Guiding Questions. More Important than Answers? Maybe.

Let me start this post by reminding everyone that I am no expert on anything.  I am simply trying to follow Jesus faithfully and participate in his Kingdom every chance I get.  I am flying by the seat of my pants just like everyone else is in this Jesus Movement.  “Expert” is a highly suspicious term to me. We’re all learners together.   That being said, I ask that you permit me a soapbox for a brief moment, and feel free to offer a stinging rebuttal if you feel called to do so.  I am hoping that the posture here will spark some fruitful discussion, even if that discussion is pointed.

I have heard it said by a person far wiser than I am, that a wrong question always yields a wrong answer.  I have come  to believe that some wrong questions are more than just wrong.  Some are even poisonous, taking us to places we were never created to go.  Too often, in our faith journey we ask ourselves, “What do I want from God, faith, church, fill in the spiritual blank?” I set before you today that this may be one of those poisonous questions.  I have seen this question take people and communities of faith to disastrous places. That question has been disastrous for me personally, as well. One of the most fruitful spiritual transformations that I have been invited into by the Holy Spirit is to reform the question from that one to, “What does God want from me?”  We can’t even begin to ask that question as a communityof faith and mission until we are individually chasing God’s heart in answering that question in our own individual spiritual journey.  I am convinced that asking “What do I want?” is a cultural habit.  Habits are overcome by discipline; meaning  intentional, repetitive behavioral change that creates change in our attitude and in our character – what we repeatedly do.  There are ancient disciplines that have transformed lives since the time of Christ, and through those transformed lives, God has transformed the world.

Cutting to the chase, those ancient disciplines center largely on communal Scripture study and communal prayer.  Yes, there is a crucial place for individual Scripture study and private prayer.  But the disciplines that have shaped faith for centuries when that faith was most fruitful in the world were also intentionally communal. The paradox in this is that we have learned here in our missional journey that all community change is really individual change that has reached a tipping point in the community.   If leaders in the faith community aren’t individually engaged in (and committed to) those communal disciplines, what are we leading out of?  What is our guiding question?  It isn’t helpful, I don’t think, to demand things of everyone engaged in the mission.  I think people can engage the mission of the Kingdom from wherever they are spiritually.  But the Bible repeatedly asserts in numerous ways that leaders within the community of faith are different because they are assigned a specific set of responsibilities.  They are responsible for a unique set of questions.  We aren’t our own.  No one is, really.  But a deep understanding of that reality is crucial in leaders in the missional faith community, especially where there are no formal lines of institutional authority.  We are all subordinates, servants of a higher leader.  We all have one teacher and one Parent.   If we aren’t asking the question of “What does God want from me, this church, this missional engagement?”, then I think we have to fearlessly ask ourselves what question it is that we are asking.  If leaders aren’t intentionally entering into conversation with the Holy Spirit through communal Scripture study and prayer together, then I am afraid that it is all too easy to “go back to Egypt” and lead out of the cultural habit of asking, “What do I want?”

What do you think? Where is my thinking wrong?

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