Searching for Deeper Faith

Searching for Deeper FaithIn 2010, pastor and award winning author Jim Belcher took his family to Europe for one year, seeking rest and renewal for himself and a deeper faith for his family. Through travel and the study of more than a dozen heroes of the faith, he wanted to introduce his four children to a consequential faith, one that would stay with them when they went off to college and sustain them for a lifetime. What they would discover on this adventure would change their lives forever.

What lead you go to Europe for an entire year? That’s a pretty drastic move.
I guess it was. At the time, I had a reached a point where I was worn out. I had been pastoring for almost 20 years and we had just come through a long season in which we had four kids, planted a church, completely remodeled an old house and wrote my first book. I had nothing left in the tank. I needed a time of rest and renewal, a chance to rethink my own calling and find out what the next stage of my life would hold.

At the same time, my wife and I were worried about our four children and whether they were developing a strong enough faith to last a lifetime. We had a long discussion about how to help them develop a consequential faith that would stay with them through the turbulent years of high school and college. We wondered if they were more influenced by the culture around them – the media, materialism and friends – than by the story of Christianity and its reality in their lives. And this worried us.

So going to Europe was the solution?
The idea came to us one day: what if we traveled on a pilgrimage for a year to England and Europe, and studied and experienced the biographies and places of some of the great heroes of the faith – people like C.S. Lewis, Sheldon Vanauken, William Wilberforce, Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Maria Von Trapp. Maybe this, we thought, could get my passion back for my calling and at the same time help my children develop a deeper faith – a faith that shaped their imaginations and identities and future.

So you took the step of faith and traveled to Europe? Where did you begin your pilgrimage?
We began in Oxford, England with little more than some cursory ideas about where to begin or what to study. But upon arriving in England I was reading in a medieval library one day when I discovered that a pilgrimage has three components: to rediscover one’s roots, to understand that life is a journey, and to know our ultimate destination. That was an “a-ha” moment for me. These three ideas became our inspiration, shaping the themes we pursued, revealing the heroes we studied, and steering us across time and place. And as the pilgrimage unfolded, day by day and month by month, what we learned and experienced over the year would startle us, surprise us, and change us forever. In Search of Deep Faith is the record of this pilgrimage, an unfolding drama marked by suspense and intrigue.

What heroes did you pursue?
Since we started in England we began with people like C.S. Lewis and William Wilberforce and John Newton. When we moved over to the Continent, we went in search of Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Maria von Trapp, to name just a few. For each hero, we read their biographies and studied their writings. For almost every hero we found biographies or movies for our children. After reading or watching about their lives and reading some of their writings, for example, the Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis or The Hiding Place by Ten Boom, we took our kids to the important places for each hero. For example, we visited the Kilns, C.S. Lewis’ home for thirty years and the hiding place in the Ten Boom house, where our kids got to climb into the actual space that hid Jews from the Nazis. In each place, we experienced valuable spiritual lessons – the kind that stay with you for a lifetime.

Since most readers can’t make the same journey, how can it help them on their own pilgrimage of faith?
We knew from day one that this was a chance of a lifetime and that most people couldn’t take that journey. That’s why I wrote the book; so that the reader could come along with us, see what we saw, feel what we felt, and experience what we experienced. I just heard from one reader who said he felt that he was with us every step of the way, like a seventh member of the family and when he finished the book he didn’t want it to end. I know the feeling because we didn’t want it to end either. There is something so powerful about travel that is spiritually focused. We stood where goodness happened in the midst of evil, we walked in the steps of bravery, we sat in the places where holy things took place. How could this not change us, giving us a deeper faith? How could this not reinvigorate me, give me back my passion for my calling? It is my hope that the reader will have the same profound experience – spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. Come along on the journey. It may take you further into deep faith than you ever dreamed possible.

Have you ever taken a trip for spiritual reasons? Tell us about it by emailing editor@goodnewsfl.org.

Jim Belcher is Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Knox Theological Seminary. For more information about Jim and his book, In Search of Deep Faith, go to Jimbelcher.net.

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