Answers That Have No Questions
It was the middle of April in 2013 and I was on my way to Alaska to minister at a conference. The flight was packed. It was so packed in fact that they made me gate check my guitar.
I hate it when they do that.
As I sat worrying about who may or may not be mishandling my guitar I began to notice the increasing volume of the conversation that was taking place in the seats behind me. A man and a woman were having a discussion about Jesus being the “only way”. The woman believed that there are many ways to God and the man was arguing that the only way is Jesus. I considered jumping in on the conversation but I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to be quiet and listen.
The woman was calm as she politely asked questions. It seemed that she was genuinely seeking truth. Unfortunately, the man didn’t answer any of her questions. He responded with statements that were true and he even shared scriptures; but none of what he said matched up with any of the things the woman was asking. I suspected that he was just reciting things he had learned in a class on evangelism or apologetics. It didn’t seem like he was even listening to anything that the woman was saying. He sounded like a crazy person answering questions that no one was asking. Eventually the woman became frustrated and stopped talking. It remained pretty quiet back there for the duration of our flight.
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It may seem painfully obvious that the man in the story missed a tremendous opportunity. What is not painfully obvious, however, is how often we do the same exact thing. We have all spent time trying to answer questions that no one is asking. Most of the time we are completely unaware that we are even doing it. It’s often the result of inherited tradition or unquestioned routine but other times it can actually be our own unchecked ambition. Let me give you an example:
Early in my days as a worship leader I helped lead a series of worship nights for a small church. These gatherings happened twice a month and were always well announced and advertised to the congregation. The regular gatherings at this particular church displayed a strong hunger and passion for worship. It seemed like a no-brainer that they would want the opportunity to press in for more. However, despite the opportunity given, these worship nights were not well attended.
After months of organizing musicians, preparing songs, setting up a sound system and having it met with only a handful of people in attendance I began to find myself frustrated. I wondered why I was doing all of this work to serve a group of people that didn’t want it or value it? The truth was that all of the work I was doing was an attempt to answer a question that the congregation wasn’t asking. My own ambition to see it succeed was blinding me to the fact that no one really wanted it.
There are a lot other examples like this that I could share. Over the years I have seen many attempts by friends and acquaintances to launch ministries and outreaches only to end in burn out and disappointment. They all had immense vision and strategy but in the end they failed to answer the questions that were the actual needs of their communities.
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What caused the man in the airplane story to fail?
He wasn’t listening.
He had ambition and a lot of answers but he missed his chance to use them correctly because he didn’t listen to the woman and he didn’t listen to the Holy Spirit. Similarly, we can’t expect to provoke growth in our church communities or reach the lost for Jesus if we aren’t listening to their needs and receiving strategy from Heaven to meet them.
Throughout His life, Jesus set a great example for us in many ways. In the book of Matthew we see clearly how He was in tune with the needs of the people and ready to be their answer:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus answered the needs of the people by speaking truth, healing many, displaying love and ultimately through His death and resurrection on the cross. He became the answer by recognizing the need and obeying the leading of His Father.
Not every good idea is a God idea. Traditions, routines and events that aren’t producing fruit should always be questioned and re-evaluated. I also believe that as followers of Jesus we should be careful to learn how to discern the difference between the voice of the Holy Spirit and the voice of our own ambitions.
Are you currently attempting to answer questions that no one is asking?
What are the questions that are being asked by your community?
Ask the Holy Spirit what you can do to begin to answer them.