Posted tagged ‘dialogue’

Pool Hall Faith Conversations

November 12, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       November 12, 2013

 

 

      Last night about sixty people from six different churches from our community met on the second floor of a brewery restaurant to talk about faith questions. Pool tables adorned our meeting area, although we all withheld the urge to “break ‘em!”

We talked about four questions that dealt with our understandings of worship, how we experience Jesus, what would we do if we didn’t have church, and thoughts about the growing population of people who classify themselves as “nones”- people who have exited the church as a place to experience God.

Lutherans stood alongside Methodists, who stood next to Presbyterians, who rubbed elbows with Mennonites, who smiled at Baptists. Each question began with two of the pastors giving brief thoughts on it, and then the people went at it in smaller groups. Each new question was preceded with a reshuffling of the humanity present based on what kind of shoe they were wearing, where they lived, how they licked their ice cream cone…etc.

I stood with my Sprite next to a colleague with his wine and we talked about faith. No one got upset, or tried to make others “come over to the truth.” All of us realized that none of us have all the answers, and the one who thinks he has all the answers is the one to beware of.

We listened with our ears, disagreed without coming to blows, and pondered questions about our faith that we too often don’t think about.

There was a hint of “Baptist suspicion” in a few that I met. When I see some things that have been done by Baptists (Westboro Baptist), however, I understand the hesitancy. In one of my answers to a question I mentioned the need for the church to promote an environment where questions can be asked that don’t necessarily have answers. A young man came up to me afterwards and told me he was taken back by the comment. I asked why, and he said from his experience with a Baptist church in his past questions weren’t welcomed.

People hung around after the eighty-minute session had ended and continued talking. Carol and I left an hour later, glad we had been a part of it.

Although I have no intentions of exiting the American Baptist Churches, I do find it rewarding to enter into faith conversations with my brothers and sisters of other churches. I think it is more threatening to our faith journeys to discourage dialogue than it is to discuss our beliefs.

Many might disagree with me…but that’s okay! I have never promoted the idea that I have all of the answers.

Conversing With the Cable Guy

October 16, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      October 16, 2013

 

                          

                             

He pulled up in a pick-up that looked like it had been through a few battles. I welcomed him into the house and showed him where the main TV was located. He had lazy eyes, kind of like the Robert Barone character on Everybody Loves Raymond, and a slightly covered tattoo on his right upper arm.

We conversed for a little bit and then I left the room to put the laundry in the washing machine. When I came back we started talking again and he asked me what my occupation was.

“I pastor a church.”

“Oh, really! Which one?”

“Highland Park Baptist Church, corner of Maizeland and Circle.”

“I was baptized when I was a baby back in Boston.” I assumed it was a Catholic church, but from the tone of his voice I don’t think he really knew. “I’ve probably only been in a church four times in my life. Once for my grandfather’s funeral, and a wedding, and once I went with a friend of mine to his church in Denver some place.”

“How was that?”

“I don’t really remember. He invited me to go with him so I did. That’s it!”

I searched for something to say, but nothing rose to the surface. Sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit is to keep us from having a nice quick response.

“I don’t know about God…or a higher power…or whatever you might call him. I don’t really buy into it. I’ve got too many questions that don’t seem to have answers. Like…why would God allow catastrophes to happen? Or why are there so many different kinds of churches? Why not just one church? Why does one person believe one thing and another person believes something completely different?”

“Those are all good questions.”

“I’ve never really read the Bible. Not really my thing.”

“It’s got some good things to say.”

“Probably. I believe that we’re here, but I’m not sure we have a purpose. What if we’re just one of many planets in the universe that are inhabited? What does that say about us?”

“I’m not sure.”

“So…you’re like the priest?”

“Something like that.”

“That’s cool! Do you…like, have mass on a certain day?”

“Yes, on Sundays, but we’ve got other things that go on during the week. Monday is my day off.”

“So…where did God come from?”

How do I answer that?

“I guess you could say that God didn’t come from anywhere or anyone, because he is God. He’s always been and will be.”

“I guess that’s hard for me to understand. I need scientific evidence. It just seems too vague, too foggy.”

“I guess some things just require faith. I’ll always have doubts, but I trust that God knows what he is doing and plans to do.”

“My doubt trumps my faith.”

“There’s a verse in the Bible where the followers of Jesus met him AFTER he had been resurrected from the dead and it says “they worshiped him, but some doubted.” 

For me, that tells me that doubt is part of the faith journey.”

“I hear what you’re saying, but I’m just not there. And, quite honestly, I have my doubts over a story about someone being brought back from the dead. Sounds too much like a Hollywood hero-movie ending.”

We talked for a while more. It was thought-provoking and challenging. Here was someone who had experienced a lot of uncertainty in his life, but a journey with Jesus was just a little bit too much of a reach for him. It made me think about the challenges of communicating Truth to a generation that does not know the Bible, or value the Bible. It echoed in my spirit about the hesitancy of faith. Doubt is the easier road to take.

Perhaps my willingness to talk brought a little light to the situation for him. I didn’t try to convince him that he was wrong and I was right, but I listened and responded as best I could.

Sometimes questions don’t need to be answered. They just need to be heard. That day our new cable got installed and God had me listen.