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Just outside our doors is the best example of how much our culture has changed. When
the weather is nice how many youth do you see playing soccer on a Sunday morning?
The world is changing right outside our doors.
My daughter, Hannah, participates in youth sports, and she has played many basketball
games on Sunday mornings. I love sports myself, and I enjoy watching youth play basketball or
football or tennis or any other sport. I love the program.
Would hundreds of youth have played soccer on a Sunday morning twenty years ago?
Ive gotten to know some of these youth-sports families. I know they believe in God and
go to church. And I also know that their connection to God and the church isnt as strong as it
used to be. The idea of having youth sports on a Sunday morning wouldnt have been
considered twenty years ago because families would not have given up church for soccer.
The world is changing. These changes affect all of us who are passionate about Jesus
Christ and are passionate about building vibrant faith communities.
You and I can respond to these changes in three ways.
SLIDE 1. We can ignore the cultural changes and keep doing what we are doing.
2. We can judge the cultural changes and share what bad people they are
3. We can understand the cultural changes and then adapt our own mission.
Number one wont work? Why?
Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and
expecting a different result.

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Number two wont work? Why? This would be a violation of our Core Value of acceptance.
Judging and condemning would be inconsistent with the behavior of our Savior. Jesus did judge
and condemn people in his ministry. The people he judged and condemned were religious
That leads us to number 3. We can try to understand. What is leading people in our culture to be
more skeptical about God and about the church?
Lets do that. Today Im starting a sermon series called Conversations with a honest
skeptic. This past month Ive conducted video interviews with people who are skeptical about
God and the church. The point of the interviews is to try to understand their skepticisms. What
is leading people away from God and away from the church.
Lets not stop at understanding. Lets have a conversation. When we hear these ideas
from the skeptics, lets be able to respond in conversation.
I have no doubt that everyone here has friends and/or family members who are skeptical
about God and the church. I want you to think about this person as I share these sermons.
Would they share the same skepticisms? How would it be having a conversation with them?
Take a moment to come up with a person you know who is skeptical about God and/or
the church.
I want to encourage you to get out this brochure that is in your bulletin. This week I
wrote a devotion for you on the questions of Job. Job was a skeptic. He had hard questions
about God. Were going to read these questions and then ponder how to respond. In the middle
of this devotion is a place to take notes. Ive tailered the devotion a bit differently. Ive given
you a place to write down the ideas of the skeptics and then given you a place to write down the
response. On the back is a place for our congregations prayer requests.

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Im going to do three things in this sermon today. First Im going to share some statistics
that show how our culture has changed; second I want us to think about the role of questioning in
our faith; and then well look at a video interview.

One of the best books Ive read in the past ten years is the book called

UnChristian. It was written by David K. David K is an evangelical who does research for the
Barna Group. He did interviews with people who dont go to church. He discovered six
perceptions of the church that these skeptics have. They are:
The church is anti-homosexual
The church is judgmental
The church is hypocritical
The church is old-fashioned
The church is too involved in politics
The church is out of touch with reality.
Think for a moment about one person who you know who isnt actively involved in a
faith community. How many of these beliefs would they have about the church?
The Pew Research Center has done two fascinating studies of religion in our country.
One in 2014 and another in 2007. They coined a term that is important for us to know. The term
is Religious Nones.

According to the Pew Research Cente,r Religious Nones are people who self-

identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is nothing in particular.
SLIDE In 2007 the Pew Research Center found that the Religious Nones make up 16 percent of
American societyapproximately 36.6 million people.
In 2014 the Religious Nones made up 23 percent of American societyapproximately
55.8 million people.

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In the United States in the last seven years people who identify as Christians have fallen
from 78 percent to 71 percent in 2014.
There are more Religious Nones in the United States than there are Catholics
There are more Religious Nones in the United States than there are main-line Protestants
The final piece about Religious Nones I want to share is the age composition. This is
really important.
% of each generation who identify their religion as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular
Younger Millenials (born 1990-1996)
Older Millenials (born 1981-1989)
Generation X (born 1965-1980)
Baby Boomers (born 1946-64)
Silent generation (born 1928-45)


I hope youre thinkinghow do we respond to this?

I want to talk a bit about the role of questioning in our faith. I want us to think about
these two questions.
How much can I question in my faith
Are any questions off-limits at Chain of Lakes.
Job can help us develop a response to these two questions. Im guessing most of us know
the story of Job. Job was a man who had it allwealth, family, terrific reputation in the
community, faith. Then one day Satan told God that Job had this faith because he had it all.
Satan believed that if everything was taken away from Job that he would curse God. God
disagreed. God told Satan he could take everything away from Job. Job lost his familythey
were killed in an attack; he lost his property through a fire and by an invading army; he lost his
healthhe had loathsome sores all over his body.

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After this happened Job had a conversation with three friends about the nature of
suffering. Job had many questions. This week in your devotion youll have the opportunity to
read these questions.
Let me help you a bit. Job had some hard questions. He basically asked these questions:
Why do bad things happen to good people and why do good things happen to bad people?
Does God cause suffering?
Why do so many bad things happen in the world?
Is my suffering the result of my own sins?
Is God a violent God?
Why do those far from God achieve prosperity and those who are close to God not receive
Have you ever asked one of these questions?
These are pretty tough questions.
Jesus also was a man of questions. The night before he was killed on a cross he was
praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He questioned whether he should go to the cross the next

Abba, Father, if you are willing remove this cup from me. Luke 24:42a
This statement was not in the form of a question. But the suggestion was a question.

Jesus was saying to his papa, you can stop this terrible event from happening to me. Would you
stop it from happening?
Its important to note that the next line that Jesus said was:

Yet, not my will but yours be done. Luke 24:42b

Jesus was always willing to do the will of his abba, Father.
When Jesus was on the crossdying, naked, in pain that none of us can imagine,

abandoned by many of his followers, heckled by the crowd. Jesus was on the cross for hours. At
3:00 in the afternoon, Jesus cried out, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani, which is Aramaic for My

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God, my God, why have you forsaken me? At this moment Jesus felt abandoned by his abba,
father. He cried out with a question.
Job and Jesus teach us the limits of our questions. There are no limits. Are there any
questions that we cant ask? No. Are there any questions we cant ask at Chain of Lakes? You
can ask any question. No question is off-limits.
Heres the thing. Dont stay with the questions. Keep searching for answers. Staying
with the questions is not enough.
Most of us parents have had the experience of being asked the question, why by our
children. Why is this happening. And we respond. Why? And we respond. Why? And we
respond. If you are like me at some point we give up and tell our kid, because I said so.
Knock it off. I also learned that developing a response was a much better way of responding.
Anyone can ask a questioneven a good question. But it takes a mature believer to
develop a response to a question.

Take these questions of Jobs. They are really hard questions. But we are called

to develop a response to these questions. I hope that if you heard one of your skeptical friends
ask one of these questions that you would have a response.
Which leads me to the interviews. The question I want us to reflect on is this:
The first question is: why should I have anything to do with the church when it hurts me?
Judie Edgett has been coming to Chain of Lakes since the Grand Opening in February.
She has gone to church her entire life. But she had an experience that caused her to be skeptical
about the church.
Yes. The parish that I belonged to. Which was a very old German parish. We received a very bad
pastor. He ruined the parish. Money was missing. We picketed to get the Archdiocese attention. We
were told to go home and pray. There was nothing wrong. Well there was a lot wrong. That bothered
me a great deal.

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It was really the leadership of the church. They werent responding to you and the community.
He turned out to be a pedophile. Wonderful to see his picture on TV
How harmful to see that your spiritual leader
In the middle of this I lost my husband very tragically. There was no one who I could rely on. I got
through it. I really started to question.

Can you imagine going to a church your entire life and then having your spiritual leader
steal money and get arrested for pedophilia?
Ive shared this before, but when I was very young my parents were very close to a pastor
at our home church. We spent many Friday nights at his farm. I remember square dancing in his
barn. My parents faith came alive because of this mans teaching. But some in the church
didnt like him. His ideas were too difficult to accept. They had a congregational meeting where
people could speak against the pastor or for the pastor. Then they took a vote. The people fired
Can you imagine having your faith come alive by a pastor and then having the people in
the church turn on this person?
Unfortunately events like this in the church happen. They are tragic.
How do we respond to these questions. One way to respond is to remember who the
church is. The church is a group of imperfect people. The church is not a building, the church is
not a piece of property; the church is a group of imperfect people who have committed ourselves
to God.
Besides Jesus who are the greatest four people of the Bible.
MosesMoses led the people out of Egypt and received the 10 commandments.
Moses murdered a man. He was a murderer
DavidDavid was the greatest king in the history of Israel

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David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then he tried to cover this up by having
Bathshebas husband, Uriah, killed.
PeterPeter was the rock on which Jesus was going to build the church
Peter betrayed Jesus three times the night before Jesus was killed
The apostle PaulPaul was the first new church developer. He wrote many of the books in the
New Testament.
Paul was an accomplice in the murder of Stephen.
The church is made up of imperfect people. Lets claim our imperfections.
This week I had an interview with a young woman by the name of Amara. She has gone
to church, but doesnt go anymore. When she went to church she found a group of people who
were trying too hard to be good. They were projecting an image of being good that wasnt
Its tricky because were called to be good, ethical people. But were not called to live
into a projection of who we think were supposed to be.
I think what will speak to people is when were honest. We call it authentic. Im trying
to be the best person God calls me to be, but sometimes I struggle. Its hard. Sometimes I
succeed. Sometimes I dont.
People will value us when were real and honest.
Churches mess up because were made up of imperfect people.
The second response I would have to this question is churches can turn around.
My parents stayed with that church. Losing their friend the pastor was a traumatic
experience that they have never forgotten. They dabbled for a while in other churches. But they
stayed with this community of people who caused them so much pain. I think that took
tremendous courage. They never could have known that their son would be ordained 19 years
later in the sanctuary of the church; they never could have known that their daughter would be

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ordained 21 years later in the sanctuary of the church; they never could have known that they
would be honored as 50 year members.
The final way I would respond is when the church is operating at a high level it is a very
exciting place to be. When the church is operating at a high level even skeptics will be
SLIDE This past Thursday night I attended the Coon Rapids planning commission meeting.
Hope 4 Youth brought forward a request to turn a building into a shelter for homeless teens.
When I got there John Sitarzthe founder of Hope 4 Youth and who spoke here two weeks ago
before our carnivalcame up to me and thanked me for coming. Pam Van Meter was also at the
meeting. When we were there we were representing all of you. One of our hopes as a
congregation is to be part of a movement that ends homelessness among teenagers in Anoka
County. Were doing this because of our faithbecause we believe at the core of who we are
that we are being Jesus to the world.
If you ever want to know what to say to someone who is skeptical about God or the
church tell them that were part of a movement to end homelessness. Our love for Jesus Christ is
causing us to change the world. When people see thatwhen they can sense that something is
special is happeningwhen they know that this thing we call faith is more than something
between our heads. They will put their skepticisms down and give church another chance.
Gobe the churchand we can respond effectively to the skeptics.