Here’s a question for you: When did the dinosaurs live and how does that fit into the Genesis account of creation?
Here’s one more. When the Bible talks about predestination, is it saying that God creates some people specifically for heaven and others specifically for hell? Is it saying that we don’t have any choice in this matter, or is it saying something else?
And speaking of that, is the Bible supposed to be read literally or are most of the stories just “social control” type allegories?
How do you answer those questions?
Option One: Cause a distraction so that you can turn tail and run like nobody’s business. Alternatively, if you’re not very swift-of-foot, you can act as if you didn’t hear the question and quickly introduce another topic.
Here’s the point. Dealing with the hard questions of faith is scary. In fact, it may be the most frequently cited reason for not making disciples – “I don’t know all of the answers!”
Let me be totally honest with you about this. These questions are intimidating for many seasoned pastors and “professional” Christians (speaking of scary…how scary is that term?). But, here’s the good news: Disciple making is not on par with a presidential debate. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of someone following Christ because they lost a debate.
Disciple making is more like driving through an unfamiliar city with a friend. While one person may be more experienced at reading the map, it’s very likely that you are going to miss a few turns. But, you work together to figure out how to get to your destination.
Here’s more good news. God’s okay with the fact that we don’t have all of the answers. Remember that you are His child, not His equal. He intentionally withholds some of the answers for our own good. (Note to self – be afraid of the person who knows everything about God.)
Here’s another option for dealing with hard questions:
Option Two: You can say, “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. But I’ll be happy to look for the answer with you.” Then, honestly follow up. Study scripture on the topic. Ask your church leaders what they think and see if they have any resource recommendations for you.
If you choose option two, you can take a potentially awkward situation and turn it into a powerful time of growth for everyone involved.
Let me share a story with you to – hopefully – pull all of this together.
Philip Yancey tells of meeting a woman named Joanna in Cape Town, South Africa. She was an activist who fought again apartheid and later started ministering to men in the most notoriously violent prison in the country.
According to Yancey, the year before she started visiting the prisoners, the prison recorded 279 acts of violence; the next year there were two and the following year there were eight.
As Yancey interviewed Joanna, he said, “I don’t get it. These men are monsters – rapists, murderers. And from what I could see, you were simply holding Bible studies, playing trust games and having prayer meetings. What really happened to transform Pollsmoor Prison?”
Joanna responded by immediately saying, “God was already present in the prison. I just had to make Him visible” (Philip Yancey, What Good is God?, pg. 163).
That’s the point for all of us. Our job is not to dispense all of the answers. Our job is not to attain PhD. status in Biblical knowledge. Our real mission is to make Him visible to those around us.
If someone is ready to walk through the discipling journey with us, that’s pretty good evidence that God is present – He’s working on their lives. So, don’t take the hard questions as points of humiliation. Take them as points of opportunity…opportunity to study the map together and to help make God visible in someone’s everyday life.
(The fear of initiating a discipling relationship is discussed in post #1 of this series.)
What are some ways that others have “made God visible” to you?