Why We Need a Crisis of Faith

Erik Cooper —  April 18, 2012 — 12 Comments

My wife and I eagerly took in Donald Miller’s new movie, Blue Like Jazz, on our date night last week. Don probably doesn’t need a “save the date” for Oscar night, but the story was moving. Challenging. Sobering. And artistically well done.

(In fact, if any of my non-christian friends want to take in the film, I’d love to meetup for a coffee conversation afterwards. My treat. Seriously, call me).

Three days later, I met with a campus ministry leader here in Indy that vulnerably shared his own story of leaving the faith in college and returning only after a serious bottoming out. A massive crisis of conscience and faith that literally took him to the brink. It was eerily similar to Miller’s screenplay, and not unlike many of the stories I hear over lunches and coffee shop tables every week.

Church was forced on me.

Church people are (oblivious) hypocrites.

Church avoided the uncomfortable questions I was actually asking.

Church was just my social connection.

Church taught me information about God, but that’s about it.

For far too many, until the crap hits the fan, until the bottom falls out, until they make an absolute mess of things – until they have a crisis of faith – they never really know God for themselves. They may be connected to the culture, but they’re disconnected from Christ.

Personally, I never really had one of these Blue Like Jazz periods. Or did I?

I was a by the book kid. Don’t rock the boat. Play by the rules. So for me, a crisis of faith didn’t manifest as an 8-month rave party. (What can I say, even my breakdowns are safe). But just because I never spent a year sowing wild oats doesn’t mean faith and me didn’t duke it out.

And I’m starting to believe everybody should.

My daughter is 13. She’s starting to look more like a woman than a little girl. And to make things worse, she’s smart (she just won a school award for her cognitive reasoning skills…God help us). How can I, as a pastor but more importantly as her daddy, walk her headfirst into her own crisis of faith? Yes, I’m serious.

How can she start tackling the hard questions she’s inevitably going to ask?

How can she take on her doubts?


With me.

Slowly. Intentionally.

Together over the next 5 years, instead of alone in some college philosophy class.

So that her faith becomes more than a way of life I’ve hung around her neck. So that it becomes her own conviction and not just a mimic of mine. Her own thought through, lived out, real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That kind of strength only comes from stepping into the tension.

Is it possible to force a crisis of faith without creating a heavy bag of regrets you’re forced to carry through the rest of your life?

What do you think?

12 responses to Why We Need a Crisis of Faith

  1. I’ve had the big blown out crisis of faith. I didn’t go into an all out rebellion. I too took the safe route. I’ve actually had two. Both in the middle of unbelievable pain and loss. The first crisis, God established once and for all that He is…. The second one, God met me at the beginning of the crisis with the story of Jacob. And our wrestling match began. I have to say that I came out limping, but I did receive my blessing.

  2. The best advice I can give you on how to help your daughter is don’t answer her questions. Let her wrestle with them on her own. You can provide advice and guidance, but if she doesn’t come up with the answers herself after the struggle, then it won’t sit well on the other side.

    • Interesting insight Kellen. I agree. Giving space to safely wrestle definitely builds strength in their spiritual muscles. True in their schoolwork too. If I let them wrestle to find the answer, guide them through the process, they usually learn more.

  3. It makes me want to skip to hear a father talking like this about his daughter…this is a reality i have wrestled with in working with kids and in expereincing my own (safe) crisis of faith and watching friends experience very (unsafe) crisises of faith some who have never returned to faith. How do you lead a child into a personal relationship with christ that will grow as they grow

    There is a book i started reading but wasn’t able to finish at the time but i intend to go back to it soon, “Teaching Kids Authentic Worship” it is about bringing a child to that personal intimate relationship with christ.

    Thank you for your thoughts

    • Great thoughts Tonya. I think the question is, how do we actually connect them with God? Not just with our understanding of God, or with their church (both good things). But how do we actually take their hand and put it in God’s hand? How do we get them to hear, speak, and interact with God for themselves? We can’t really give that to them, but we can lead them to it.

  4. Good thoughts, Erik. For the HS seniors I would highly recommend Anchors Away. It helps young people build a solid foundation that’s much less likely to be undermined by the college philosophy professor to which you alluded.

  5. I’m learning that it’s more about the questions we ask rather than the conclusions we come to. I think life is a pretty full journey in itself and if we aren’t being asked the right questions, we oftentimes ask them of ourselves or seek out others asking those questions in environments that do not lead to healthy “faith crisis”.
    So what questions are you asking your daughter? You know the ones that don’t have one answer per se.

    • Great question about questions Chris. 🙂 It’s good to wrestle with them. I think that’s what makes us stronger. Trying to give space to my daughter to ask honestly without fear of falling out of favor.

      Working with young adults, I’d be curious to know what major questions you see being asked.

  6. Oh my! I’ve watched so many parents wrestle with these same questions. Each of those parents would probably give you a different answer. Have you heard of Answers from Genesis or Family Integrated Churches? They have web sights that offer articles and resources that some of my friends swear by. Some of my friends would challenge whether children need to leave the family and go off to college. I won’t say skip college, but I do think close family support may be more critical during college years than maybe even middle school.
    From watching those families I would really support daily family devotions no matter what else you sacrifice to do it. I would strongly recommend teaching your children how to read the Bible for wisdom and push them into their own private daily devotions no matter what else you sacrifice to do it. Never had kids, can’t tell you exactly how it is done. However, I’ve taught math, science, music, reading, spelling, history, geography and I’ve learned that games and fun go a long way toward making learning happen.
    Something that I’ve seen in some parents and have caught in myself as a teacher is the desire to push children into maturity. Can’t be pushed. Children mature when they do. It’s a part of nature. Unless something intervenes to arrest development every child will grow into an adult. One suggestion was not to answer questions but to let child wrestle with the question. Sometimes, even if you are pretty sure you know the answer, I suspect play ignorant and explore WITH child until child finds the answer would offer the most support.
    Did I have a faith crisis? I believe so. I came to faith because it was the most natural thing to do. I looked away from faith because of the influences around me. I grew more solid in my faith when life experiences made me ask myself, “what does God say about this?” Fortunately I’ve had some excellent pastors and Godly female role models because there was no guidance of this sort from my family.
    Ok, that’s my say. “For what it’s worth”

    • I think those things are all great Sharon. On top of the information though, I’m wondering how to help them “experience” it all for themselves? Wrestle with real life amidst all the important biblical understanding. It’s one thing to KNOW, it’s another thing to have walked into real life for yourself.

      Love what you said about allowing children to wrestle with questions. You’re so right. Sometimes we’re too quick to give answers.

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