What is the goal of faith?
I was born and raised in church, and if you had asked me that question growing up, I think I would have said, “going to heaven when you die.” Then, if you asked me what that entailed, I’d have likely said, “Asking Jesus into your heart and believing the right things.”
This stayed with me through my college years – I had one class on Spiritual Formation that was about how to get married, and then my religion classes were all about how to read the Bible better. Know more facts.
It wasn’t until I was in grad school I began to realize this might not be the sum total of faith. I didn’t go to a seminary. I went to the University of Missouri – a state university where the religion department wasn’t interested in training ministers. It was a more anthropological and sociological approach to religion. Less than half of the other students in my program were Christians. Many were atheist or agnostic.
I was discussing some issue with one of them – I couldn’t tell you now what – and I said, “Well the Bible says…”
My friend looked at me and said, “I don’t care what the Bible says.”
This was an explosion in my brain. At my Christian school, that’s how you won an argument! You stood there and threw bible verses at each other until someone ran out!
But here was a person who didn’t care how much I knew about the Bible, who didn’t value the same things I did. It was about that same time I started as a youth pastor. My first several lessons were deep, theologically rich… and completely irrelevant to my students.
It was in those moments something began to shift for me. I realized that knowing the Bible didn’t do much for me in that conversation with my friend. Or in the lives of my students. It was the first time I really felt the difference between knowing about God and knowing God.
I want to talk about that difference.