Do you ever get the impression that Christian discipleship is about little more than getting the answers right? It’s as though you just had to read enough books and know the answers better than anyone else.
But if it’s true that the answers you get are determined by the questions you ask, then isn’t it just as important to ask the right questions? Could it be that one of the most neglected practices of the Christian faith is learning how to ask great questions?
After all, Jesus modeled the use of great questions: “Who do the crowds say I am? ….. Who do you say I am?” “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like?” “What were you arguing about on the road?” “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus is constantly asking questions; he answers questions with other questions. As we read through the gospels, we find over 300 questions that Jesus asks. This leads me to believe that question asking is an important discipline.
A good question sparks conversation; a great question goes the extra step and stimulates thinking. These are the questions that stick with you long after the conversation is done. They tap you on the shoulder at inconvenient times; they nag you for further attention. They beg to be asked again, to stimulate further conversations.
To give you an example: one of our Covenant-First congregation members, my good friend Rod Ford, asks great questions. A little while ago, he offered this one: “What adjective would Jesus use to describe the church or churches he is building? For example, would he say ‘great churches?’”
This question fired off a number of ideas in my head. Churches use advertising in church promotion all the time: “a friendly church” “a warm church” “a dynamic church”
But the question was – what adjective would Jesus use…
That’s what makes this a great question. It makes me do some extra work. I have to move past my little opinions and reflect on what Jesus said about church, remember what Jesus did in leading his disciples, and condense my thoughts into single adjectives.
Jesus sent his disciples out on preaching missions and commissioned them, so perhaps adjectives like:
- A sent church
- A commissioned church
- A called church
Jesus uses organic imagery to describe his followers (I am the vine … you are the branches…), so maybe adjectives like:
- A rooted church
- A nourished church
- An organic church
Peter uses the imagery of the church being a temple (and we can see connections with Christ’s parable of the house built on a firm foundation), so we might say:
- A grounded church
- A solid church
- A well-designed church
What do you think? What adjectives would Jesus use to describe the church?
Another characteristic of great questions – they inspire further questions. If Jesus would describe church with these adjectives, how do we live in such a way to fulfill that description? How do the adjectives we use in church marketing compare? How often do I describe my church at all?
There’s the spiritual challenge for you: Ask better, deeper, more probing questions. Ask questions that will lead to life changing answers. Ask questions that will re-awaken our curiosity and revitalize our faith.
What’s a question that has shaped your life? What great questions could you be asking to grow in spiritual thinking and living? What great questions are you asking other people to build the community of faith? Let me know in the comments below.
About the cover image; This painting is Grant Wood’s “Appraisal.” Wood was most famous for “American Gothic” but his other work is equally powerful. I saw this piece when it was on loan to the Cincinnati Art Museum back in 2014.
I chose this painting for this post because the scene pictures a city woman as thinking she has all the answers, yet not really knowing the right questions to ask to appraise a chicken. But when I reviewed the exhibition label, I saw that the curators saw the value of a great question: