A friend of mine, who’s also in seminary, and I have been discussing a lot lately about the whole issue of “Why faith matters?” It’s not a new discussion….it’s actually the big focus for people who work and lead in the church: pastors, youth directors, theologians, long-time committed members, and so forth. The statistics are clear: churches are shrinking. Less people now days find value in faith tied to institutional religion (Christian denominations, etc). Faith and Spirituality are private matters…a matter of preference and benefit to the person, if they are lived out at all.
I’ll admit: It seems like a dire picture. But, I’ve learned in life things are never as bad as they seem (or as good, for that matter). There are people today that find great meaning in faith; they find great meaning in their relationship with God. And for folks like me, there is great meaning in calling Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. That last sentence is a bold one….and, let’s be honest: words like “lord” and “savior” are indeed loaded words. They’re explosive in religious talk like the word “justice” is in our political talk.
As a Christian that follows the Lutheran tradition, one major aspect of our religious life is giving a faithful witness to Christ…in simpler terms, we’re to share with others why faith matters to us. And most people of faith agree it’s something good to do. But let’s be honest: most people don’t (or won’t) do it.
And for me, perhaps that’s the big problem. I’ve found that my seminary education tells me that as a pastor, I’m to proclaim to others in my work as a pastor about why faith should matter to them. I’m to proclaim to them a God who loves the world, who loves them. I’m to make a case for why they should follow God and have a relationship with Christ, to point to God’s presence in the world. Pastors and future pastors, you may not like it, but that’s the nature of our job. Ultimately, we’re making a case for why faith matters. (That’s what it means to be prophetic!)
But there’s one little problem: We often don’t tell people why faith matters to us. If we think our job is to “sell the faith,” make a claim for why faith should matter to people, then why isn’t our “product” selling? But think about it: Why would anyone want to enter into a relationship with God if we don’t (or won’t) tell them why it’s so important for us? Why would anyone seek or welcome God’s transformation for themselves if we don’t share how God has transformed us? It’s a no-brainer for me: No wonder the church is losing relevance in the world today, why the numbers are falling. Because our leadership and the committed to the faith don’t (or won’t) give a passionate account of how God has and is working in our lives.
So, I still hold onto the claim: FAITH MATTERS. But, what’s also important is that we SAY IT. We tell and share with others why our faith matters. For some our story will resonate; others, not as much. But I’m willing to wager this: the world tends to follow people who are passionate and convicted, while remaining humbly open and willing to listen to others. And so on the topic of why faith matters, it’s important to say so. But it’s just as important to be open and listen to why it is for others as well.
In the next few posts, I’m going to ask some folks to share why their faith matters to them. And eventually I’ll get around to telling you why it matters to me. But it’s in these posts I hope to get at the second part of my post for today: why it’s important to say so. I think the world is waiting for us to say something, to say why we spend so much time thinking and living with God at the forefront of our lives. I think the world is waiting for us to say that while we don’t all agree on the particularities of why faith matters, we do all share the common claim that faith does matter. The world is waiting for us to say it confidently, and in a way that respects and honors that God speaks to all of us differently, and that we can learn from and appreciate what others have to say.
So with that, since the world is waiting, I’m off to find folks who think faith matters……and think it’s important to say why. And I hope for those of you out there reading, you’ll find some time to say why too. I’ve got a lot to learn from you, and like I said, the world is waiting.