Recently at a national training session for Presbytery staff, one of the PCUSA staff casually mentioned a book: Questions Are the Answer. That title was intriguing to me. How could questions be the answer? I immediately thought about Jesus and how he often responded to a person’s question with a question. I remembered my evangelism training. Ask questions, don’t immediately tell the folks what you know. Maybe I had better look into this book. The book was written by Hal Gregersen and its subtitle is a breakthrough approach to your most vexing problems at work and in life.
The basic premise of the book is that questioning helps you find the best answer. But you need to ask the right questions. The book explains how you can train yourself to ask better questions. If you’re interested, I would suggest you skim-read the book, picking out the ideas presented that would work in your situation. I’ll mention two ideas:
- Many churches have a mindset, a worldview, of who they are. The assumptions that make up this worldview are widely accepted by the group and rarely challenged. Questions that challenge this widely accepted way of thinking and acting can be upsetting. If no one is willing to ask questions that upset the accepted worldview then the status quo is maintained. The right question can move people to consider another way to act or to be. It’s a good idea to begin by asking questions about their worldview, their assumptions. Once there’s an understanding of their worldview, the question can be asked, ‘is this the best way of operating for us to succeed in spreading God’s love to our neighbor?’
- You may wonder if it’s possible to establish an environment in which you can freely discuss the church’s worldview. If you’re surrounded by a bunch of Eeyores who are always negative, it isn’t easy to create a space where people are comfortable asking questions and aren’t discounted when they ask a question that challenges the norms of the organization. As the leader, set the example and welcome questions. That alone may not be comfortable for some leaders. Be aware of your mindset. Remain open to new ideas and conditions that may suppress your imagination. Perhaps you have a group of people in the church who are comfortable with questions and challenging the status quo. Encourage this group. Listen to them. Perhaps they can become the nucleus of a group that encourages a questioning environment in the church.
The author believes that many people live and work in a question desert, that is we live in environments that are hostile to questions. If we are to succeed and grow ourselves or our church, we must develop the habit of asking questions. Not the type of questions I heard in school that required a factual answer I learned from a book. But questions that open up a new way of thinking and looking at issues. For many of us that are expected to have the answers, it’s challenging to stop before you give an answer and ask a question instead. Most of us strive to live as Jesus lived. Perhaps we need to take to heart Jesus’ ability to ask questions at the appropriate time.