A couple of weeks ago I went to a church’s ‘Ask the vicar’ evening at a local pub. The vicar informally introduced the evening to the regulars and pointed out a doctor and a scientist were there also to answer questions about nature, suffering and science. After a couple of minutes talking amongst ourselves about possible questions, the floor was opened. The first question: what do we think about the Jehovah’s Witnesses who might be moving into the area? This led to multiple questions and discussions about the differences in beliefs, with one referral to the doctor about blood transfusions. The second question: who is God? The big one right there.
The rest of the evening was questions and answers all together and offshoot smaller discussions about the nature of God, tolerance in the UK, faith and hope. The vicar did a great job of answering questions in relevant ways, involving others and changing directions. By the end of the evening there was talk of another evening there and a couple of the regulars coming along to church.
But we agreed afterwards. There was a plan for the evening’s emphasis but peoples’ questions were different. So do we stick with what was planned, what worked a previous time, what we think peoples’ questions are or change according to the people we are with? That night we changed. Do we always? Does the church?
We need to answer the questions people are asking. We might not leave it there as sometimes what people want and what people need are different. How do we find out the questions people are asking? Ask them. It might be a community survey, asking the church to ask their friends who are not Christians or having a chat over a coffee with someone.
Jesus was always asking people questions – see Jesus asked by Conrad Gempf (great name, great book). Jesus is the Question Master. So let’s follow his example as always and then be ready to change our conversations, agendas, themes and priorities.
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