I’d like to tell you about a way we have invited visitors to a first-of-the-year study and sermon series around faith, doubt, belief, and the questions that people deal with in our congregations and communities. It may work for you and your community too.
Every year on Christmas Eve and Easter, we see our worship attendance swell. On those days, before the service begins, we announce an upcoming series aimed at addressing the questions, concerns, or needs of people who don’t usually attend, in the hope that many of our visitors will choose to return after the holiday.
In the fall of 2021, we surveyed 1,000 people asking if they ever struggle with doubt. We found almost everybody struggles with doubt. Church people, unchurched people, we all struggle with doubt. Then we asked, “What are the sources of your doubts?” We took the top six sources of doubt and prepared a sermon series addressing them, a series we announced at Candlelight Christmas Eve. My new book, Wrestling with Doubt, Finding Faith, is based on that series. It’s designed to be accessible and easy to share with friends and family who struggle with doubt.
The introduction starts with In Praise of Honest Doubt, followed by questions like, Is There Really a God?; Wrestling with the Bible; Do All Non-Christians Go to Hell?; Why do the Innocent Suffer?; and, Why Do Prayers Go Unanswered?
One of the most natural invitations to make at Christmas is to invite those at candlelight services to join you again in January for a congregation-wide study of these questions. Small groups, Sunday School classes, and even youth groups might study the book—we have a leader guide and short video starters for each chapter—and then, in worship, the sermons could draw from the same questions the congregation will study in small groups. There are graphics and a short video promo available for use in worship and on social media. For downloadable resources, take a look at AdamHamilton.com/Wrestling under “Free Resources.”
Announcing a churchwide emphasis on Wrestling with Doubt, Finding Faith would be a draw for those attending on Christmas Eve to join you again in January. With the emphasis beginning January 7 and lasting for six weeks, it would conclude February 11, just before Lent begins.
To engage new people, host an evening with a light supper and small-group discussion around tables. Throughout that process, you’ll be inviting people to wrestle with their doubts, to look for answers, and hopefully, in the end, to find faith.
We’re in a time when many people don’t go to church anymore. My prayer is that this book will be useful to you as you invite unchurched people in your community to honestly discuss their doubts. In the process of hearing your congregation’s sermons, of listening to and being a part of small-group discussions, they might just find faith for themselves.
God bless you as you continue to be a light for Christ.