Asking the Right Questions

Here’s my point with this post: We, as Christians and as churches, should be answering legitimate questions that people have.

What do I mean by that. It’s simple; we are usually answering questions that no one is asking. We may be answering important questions. In fact, often, we are answering the most important question. The problem is most people aren’t asking the questions we are answering, yet.

It’s kind of like me telling my 7 year old how to handle being a freshman in High School while he is in 2nd grade. It would be very important information. In fact, it could be vital information. The only problem is, he isn’t asking me how he should handle being a freshman because he hasn’t even entertained the idea of being freshman. His life circumstances will eventually change, and he will not only need to know this information, he will be seeking to know this information. Of course, my goal is to have the kind of relationship with my sons, that when they get to the point of needing and desiring to know this stuff, I will be there to point the way.

I think this is how we should focus on sharing and living out the Gospel. The message of Jesus is vital, yet most people don’t know that nor do they really care about that. However, they often do have other questions about spirituality. Most people are at least inquisitive about spiritual matters. We should listen to their questions. Possibly we could offer some thoughts and on SOME occasions even be able to offer a legitimate answer. Mostly we should just listen, because in the listening we will learn their perspective. From their questions, we can begin to understand their successes, hurts, fears, passions, and other important details that will make us better friends and show that we genuinely care. In the process, we offer ourselves in service and make the Kingdom of God a reality to be seen rather that just a set of facts to know. They will see the Gospel living through us, and quite probably become interested in why we do what we do, ultimately generating questions about our faith. This doesn’t mean we “hide” or identity in Christ and “spring” it on someone as a surprise. It means that we no longer focus on just getting people to listen to our three point presentation, while talking them into “repenting” and getting their “get-out-of-Hell-free” card. This is not “adding” to the Gospel, it is making the Gospel more fully known.

This, I think, is how to begin sharing Jesus with a Kingdom perspective. This is how to truly bring the Kingdom of God into present reality. I think this changes someones reason and motivation for becoming a Christian. Instead of “accepting” Christ for what they get, they understand their relationship with Christ is about following His Way in sacrificial living for the Kingdom. They know this because they will have seen it at work in our lives. Instead of having shallow “Christians” we could actually see transformed disciples. This is just the beginning of a new way of thinking for me…

Thanx!

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11 Responses

  1. I’m glad to here this way of thinking coming from you. I’ve had this line of thinking in my head (sometimes) but it’s hard to actually live out.

    I love your 2nd to last paragraph, especially these couple of sentences:

    —“From their questions, we can begin to understand their successes, hurts, fears, passions, and other important details that will make us better friends and show that we genuinely care. In the process, we offer ourselves in service and make the Kingdom of God a reality to be seen rather that just a set of facts to know. They will see the Gospel living through us, and quite probably become interested in why we do what we do, ultimately generating questions about our faith.”

    I think Jesus taught us something vital in the Gospels, and that was to have friends and be friendly (isn’t that in Proverbs somewhere). Jesus simply hung out with people, got to know their stories, and shared his message, when asked or when needed, proportionate to their level of understanding. Just one Christian hanging out with a lot of people can have a huge Kingdom effect. Imagine if every Christian did that. What if Christians shared their lives and themselves with others? What would the Kingdom look like then?

    I think when we start treating people as normal people and not as targets, and living as unashamed Christians (old skool Christians like back in Jesus’ day ;), things will be as they should be. No more sales pitches, political agendas, hate slurs, 3 point sermons, and sub-cultural bubbles of exclusivity…. maybe that’s what that old hymn “O What A Day That Will Be” was talking about.

  2. But isn’t this just another method of conversion? And if so…Isn’t conversion the motivating factor? I mean would you really build these “relationships” if not for that motivation of conversion. And if there is no motivation for conversion…what is our purpose as followers?

  3. Ooh and by the way…Unchristian is an awesome book. You will enjoy it! And I am going to read about Jim and Casper. I am curious about what kind of thoughts it stirs in me…you know coming from a completely diferent perspective.

  4. Nathan,

    I wouldn’t say that the relationships are built for the sole purpose of “conversion.” And we should have relationships with others whether we are motivated by conversion or not. It must be broader than that. Instead of looking at people as conversion targets, we have to start look at people as fellow laborers with us in the Kingdom of God, partners in spreading the will of God. The problem is that many know nothing of the Kingdom of God or of the Will of God, so we show them as we live regular lives together with them as their genuine friends (you know, have barbeque’s, go bowling, watch movies, etc). If they eventually choose to join us in the endeavor, that will be great. If not, great… we can still be their friends and work out the Kingdom around them. They’ll come around eventually. “Conversion” happens when they accept the vision of God. It’s when they leave (I guess “repent” is a good word) their old, self-centered ways and embrace the Way of Jesus. That is the beginning of our partnership as fellow laborers in God’s Kingdom. It isn’t so much that they get “saved,” it’s that they see there is more to life than just their way, there’s the way of Jesus which is much better and it’s a way that is other-oriented instead of solely self-oriented. Being “saved” is natural result of what happens when people embrace Christ and the spread of His Kingdom.

    Our motivation is to see God’s Kingdom increase, and to bring as many along on the way as we can to share in the joy and work of the increase. This vision is very broad and comprehensive I believe. The idea of conversion is very narrow in my opinion and carries with it the connotation that belief in Jesus is only good for a one-way-ticket-out-of-hell. He is that… but oh so much more 🙂

    What say you Sir Rhodes?

  5. Yeah, Nate I see what you are saying, and that is a thought I am wrestling with. How do we have friendships without an agenda. I want to see my friends know and love the God I believe to be real. I want them to experience the freedom He offers, and I certainly don’t want them to go to Hell. I am not sure how to answer your question.

    I don’t think this is a method, however. I think it is simply living out the Kingdom values intentionally. It is certainly a move away from a “canned” approach to sharing the Gospel. I think a great book on this subject is “More Ready Than You Realize” by Brian McLaren. While I wouldn’t agree with McLaren on some Theological points, I like the way this guy writes and thinks. He challenges me to think. I, also, think you can see David Kinnaman wrestling with this very issue in his book, “UnCristian”.

    Jeff, we must also not lose sight that ultimately salvation is a rebirth. It is not gradual, and it is not a process. It is a moment in time when the facts of Jesus (i.e. Virgin Birth, Sinless Life, Atoning Sacrifice, Resurrection) intersect with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and an indiviual repents of their sin and rebellion, and makes the bold choice to follow the Way of Jesus. I think this must be a whole-hearted commitment, not just an “I-don’t-want-to-go-to-Hell-so-I’ll-accept-Jesus-as-my-personal-Savior” mental ascent. However, discipleship begins before being born-again, and then continues throughout eternity from what I understand. Salvation is not a process, but discipleship is. I hope that makes sense.

    I am researching some fascinating stuff about the Kingdom right now. We discussed some of these things in our Bible study last night. I hope to be sharing more on this in the near future. You should check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_God for more information on these thoughts.

    I don’t have the answers, but I do have the questions…

    Thanx!

  6. I can’t quit thinking of what Paul said in I corinthians

    17God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.

    18-21The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

    I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
    I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.
    So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

    22-25While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”
    1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (The Message)

    Chew on a few of these words in the context of this conversation.

    Questions like
    1. That first question of collecting a following for Him vs. us. There is always motivation in making friendships…always!!! So our motivation must be Jesus.

    2. When it is our own rhetoric…are we trivializing the cross?

    3. Remember here what Paul said his ministry is marked by.

    4. I love how he calls the “so called experts” Crackpots!! I really believe…and I know that you will disagree…that Mclaren is a crackpot.

    5. It still boils down to dumb preaching!

    Jeff I love that we can have these great conversations about life and ministry.

    Love you brother!

    Ooh and I REALLY am coming for some couch action this week!!!!!!!!

  7. Jeffrey

    You said “If they eventually choose to join us in the endeavor, that will be great. If not, great…”

    Is is really “great” if they choose not to live out the will of God? Is it really “great” if the fail to become a kingdom minded disciple?

    If it is “great” that they never come to realize the will of God in their life, then what you are saying is correct.

    But is someone never knowing the mercy and grace of living a spirit-filled life is bad… then there is motivation in building these relationships.

  8. Nate,

    Great points. I don’t necessarily agree that McLaren is a “crackpot”. Like I said, I don’t agree with everything he says, but I like that he makes me think.

    Anyway, I understand what you are saying. I do believe it is the foolishness of declaring God’s Word (preaching) is how people come to know the Truth. What I am thinking through is, does that mean we just walk up to people and start asking them if they died today would they go to heaven, or something like that. I don’t mean to say that our “good deeds” is all someone needs to see, to understand the Truth’s of God.

    Let us not overlook the fact that Paul didn’t always just jump into preaching the Gospel first. Look at his experience in Athens in Acts 17:16-33. Paul took time to get to know his audience before he began preaching. Yes, he certainly had an agenda in doing so, but we must also remember that his focus was aparently a “plant-and-go” apostolic ministry.

    I mention this, because I don’t think this is a cut and dry issue. The fact is, we have reduced the Gospel to a set of facts to believe, rather than a total reorientation of worldviews. The Gospel we teach today really doesn’t demand any radical life-change. That is NOT the Gospel Jesus or Paul preached.

    This is why I think relationships are paramount in evectively sharing the Gospel today. Pulpits and light shows just aren’t getting the message out there. In fact, they are helping to contain the message with the confines of comforable Christian sub-cultures that have lost contact with the real world of people with real needs.

    I know this probably isn’t making too much sense, but I am convied something is not right. As Alan Hirsch said at the CMA Conference, “Churches are full of ‘Christians’, but not disciples.”

    Thanx for the interaction!!

  9. Ericka and I have been sitting here for several minutes reading many of your old posts up to know. We both agree that you bring some GREAT STUFF! Ericka has read nearly every blog you have written and finished by saying “I Agree!”

    I know you know that we really are trying to do that through our good ole’ established Church here. Wouldn’t it be awesome if all 600+ members bought into this idea?

    I really think that most people/”Christians” would even agree with this. The problem is that they get too busy for God and caught up in the problems of their own lives. Ericka put it best just now…They simply don’t care enough.

    Making disciple makers is a very challenging process…no matter the church context.

    Was there a better disciple maker than Jesus? How many did he make during his ministry?

    Love ya Jeff

    OuT!

  10. I meant great as in we are still friends and they will still witness the Kingdom of God through our lives. It’s not great that they don’t want to tag along as of yet, but it’s great that our relationship would be real and strong enough so that there would be a perpetual witness.

  11. Jeffrey

    That’s what I figured…Just had to ask.

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