“Better to keep one’s mouth closed and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt.” This is often, but not always good advice.
Another ‘old saw’ is “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” My experience of years in ministry and particular my decade of teaching tell me otherwise.
When I was trying, with varying success, to launch into adulthood, I had lots of questions but today’s first adage paralysed me. I learned things the hard and foolish way rather than ask questions and be thought foolish. Today I spend most of my time asking questions. James writes “you have not because you ask not!” This sagacity is not solely in regard to prayer but about so much more.
I see churches that are bastions of “Christendom” in a post-Christendom culture. Some are fortresses of Elizabethan Christendom, some are gated or segregated communities, and most are salty in their own way but safely contained in a protective salt shaker. “Hell cannot prevail against the gates of this church!” Behind moats of ‘Christian-ese’ language and closely guarded tenets, we have become a fortress church rather than a sent or out post church.
We have the truth of the Gospel and even He who is “the Truth” and remain bewilderingly ignorant of how to communicate this to the culture around us. We fear the influence of the culture of this age without realising that it is the Church which is the salt meant to influence and save people in any and all cultures.
I spent part of my ‘summer reading with “Sentness” by Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw.
It include a list of questions to ask people to use in different contexts:
- Where are you on your spiritual journey?
- Do you have a religious background?
- What were your earliest impressions of who God might be?
- What keeps you going when things are tough?
- Has there been a time in your life when you felt God was closest?
- What are some of your biggest issues with Christians today?
- What do you think about prayer and whether it does anything?
- Do you reckon there is any overall meaning and purpose to life?
These questions allow for the fact that God is already at work in the lives of our friends. When we really listen we learn much. We learn what our friend’s experience of God may be. We learn what objections might arise. Our friend learns something as well. They learn that you care. They learn that you do not judge. They may even or eventually come to trust you and ask you questions.
These are thoughtful questions and we ought to thoughtfully use them. Careless and inappropriate questions ie. “Brother are you saved?” are stupid! (I tried to think of a kinder word I really did.) Such questions reveal much about the asker and so we invoke our first adage enjoining silence instead.
Rebecca Pippert long ago invited Christians to leave the “Salt Shaker” It is, after all, the gates of Hell which will not prevail against the Church, sent into the world! The Lord is the “strong tower” the Church is the ‘beach head outpost.