I wish this title were actually click bait… but it’s true. There are many who have walked away from God, and after talking with them or hearing their stories – I don’t blame them, I would have walked away from “that god” too.
The truth is when I hear a “deconversion” story, (a story of someone abandoning their faith) one of the first things I do is try to figure out what “god” they claimed to believe in. One or two common ones usually show up, but very rarely do I hear of people who walk away from the God that I have put my hope and trust in. It’s usually some version of Him that has been twisted, altered, and changed to the degree that it’s no longer the fullness of God… but a version of a god who they thought was real.
Several months ago, a well-known pastor in Atlanta (Andy Stanley) was catching some serious controversy over a series he did called “Who Needs God.” He was getting a lot of flack from “churched” people, so obviously I was very interested in what he was doing. (I know it’s strange, but whenever today’s Pharisees get angry about something, it usually means that it’s something Jesus might have done!)
In one of his messages, he shared a list of “gods” that people have walked away from and I recognized several of the ones I have also seen in my life.
Here was his list: The God’s of the No Testament
Bodyguard God – he’s here to keep anything bad from happening to you
On-demand God – he’s here to grant our requests (like a genie)
Boyfriend God – you feel him constantly, he’s always with you, and you never fight
Guilt God – he motivates you by condemnation, guilt, and fear.
Anit-Science God – check your brains at the door, God doesn’t want you to understand anything
Gap God – when we can’t explain it, we shove this God in the gap and call it faith
I’ll never forget my time in Montana this past summer. Not only was I surrounded by some of the most amazing mountain ranges, but I had the opportunity to drive across one range called “The Road to the Sun” in Glacier National Park. It’s only open for about 4 months of the year. I was there in July, and they had only just cleared the last of the snow off the road to make it open a few weeks earlier. WOW! It was one of those bucket list items I didn’t even know to have on my bucket list.
Many of the prayers I was praying and seeking God for answers to, came over this 8-day excursion to 6 states, 5 cities, 2 national parks, and hours of flying and driving in between. There was something overwhelming about the GEOGRAPHY being so different than my normal surroundings that I felt closer to God, and maybe more attentive to the experiences I was having and how God wanted to speak through them. I tried to put it into words, but struggled to do so until just recently.
I’m currently reading “Chase the Lion” by Mark Batterson. It’s a follow-up book to his first work “In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.” It is a great book about chasing the dreams God has for you and how to dream bigger.
He tells the story of how Joel Malm was ice-axing his way up Mount Elbrus when he received his big dream from God. It led him to create the Summit Leaders. Why go to a conference and passively listen to a leader when you can hike the Inca Trail or raft the Colorado River with other leaders and live an adventure?!
Mark has lived by this saying, “Change of Pace + Change of Space = Change of Perspective.”
I’m not necessarily in this place personally, but I’m just around the corner with my 12 /2 year old and my 10 year old following right behind.
I’m speaking to the tension that exists between our families’ beliefs and our own personal convictions.
The longer we wait to allow our kids to substantiate their own personal beliefs and require them to hold to a family belief, the less of a foundation that they will trust in when they leave your home.
My kids are starting to watch movies where they can hear some choice words that “we don’t say.” They understand through school, friends, and environments that they are in that they cannot control what other people say. I want my kids to understand the value of choosing better words to describe or identify something rather than slang, cussing, or cursing.
The FAMILY BELIEF brings rules that have consequences for using that kind of language in my home. However, that’s not enough to cause my kids to hold these beliefs as a personal choice, especially when they are not in our home!
This applies to all areas of life & faith – our kids HAVE to take steps to make their faith and beliefs their own! It might look different for every family in what areas and ages you want to take these steps, but here are 3 steps I believe can help the next generation go from Family Belief to Personal Belief.
1. Explain WHY.
Our youth need to know WHY we believe what we believe (I certainly hope YOU know why you believe what you believe). It’s simply not enough to say “because the Bible says so.” They have to know WHY the Bible is an absolute truth they can trust as a foundation of their lives. They have to know WHY agreeing with Jesus is not only the BEST option, but often times the one that will cause the most tension in their lives. When they get to a certain age, WHY becomes more important than the behavior or rule itself.