Discovering God's trust together

May 17th, 2022

The church should be one of the primary training centers in building high-trust communities and high-trust cultures. Our faith in Jesus requires trust. Just as secular environments advocate for high-trust cultures in the workplace, in institutions, and in the marketplace, the church should and must be one of the primary places where people can learn to trust, exercise trust, and become trustworthy because we trust God and God trusts us as partners in relieving human suffering.

The Christian church bears a great responsibility for building trust. We have a great responsibility to take risks that reinforce our trust in God. If we live in fear from broken trust, then we miss the wholeness of God’s vision for us and God’s vision for the world. In high-trust cultures, barriers are broken and walls come crumbling down. In high-trust cultures, people step across lines of division and become beacons of hope and life to those who are weary of trust. And when trust is broken by neighbors, faithful people rise up again because their whole trust is in God.

Confession Helps Honesty

Parker Palmer explains that wholeness in life is discovered when we can be honest with ourselves. When being honest with one’s self, sometimes it’s best to start with confession. Therefore, I confess that the current state of the country where I live is in disarray, in my opinion. I confess that the Christian denomination where I belong is deeply struggling with trust issues. I confess that my closest friends and family are broken by issues of lost trust. And I confess that there are days when I don’t really trust my own thinking about my words in this book. But at the end of the day, I trust God. I put my whole trust in God’s love and grace. I lean wholly not on my own understanding but on God, “for the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:18-31). I put my whole trust in God’s ability to help us find the good in the midst of human tragedy, and I wholeheartedly trust God’s understanding and humbly acknowledge my limitations to grasping that understanding.

In light of these confessions and the search for honesty, what would a “trust training center” look like in our faith communities today? Trust training centers would be grounded in the practices of faith, hope, and love. They would excel in teaching people what faith looks like in our world today. Out of these foundations, we would practice honesty in all things, including with ourselves, finding ways to allow our souls to show up. As Parker Palmer illustrates through trust circles, we become whole when allowing our souls to show up, free and transparently honest. The wholeness of one’s self gives us the freedom to explore the depths of our understanding. Being honest with one’s self and finding wholeness gives us the freedom to appreciate our differences.

Alexa and I were in conversation about the human sexuality differences in our church.[1] We were struggling with whether or not the people proclaiming such distinct positions in the church could hon- estly be members of the same denomination. Since both of us traveled in circles that were different from our own beliefs, we found ourselves opening up about how we had withheld our opinions for fear of offending people in those circles who didn’t know us or would have judged us had they known our stance. Sadly, neither of us felt that we could safely be honest with the people we were working with because we didn’t trust that they would respect us if they knew what we really thought.

When a church is a trust training center, it allows people to be honest with their fears, their beliefs, and their questions. We can’t silence people because of our judgments and frighten or judge people’s souls back into hiding because we are unwilling to hear how their beliefs, attitudes, and understandings about life might be different than our own. Broken trust often stems from fear of our own truths. If we are honest with ourselves and with the people in our churches, we can engage in a conversation about truth that allows us to wrestle with what truth means for one person over the other. By wrestling with this together, we may discover the truth that the Holy Spirit needs us to see in order to grow closer to Christ through our honest engagement with our neighbors.

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The Church: Trust Training Centers 

If honesty, integrity, and respect were built, practiced, and strengthened in every aspect of the church’s life, we would experience the core practices needed for repairing broken trust in our world. These three characteristics can be lived out and exercised every day among leaders in the denomination to leaders in seminaries to leaders in the congregation. If leaders in the church could be honest about their fears, their disappointments, their passions and desires, then they can live with integrity for other Christians in our communities of faith. You might be thinking, I can’t be completely honest about all these things because the people in my church will judge me and they will no longer follow me if they knew that this is the way I feel about __________. However, if you are hiding it, then you are not living whole. And how can we trust our leaders if they, too, are not living whole as God intends?

Having worked with youth and young adults for a large portion of my ministry, I know that they can see through hidden brokenness quicker than I can see it myself. Youth can tell when you are holding something back, and they will find a way to draw the truth if not the clarity out of you. Perhaps this perspicuity among youth is why I am blatantly honest with my thoughts, my ideas, and even my Pollyannaish ideals. I discovered that this transparency wasn’t acceptable in the polite politics of the church. I learned that sharing too much information might lead to people using that information through political tactics that I was too naïve to understand.

Sadly, the trust levels in the church world are very low, which makes my soul retreat and my level of trust diminish. It will take years of hard work to build back the levels of trust that inhabit a flourishing church. Living with integrity for me means finding ways to allow my soul to trust again even when I fear that my trust will be broken. Living with this kind of integrity means setting aside the history of my experiences and hoping for people to rise to the expectations of a high-trust culture, even when they have fallen short. Some people may call it crazy, and others would carefully guard their hearts and souls when trust has been broken, but our God calls us to live a different life. God reaches out to trust humanity time and time again, even after generation after generation has broken God’s trust. We’ve got to live a life worthy of God’s trust through our faithfulness with each other. Hanging in the balance is our hope for the world and our love for all.


This article is excerpted from Trust by Design: The Beautiful Behaviors of an Effective Church Culture by Amy Valdez Barker (Abingdon Press, 2017).


[1] Name changed to protect identity.



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