The problem, he told me, is that not once was there any reference to sin or repentance and the entire message was so watered down that it was made simply too irresistible for the lukewarm to refuse.
This, at a church picnic. The lament was from a minister who I have known for a long time, all the way back to when he was a radio disc jockey. He told me he recently had been at this picnic of another church, as a visitor, to, presumably, listen to a message with some intentionality while he ate his burger and salad.
We hadn’t seen each other in some years, but we were walking and I softly disagreed on the grounds that a summer picnic, is, after all, a summer picnic.
Besides, before you can talk about words such as sin or repentance or salvation or even forgiveness, for that matter, your listeners have to appreciate what they even mean. That’s the problem with words, even good and right words, when they’re thrown around too casually. They become so shopworn and ring so hollow and void of what the Original Author had in mind, that you might as well pull them out of your hip pocket like a recipe one follows to make brownies.
“We’ve put too many question marks where the Bible has put periods,” my friend then said.
My father, on the other hand, used to say that when we go on our knees we, interestingly enough, take the very posture of a question mark. And, while my father hasn’t been inside a church all that often – certainly less than a minister – I had to respectfully disagree with my minister friend on this one too.
Have you ever heard the expression that ‘Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith?’ I then said. That it’s doubt, real doubt, not to be confused with dishonest cynicism, that makes us move and hop and, in the end, not just scratch that itch, but move from one place in our faith life to another?
My friend asked me to make “a Bible application” of that.
‘I don’t know, I said. ‘Lord I believe. Help my unbelief,’ I blurted out.
I guess this is why I’m named after the Greatest Doubter in church history, the man who, before he would believe, had to put his hands right in the nail holes and right in the side of the Lord without just taking the word of his friends that Jesus is, somehow, alive again.
Then again, as it came out in discussion with the children the other evening, Thomas, according to tradition, after the Lord’s death and resurrection, went on to found the church in India that, today, has many millions of Christ-followers.
I don’t know what they say or do at their church picnics in India. But I do know the sort of faith that I can encourage my children to grow into.