A Pastor's Crisis of Faith
Inside This Episode
During an interview with Then God Moved podcast host Adira Polite, Eric Huffman reflects on his early skepticism of the Christian faith, his own history of false teaching, and how a trip to Israel changed the game. He also opens up about the recent series of events in his life that proved even pastors aren't beyond a crisis of faith.
Original interview aired on Then God Moved on Dec. 16, 2022
Follow Then God Moved on Instagram: @thengodmoved
Julie Mirlicourtois: Hey everyone! This is Julie Mirlicourtois, producer of the Maybe God Podcast. Before we get started today, I'd love to ask all of you our loyal listeners to please help us spread the word about Maybe God by rating and reviewing us on Apple or anywhere you listen to Maybe God.
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Today on Maybe God, we're playing an episode of a popular podcast hosted and edited by Adira Polite. You may remember when we featured Adira's story back in December on Maybe God. While she was here, Adira also interviewed Eric Huffman for her podcast called Then God Moved.
In this interview, Eric opens up about the recent series of events in his life that proves that even pastors aren't beyond a crisis of faith. After listening to this interview, don't forget to check out Then God Moved on Instagram and wherever you listen to podcasts.
Adira Polite: I am in Houston today for an in-person interview with Pastor Eric Huffman. Before we start, I actually want to share a little bit of how this all happened because it's a God story. I realized last year that Kat who is one of the communication directors for Maybe God Podcast followed Then God Moved on Instagram. And I was major fan girl. I messaged Kat, I was like, "I love your show. Thank you for what you do."
And she tells me that multiple people on the show actually follow Then God Moved and kind of the rest is history. Lo and behold, I'm now here in Houston for a collaboration. We just recorded an episode of Maybe God featuring me sharing my story, and now I'm sitting with Pastor Eric, and we're about to hear a little bit from him. So thank you for having me. Thank you for hosting me.
Eric Huffman: Thank you, Adira. It's been so much fun already. And I'm looking forward to this as well. Thanks for having me.
Adira Polite: So I have been a fan of Maybe God for years. I know a lot about you, but many of my listeners probably do not. You have a church that is really geared towards skeptics. You often talk about skepticism, and you make a lot of room in your church community for people who aren't yet sure what they believe. I would love to hear why you have that heart toward skeptics and maybe just tell us a little bit about your own faith journey. I think that would help us out.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, great. I was raised in the Bible Belt, I guess that's the best place to start. For people that don't know what that means, it just means there's really one way to be. In my context, it was just a southern country Christian. And that meant a certain blend of Christianity, you know, old time gospel, life revolves around the church and God and country. Huge for me growing up.
Very patriotic town. And it was all mixed together. July the fourth we celebrated at the church. All major national holidays were also, for me, growing up, Christian holidays, it was all I knew.
And there were no people in my town who weren't Christians, except for the very rare instances of like drunks and villains. And they were few and far between. But you knew who they were. And you felt sorry for them, you stayed away from them. But it was like a town of 250 people, there were probably like three or four of those folks. Everybody else was either Baptist or Methodist, and it was basically the same thing.
My father became a pastor when I was in early middle school, late elementary school, early middle school. Turns out I've got a lot of pastors in my family. I'm kind of a fourth or fifth-generation pastor in the Methodist church.
But I grew up in that world. I loved it. I wouldn't actually change it for anything. It's beautiful. It was simple. It was based on love and family and sacrifice for your community and your country and lifting up all these ideals that I think frankly a lot of us are missing these days. It was a beautiful way to grow up, and safe and all that.
And yet I always had an inquisitive mind. I think I really started questioning things in my junior, senior year of high school, but you didn't really have a place to take those questions. I read books or had classes in high school where we talked about other faiths. And that was really my first foray into that whole world of outside of the Bible Belt.
Anyway, went off to college. I went to a small, private Methodist College. Liberal culture on the campus, was originally a psychology major, met the woman who became my wife first day of the first class first year. Like literally the first thing. I just fell in love instantly and asked her to marry me after the freshman year.
Adira Polite: Wow.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, we got right to it. And then we got married after our sophomore year. And those first two years of college were great. I was a psychology major. This girl was a preacher's daughter and both of us didn't really know what we were doing but we'd been around church our whole lives. We knew how to start a campus ministry and we started a campus ministry. It was very successful. First thing we did together.
That experience actually led me to kind of consider a call to ministry. I became a religion major between my sophomore and junior year, same time we got married, haven't changed majors. Really got engaged in the religion and philosophy departments at his Methodist college I was going to.
And it was there, ironically enough, that everything, my ontological foundations beneath my feet, shook and everything fell apart for me. Because it was there that for the first time in my life, my assumptions about God and Jesus in the Bible were challenged in a pointed way. And I was led to consider what I really believed and how it played out.
In reality, if I believed that the only way to heaven was Jesus and only Christians have access to Jesus, then everybody I've ever known who was not one of us was going to burn in eternal, conscious torment forever, you know. So for those reasons and other reasons about sexuality and other social issues that were emerging at the time, I really started to question.
I had a very influential professor who would wear funny shirts that had like memes that had the same kind of kitschy sayings on them. And one saying on one of the shirts that he wore one day was something about "Christianity: colon, the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie came back from the dead. His mother was a virgin..." All the absurd things that Christians believe. You know, absurd according to the secular mindset.
And then the last line was "makes perfect sense" and "it was just a joke," you know. Everybody in the class laughed about it, because everybody in the class had been pretty much indoctrinated into a Christian adjacent atheism, which is like, yeah, we're in a Christian culture but we don't believe this stuff.
Adira Polite: Right.
Eric Huffman: Like the tomb is empty? Yeah, all right. He was God in the flesh. He was a great man, great teacher. You know, maybe even he was a man of myth, like the Greek mythologies before Him. "And we don't really know, let's not try to say we know. Let's just focus on love and kindness and being sophisticated intellectuals." And that's what happened to me. I renounced my faith in my heart that day and with my voice later.
I walked out of the leadership of that campus ministry. It was a very confusing time for my wife who thought she had married future minister. That was her life's dream, strangely enough, was to marry a minister. I don't know why. But she had always sort of wanted that for herself.
She's called the ministry and now I'm telling her secretly that I'll keep going through the motions as much as I need to but I don't believe that stuff. And I think the church might be here to use as a vehicle for the justice causes and social issues that I cared about. But that's about as far as it goes for me.
So, look, I still was leading churches and a part of churches for the next 13 years, from age 20 to age 33, but I was largely preaching heresies and leading people away from trusting faith in God or trusting relationship with the Scriptures even. Like I was giving people more reasons not to believe the scriptures for what they are than I was given the people reasons to believe in the Scriptures. Because I didn't believe them myself. I didn't really want to believe them.
All I wanted from the scriptures was confirmation of my own preconceptions, so that anywhere we talked about liberation or freeing the captives, the prisoners, anything that sounded anything like racial reconciliation, liberation of women, liberation of immigrants, and refugees, all of that stuff, there's plenty of it in the Bible, all of that stuff I would take and sort of use to be who I was then which was kind of a glorified community organizer.
I don't mean to demonize that season of my life because so much good was done, so much work with urban youth that had no one there for them after school. We would pick them up from school and take them to the church and love on them. It was beautiful.
We had a homeless shelter that was... Or at least a feeding center and a clothing center that was beautiful in Kansas City, but it was inauthentic because it was about "What can I do for these poor people? And look how good a person I am. Why don't people see that? God if you're there, why don't you see how good I'm being and reward me in kind?"
You know, it's like I had such a twisted theology and it led me to internally be a mess. You know, when your inside person is disconnected from your outer person, it's a ticking time bomb before it falls apart.
And I was living a divided life. Internally I was wrapped up in sexual addiction, not lived out with other people. You know, my addiction and attachment pornography was running rampant in my life and other kinds of, I guess, you would call them indulgences that I just sort of went for regardless of any kind of, you know, biblical mandate for self-denial or anything like that. I went for it.
My marriage was clearly affected by all of that. Internally, I was depressed. I would say never suicidal, although I do remember the thought crossing my mind. Like, "Maybe it'd be better off if I wasn't here because I've screwed everything up."
In 2013, after 13 years of that, I went to the Holy Land for the first time and I was blown away by what I saw there and what I experienced there. First of all, there's just the evidence on the ground level in the Holy Land for the existence of Jesus.
First of all, I wasn't convinced that he was ever really real. There's too much evidence there outside of the pages of Scripture to deny His existence in history. But more than that, it was the evidence that I experienced and encountered for the resurrection of Jesus that stands outside of the Bible, which to me at that point in my life the Bible seemed like any other religious/political text that powerful men had curated to their own ends. I didn't trust it.
And yet there are these bits and pieces of evidence all over the Holy Land that point to the fact that people who knew Jesus when He lived, still knew Him after He died in a personal way, in a physical way. And not only did these devout Jewish people know this relative, friend, Rabbi of theirs who was crucified, after He died, they knew Him, they also decided to worship Him.
And I knew enough from my seminary studies and everything that Jewish people would never worship a man. Rule number one, "Have no other gods before me." It's at the top of the list. And yet these Jewish people who were very devout... No one denies that. In first century world, you know, it was all around the temple of Jerusalem, and yet something clicked for them around 30 AD where they start writing on the walls of their house churches "Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus God. God Jesus Christ, Mary Mother of God."
And that didn't make sense to me, outside of some extraordinary phenomenon could only be ascribed to a vision or an encounter that they had with the risen Jesus. And in Capernaum, where a lot of the writings on the walls are, I had an experience where I've heard you talk about the heaviness coming over you. But a beautiful heaviness, a sweet heaviness.
Adira Polite: The presence.
Eric Huffman: The presence. On the shoreline of Capernaum, at the Sea of Galilee is like everything changed. Everything changed and I repented. The first thing was just shame. But again, it wasn't shame like the world call shame. It was like a beautiful shame. Like, "Gosh, I'm ashamed of who I've been. But I know I don't have to be that way."
And repentance came over me and I started sending cryptic texts to my wife who was back home asleep because of the time change, like, "Oh, my God, it's all real. It's true. Sorry, it's all true." She's like, "What is happening?"
Adira Polite: But she'd been waiting for this moment, I assume.
Eric Huffman: She'd been praying for years and very patient with me. Honestly, I can say everything changed for me internally. It took a little while for the external living out to change because I had cognitively and in my life day to day I had established destructive patterns that were not instantly broken, but soon were. It just took time for the outside to catch up with the inside.
Adira Polite: So what was your professional position at this point? Were you pastoring a church?
Eric Huffman: I was. I was a United Methodist pastor. I got ordained and all of that. Again, I was sort of urban rebel in the denomination that's mostly suburban and rural. And they're so hungry for... At that time they were so hungry for like urban anything that they threw ordination at me and money at me. They were good to me. But nobody ever asked me why I didn't believe in the empty tomb.
Adira Polite: That's kind of scary.
Eric Huffman: You know, there's a threat in Christianity, Christian thought that I guess you call liberal Christianity. It's not a political liberal thing like Democrat, Republican. But it's progressive sort of intellectual approach that would say the empty tomb never really mattered and that what rose on Easter Sunday was the social justice movement bearing the name of Christ, and it was the church that rose to bring this social utopia to the world.
Now, this didn't really develop until post-enlightenment Europe, you know, mostly among white liberal thinkers, who superimpose their somewhat like secular semi-Marxist kind of viewpoint on to Scripture. And you had a lot of people that said they were Christians but were actually deists—they believed in a Creator God, but one that didn't really interact with humanity. That's what you see among the Founding Fathers a lot, interestingly enough, of America, Thomas Jefferson, and others.
Read Thomas Jefferson's words about Jesus. And as great a man He was in some ways, He's obviously flawed in some others. His words about Jesus sort of belie a kind of "we don't need to be saved". And Jesus is a nice figure, but we should not elevate Him to status higher than any of the other mythologies, he would say.
That kind of mentality has infected a lot of the Western Church, especially white liberal churches in my experience. And so that's why I was allowed to and even rewarded for going into ministry in spite of the theology that I had, being counter to the Bible. It is scary to look back and think that I was given that platform. But I was.
Adira Polite: So did you have to give that up when you realized actually we should elevate Jesus as Lord?
Eric Huffman: What was really interesting is that all along, there were always evangelical Methodists, there were evangelical Methodists who liked my energy and my passion, but they hated my theology. But they never cast me aside or they never threw me out.
I knew when I came back from that trip, I needed new friends. Because when I came back to the churches I was involved with and leading and told them what I believed now and how Jesus really rose, and if Jesus rose from the dead like He said He would, it makes Him the Lord, and we better listen. And we better listen to all the things He said and not just some things, and let's listen to what He said about the Bible in particular. We better take the Bible seriously, now guys, and not be so quick to dismiss parts of it that we don't like.
That's what we did back then. A lot of people still do it today. We talk about the three sort of buckets. You know, it's like there's good Bible and then there's Bible that was good but doesn't apply anymore. And then there's this other bucket of stuff in the Bible that really just sinful men wrote and we can discard.
Well, Jesus said, it's all real, it's all true, that not a word of it will pass away until He comes again. And He never said anything that contradicted scripture. If anything, He amplified the law, when He's like, you've heard that it was said, you know. He's not contradicting it. He's amplifying adding to it in a way without changing it.
"We better pay attention to that" was my thinking coming back. Even around things like sexuality, you know, that was a hard one because I was sort of the woke pastor before any white people started using the word woke. And that was sort of my identity then.
So our church was very diverse and had a lot of LGBT people. and I baptized people while affirming their sexual expression. So I had to come back from that trip, man, it was hard. It's hard. I love those people, consider them family and friends to this day. But it was very hard.
Eventually, what happened is we felt like it was time for a move. I had built too much of my identity and persona around being that angry social justice warrior person. And for people who saw me then walking a lot of that back, it felt like earning their trust again with this new me God has made is going to take years. So we moved to Texas, to Houston in particular to start The Story in 2014. We started The Story Church in 2015.
Adira Polite: I feel like a lot of people who have an experience like yours they might just cast aside everything from before. I think it's interesting. I'm really looking at this poster in your studio right now. That's for a documentary that you guys made. It's about immigration. So it's not that you cast off social justice. You still are involved in social justice. How do you view that now? How do you view the work of God and your role in it?
Eric Huffman: The things I was striving for, and the things so many people today are striving for and longing for are good things. Peace and kindness and hospitality, a lot of what we call economic justice, racial reconciliation. Like where do we think that deep desire comes from?
If we share that deep desire across all of our cultures, and all of our languages and skin colors and nations, what do we think the common denominator is? Like, if there was any other thing where you're like, wow, people in Indonesia and people in Indiana both like hot dogs, it's like there must be some connection here.
You know, it's like people the world over like the same thing with no possible explanation. There must be some kind of reason or ancestral sort of reason. Evolution doesn't allow for that. Strict view of evolution... Naturalism would say, Well, why sacrifice yourself for someone else, especially when someone else's of a different tribe and their interests don't align with yours and to give them something, you have to give up something yourself? That doesn't jive with a survival of the fittest sort of framework.
So the point of what I'm trying to get at slowly is, I think the common denominator is the Imago Dei. Having all been created in the image of God, who is the source of justice and love and hospitality and kindness, and all of these virtues and ideals that every human culture lifts up, we can't help but reflect that in our thinking, in our deepest thinking. Even if we don't believe in that God, we're still made in His image.
So it shouldn't be lost on us that everybody everywhere lifts these values up and applauds when we see a hero laying his life down for someone else, or someone who is kind to someone else from a different tribe who speaks a different language. We know that's right.
And all those years it was like I was chasing what was right without knowing why. And the why is like the foundation of a house. So I was building a house without a foundation. That's bound to fall apart at the slightest hint of a storm. And that's what happened to me when God saved me.
But yeah, those core values and principles are still there. It's still in me, stronger than ever now that I have a why. It's still in me to want to lift up a church that defends the vulnerable and is hospitable toward the stranger and goes after the lost and visits the prisoner. It's not because it feels good or even because we know it's the right thing to do. It's because it scriptural. And that's how we know Christ is by living that out.
You know, I'm in Houston, Texas, probably my congregation leans conservative politically by virtue of where we are in the world, right? So it's a risk to put all kinds of resources into a movie about immigration that says anything other than "America's Awesome. That's why they want to come here. God save America."
But that's not what the message that the film Across, is the name of the film, the documentary that the Maybe God team has worked on in acrossdocumentary.com. The message there is it's a collection of beautiful stories about Christians suffering under awful circumstances in their home countries finding their way here and being loved and welcomed by other Christians, which I think are the stories we need to be telling.
You look at the apostle Paul, he was a very passionate, ambitious man, and he loved the Word of God. It's hard to say he didn't, right? Even as he was hunting down and chasing Christians and overseeing their martyrdom, he loved the Word of God as he understood it. And yet he was obviously misguided.
And when Jesus got a hold of him, Jesus didn't make Paul into a suddenly soft-spoken, lazy, lay about. He just took all of Paul's energy and ambitions and desires and passions and love and just realigned it two degrees to the right or whatever and got him directed, focused in the right direction. I think that's what He does with all of us.
Adira Polite: So that's what essentially he did with you as you founded The Story Church. How do those principles that you were speaking about before, including this heart for the vulnerable, how did those guide you as you build The Story Church?
Eric Huffman: I think the misunderstanding that many well-intentioned people have, especially skeptics, is that there are haves and have-nots and that the battle then is to take from the haves and give to the have-nots. What Jesus helped me to see in starting The Story Church here in Houston, in one of the most affluent parts of Houston, is that the people the world might call the haves have less than you might think. And you could even say many of them have very little, if anything, emotionally, relationally, and in terms of depth and purpose.
To add insult to injury in a way, when someone who is oppressed or struggles in the world, when they go through something, they can usually find someone who cares, someone who will listen and empathize through the struggle. The people I started running into in Houston had everything by the world standards, but nothing at the same time.
And in fact, everywhere they go, the world looks at them and says, "Give me. Give me. Give me." And all they are is like walking dollar signs in a way. These are people that are philanthropic donor types of people with let's say generational wealth, some of them, And if they choose not to give money to someone, they might as well be dead to that person. Very few of us can know what that feels like.
I saw just a despair of feeling objectified and used. But on top of that, if they were ever to complain about being so rich that people only want them for their money, no one's gonna feel sorry for them. No one's going to empathize. No one wants to hear about their problems.
So what it helped me to see is that there really are no haves and have-nots. We're all have-nots until we have God and we're all poor and depraved and lost and lonely until we find what's real. So it gave me a deep empathy for just humanity. It helped me to see that everybody's truly broken and everybody truly wants and needs the same things. But the spiritual enemy of ours works on us to divide and conquer.
And if we can create a church where someone like I just described can sit next to someone who just got out of prison or someone who doesn't have a penny to their name, and worship the same Jesus and fall in love together, that's what I want. Easier said than done.
We found the greatest success to that end by telling stories. It's why we call it the church The Story. That's why we lift up the Bible as the perfect story of God's love for all human beings. It's a less arresting, less threatening approach than the typical sort of fire and brimstone preaching that churches would attempt in their efforts to reach the lost.
Adira Polite: How do you balance this desire to be, to some degree, accessible to the skeptic with truth? Because the gospel is not attractive oftentimes. The idea that you're depraved, that you need a savior is often so offensive to the skeptic.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, sure. It's a work in progress, Adira. I tell you, it's not something I've figured out yet. And in fact, if you listen to like the early, early episodes of Maybe God Podcast, I have regrets about my approach with some of the first interviews. Because I think what actually works isn't having locked and loaded, you know, weapons ready to aim and fire our points across the table. I think it's listening, truly listening to someone and their experience and how they came to the conclusions that they came to and then asking questions without asking gotcha questions.
I think sometimes we just don't trust God enough in those kinds of conversations. If we just show genuine interest in someone and we're willing to ask them curious questions and listen, and then ask follow-up questions about how they come to their conclusions. Look, truth wins out.
It might take longer than we like to think. Truth wins out and truth often wins out with compassion, empathy, listening, storytelling, and believe it or not, through relationships. You know, like friendships that cherish our common humanity and the image of God and everyone without being heavy-handed in a religious way.
And eventually, there's an opening. If you're patient enough and if you're well-intentioned enough, there's an opening eventually, where someone lets you talk to them about why you became a Christian. A lot of people don't know the logical or plausible case for belief in Jesus Christ. They just think it's about, you know, a sideshow, a circus experience that someone has on a mountain or at a Christian camp. And if they've never had that, then it's not real to them, and so maybe Christianity is not for me. But there's so much more to it.
I never knew about the Christian intellectuals that I discovered after that trip to the Holy Land. Even in seminary, they never introduced me to the great apologetics going back centuries, the intellectuals that were making the rational case for Christianity as a worldview over and against other worldviews.
There's a whole world out there that you can introduce someone to, but first, you have to build a foundation of genuine friendship and concern. That's why sidewalk preaching as much as I respect those folks that go out and do that, I don't see the fruit of it a lot. I know they say they have people that come to Christ through it, and I'm not going to stand in their way, go for it. In my experience, it's really more about longer conversations where we invest in people, we listen, and we trust God through that process to move.
Adira Polite: That's good. That's good. And you've been successful at doing that. How big is your congregation now?
Eric Huffman: It's a really good question, Adira. Since COVID is really hard to tell anything anymore. Everything's online now but regularly, I know, not every Sunday, but there's about 1,000, 1,100 people worshipping here consistently. Some of them worship once a month.
Adira Polite: Okay. Y'all have moved campuses a couple of times.
Eric Huffman: Yes.
Adira Polite: I know that's a big part of The Story's history. And y'all are soon moving to a brand new location. This is actually one of my favorite sermons you've preached recently was actually sharing a bit about that journey and a bit about how it affected you and your marriage. Can you share a bit about that?
Eric Huffman: Yeah, the last couple of years feels like we've been in a war. And not fighting against people. Just we feel like worn down, like I imagine it would feel to be an actual war. It's just been nonstop since COVID, but even on the heels of COVID, which was very hard on everybody, particularly hard on churches and other organizations that depend on people showing up.
After that sort of subsided, through a series of events, we sort of were invited out of the place where we had been since we started as a church. Another Methodist church in town had sort of housed us and given us birth, but the Methodist denomination was going through some stuff and basically The Story and that mother church fell on different sides of that Methodist divide.
So we were evicted at the end of 2021 and we had to basically establish ourselves as an independent congregation overnight. January 1st, was our first official day as an independent church. So we had to do all the 501(c)(3) legal stuff, the financial establishment of our congregation, and move our church across town to rental that we had found.
But even that was last minute. We didn't know about the place we're sitting in right now being available until Thanksgiving of 2021. And then we moved on December 31st. And if you know anything about real estate deals, that's just rapid, like warp speed. But we had our hearts set on this other church before that that fell apart on us, the deal fell apart to rent that church at the last minute. Everything sort of crumbled. And that church has called Bethany.
We wanted to rent the gym because they have a congregation that meets in the sanctuary. And it was like half a mile from where we were before, our old campus. So we thought what an easy move that would be. You know, our whole community lives right around that church and so it'd be super easy to just transition over to Bethany.
My wife and others, who I consider prayer warriors were praying about The Story getting this Bethany rental, and they were hearing clearly from God, Bethany, Bethany, Bethany. Bethany is where my friends live, God told my wife. And I believe my wife. When she says these things, she has like a direct line to heaven. Everybody who knows her knows that. And that's why everybody is so nice to her. So we were scared.
You know, Bethany is where my friends live. And that's Jesus saying, you know, Mary, and Martha and Lazarus lived in Bethany. That's why I always went there. So I'm gonna take you there, you know, we'll be friends. That kind of vibe. And we were all so affirmed by that and so clear that that's what God was doing.
We had a lease on the table with Bethany to do that. And then on Halloween of last year, October 31st, they pulled the deal and they said, "We just don't feel like we need to be landlords. We're at the end of our lifecycle as a church and we didn't realize how big your church was and what an ordeal it would be to house you guys." There was a lot going on.
So that was the first time since I became a Christian in 2013 that people that I trusted spiritually were all saying, "It's this. It's this. It's Bethany, Bethany. This is where we're going." In midst of all that trauma of everything we were losing, my heart and soul was just wrapped up in this Bethany thing happening. I couldn't wait to tell the whole church, to tell the world we had a home because we were getting kicked out. And that felt bad, too. And then it fell apart. It was gone.
And that was the first time I had that sort of dark night of the soul since I converted. It was just like bringing back some stuff for me. Like I used to make fun of Christians that said "I heard from God". So all that kind of started coming back a little bit for me, and honestly for my wife too. It was first time I'd ever seen her so vulnerable in that regard. She's a get up at dawn and get on my knees and pray woman and blast worship music throughout the house all day. And you know, all that stopped. It was the first time I'd ever seen that.
Adira Polite: Did y'all talk about it openly?
Eric Huffman: It was really hard to talk about. It was a... sorry. It was really hard to see her go through that. Because I had never seen that before. And it felt lonely because we already had a church that was scared. When mom and dad find out some bad news, you don't want to tell kids, it'll scare them. So there was more of that. And to see her struggle that way and to hear the music stop felt dark. But God opened a door for us to rent the place we're in now. We've been here for 11 months and it's been great. We only have a two-year lease here.
But three months ago what happened was something kind of strange and miraculous happened. We got word from a real estate developer in our church who had been approached by a broker representing Bethany Christian.
Adira Polite: A congregate in your church?
Eric Huffman: A congregate in our church, who is a real estate broker, had been approached by the broker representing Bethany Christian because they were selling. And their broker wanted them to sell to a real estate developer because that's where the money was, and brokers get percentage.
The church, as it turns out, didn't want to sell to developer. They wanted to sell to a church because they wanted their church even after they were gone to keep being a church forever. But to sell to a church they would have to sell at a discount.
So that developer told the broker, "I don't want it for my..." He's a high-rise developer. That's the ideal property for him but he said no to it. He said, "I don't want to develop it. I want it for my church. So he pulled a meeting together with us and Bethany leaders and the brokers and we all just started talking."
And they were like, "Tell us about your financial history." And we were like, "There is none because we just started in January." And they were like, "How much money? What's your annual revenues?" And we were like, "We're not sure. We think somewhere around 2 million." And they were like, "Well, this property is going to be probably in the 20 million to 30 million range." And they were like, "No bank is going to approve you for that."
So we negotiated. We ended up saying 23, and they accepted our offer contingent upon our ability to get financing for it. Because we have no holdings. We have no foundation or an endowment to pull from. So we just decided to do a capital campaign for the first time in our church life together, not knowing what would happen. And in the last month or so we've raised almost the full 23.
But that's not really the beautiful story. The beautiful thing that I see now that I didn't see in those dark days I described earlier is God meant what He said. But He didn't mean it like we thought He meant it. In our desperation, in our trauma, in our fear, we thought He was just giving us a temporary home called Bethany for a couple of years. Just one part of that temporary home. Like the gym, the old gym, where we would have our worship services somehow and do everything we do in that old gym for a couple years.
And God the whole time I imagine Him in heaven going, "Guys, you don't get it. It's better. So much better than that. It's not a temporary rental of one room. I'm gonna give you the whole thing if you'd just be patient and trust Me."
So that's been the big lesson from this whole journey of adversity is that God tells the truth. And you can trust His promises. But be careful how you limit Him, both in terms of time and timing but also in terms of scope. It might take longer than you ever imagined or hoped it would take. But when it happens, it will probably be much greater than you ever thought it would be. And someone who's wrestled with skepticism and doubt and cynicism my whole life, that's been the real eye opener through this journey.
Adira Polite: So awesome. Also, I love the affirmation that your wife was able to get, that she did, in fact, hear from God. I think especially in America, there's this skepticism around spiritual gifts, especially prophecy. And I think it's awesome that a church that is focused on skeptics and making space for doubt and questions that God was able to, using the pastor's wife, show His power, and also show the truth of spiritual giftings. And He was able to affirm that in such a public way.
Eric Huffman: Yeah. I mean, it's powerful and unexplainable. Our house is full of music again and prayer. And we've grown because of it spiritually and in our trust of God. And the pain we went through wasn't a curse, but it was just kind of a precursor to the greater blessing. That's so hard to see when you're in the storm. But I want people to know that.
Adira Polite: So in closing, I would love for you to speak to listeners who might be like you were as a younger man. As I shared, my seminary is a very liberal space. A lot of what you said resonated because it's what I hear daily at school, just this prioritization of what man can comprehend in their own mind. What would you say to someone who's curious about the Bible, they're curious about who God is, but they don't really know where to start?
Eric Huffman: Well, first, I would say, release God from whatever sentence you've handed down to Him or up to Him in this regard based on the sins of man. And if you're doing this, stop punishing God for men and women who misspeak out of ignorance or malice. There are liars in the church. There are liars in the pulpit. There are also liars at the lecterns of your local college and the schools you've gone to and at the news desk, and on Twitter. There's liars everywhere.
Some are malicious in their intent, and some are just ignorant and misguided. But God gave us minds to discern. And some of us get in the habit of giving secular voices paths and judging religious voices more harshly. And I understand it. We feel like we should have been able to trust the pastor we grew up with, or the church or whatever the Christian friends we had and that we feel that down by that and so the hurt is greater. I get it.
At the same time, I strongly encourage people in a season of skepticism and drifting maybe to doubt their doubts too. And don't just doubt their past assumptions about what they used to believe was true. Don't just doubt their former Christian faith or doubt what the pastor said or what the Bible says, Doubt what you assume now as well.
And I don't mean doubt necessarily in a negative way. I just mean, do your research, do your homework, question your own assumptions. Never stop asking questions and never stop seeking truth. Because I believe God gave us minds to know truth. I do believe Jesus is right when He said He will set us free when we know it. And it can be known. Truth does exist. And by pursuing it, we can, you know, attain a greater understanding of it.
So a lot of us just get stuck in a cycle of doubting God and we don't realize we've just adopted. And superimposed a whole new set of assumptions that are no more valid than the quote-unquote, false Christian assumptions we've laid aside.
And so I just encourage people to always be vulnerable. Listen to folks that have a different perspective, then you read stuff that's uncomfortable for you to read, and just keep pursuing truth and with the mind that the good Lord gave you.
Adira Polite: Amen. That's great. Thank you so much.