Fifteen to twenty years ago, prominent figures in the missional movement began saying things like, “Our churches have to be safe places for doubters,” or “You should feel like you can come to our church with all of your doubts.” I always felt somewhat uncomfortable whenever I heard these statements–not because I think that our churches shouldn’t be safe place for people to express doubts, but because it seemed as if many were confusing the idea of doubt with the idea of unbelieving skepticism. It is important to recognize that Scripture does not identify doubt with unbelieving skepticism. In fact, the most serious believers may have prolonged periods in which they struggle with doubt–a fact that the Gospel writers unfold in the account of John the Baptist’s doubts about the identity of Jesus while in prison.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus made the shocking assertion, “Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” Christ praised John as having been “the burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35)–as one who poured himself out for the spiritual well-being of others. John’s ministry was marked by his selfless motivation to see Jesus exalted, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). John likened himself to the friend of the bridegroom, who, upon hearing the voice of Christ, rejoiced that the Bridegroom had come (John 3:29). John had the unique privilege of standing and pointing to the Redeemer in the flesh and declare, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John joyfully encouraged his own disciples to leave him in order to follow after Jesus, when Christ began his ministry. John was content to exist for the glory and exaltation of Jesus (John 1:35-37).
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