I attended the Drive conference a few weeks ago at Northpoint Church in North Atlanta and at a break-out (workshop for those of you over 50!) I heard something that has had my brain rattling ever since. This nugget of truth has not only had me thinking but seriously re-evaluating the way I teach, lead a small group and even talk things over with my family. This altering and possibly transforming truth came in the form of three questions:
1. How many questions was Jesus asked in the New Testament?
2. How many questions did Jesus answer in the New Testament?
3. How many questions did Jesus ask in the New Testament?
We were given a few minutes to ponder that question. Our breakout leader asked us to use specific numbers, not just general concepts. That was a bummer because I had already figured that the answer to #1 was more than #2 and that probably the answer to question #3 was more than both #’s 1 & 2. But that wasn’t what the leader asked for so I started thinking in terms of specifics. Now I possess a Bachelor’s degree in ministry and a Master’s degree in Theology and so I found myself confidently saying to myself, “I have no idea!” The brutally honest truth was that no matter what numbers I used I was just guessing. But here’s what I said: Answer to #1: 125; Answer to #2: 50 (I figured saying less than half was a good bet!) and Answer to #3: 200. What numbers are you putting there? I’ll wait for you to complete the exercise… go ahead.
Ready for the answer?
1. How many questions was Jesus asked in the New Testament? 183 questions either asked directly or indirectly.
2. How many questions did Jesus answer in the New Testament? 3 questions were answered directly. (How should we pray? Luke 11; What is the greatest commandment? Luke 18 and Are you a king? Luke 23)
3. How many questions did Jesus ask in the New Testament? 307!*
I was stunned. Have you ever heard a statement or had a time when something said or something you read just made you stop and go, “Whoa, that means….” This was one of those times for me.
The first question that popped into my head was, “If that is true (and I’ve since confirmed it is) why do I think I have to have all the answers?” That led me to another question: “Why are we as teachers/preachers and why does the church seem to think we are to be the ‘spiritual answer man’?” After meditating on this some I have come to the conclusion that we as a church have for decades spoon-fed people to the point where we have enabled spiritual lethargy! C.S. Lewis said it much better than I ever could in his book, God at the Dock, when he wrote: “We can make people attend to the Christian point of view for a half an hour or so, but the moment they are gone from our lecture, they are plunged into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted.” In other words our easy answers have not prepared them for the spiritual battle that they face.
What we should have been and should now be doing is helping people look inside and discovering answers for themselves! Don’t we all learn better when through struggle, study and introspection we come up with the solution to the problem or question ourselves? Here’s where I’ve landed: While I am to give people the tools to come up with the answers I am no longer going to just glibly give them all the solutions! In many cases our churches are filled with weak, anemic Christians and it’s our fault!
I think it’s time (I know it is for me) to stop playing “spiritual answer man” and start asking realigning and transformational questions. As Richard Rohm wrote in the forward to John Dear’s book, The Questions of Jesus, “We made of Jesus a systematic theologian, who walked around teaching dogmas, instead of being an engaging transformer of the soul (by his questions).” Here’s the truth: “Easy answers instead of hard questions allow us to try and change others instead of allowing God to change us.”
So, all that has led me to ask myself two things:
1. Am I actively listening to someone when they are talking so that I might hear their questions?
(Or while they’re talking am I either trying to figure out the answer or just waiting for them to take a breath so I can give them the answer?)
2. Am I willing to ask question(s) in response to their question and in so doing allow them to wrestle with the spiritual truth that they really need?
(Or as I now admit, sometimes it’s easier, cleaner and makes me look better when I just answer the question?)
So, I’ll leave you with two questions:
1. What does this teaching technique of Jesus say to you?
2. How does it apply to how you are teaching or even talking with others?
I’m certainly not going to answer those for you!
*The Questions of Jesus, John Dear, 2004, Doubleday. (Forward by Richard Rohm)
I Once Was Lost, Don Everts and Doug Schaupp,, 2008, InterVarsity Press.