"Faith and doubt are like dance partners."
By Tim Schuster
This phrase got me fired from a church in 2012. Here is that story and background to an event I'm hosting next month.
I used to work as the youth pastor of a church. From 2008 to 2012, I worked part-time with junior high and senior high students.
I loved the work. My students were amazing people who came from amazing families. We had a lot of fun organizing Kick Ball Proms and then talking about the deeper dimensions of life, reality and why junior high is such an awkward time in life.
I was able to pursue and complete a graduate degree in seminary while in that job. One day, in 2011, I was asked to share with the broader congregation about my experience in seminary. I was interviewed in front of everyone during a Sunday service.
Tim – How would you describe your experience in seminary? What are you learning?
To answer, I said, “Faith and doubt are like dance partners.” It’s a line I stole from an author I follow. (Sometimes the greatest gifts we can give are words to articulate an experience. I used that gift to answer that question. Also, I steal things.)
So I went on to explain that faith gets us through the day – it is a belief in the future and in God that inspires us with hope and gratitude. I also explained that doubt is what keeps us honest and hungry and asking more questions. Those parts I didn’t steal.
I also explained how I thought seminary would be about a getting more answers – and really it was about asking better questions.
Later that week, I got a lecture. For 30+ minutes my boss/pastor explained to me that, at his church, we don’t talk about doubt.
“We don’t talk about doubt.”
I was then given some articles to read. And that was that.
Three months later I was told that my time working at that church was coming to an end. It was wrapped in the nice language of “You’ve outgrown this place.”
A few months earlier a new book had come out by a pastor, author and speaker who I was reading a lot at the time (and still read). The book is called “Love Wins” and it rightly called into question the idea that a loving God sends people to torment in hell forever unless they do or say or believe something in particular before time runs out.
Yeah, it was an important book full of questions. Over 200 to be exact. But it shot a dagger through evangelical Christianity and it jolted me into new questions about what exactly I had signed up for.
The author of Love Wins is the Rob Bell, who is also the author of the phrase, “faith and doubt are like dance partners.”
On that day, in that place, on that staff, at that church, in that interview, I simply offered the most honest way I could articulate my experience. That was more than four years ago and this is the first time I’ve written publicly about this experience.
A lot of Midtown Community is born out of a sense that church should be a place of honesty, not platitudes. This means we’re creating something in reaction to my prior experiences, and that isn’t always the best way to build a new community. As a mentor told me a few weeks ago, “I wonder if you’ve deconstructed church all the way down.”
He was absolutely right – and it is providing an opportunity to think about our future.
We started Midtown Community to provide a place where people could pursue truth with honesty and creativity. Now, we are getting clearer about our values and what really drives us. We are passionately pursuing, embodying and living out our values of humanity, voices, experimental creativity and the story of God’s love.
In a couple of weeks I’m hosting an event called Love Wins. It will be on the evening of February 14thand, yes, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and, yes, Kelsey will be there with me. I want to hang out. I want to read chapter 7 from Love Wins. And then I want to do what humans are meant to do: I want to talk about life, faith, reality and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.
Then I want to see where we go from there.
Are you near Minneapolis? Join us. All are welcome.