Had a great discussion today in my Apologetics group in high school. We were discussing the causes for spiritual doubt and got into a discussion on the topic of “faith talk”. This is described as “maintaining a connection to the community while sacrificing commitment to the beliefs of that community.” Faith talk can be very destructive because it leads to a life of deception both outwardly and inwardly. We may be seeing warm bodies in the pews but in reality they may have already ‘left the building’.
They may attend the meetings, be involved with youth, active in missions and the other aspects of the church but their activity may simply be outward in nature. There is a title of a book I read that portrays this thought. It is entitled “Already Gone”. We strive to prevent spiritual exodus when the exodus has already taken place.
This led into a discussion on the ‘ought to go to church’ versus the ‘want to go to church’. Many of the students voiced that often they feel guilty not being in church as if they had done something wrong. I asked them what they felt the source of that feeling of guilt was. Was it a desire to be in church that was not met that day or was it a feeling of duty and that they had not met an expectation? The former I told them can come from a heart that truly wants to worship and be with the Family and the latter may be fueled out of sense of obligation that may be fueled by the expectations of others such as parents, church leaders or peers.
What must be investigated is the source of our commitment to the church and to God. If our motives are not pure, this may lead to our slow exodus from the church for a while when the object of those expectations is no longer present. When students go off to school and there is no one to ‘expect’ them to go to church will they go out of their own desire? Has their faith become their own? If so, I believe it has a better chance of lasting. So it is not should or ought but want.