In the book The Theological Turn of Youth Ministry, Andrew Root has a chapter entitled “Doubt and Confirmation: the mentor as a co-doubter”. One of Root’s premise is when we teach absolute certainty of the Christian faith, we are actually defining faith incorrectly. Specifically, he spells out this notion on p.195. Root states, “Christianity is about living in opposition to certainty; it is about faith in the midst of doubt.” In other words, when supporting a person in their faith development, it’s not about providing absolute answers that fit neatly into a pre-packaged box, but walking through the doubts. It’s also not about trying to erase all doubts, but to seek God within them. As Root suggests, “Doubt then is not our enemy but our great friend. For it keeps us from the most unchristian things: assuming we possess certainty, that we need not think about our faith or love our neighbors, and worse, that we need not search for God, for we know this God certainty. Faith that has become certain is no longer (by definition) faith; it has become idolatry, where we no longer seek out a living personal God but make this God into a frozen idol.”

This feels very uncomfortable. We turn to passages like Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” It also seems to juxtapose the notion that God is absolute, unchanging and true. To allow doubt into the equation is to somehow diminish or deny that Christ is the answer.

Let me profess right now: Jesus is the answer for life’s most deepest question “Why do I exist?” However, we somehow have extrapolated that Jesus is somehow the only answer to every question. (If your teacher asked “What’s 2 + 2?”, I don’t think the answer is “Jesus”.) Whenever someone expresses doubt, we tend to say things like “Just trust Jesus” (cf. Matthew 14:31). Yet there’s a couple of things to remember:

  1. We don’t have all the answers. Jesus does, but we don’t and cannot assume we do. In our confined, temporal essence, we couldn’t comprehend it anyway.
  2. God’s intention in life isn’t to try to eradicate all our doubts as fast as possible (similar to the notion that God’s intention isn’t to give us a smooth, trouble-free life right from the start).

Perhaps then discipleship isn’t about trying to cram as much biblical truth into a disciple, but rather learning how to navigate through the doubts. It seems to me that coaching plays a part in this discipleship specifically in this area. Coaching does not assume that the coach has the answers (nor would a good coach want to provide all the answers). Professional life coaching believes that the client already has the answer and the coach helps to draw that answer out of them. In this case, the coach/mentor becomes more of a journey companion in navigating through the doubts, allowing the client/student to own and understand those doubts (and answers) without providing it for them.

If we had these kinds of coaches in youth ministry (vs. the “know it all sage”), we could embrace Doubt as a Mentor.