After Randy and I hosted our webinar yesterday on “Igniting Adult Believers: A Life Story Approach” I was reminded, yet again, of a high school math experience that has become a sort of parable for me. One of the blessings of 10th grade geometry was that the answers to the odd numbered questions could be found in the back of the book. So I always found the homework much more pleasant on those evenings when the odd questions had been assigned. I didn’t have to wrestle as hard with the questions if I knew already what the correct answer was. On those dreaded evenings when the even numbers were assigned, my confidence was often shattered. I wasn’t such a math phenom when I didn’t have the ease and security of ‘the back of the book.’ My illusions were shattered. For a significant portion of the church one wonders whether or not we attempt to live our Christian life, as it were, from “the back of the book”. We grow up in the church… …developing a very high Bible I.Q., getting rewarded in Sunday School with pieces of candy for answers like ‘sin,’ ‘Calvary’, ‘Jesus’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘Bible’ etc. We perhaps live in the illusion that this sort of knowledge is what Biblical faithfulness is all about. What becomes rather disillusioning in adulthood is that ‘these answers we know from Scripture’ and ‘the questions we have in our life’ do not always match up well. This can be profoundly confusing: Why do I feel like I am still searching when I thought I already knew what I was looking for? Why in the context of so many “answers” do none of them seem to satisfy or address me deeply? Why is it that my persistent struggles seem so ill fitted to the biblical answers that I have learned? What am I doing wrong? One wonders whether the perceived “shallowness” that seems to pervade much of the church today is in part due to our knowing many of the right answers, yet failing to integrate those answers into the reality of our daily lives. We begin to discover that only even-numbered questions are assigned in our adult spiritual formation. And these sorts of questions require ample space and time in which to reflect and pray and converse. So, in our work of Christian leadership development, we must afford opportunities for others to “grow into their questions.” The prevailing impulse of our mentoring of men and women, both young and old, is to give answers when the need, more often, is a consistent presence– a patient listening – that helps others begin to grow into the central questions and deep need of their story. For it is only then that we truly connect the truth of Scripture with the reality of our lives.
“A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about God.” J.I. Packer
Reflect & Respond: • Who have been the people that have helped you connect truth with life? That is, those who have helped you “grow into your questions”? • For whom might God be inviting you to provide a consistent presence (a patient listening) that helps them grow into their questions?