I found out about this awesome book when a pastor mentioned it in a sermon a few years ago. I am in a season of doubting, confusion, elation, enthusiasm, anger, wondering, raging, skepticism, lust, hate, anxiety, laughter, despair, and seeking truth…yes, I truly feel insane at times. This book, along with several others, helped me to recognize that it’s more than okay that my spirituality is messy. Jesus paid for my messiness, my brokenness, my total lack of togetherness.
With that said, I want to share my favorite story in the book with you. I really want to believe it’s true too. To be a part of a congregation that allows this would be truly life-giving. I tear up every time I read this.
Years ago I heard an extraordinary story. I hope it’s true. The pastor of a church in England announced to his congregation one Sunday that he was resigning because he no longer believed in Christianity. Stunned at first, the congregation gathered its composure, and the elders asked the pastor to meet with the congregation after the service. Everyone knew what was going to happen. His resignation would be accepted, financial arrangements would be made, and the search for a new pastor would begin. But that’s not what happened. The elders stood before the pastor and said, “Sir, we understand you have come to the painful conclusion that Christianity is not true. We believe it is true. In fact, we’re so convinced it is true, we want you to stay on as our pastor. We want you to stand up each Sunday and preach your doubts to us. It’s okay. We want to hear them, not so we can argue with you but so this can be a place where you can honestly seek the truth.”
For three years, the pastor preached his doubts, and one morning he stood in the pulpit, looked out at the congregation with his eyes full of tears, and said, “I have found my faith again. Thank you for trusting the gospel; thank you for waiting for me to find my faith again!”
This pastor was stuck, burned out, lost, sinking in the quicksand of doubt, and his church recognized his stuckness! His congregation recognized that being stuck was a necessary stopping place where he could regroup, regain his strength, and move on. An extraordinary congregation of ordinary people understood their pastor’s need to wrestle with the truth. Instead of talking about truth, they trusted the truth. They did not fear the waiting, nor did they fret over the “setbacks” they would have to endure when visitors came.
When the doubting pastor finally proclaimed his found-again faith, deep in his heart he must have whispered to God in gratitude, “Jesus has been hiding in these people all along.”