On Thanksgiving day, Bart Campolo, son of well-known evangelical professor and speaker Tony Campolo, told his father that he no longer shared his father’s faith. Shocked, Tony didn’t believe what he was hearing. How could his son, who had served alongside him for over two decades in some of the most economically depressed communities in America, preaching the gospel and serving the marginalized, now no longer identify as a follower of Jesus? As Tony tried to process what he had heard and what it meant, he felt overwhelmed. The loss of his son’s faith in Christ brought Tony deep hurt. It was like “somebody put a knife in my stomach” he said.
If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you’re deeply concerned about someone you love who is struggling to maintain their faith. Or maybe you’re like Tony, trying to understand why it is that the child you raised to love Jesus no longer believes in God. When those we care about are on the verge of abandoning the faith we hold dear, it can be terrifying and painful. As Tony said, it can feel like somebody is sticking a knife into our gut. If that’s you, then I would like to offer a few suggestions to help you navigate what can be an emotionally turbulent experience. When someone we love has left the faith, the most important thing we can do is stay in the conversation. But in order to do that we’ll need to tread lightly. It might feel counterintuitive to do that. We’ll likely want to immediately fix the situation. I want to encourage you to resist that impulse because it will do more harm than good.
If you desire to remain a positive influence in the life of your child, I encourage you to consider adopting the suggestions in this series.