We need to encourage people to ask more questions.
Plenty of Christians are rightly concerned about the number of shallow fellow believers today. Just take a look at the Christian section of a bookstore and you’ll find books that look more like a self-help or positive thinking section than a serious selection of Christian topics and ideas. Too many Christian radio and television programs have long been accused of promoting prosperity over serious doctrine. And how many pastors actually preach provocative messages that force us to reconsider our lives?
Not nearly enough.
But it’s not really their fault. It’s ours. After all, more people will show up at church and we’ll get larger media audiences if we stick to the positive themes. As Jonathan Bock and I noted in our book, The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back, church membership has dropped to the point that if you show up just 18 times a year you’re now considered a “regular”—and that was before the church shutdown during the COVID pandemic. Other surveys indicate that 40% of churchgoing Christians only read the Bible once a month, rarely or never.
So it’s not hard to see that the reason we’re having such a small impact on the culture today is that we’re just not serious about diving deep into what it means to live a vibrant Christian life.
I thought about that recently reading my friend Philip Yancey’s book: Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? In the book Philip writes:
“In the Gospels people approached Jesus with a question 183 times whereas he replied with a direct answer only three times. Instead, he responded with a different question, a story, or some other indirection. Evidently Jesus wants us to work out answers on our own using the principles that he taught and lived.”
Today, few sermons, Christian media programming, movies or books force us to ask our own questions, work through a process or create a desire to go deeper. Most often, they just supply simple, practical answers.
But what if thousands of pastors and creative Christians started taking a different approach? What if we didn’t provide easy answers, but forced people to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling?” What if pastors and Christian creators used questions, stories or other indirection, just like Yancey described the method of Jesus?
Apparently, Jesus believed that thinking—and sometimes struggling—through a process is what ultimately provides the greatest answers.
Maybe it’s time we started believing it too.
This article originally appeared on PhilCooke.com and is reposted here by permission.