Faith in the Information Age: Rediscovering the Value of Uncertainty in Our Churches

POINT OF THE POST...

Is technology eroding our capacity for faith? Learn why embracing uncertainty is crucial for spiritual growth and discover practical strategies for fostering resilience and trust in your church community.

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Uncertainty Used To Be The Only Certainty

When I was in college, every road trip involved maps, odometers, and a lot of faith. Driving from North Georgia to Southern Indiana to see my fiancé nearly every other weekend, I had no GPS to predict traffic or reroute me. I used my odometer to track my mileage for my next turn. I occasionally got lost. But I always made it there and back home. Eventually.

This type of travel was an exercise in uncertainty. But I always trusted that I would reach my destination.

Today, we’ve done our best to eliminate unknowns and ambiguity. Technology has eliminated such uncertainties, but in doing so, we may be losing something invaluable. In a world where technology provides instant answers and eliminates ambiguity, we face an unexpected spiritual crisis: the erosion of our capacity for faith.

We, as church leaders, must explore this modern dilemma and uncover ways to nurture faith in an age of certainty.

The Nature of Faith and Doubt

By definition, faith requires doubt. If we knew everything, we’d not need faith.

For example, we believe that God hears our prayers, that God cares, and that heaven is real.

Hebrews 11, nicknamed the “Hall of Faith,” reminds us of the many people in antiquity who, by faith, followed God.

Virtually everything in the Christian faith is built around faith and belief, making our growing intolerance of uncertainty problematic.

Everything At Our Fingertips

Think about how technology has invaded our uncertainty. As a kid, I left the house to play and came home when the streetlights lit up. Yes, I’m almost 50 years old. My parents (thankfully) didn’t have Life360. Nobody had a cell phone. There was no internet. And it caused problems. I once missed my little brother’s birthday party because I was playing basketball with some neighborhood friends, and my parents couldn’t find me or reach me.

I love technology. It has many great uses. It also comes with a multitude of unforeseen consequences.

Instant information, real-time updates, and predictive analytics have dramatically reduced uncertainty in our lives. Psychological research shows that this constant access to information has decreased our tolerance for ambiguity and increased anxiety when information is not readily available. Technology has diminished our problem-solving skills and resilience.

Technology has made life better. And worse.

The Spiritual Cost of Reducing Uncertainty

One of the most famous teachings from Jesus is about worry.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat or drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

Jesus also says that worry shows a lack of faith in God and that if people focus on God and his kingdom, God will supply their needs.

According to Jesus, worry happens when we focus on tomorrow’s unknowns. He suggests that we shift our attention to today and let tomorrow worry about itself.

Yeah right! Or at least this is what our reduced uncertainty is saying to us.

The less comfortable we become with doubt, the more we struggle with faith. Followers of Jesus are called to “live by faith,” Yet people, including your church attendees and members, are less and less likely to embrace uncertainty.

Which leaves pastors and church leaders in quite a quandary.

Practical Tips for Pastors to Encourage Deeper Faith

We must directly address this growing faith struggle. Rather than hoping people grow to trust more, we should deal with this emerging reality more directly.

Here are five strategies you should incorporate into your church today:

1. Preach on the Value of Doubt

Doubt is required and must be embraced, even if reluctantly. The more people engage with uncertainty, the more resilient people become. This is true for our Christian faith.

Regularly using biblical stories highlighting how doubt played a crucial role in strengthening faith can help people do the same. We’ve got plenty of examples, from Thomas to Abraham to Jacob to Moses to the Disciples.

Additionally, encourage questions. It’s more important than ever to foster an environment where asking questions and expressing doubt is welcomed. Remind your congregation that questioning is a part of a healthy faith journey.

2. Create Opportunities for Reflection

You could organize silent retreats or days of reflection where technology is set aside or allow more space for reflection in your services and sermons. This helps individuals reconnect with their inner selves and their faith without distractions.

Also, teach and encourage biblical meditation and contemplative prayer, which help people face uncertainty and listen for God’s guidance. We’ve become so practical in our teaching that we’ve lost an element of majesty and transcendence.

3. Model Faith in Uncertainty

I have a friend (and church client) who is experiencing a hard cancer battle. He doesn’t want to be the “cancer pastor,” but his personal experiences these last six months have provided so much hope for those in his church. Watching his faith in the face of uncertainty is growing their faith resilience.

I encourage you to be open about your doubts and uncertainties. Show how these moments have strengthened your faith and brought you closer to God.

4. Foster Community Support

Do you offer discipleship environments for people to share doubts and question faith? While that may seem counterproductive in the past, it’s the most productive group experience we can offer for many in our community. Pair these experiences with a mentor to extend the support.

5. Teach Resilience and Trust in God

In your preaching and curriculum, focus more on scriptures emphasizing trust in God during uncertain times, such as Proverbs 3:5-6 and Isaiah 40:31. You could also offer workshops, seminars, or create online content on building emotional and spiritual resilience. This can include practical tools for managing anxiety and stress related to uncertainty.

There’s No Doubt that Doubt is Challenging for People

The Christian faith will continue to struggle if we cannot better teach people to handle uncertainty and doubt. In a world where we’ve done all we can to eliminate them, removing them from our spiritual life eventually eliminates our faith. How do you plan to address our culture’s growing discomfort with uncertainty and the need for faith? 

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