Asking the wrong questions

It was a boiling hot summer day even in the Mountains. In a tent a missionary was taking questions. A young girl summoning up courage asked a simple question about life overseas. Immediately there was a loud indignant buzz from the rear of the tent. “She doesn’t know much” was the considered view of the back two rows. It was loud enough for me to hear outside the tent.
Dumb questions were not popular that day.
In a different life your pewsitter trawls cyberspace, especially liberal anglican websites where he mischieviously confounds the stereotype of the ranting evangelical by being cheerful, patient polite and always giving credit when i can. The saddest thing i read there is typically “when I was an evangelical I was never allowed to ask questions” by someone exploring the liberal end of things.
It is depressingly common.
On our own website things are slightly different. When a question is raised there is no shortage of correct answers. But then the answerer gets miffed if the blinding truth is not recognised straightaway, road-to-Damascus-like (Actually it is the young players who miff. It is very noticeable that the seasoned parish ministers are better at give and take. )
Pewsitters it seems to me (or ISTM in cyber talk) are far too polite. I blame the gothic architecture for making us too deferential.
It is the preacher’s nightmare that we sit there week after week not taking anything in. Or not understanding what they are saying. Or silently disagreeing.
I think they would rather we challenged them.
Giving people room to challenge the truth is hard work for evangelicals. Table hosts at “Introducing God” or “Alpha” evangelistic dinners have to be trained to keep their mouths shut as the guests rabbit on.
But it works. “It’s great. They are not pushing it down my throat” one young guy told a friend of mine after the first talk last week. It had been a full on gospel talk, but he felt safe.
The needs to challenge is true even if your pew calluses have formed. Act like a journalist. Ask really dumb questions.
One day you may not have a good supply of bible teaching. You might come to my church. [Editor: do you think they will realize this is a joke?]
Good bible teaching has its downsides you know. One is that you can start believing something because [insert name of diocesan heavy here] or Don Carson says so. You might not think this is happening, but it is easy to do, especially if you like your minister. And most of us do.
A good test is to think about what you have disagreed with in the last month’s sermons. Nothing? I don’t believe you – or if I do believe you I am worried for you.
Your minister might be smart enough to have got it right. But you are not.
Time to ask some dumb questions.

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