The Church that I have the joy to lead, PAXnorth, is an inner-city motley crew. Made up of a majority of people who have been or are post grad cynics of religion and even church in general, the urban hipster type. Mixed into this group are those who live streetlevel, addicts, and those who have been prostitutes in our neighbourhood. All surrounded by a growing number of very young families with little past Biblical understanding or example of how to build thriving marriages and raise children in our culture. This is the crew I get to do life with, and I love it!
When we started the church, 7 plus years ago, we realized in order to make even a dent in this culture we were going to have to do things a bit differently. We have. But maybe not in the ways we originally thought. Maybe some time soon I’ll make that storyline a part of a blog- but not today.
Today I want to build a case for the need of the local church to make room for the tough questions. This is a concern that hit me as I was publicly sharing the the type of questions and comments that we recently dealt with at PAXnorth, during ONE Sunday morning worship service.
Not all of our start-up team have liked or are crazy about having a question and comment time right after the sermon and before the worship music. It does interrupt our flow from sermon to response. But all agree that it is an important part of teaching our people how to interact, make application and respond to the Word of God. We aren’t just doing this because in some way we think its cool or hip. The primary reason is because it teaches us a vital step in a response of worship. The step of questioning.
We have witnessed week after week (some weeks more than others) the process of application moving from head to heart being verbalized into proper action in these moments of Questions and Comments. The way we do this is not THE way, or the ONLY way but I have grown to believe it is an incredibly necessary part of helping our people to grow in being well equipped disciples of Jesus. So much so that this RANT exploded from my fingers as I wrote out a couple of questions that were brought up during our church service last week [questions about law, slavery and hypocrisy] [questions about gospel, the Gospel and Homosexuality]::
ATTENTION PASTORS AND LEADERS: If you are not having [or making room for] these types of conversations with your people you are, in my opinion, ill equipping them to navigate the very realities that they encounter everyday in the culture we live. My experience, a combination of theology in churches and realities in an urban culture, is that most Christians have very little idea on how to engage in reasonable and winsome conversations while holding the truth of God’s Word. If that is the case- the shame is to us, the leaders/pastors in the Church – and it causes the Gospel witness (the Goodnews of Jesus Christ), entrusted to us, to be silent or to be ignorant.
Re-reading it several times over, before hitting publish, only confirmed one of the large gaps that I think most people feel regarding what they hear on a Sunday morning and what they then have to navigate through the rest of the week. I am not suggesting primarily we need to make our sermons more relevant by quoting the latest movies, using the modern clichéd language or by re-writing all our worship tunes to match the popular rhythms of the day. NOT AT ALL – and definitely not changing or softening the truth of scriptures.
What I have discovered is that when the Word of God is preached clearly and applied clearly into everyday life it only proves that it is already starkly relative to life and culture. The point I am making is after God’s word has been faithfully communicated have you, leader/pastor, helped your congregation to take the next vital step of response in worship? The step of questioning.
IN FEAR that this post has gotten way too long here’s some short HELPS to get the Questioning started:
Here’s some basics we are learning about making room for the TOUGH QUESTIONS
I am realizing Good Questioning allows for our Church to:
- wrestle with what we believe to be true already.
- realize the places where we have only verbally complied but do not really believe.
- try and put into words the logic we have been living out of.
- confront many of the areas of our life and culture that we may be failing to ‘give an answer’ that is truly godly and in line with His Word (not simply religious or popular).
I am realizing Good Questioning in the Church is not easy.
[it takes shared values that need to be both taught and demonstrated in relationship]
- it has to be governed by Biblical understanding.
- it has to be applied in keeping with the Gospel.
- it can only be processed by what is reasonable. [This is the most abstract of these points so let me clarify- No Church leader or Pastor is ready to answer every question at any moment with clear Biblical understanding and cultural insight. This causes many of us to not address or allow for difficult questions at all. I would suggest that you begin the conversations, take them as far as you can reasonably go then expand your study and your cultural engagement and continue the conversations. DON’T keep giving the religious platitudes that we often believe work like a Jedi mind trick- ‘these aren’t the questions you want answered’; It takes a grace- driven humility to admit you aren’t as engaged as you need to be in order to give a full answer and it takes a passion for Gospel change to do the work of discovering how culture thinks and how scriptures respond thoughtfully.]
- it works best when it is both direct and winsome.
Let the questions begin!