that we can recapture; or if you think that a church can be rid of all its failings by following a business model or adopting a set of doctrines. Yes, some Churches have been more healthy than others; yes, doctrine and practice matter a great deal. But there never was a “golden age”. Paul struggled continually to instil compassion, love, patience and wisdom in the congregations that he founded. Nor is there a simple “how to” list that allows Christians to circumvent the difficult path of discipleship or that will turn a Church into the perfect Christian community.
6) What if it is not a leader but your church who has neglected you, or failed to realise your needs, (or even notice that you exist)? Remember that Christians are, by confession, broken people who need a saviour…
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