There are many helpful images that define the church’s mission. It is a hospital providing healing to the sick and injured. It is a fuel station for those who are exhausted. It is a banquet hall of grace open to all who will feast at God’s table. But let us not forget our role as incubators of developing faith, skilled midwives who assist with spiritual birth.
And as it is with physical birth, spiritual birth is not an invariable experience. Some come to faith easy and early, like they can’t wait to get here, and all you have to do catch them. Others get wedged in the birth canal with philosophical, spiritual, and emotional sticking points. Others arrive in grand fashion, genuinely born again, but quickly lose their way.
There are the doubters, the skeptics, the seekers, the confused, the angry, the stuck, the ready, the breeched, the premature, and those needing intensive neonatal care. None of these are targets of our marketing efforts. These aren’t clients, customers, or converts. They aren’t potential new members, and definitely not those whose vulnerability and needs should be used against them. These are precious people on the road to some kind of spiritual birth. Our role is to simply help their personal, unique faith emerge.
In my own individual journey of faith, so many people have helped me, people with a soft touch but strong, steady hands. Few of these helpers ever lectured me, formally “discipled” me, twisted my arm, force-fed me Bible verses, or beat me over the head with the latest and greatest new book guaranteed to revolutionize my life.
No, recognizing that something new was struggling to be born, they were there to gently guide, encourage, support, and coach me. They dove right in – right where they found me – skilled midwives, who let me know that life and faith are worth their struggles. And when the pain of labor has passed, the anguish gives way to joy – for all – for faith has been born in the world.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.