A Faith For Yourself.

I was listening to a sermon podcast the other night at the gym (I always work out to sermons, they fire me up and I feel doubly productive), and the pastor suddenly said, “You don’t need me. You don’t need a preacher to tell you what the Bible says. Thank God for scholars and seminaries, but there’s no secret insider information. It’s all here. You can open up this book and have a faith for yourself.”

I wanted to yell “amen” in the gym. I’m not that kind of guy, to yell amen even at church, and this wasn’t a new thought I hadn’t heard before — but I thought of how alarmingly dependent we’ve become on forming our faith and philosophy from others. We wait for Sundays or the right celebrities or our circle of like-minded bloggers to affirm a kind of pre-established dogma, but don’t often investigate their words down to the bottom. And they’re just people, too, learning like me and you.

I’m not always silent before God to really discern why I believe a certain idea. I run to blogs and books and podcasts too quickly. Sometimes I try to transplant what works for someone else on to myself, and it doesn’t work, and I beat myself up for failing. Other times I’ll blame a church or pastor or my community because I trusted them to grow me better, when it was really up to me to learn how to fish. I pride myself on being a “thinker,” but too many times I’ve subconsciously let others do the thinking for me. I trick myself into thinking that having a “click” moment in a sermon is the same thing as real passion and action. I’m very hasty to wonder what someone else thinks about the most recent headlines.

Yes, thank God for scholars and smart people and informed blogs. But in the end, these can only be supplements to the road we must travel ourselves, and we cannot sustain the entire weight of our faith and life and philosophy on other minds who have a road of their own.

You can have a faith for yourself. You don’t need me or an articulate witty blogger or someone who has the secret sauce to a better-life-in-seven-easy-steps. There are no shortcuts. There aren’t enough words out there to get you where you need to go. Most of the journey is up to you, and me, and each of us in community doing our part.

Don’t trust me. There’s only One you can truly trust, and He will light the way as we trust Him together.

— J.S.

2 thoughts on “A Faith For Yourself.

  1. My sense is that this speaks to one of the shortcomings that is pretty intrinsic to the realities of almost all Christian traditions. Each tradition (or local expression) essentially offers a particular “package” of understandings about God, Jesus, Bible, etc. But the operative word has most always been “belief” (even if you experience doubt). The invitation is unfortunately slanted toward whole-hearted commitment to a “package” of understandings and practice as compiled and detailed by someone else.

    But belief and faith are not necessarily the same thing. If I – in my own personal and dynamic pilgrimage of faith – discover over time that my evolving personal understandings begin to differ significantly from any piece of the “package” (especially if I know of no alternatives), then the whole package may be colored by the discovery. I may even begin to experience a loss in my sense of community with the people of that particular “package”.

    If the shadow of those evolving understandings falls sufficiently over the keystone non-negotiables of that tradition, I may find it easiest, or least uncomfortable, just to leave it ALL behind, not looking further for a faith walk that best fits the uniqueness of me.

    Who in a particular tradition that you know of would be able to encourage this personal seeking, and perhaps point such a seeker toward a different tradition that might be a better fit?

    Traditions by their very nature are relatively unchanging. I think this emphasis on “belief” operates in opposition to a distinctively and exquisitely personal and dynamic relation with the Divine. Unfortunately, that may be a significant ingredient in the losses churches are presently experiencing.


    1. I affirm your words. Jesus is real, alive, dynamic and personal, not a creedal or doctrinal subject. It is difficult to find a congregation which focusses more on God as a reality than God as a topic for understanding. One thing is for sure, as our faith in Jesus grows we can filter the traditions in such a way as to keep in community without giving up our faith. If that becomes impossible, then there has to be another place to find that. We have turned to small group which works better for us, but each must trust Jesus to lead us to where our faith can be nurtured. May it be so.


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