Nearly every year, without fail, I come across a church offering a sermon series for the “big questions” of faith. The concept is bright – people can invite their friends to hear the responses to the questions that keep them from believing. Typically the lineup includes questions like “Why is there evil in the world?” and “How can a good God let bad things happen to them?” Sometimes they get a little more specific, with “How do we know the Bible is true?”and “Can a good God send people to hell?” (We seem to love to talk about the heaven and hell questions.)
These deep existential questions for God have their place, both in the world and in the church. I’ve spent time pondering them and people have asked me about them from time to time. However, yesterday I was struck to wonder: Are these the questions that keep people from a believing life?
At most, I have 2 true atheists in my circles, (friend of a friend, facebook-friend kind of relationships). According to the wiki, Atheists comprise just 2% of our population. It seems a very small percent have decided against a belief in God.
I posed the question to my friends: do we think that people struggle with a belief about God? Or do they simply not understand why a belief in God matters? My life is filled with people who have church experience and a basic understanding of God, Jesus and even some Bible. Yet that baseline understanding doesn’t lead them to a church each week or to open a Bible on a regular basis. I would say the majority of my friends are “believing” yet only a subset of them do something with that belief. Why is that? (See, who is asking The Hard Questions now?)
When people are likely to agree with the presence of God in the world yet remain unclear on why it even matters, I don’t think we’re answering the questions they hold closest to their hearts. Perhaps it’s because sometimes we struggle to truly find an answer. When I posed this question to friends, and they flipped it back on me, I struggled to give a succinct answer on why my faith in God matters that wasn’t cliche. My friend said, “Sometimes the best I can do is offer the Footprints poem.”
If our go-to list of questions for God aren’t what stand in the way of people living in active faith, then what is? How do we begin to answer why God matters to our life on earth?
Rule #1 of writing (and marketing, public relations, sales and business development) is know your audience. Do we have a clue what our friends who live outside of churches think and believe? I think far less of them are faith-illiterate than we assume. I have countless friends who grew up in the church and could probably tell you the difference between Moses and Noah and why God so loved the world. Actually, I’ve experienced church-outsiders who know more about the Good Book than some current attenders.
Onward with the research. Why does God matter today? Why is life better in a pew on Sunday rather than believing from home? (The coffee is most certainly better on the comfy couch, and you don’t have to get dressed.) What do people really wonder about life with God?