By Mark Mittelberg
"I used to be a Christian."
Those were the first words out of the young man's mouth. We'd never met before, but he had called because someone told him I would take his spiritual questions seriously. His opening line grabbed my full attention. As our telephone conversation went on, I soon realized that I was this high school students final recourse in a last-ditch effort to get some answers before permanently abandoning his faith.
"Look, these issues you're raising are serious. I don't want to offer quick-fix answers over the phone," I told him. "How about coming to my office so we can sit down and really work through some of your questions?"
He seemed surprised. "You'd be willing to do that?"
"Of course I would. When can you come in?" I replied, surprised that he was surprised by my willingness to meet when so much was at stake. We lined up an appointment, and when the time came, he arrived with a friend who, I quickly found out, had many of the same spiritual roadblocks.
As their story unfolded, I learned that they had been part of a nearby congregation that was fairly authoritarian in its approach. The church declared the truth and expected its members to accept it- no questions asked. The problem was that my two high school friends did have questions, and they kept asking them.
The first time they raised their objections during a class at church, their teacher shut them down. "Those are things that people of faith must accept by faith," he insisted. "You just need to believe, and then you'll know that it's true."
To my friends-as well as to me-this sounded like an admission that there are no good reasons to believe, so you just have to accept it as part of a blind leap in the dark. Kind of like saying, "Leap before you look; you might get lucky."
When I asked how they handled that encounter, they told me they tried to comply, but their doubts only grew. Later that summer they had gone to their church camp, where they had a different set of leaders. They decided to give it another try, but once again the people in charge silenced them. "You must not raise these issues here," they warned. "You'll only confuse the other campers."
So they held in their questions while their doubts continued to fester, poisoning their faith.
"Then what did you do?" I asked, trying not to let out my real feelings about how they had been so horribly mishandled.
"Well, we finally decided that the Bible couldn't be trusted and that the Christian faith teaches things it can't probe. So we basically abandoned our belief in God," they said.
As disturbing as that was, what I heard next just about knocked me out of my chair.
"And this fall we changed what had been our weekly Bible study into a ‘Skeptics Group.' It's a place where we invite our friends from school to come hear the evidence against the Bible and Christianity."
"That's ... fascinating," I said, trying to stay calm. "So what made you come and tell me all of this?"
"A friend challenged us, saying that before we go any further we ought to slow down and test our thinking one more time. He gave us your name and said you might be able to help us out."
"Well, I'm really glad you're here, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help you get the answers to your objections," I said, hoping to encourage them with good information as well as my personal interest. "I also want to tell you up front that I'm confident in the truth of Christianity and anxious to discuss whatever has been hurting your faith."
With that, we launched into a three-hour conversation about their main areas of concern, which included many of the standard objections about why God allows evil and suffering, questions about the reliability of the Bible, and problems with hypocrisy among religious people- both past and present. By no means easy issues, but certainly not new ones either.
By the end of that discussion, I could tell that their doubts were beginning to dissolve. But what came next got me even more excited.
"Before we go, can I make a request?" "Sure. What is it?"
"I was wondering if you'd be willing to come to our next Skeptics Group meeting at my house to explain some of this information to the rest of our friends. I think they'd be interested in what you have to say."
"Yes," I said, not needing more than a nanosecond to think about it. "When do you meet?" He gave me the details, and then I asked him one more question: "When I invited you to meet with me today, you brought a friend with you, which is great. Now you're inviting me to come and meet with you; would it be okay if I bring a friend with me?"
"Of course," he answered. We said good-bye until the next time we would see each other at the upcoming Skeptics Group.
The following week I went to his house, bringing with me Lee "The Case for Christ" Strobel. We had a grand time talking for hours with this circle of sincere but spiritually confused teenagers, sharing our testimonies, answering their questions, and challenging their thinking.
Then together they converted their Skeptics Group back into a bona fide Bible study and started reaching out to their friends at school, showing them the truths that support their faith and encouraging them to follow Jesus, just as they were now doing.
All because someone was willing to make room for questions.
When someone harbors doubts about faith, it doesn't help to tell them they simply must try harder to believe. Spiritual confidence comes when we ask questions honestly, face objections squarely, and present information accurately. Ultimately, our faith is not true because we believe it; rather, we believe it because it is true. We have nothing to fear because our faith rests on a bedrock of genuine facts.
You may not have all the answers to the questions someone is asking, but here are resources that can help. Click here.
This article is an excerpt from the outstanding book The Unexpected Adventure by Mark Mittelberg and Lee Strobel, 42 incredible stories that will rock your world.
To obtain your personal copy of The Unexpected Adventure click here.
To learn more about Mark Mittelberg go to:choosingyourfaith.com
© Copyright 2013 by Mark Mittelberg