Diocese of Manchester

The first theme we are exploring for #MoreThanSunday is Doubt.

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Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)

Podcast episode one: Doubt

Reflection

It might seem strange to begin a Year of Discipleship with the theme of doubt. Isn’t doubt the opposite of the faith? In our churches we can often be suspicious of the doubts of others and afraid to share our own. We can treat our faith like an on/off switch rather than a relationship: if it doesn’t feel fully on then we must have switched off, with no middle ground for wondering, exploring, or admitting that sometimes being a disciple feels too hard. And yet doubt is often the starting point for deepening faith, finding it strengthened through questioning and being honest about our fears and weaknesses.

In this first month of this discipleship year we begin our journey in the same way the early disciples did – with honesty about our doubt! Why be honest? Because this is the model of discipleship we find in the gospels. When I experience doubt I am in really good company: the first disciples of Jesus constantly doubted, even while the risen Jesus was giving them their instructions for mission. They didn’t try to hide those doubts: instead, they kept them as part of the gospel records of what life as a follower of Jesus is like.

But how do we know our doubts aren’t a barrier to being called by Jesus? In our scripture reading for this month Jesus gives the disciples their job description for being witnesses in the world. And yet, even while seeing the risen Jesus with their own eyes, some of the disciples doubted! How does Jesus respond to their doubt? Does he make sure they go on a Christian theology course before they can carry out His mission? Shame the ones with questions and tell them to go home? No – He reminds them of who He is, affirms that they are His messengers and offers them words of reassurance and comfort. Amazingly, Jesus doesn’t seem to think that their doubt excludes them from being sent. Doubt isn’t a barrier to being a disciple. It seems to be part and parcel of discipleship, from the first followers of Jesus until now.

Let’s find ways to encourage each other in our doubts this month. As disciples journeying together, we will need to begin by telling the truth about the doubts we have, and trusting God – and each other – that this can be fertile ground for growth.

Hannah Malcolm, God and the Big Bang Co-ordinator 

Suggested actions

  • Share one of your big questions about faith with a trusted friend or share it on social media so that we can support each other and perhaps think about some answers together.
  • Try to find a resource you haven't used before which may help with some of your big questions.
  • Take your big questions to God in prayer. As you pray about your doubts, ask God to help you remain open to the ways that questioning can help to shape your faith, even though we don't always find answers.

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The Church of England Diocese of Manchester,
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90 Deansgate,
Manchester M3 2GH

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Telephone: 0161 828 1400