Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Practical "Test"

by Jenny

Last night I had an interesting time at my Teaching Congregation. It was the second week of the Discover Jesus class, but the first week we had small group discussions after the teaching. This class consists largely of new believers or seekers, which made for a very raw and honest conversation.

I was asked to co-lead a group this time. When I sat down to the dinner table where we connect with our small groups before the teaching, there was just one other young woman there. Within minutes she opened up about her life and quest for faith, which she admitted she hadn’t found yet. A co-worker had encouraged her to try Jesus for a year and see what happens, so this class is part of her “trial period.”

Speaking with this woman, as well as our small group discussion, was like a practical test of everything we supposedly learn in seminary. All the big apologetic questions arose, like “if God is powerful, why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do I pray and nothing happens? Why does God seem so distant? What’s the deal with the Trinity? Am I really supposed to believe in a resurrection?”

It’s one thing to discuss these questions at a deep academic level with people at Luther who already assent to the Christian faith, but entirely another to discuss them with people who have never been part of the church, or had been turned off of it at some point. This is not the place to discuss the social versus classical views of the Trinity, but rather to enter into people’s very personal struggles with faith.

As a seminary student, my tendency is to jump to giving solid Biblical answers to people’s questions (which of course assumes I must know them!). That is useful in this setting at times, and part of our call as church leaders (and as Christians) is to speak truth. Yet I also remember my pastoral care class, and how my role is not to have all the answers, but to facilitate a discussion, and above all, to listen. I learned a lot from my co-leader, who has led groups before and is good at drawing people’s own reflections out and opening the conversation to the group.

So, I look forward to the next 12 weeks of this class. I am thankful for the challenge of speaking about God in ways people can relate to—especially “non-church” people—which unfortunately seems to get lost at times when I am immersed in the academic study of the faith.


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