A ransom note isn’t a question. It might use words like “please” or “I was wondering if…”, but in the end it means, “if you don’t do this, I’m going to hold it against you / hold it over your head”.
When people ask you one of these questions; questions that sound like questions but seem to carry a ransom note tone to them… its worth just asking if you’ve heard them right. “Is this a question that you’re happy for me to decide either way?”, “Are you going to be completely ok with whatever I choose?”, “Are you asking me what I think, are are you really just trying to tell me what you think?”
Chances are they don’t realise they’re giving you a ransom note. That’s ok… But don’t simply answer every question assuming its a real question.
How’s your church going? How would you test it? What measurement would you use? Who would you ask? What about the individuals? How’s that person going; with godliness, prayerfulness, living out of grace not law, being generous?
But, what happens as you test for those things? What happens when you ask people how they’re going with bible reading? What happens when you ask people about their gospel motivations?
It affects them… it brings an area of their relationship with God to the fore and causes them to dwell on it. And you can never really know where they were at… in fact, they can’t really tell you where they were at with those things – because they weren’t thinking about them.
This is why good churches try to build a culture of people asking each other how they’re going. Those very questions change the results.
*Yes, you might call it “The Observer Effect Church” – but “Heisenberg’s Church” sounds so much cooler… We’ve just got to work out what the complementary properties of a church are… any ideas?
Whether you’re leading a growth group, preaching a sermon or just a one on one… don’t just say everything and rely on people’s hearing and memory. If they are listening to you, they’ll be able to finish your sentence.
What’s more; people remember what they say 1000% more than they remember what others say. You ask someone what they learned in your GrowthGroup last night, and they’ll rattle off WHAT THEY SAID – regardless of what the passage/study was about.
Also, getting people to finish your sentences forces them to do serious thinking; it requires listening, understanding, integration, creativity, boldness and humility. Don’t deny them that.
Lastly, if you let people finish your sentences, there’s even a chance they’ll find a word that picks up everything you want, but communicates it even… ?
When it’s clear someone has a concern, the longer it takes to get the concern out of them, the more likely there is that there’s other concerns still sitting behind that one.
Once you’ve started digging, and they’re opening up about the issue they have with you, or church, or whatever… squeeze the pus. Keep creating space to let them get it all out. Keep thanking them for their opinion, thanking them for having the guts to come and talk to you, keep asking if there’s anything else.
It might even be worth getting to a certain point and writing it down; “So you’ve raised a few issues… first it was X, then you raised A, B and C. I’m really glad I got to hear those. Is there anything else?”
If you can help Christians answer this question for themselves, for their own lives and their own ministry involvement, you help them take a big step towards maturity as they face fear with the god who provides and promises to look after them, even while their worst fears come true before their eyes.
I reckon this is the big question to get people to answer for themselves as they approach thinking about doing MTS and a life of full-time ministry. If they can identify their deepest fears about giving their life to the work of the gospel, it might not make the decision easier, but it will afford them the chance to grow in their love and dependence on God.
Don’t ask it straight off the bat… You gotta work to get that deep.
Whether you’re in a small group or answering questions from out the front, this is a good rule of thumb.
If someone asks a question, and assuming its a genuine question, you don’t want to beat around the bush or make them feel any more stupid than they probably already do. So just answer the question as simply as you can. That might mean you don’t go into details and just give a big principle answer. That’s ok. But try not to answer with a question unless you really need more info to be helpful.
But many times people don’t use question time to ask questions (or they hide their statement in a question like, “wouldn’t you say that…”). These people want to comment, make a statement. Many times these statements can be really helpful. Many times they are not.
How do you respond to statements? Most people respond by making another statement. But it might be better to answer with a question. Not a direct question, but a hypothetical question. A principle question.
For example, “Thanks for that comment, we do want to love people like you’ve said,but a question we have to keep asking ourselves is how will those people fare on the last day when Jesus returns if we don’t try and tell them hope Jesus offers them now.”
You can take the comment, deal with it, and respond with a hypothetical question that allows you to move on.
Sometimes, the best apologetic is just to make your opponent believe you understand their issue. Validate their question, spend time convincing them you really do understand their question. If you don’t do this, they won’t believe you’ve thought about your answer.
If you do work hard at clarifying and understanding their question, there’s always the chance they’ll see their own inconsistencies before you do.