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Safe enough to ask questions, real enough to get answers
This post originally appeared at circleofhope.net.
A live "Ask Me Anything"
I probably had too much fun during our “Ask Me Anything” session the other week (it was at our Sunday meeting, not online though). I really loved the question askers and the content of their questions. The thought-provoking questions that people were asking were impressive on their own. We have leaders who were asking questions they knew people needed to hear the answer to, some who genuinely needed help, and others who just had a theological conundrum they were working out.
Christian faith is anything but simple, so it’s not surprising to me that questions come up that are hard to answer alone. I’m thankful that we have a greater context and community in which to ask them and we don’t have to Google the answers and settle on one of the million responses. A lot of the answers the questions I offered the other day, and the ones that all the pastors did during our whole season on questions (Can I ask this?) are products of communal discernment of the Spirit, not one’s individual intelligence. The pastors aren’t the pope. We’re figuring it out together, in person. We are doing incarnationally (think "in the flesh") and in dialogue.
There's really no dumb question
We want to be a place that safe enough to ask any question, questions that you may even think are dumb or risky to ask. So, while question about angels and demons or the Trinity may seem foolish to someone who thinks that we should have a systemic theology that wraps everything up for us, we know people genuinely do not know the answers. We want to give them a chance to ask directions, even if they think they should know the ins-and-outs of the neighborhood already.
And on the other hand, people have practical questions about discipleship and mission, in general. Some people are wondering how to get out credit card debt or make a budget or why we don’t pass an offering plate. Someone even asked me why I wasn’t on a jumbotron like some of the most “successful” churches in town. Others wonder about why we have women pastors around here (when the church down the street blocks them from that). Why don’t we see sexual orientation as a barrier between someone and God? Why are we so committed to dialogue again? What does living incarnationally mean? Should I vote (and for whom)? What do I do about racism?
People are wondering about lots of things, including Circle of Hope’s uniqueness, so I think I speak for all the pastors when I say, it’s important to ask questions and we are happy to do our part in answering them.
Real and discerned answers
There may be no such thing as a dumb question—but there are dumb answers. Leaders around us show us all the time. I think our pastors and our leaders buck the trend and offer real answers. No one is bullet dodging, or offering prepackaged answers that an intern wrote out, or clouding an answer that you can’t even tell what we just said. There’s just plain honestly, authenticity, and realness. This isn’t a post-game presser where the coach is just ready to get out of the room, nor is it a politicians fake town hall meeting where questions are planted in the audience. It’s real, it’s loving, it’s personal.
The world offers us a lot of questions, without a safe place to ask them, and expects us to just “do it ourselves” or better yet, not ask them at all. I’m glad God is giving us a safe place and an alternative to the ways of the world. And I really believe that we are in a unique position to answer those questions in a way that get people thinking about Jesus again.
So let’s keep asking questions and creating a space for good, honest answers. If you have any questions you want answered, you don’t have to wait until we do another Can I ask this? Season, feel free to Email me or any other pastors. We have an ongoing YouTube channel devoted to answering questions that you may have.