Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The importance of asking questions in the church – seeking for answers. Part 1.

A question, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is a sentence or phrase used to find out information. When people want to get information on a matter, they ask either broad or specific questions concerning the matter. The questions are normally directed to someone who is believed to have either in part or in whole the answers. Answers to questions can invite more or follow up questions which altogether are supposed to bring clarifications to the issues being considered.

In the church, we must allow those who are eager, to ask questions, plenty of questions. Every question is an opportunity for the church to explain and make our truth claims clearer. Every question asked by inquirers gives us the opportunity to make stronger our invitation to them to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ. Every question asked by members of our churches is an opportunity to make their persuasion firmer. Questioners are not to be seen as enemies or troublemakers, neither their questions be seen as worthless. Every question has worth because it is asked by a person who has worth. The worth of a person is derived from the Imago Dei (Image of God) in him or her.  When people ask questions, it shows they are interested. We have to recognize this interest and see how we can cooperate with God to steer the questioners to the answers that meet their real need.

The disciples asked Jesus plenty of questions and He answered all. In fact, every question was an opportunity to teach a specific truth or to expand or emphasize what has been taught before. We owe much of the teachings we have in the Gospels to the questions the disciples asked. Even when Peter asked Jesus in Matt. 19, what someone called “the dumbest question”, “We left everything to follow you. What will we get out of it?" Matt. 19:27 TLB, surprisingly He replied. The question sounded selfish, but Jesus replied him, not glossing over Peter’s personal interest. He painted the picture of what the rewards look like for them who were the first fruits of His ministry and also what it will look like for anyone who will sacrifice in His name. It was indeed an opportunity.  He answered their questions. Even when Philip made a request in John 14, He mildly reprimanded him and yet answered him. We must encourage both inquirers and our members to ask questions.

The benefits of asking questions
  1. Questions help us to arrive at the truth. The conviction of people become stronger when their questions are answered and they arrive at what they are convinced to be the truth by themselves. The Bible warns against false teachers and false prophets. (Matt.24:4-5). We are enjoined to “test everything” (1 Thess.5:21). Asking questions is one of the ways to arrive at judgment whether something is true or false.
  2. Questions help us to reason. When questions are asked, our reasoning is awakened. People talk about ‘common sense’; oftentimes, questions awaken our common sense. As Ravi Zacharias observes, “God has put enough into the world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason or observation alone.” God does not shutdown the faculty of reason when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, the more He makes Himself known, the more He helps us see the reasonableness in placing our faith in Him. Questions appeal to our reason and makes us think. We serve God with both our faith and reason.
  3. Questions open us up to further enlightenment and help us to improve on what we used to know. They often query what we know before so that we can either develop stronger persuasion, or change our minds over what we used to know. This in turn changes our attitudes and life generally. Many years ago, each time we taught about holiness, we used to focus on lipsticks, eye shadows, shoulder pads, short sleeves, curling of hair, bangles and necklaces, and so on; you know all those things women use to beautify themselves. However, the more I saw failures also among brothers and the struggles in my own heart, the more some pointed questions confronted me. “Does it mean that holiness is a concern for women alone? Why should we always focus on women? Are all the brothers holy and only women have problems? If not, why are brothers not being challenged to holy living during our preaching?” These questions helped me to understand that dressing is only a subset of a bigger whole and holiness is deeper than wearing headscarf twenty four hours of the day. Further studies helped me to have a more balanced view of holiness and encouraged me to pursue personal holiness as a brother.
  4. Questions widen our horizons and reveal areas where our attention has not gone before. When we allow and encourage questions, they challenge our narrow-mindedness and call our attention to areas of improvement that hitherto we would not have known any other way. We rot when we close our doors against questions. This is because, we will continue in our old ways even when they are no more working and the world has moved on. The beautiful Gospel of Jesus is timeless but it is preached within time. Paying attention to the questions each generation is asking helps us to make it relevant. When we do our part, the Holy Spirit takes over from there.
  5. Questions help to bring out the assumptions of both the questioner and the explainer. Because we are not spirits, it is only through asking questions that motives are revealed, real needs are exposed and knowledge is gained of what exactly we should pay attention to.

People cannot develop strong convictions in what we preach and teach when they have so many unanswered questions they are not given the opportunity to ask. Even God uses questions to speak to us.
Most of us were raised not to ask elders questions, especially difficult questions. It worked for our parents. But not anymore. You cannot raise your children today without paying attention to their questions. If you don’t answer them, their peers and the social media will answer them. There used to be a time when you would bring down your guards without questions immediately someone tells you that he is a believer. But not anymore, you must ask further questions.  There used to be a time when once a pastor says “the bible says…”, everybody leaves to obey what the pastor said. Nobody would ask further questions. But not anymore. Many can read the bible today in different versions. The more people read and study, the more they will seek for clarifications.

We are exposed to many worldviews today, each competing for our attention. The church must open up to the questions people are asking. Our young ones who will replace us must be encouraged to ask their questions now we are alive. Let them know what our answers are to their questions about God and life. The earlier we do this, the better for us. I hope it is not getting late for some of our churches.

Look out for the remaining two parts of this write up. God bless.

Cambridge University Press. (2019). Cambridge online dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary online. Retrieved at November 13, 2019.

Zacharias R. 2019. The 3.4.5 Grid. Lecture at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Academy, RZIM.

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