Again this is me dissecting my faith crisis and asking the question…if you were going to engage someone in a faith crisis, what would you do? Today I look at how important it is to build and maintain trust. Trust is necessary if you are going to be able to assist someone in the long term. Many evangelicals take trust for granted and fail to realize how that creates obstacles to those outside the faith.
“Trust, but verify.”
“Trust is like blood pressure. It’s silent, vital to good health, and if abused it can be deadly.”
“The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust.”
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Romans 12:9-16 NIV
In starting out today’s post I have to ask the question…what is trust? What does it mean to trust someone? Trust is a major issue in life, from the public education system, to business, to the military and to the government. Trust is crucial in making anything function and thrive. In trying to figure out trust I spent some time researching on Youtube looking for videos about trust. I thought about finding a video of a shady car salesman or insurance salesmen and ask you the question…would you trust these people? Then I found this video which explained what trust means. Then I stumbled across this video which I think is from Mad TV which had me in knots. A religious car salesmen…too funny! I was rolling on the floor! I then came across the video that is leading this journal entry. Its from the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic. It explores the issue of trust from differing sides in the US Army. I watched this and analyzed it and thought it communicated some core aspects about trust. Stop and consider…after watching that video can you now understand in greater detail why rape is a threat to trust in the US Army or military?
So what is trust? The Oxford Dictionary defines trust as, “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.” Trust is both fragile and trust is key…especially when you are dealing with people or sitations when they have been burned, fried and hurt. When a person’s trust is damaged it takes special care to nurse and recreate. To rebuild trust you need to create or give birth to situations that reaffirms or builds upon that trust in the course of time. Let me illustrate using my knowledge and background of history. There was one event in American history that I think was especially toxic to the United States government and people, and while it showed that our system of government worked it came at a great price. That one event that burned people’s trust in government was a series of scandals in the Richard Nixon Whitehouse which became known as Watergate. When Watergate unfolded a shocked public couldn’t believe the high degree of corruption that existed in the White House. How many people ended up being convicted? How many people served time in jail? Even worse it showed that the President knew of the illegalities and was largely okay with the cover up. That breach in trust by the US government soured and made people cynical about their government. What made it even worse was that it occurred in addition to the problems associated with the Vietnam conflict. That cynicism from Watergate gave birth to political problems, apathy and a low view of government. I would suggest in many ways the US government has never bounced back to where it was once in the eyes of many Americans. So why am I writing about all this? I do so to illustrate how important trust is in an institution, an organization or a person. You need to have that trust if you are going to help a person in a faith crisis.
Building Trust with Someone Outside the Faith
Let me start out by writing that trust is crucial and necessary if you are going to build a bridge with someone. They need to understand that you love them, care about them regardless of what happens. What do I mean? Translation you will love then regardless whether or not they decide to come back to the Christian faith or if they choose not to and decide to live out their live as an atheist/agnostic. Trust is crucial as its the lens that everything will come through. That trust is needed in order to have conversations, heart felt discussions, and exchange dialog. Building trust happens in the following ways, these are some of them:
- Trust is built through unconditional love. You love a person with no strings attached for no ulterior motive. You refuse to look at a person as a project. You love them for who they are, where they are and you have no expectations for them. That is the key…unconditional love can move mountains but its something you seldom see. That is a profound tragedy and really that should be a strong indictment on the evangelical Christian movement. It reveals how many parts of evangelical Christianity have a country club or fraternity mentality in the end.
- Trust is built through patience. Patience is hard because it requires time and endurance. There is an old saying that I heard from older people that said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Wathcing someone make a decision to leave atheism/agnosticism takes time also because its scary and hard. I don’t think many evangelicals know how hard some of this is since many have grown up in evangelicalism and have not had to work through many of the hard problems.
- Trust is created through right motives. What are your motives for building a bridge with someone outside the faith? Why do you want to bring an agnostic into the Christian faith? Is it for God’s glory or your own? Do you want to have another trophy that gives you bragging rights? Do you want another feather in your hat? If any of these are the reason why you are pursuing someone my advice to you is to stop. Let them go. You are going to end up doing more harm, and cause more pain. You have to be willing to take the hits, deal with the frustrations and be willing to love someone regardless of how they turn out. Its not easy but many evangelicals have a country club mentality to faith and the beliefs they have which work well inside a bubble often fail miserably outside the bubble. So before you proceed further do a heart check, ask yourself…for whose glory are you going to pursue someone?
Trust is Earned
Trust is absolutely essential when it comes to building a bridge to someone outside the faith. I want to state unequivocally that trust occurs over the course of time and it is earned. There are many evangelicals who believe they should be trusted just because they are evangelicals. Nope, nada, zip…that is not how the world works and that is not how it should work with faith either. Plus you are dealing with an individual who is outside the faith and likely highly skeptical and suspicious. What also compounds these situations is when people are associated with churches or movements that violate law or engage in criminal activity. For example if you are associated with a ministry or church that is going to cover up child sexual abuse you are going to forfeit your ability to share the Gospel with those outside the faith. Why? Many people on the outside see through the façade and see the problem. This is what happened to me and Andrew White. This is the challenge that Andrew White had with Sovereign Grace…I was a proclaimed agnostic, he defended Sovereign Grace. Really in the end Andrew’s ability to share the Gospel was severely handicapped, especially as more information came forward about Sovereign Grace is just confirmed how that trust for him to share the Gospel with me was not there at all. Anyone who is attached to Sovereign Grace, or a Sovereign Grace like church is going to be handicapped in that way. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be mean…I’m just trying to be honest. Now I will say that I think re-reestablishing trust started to happen when Redeemer Arlington broke away from SGM. That is good and I am happy and pleased that the leadership broke away from SGM as that must have taken a profound amount of courage.
What You Could Have in the End
If you are patient, loving, and have no expectations and go with the flow what you could have is something beautiful. You could be a witness to something that will help you with your own faith or doubts down the road. You could have a new creation that could walk with you, endure and help you in the times of your life when you deeply need it. Part of the reason why you don’t see this happen often in the evangelical Christian faith is because many people have almost an “ADD” approach to faith. They expect too much too soon. Plus many parts of evangelicalism have used tracts, and other methods which have cheapened the Christian faith. Because of this approach many people miss or walk away from something that could indeed be beautiful…and that is the greatest tragedy. Next Friday I am going to write about what Andrew White from Redeemer Arlington should have done as he engaged me. I have two more Fridays and then I will be done dissecting my faith crisis. In closing I want to leave you with this Chris Tomlin song I heard the other day which is stuck in my head. Its called “The Roar” now to be confused with Katy Perry’s “Roar” (which I love also!)