Navigating leadership hurdles: Theological
This is the third in a four-part series about three major ministry hurdles and how to address them. Click here for part two.
“I believe the King James Bible is the only version a true Christian should read.”
“In my church back home, women were not allowed to preach from the stage.”
“Hey Carl, do you think God still heals people today?”
None of these things are my favorite elements to talk about. All of these things have surfaced in my college ministry throughout the years.
It’s very common for me to get a phone call from one of my student leaders saying, “So, someone I’m discipling just came to me and asked about ______ and I have no idea what to say!”
Heck, even after 20 years in ministry I can feel the same way. But it is our responsibility as leaders to be available for the theologically stumped and the theologically jaded.
When I first started in ministry, I was filled with more passion than substance. Yet being in ministry has pushed me to know why I believe what I believe and forced me to address whether I can back those things up biblically.
My goal is to produce disciples who can do the same. And from atheists to long time believers, questions concerning sensitive subjects in the Word abound.
So how do we navigate theological hurdles that come our way?
Let’s once again use the grid we utilized in our previous discussions:
1. Their need
They need to know they can ask any question at any time.
There was a time in Christianity where it was deemed as low faith to have doubts and questions.
This creates low ownership and high levels of insecurity surrounding a person’s faith. So we train our leaders to let the people know, “We love, want, and welcome your questions!”
I tell people all the time, “if you are involved in a church or ministry that does not welcome your questions, get out.”
Acts 17:11 says, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
We need more Bereans.
2. My approach
Pursue them and be ready biblically.
People asking theological questions are not primarily looking for your personal experience. They need your biblical underpinning.
So if someone comes and asks you why you believe a woman can preach in church, they don’t want you to talk about how you’ve had a great experience with one of the females on your team. They need you to open the Word and begin to dive into the texts.
It never ceases to amaze me how a group of students can start meeting to discuss their feelings about a subject and by the time I meet with them a month later, they believe they are resident scholars and come guns blazing.
When I start to hear about someone, or a group of people, having some concerns or questions, I pursue them.
“Hey, I heard you were having some questions about ______. I’d love to grab some coffee and talk about that sometime if you’re free.”
Pursue them. Don’t just react.
3. Our plan
As for our college ministry, we have built a three-fold plan:
Host Q&A sessions consistently
It’s common for me to meet with students after our weekly service who have some questions.
I usually ask them to email their questions beforehand if possible so I can come prepared.
Consistently preach on theologically sensitive subjects
From Sunday morning “big church” to Wednesday night college services to mission trips, we want to be proactive in bringing up subjects that our students will wrestle with.
Test your leaders
From time to time, we will take an entire leaders meeting to get leaders in groups and make them biblically prove any number of subjects. We have found this to be invaluable.
Recently, I had a group of students ask me what our beliefs were concerning the Holy Spirit. They ask what His role is in the Trinity, are the spiritual gifts still available, and did He still speak today or should we only rely on the Scripture?
They seemed to carry a bit of an edge, but that was fine with me. I like a little passion!
After one of our college services, everyone brought their Bible and sat in a circle.
With a smile on my face, I started by saying, “Let’s remember the Holy Spirit is a person—not an IT. So we’re not going to talk about Him like He’s not here. Let’s pray and invite Him to come!”
After I said “Amen” one senior said, “I don’t really know what to say. I’ve just been thinking about these things like they were just concepts to argue. When you said that He is a person, that changed everything for me.”
The tone of that meeting shifted from angst and edginess to one of humility and hunger.
I spent the next two hours listening and affirming that their questions and hesitations were valid.
My goal was then to let them see that I can show them in Scripture where to find their answers.
I encouraged them for their eagerness to learn, for leaning in instead of distancing themselves, and then directed them to the Word of God, from Genesis 1 to Acts 2 and throughout the Pauline letters.
All of those students are tighter with us today than ever before.
From crazy frat guys to ladies on their way to seminary, they’re coming at you with questions. And that’s a good thing. But we need to remember it’s not the main thing.
As important as the Scriptures are, do not let these discussions derail you from the mission of God that you are called to.
If you’re not able to make disciples and build a pipeline to the nations because you’re constantly having theology Q&A’s, it could be that you’re not spending enough time with broken people who are simply wondering if anyone loves them and are trying to figure out how to make their life work.
There is a holy balance and I pray we all hit it as we raise up a generation of Bereans who love Jesus and love the Word!
Tune in for the final part of this series as we tackle pastoral hurdles.