It seems to me that everyone I have spoken with (on a meaningful level) in the past 6 months or so is going through some kind of faith crisis... either feeling disenfranchised or emasculated by the formal church structure (that's the minor stuff!) or seriously questioning their own belief set.
Not that any of us are questioning the existence of God, the credibility of the Bible, or any of those really fundamental issues...it's more the 'life' questions.... - where does the discipline and habit of going to church fit into my life? - do I have to do this to help grow as a Christian? - What am I getting from it (and what can I give?) - Are there some big questions that aren't being answered?
A discussion today with two long-time Christians, both in ministry, didn't really come up with any conclusions, other than to suggest that the 'church' (as in the corporate or community sense) is probably not meeting the needs of people like me, and those mentioned above. Men feel unsure of their place, women feel stressed because they are balancing their home life and church life (often without the support of a partner), singles feel alone, the recently, and not so recently separated feel unsupported.
Where do we begin to address this? Perhaps the first step is to remember that the Christian walk is, by and large, a plod...day by day, no great epiphanies, no amazing events to speak of most of the time - just daily miracles (that we made it through the day?!), taking joy from the everyday. Secondly, reminding ourselves that it is right and normal to challenge long held views, even Biblical to do so.
As long as (and this is the key I think) we are prepared to view them in light of our own faith and journey - and then step up to do something about it. Thirdly, acknowledging that no-one is perfect, not least 'the church' and so we don't really have the right to pick and choose the bits we want to keep or discard. Viewing it as an overall experience and opportunity for growth is of more value that identifying the bits we don't like or want and using that as a reason not to get involved Lastly, but challenging, and possibly discarding the dogma, and meaningless ritual we can so easily get immersed in (sometimes quite grudgingly), and start to think of our faith in real, personal terms.
How do we do that? By acknowledging our shortcomings, really studying ourselves and identifying our gifts, testing all things, and being open to God working in our lives in a minute by minute way. I need to think, really think about what I beleive in, what are my deal breakers, what can I offer others, what are my limits? Remember that God is with me even when it doesn't feel that way, that just because I am, on a particular day, feeling cross with Him, or separate to Him, does not mean that He is not there, waiting for me to look to Him.
Surround myself with likeminded people, feel my soul, nourish my spirit, stretch my mind. Have spirited and honest discussions but not be swayed by the opinions of others. Measure myself daily....