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Take Ownership of Your Faith

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I’m what I like to call a second generation Christian. When I say that, I mean that I grew up in a Christian household that attended church weekly and where the Gospel was emphasized nearly every day. My parents both received Christ at an early age and met at a singles ministry event at their church. When that congregation was later embroiled in scandal, my earliest memories were of us finding a new church home.
I’m very thankful for my upbringing and I’m blessed to have two parents who love God and love others. But as I became a teenager, I began asking myself a troubling question. If I had grown up in a Muslim household (or Hindu, or Buddhist), would I just as ardently pursue those beliefs as I do Christianity? Or better yet, could I even be convinced of the Christian faith in that situation or do I value my upbringing so much that my real allegiance is to my heritage, not the truth?

You would expect that a thought like that might shake me to the core, but it didn’t. It set me on a journey that laid a new foundation for my life, a spiritual groundwork of my own that was stronger than my upbringing. It was the beginning of a transition from living out my parents’ faith to making it my own. In fact, I believe this is something that every Christian should do. But how do you go about taking ownership of your faith?

1. Ask Questions – Even Tough Ones

The first step is to ask the tough questions. The most important is, “why do I believe this?” Especially in more conservative circles, this is sometimes discouraged. Questioning is sometimes confused with rebellion but it isn’t. In fact, honest questioning the beginning of true scholarship and diligent study. As my college professors often said, we go to God with the tough questions because we believe he is big enough to handle them.

2. Let Your Doubts Fuel You

Someone once told me that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith – fear is. If you are faced with doubts, don’t be scared of them and don’t feel like a bad Christian for having them. I’m a minister and I have them… often! Don’t try to suppress those questions or concerns. Face them honestly and search for the answers with determination.

3. Spend Time in Prayer & Study

Go to God with these questions and doubts. Ask him to show you the answers over time. You should also pray for the peace to know you may never grasp some of the answers as well. Let that be the start of your discovery. From there, get into God’s Word.

In high school, I began keeping a highlighter attached to the spine of my Bible. Whenever I came across a passage that somehow informed my beliefs or even tweaked them, I highlighted it. Believing that Scripture is the highest authority on these matters, that’s where I started.

I’ve learned that in nearly every denomination, our theology is often distorted by tradition that doesn’t always align with Scripture. As a lifelong Baptist, I’ve found many smaller theological items that I no longer agree with as a result of my Bible study. None of these things are big enough to make me walk away but enough that I’ve taken note of them. Make sure your understanding of God comes straight from his Word, not just from the sermons and Sunday school lessons you grew up hearing.

4. Visit Other Churches

It doesn’t hurt to visit churches outside your denomination. If you’re Methodist and all of your Christian associations are also Methodist, it may be time to shake it up a little bit. While I have always remained an active member in a Baptist church, I really enjoy some Bible churches, Methodist churches, and many Presbyterian churches. I spent time examining their beliefs and practices against mine, even finding that I agreed with them over ours at times. This might bring you into another denomination or it may just strengthen your confidence in your own.

5. Write a Statement of Faith

Put your beliefs in writing. As you start your journey, write a one-page statement on what you believe with as much detail as you can include. After several years, look back on it and see where you stand. Would you add some things? Would you clarify some other items? Or do you feel that you were right from the beginning?

For me, this journey began in high school and it continues today. Honestly, I wouldn’t be the minister I am today if I hadn’t done it. As a result of this endeavor, my faith is stronger. When faced with the question today, I can honestly say that my faith is not just a product of my upbringing. It is central to who I am and my beliefs are based on Scripture, not my pastor. The process hasn’t always been comfortable but it has been crucial to who I am as a follower of Christ.

Discuss: What other advice would you add to this list?

Posted in: Faith

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  • Rick

    Get out of your comfort zone and serve those who are REALLY in need at a shelter or mission.

    • http://www.mattmorrison.org/ Matt Morrison

      Rick – It’s good advice! I think you’re right!

  • Cindy Wu

    going with what Rick said, I would say the broader thing would be to have a habit of giving because it’s essentially faith in action.

    • http://www.mattmorrison.org/ Matt Morrison

      Cindy – I agree. I think if your faith just becomes cerebral, it will also become stagnant.