“A religion that is small enough for our understanding would not be big enough for our needs.” – Corrie Ten Boom
They come with questions. Every Sunday morning, every weeknight at small group, every waking hour on Facebook or Twitter or in our inboxes, the questions are there, wrapped around breaking news reports or the latest research or the story of life forever changed just down the road.
“What does God say about what’s happening in our world?”
“What am I supposed to believe right now?”
“Please tell me life isn’t going to stay this way—or is it?”
As ministry leaders who are expected to have scripture-soaked responses always at the ready, we shouldn’t struggle to find an appropriate story or parable that soothes troubled minds. Far too often, we do give those answers without a second thought, because we have memorized scripture like a mathematical equation. We create recipes of easy to use resources for any challenge someone might be facing.
Worried? Read Philippians 4:6.
Afraid? Try Isaiah 41:10.
Troubled by politics? Use 1 Timothy 1:2-3 as your guide.
Scripture is a powerful tool in teaching, directing, correcting, inspiring. It is a precious gift in revealing the depths of God’s relentless love for the people He calls His own. And scripture can also provide an escape for us as leaders. Scripture served up as anecdote or platitude or three-step solution diminishes the power of its very testimony—our very testimony.
And those who come with questions need to hear our testimony, even when we are wrestling with the very scriptures we know by heart.
And therein lies the challenge for us as leaders—because people are looking to us, expectant. We want to lead well, so we are often afraid to reveal our own struggle with believing. The Greek definition of “believe” is “by life,” and if we are honest, we can find ourselves more often whispering, “I believe, Lord help my unbelief,” when our faith is pressed by culture, context, and chaos. As leaders, we can easily hide those struggles—and in doing so, distance ourselves from the very people we are called to lead.
Reggie Joiner writes about our purpose in tending well to people. “God’s intention is for the Church to be placed strategically in culture in order to show Himself to the world. Anytime the Church becomes ineffective in its role to illuminate Christ, it must rekindle and reinvent itself around its core purpose.”
Our intentions are honorable, when we attempt to bring light to the world with well-crafted answers to the unending questions. But it is our testimony that focuses light rightly. In our effort to lead well, we forget to respond like Jesus.
Yes, Jesus preached to the multitudes. And He wasn’t afraid to quote sacred text to remind people of His purpose, promise, and power. But take a moment and watch Jesus with the questioning, the broken, the filled-with-shame and the afraid-to-try.
He fed. He labored. He got low and He got real. He risked reputation. He listened. He wept. He fixed a fish and biscuit breakfast for the person who denied Him, and was willing to walk for hours with those who thought He was dead and done. He took time to turn around and look in the eyes of those who hungered for healing—and then took more time to speak courage into their souls.
And He sat under stars that had been spoken into existence by His own power and ached with the ones who knew Him best and yet questioned the most. He was unafraid to be Himself as He gave Himself fully to others.
This Jesus—the leader Jesus, the living, active Word of God—is the Jesus who said to each of us, “You will do even more than Me.”
So Church, let’s be MORE Jesus to those who question. Let’s illuminate Him by responses that aren’t rehearsed or memorized, but lived out in our own moments of triumph and trial. Let’s lead with grace that seasons every conversation as if it was the only dish. Let’s lead with peace that doesn’t ignore the pain. Let’s be unafraid to weep, unafraid to kneel on dirt, unafraid to admit our own frailty on our journey of faith.