Public Faith: Skeptics welcome
As a college student I attended a campus Christian fellowship that always, at every meeting, had a book table of literature for purchase. On the table there was a little booklet called Doubters Welcome. I remember my surprise at the title, because as a young believer I thought that Christians frowned on doubters and wanted them to just take that leap and have faith. But I came to realize that the Bible had a more balanced view. While we want doubts to give way to faith (John 20:28; James 1:6), we should be merciful and patient with those who are still in their doubt-troubled period (Jude 1:22). On that campus the Christian fellowship was very inviting to skeptics and doubters, and there were always a lot of them mixed in with the believers.
I always wanted to be part of a church that had that same spirit. When we began Redeemer Church in Manhattan in 1989, one of the first “core values” was that we wanted to be a place where those who were not believers (or who were not sure what they believed) would find their questions welcomed and addressed, their doubts and difficulties respected, and their struggles and concerns anticipated. We soon became aware of and glad for the presence of many, many doubters and spiritual inquirers in our midst. Over time, many of them discovered the Redeemer community to be an “incubator” where they were able to see the reasonable beauty of the Christian gospel and discover their own faith developing and growing.
However, the only way we were able to have a community filled with questioners was because believers at Redeemer were not afraid to identify themselves publicly as Christians to others that they worked with and lived near. When you do that, it is inevitable that you get some blank stares or pushback, or even some hostility. And yet you also will find expressions of interest. And that interest, cultivated through caring relationship and personal transparency, can lead to someone finding his or her way into a community where doubt is welcome.