Have you ever grieved over friends, who had pledged their lives to Christ and appeared to have been living for him, but who then gave it all up? Have you ever been dumbfounded over faith that was a mile wide but only an inch deep? Have you ever wondered why a person's faith in Christ was not able to withstand a crushing adversity or crisis they had encountered?
For as long as I've tried to follow Jesus, I've been taken back by the numbers of friends and acquaintences whose faith has been shipwrecked. I suppose the causes are many, but it all leaves me haunted by the words of Jesus:
And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Lk 18:8, NRS)
This phenomenon is no respector of paradigms -- the survivability of faith remains as much a problem in the emerging church as it has been in more traditional communities of faith. But why? Is it a kickback to the "easy-believism" of recent decades? Is it nothing more than rampant selfishness? Whatever the reasons, it seems we have failed to embed the following resolve into the spiritual DNA of those we've nurtured in the faith:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power...and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore..." (Eph 6:10,13-14)
And yet so many people seem unable to stand. And when they do fall, they're not interested in getting back up! What is it, then, that will make a difference? Is soley encouraging people to work out their own salvation the answer? I don't believe so.
Within the "belonging before believing" paradigm that characterizes much of the emerging church, what should our proactive response to all this be? (I'd honestly like to hear your thoughts)
As a student of John Wesley, I can't help but think that holiness may well be the key. Without holiness, Wesley believed we end up with something less than true Christianity. Wesley considered repentance "the porch of religion," faith "the door," and holiness "religion itself" (The Works of John Wesley, Jackson edition, Vol. 8, pp. 472f). Holiness is meant to characterize our Christian faith. Yet many of us are the product of an age where the evangelical Church emphasized decision over discipleship. "Fire insurance" was more important than the fire-which-purifies. Becoming a Christian was more of an "event" than a life-long commitment and journey. Perhaps the reason why many people's faith is a mile wide but only an inch deep is because that is exactly what we've passed on to them, even if unknowingly.
So what's your take on all this? Why does people's faith often seem so fragile, and why is it so easily shipwrecked? And what should we do in response?