The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. (Proverbs 20:5, NIV)
As a shepherd, we should be skillful in the use of questions to draw out those in our church. In addition, we need to be equipping others to use questions to draw out others.
I’d like to encourage you to grow in a habit that is sorely needed in our church. So many, when they get together with other Christians, never get below the surface. The talk is of the weather, the sports of the season, the big project at work. Whether this is done at the back of the church building on Sunday, in a living room during the week, or at someone’s house over a meal, this passes in most people’s mind for Christian fellowship. But somehow, when it says the early church devoted themselves to the fellowship, I can’t believe this is what they were actually doing. As this shallow talk perpetuates eventually those who have tasted of real fellowship become the minority and what I am about to suggest seems strange rather than the norm.
The word fellowship is the word koinonia which means to share in common. So fellowship is to share something in common. The world has “fellowship” everyday around the weather, the big game last night or the latest big work project. We as Christians share something much deeper, the Lord Jesus and His active work within us. So true Christian fellowship occurs when we are sharing the Lord Jesus. And that occurs as we talk about Him and His work within us and listen to others share about His work within them.
The early church devoted themselves to this. This was not just haphazard. It was something they valued and held dear – on the par of ministry of the word and prayer. So when a Christian habitually (not occasionally due to illness, etc.) walks out of a service or small group meeting without interacting with other Christians on a deeper level something is missing. When this characterizes a church, something very important missing. In the same way, the daily spontaneous connections within a church are so vital. When these are consistently around something other than the Lord and his kingdom (even good things) then the spiritual level of the church will go down. This is why I am writing you. The desire to interact on a deeper level comes from the Lord. But the skills necessary for this to happen can be learned.
How to put this into practice? Arrive early at church (or SG) and plan to stay later than the end of the service. Both before and after the service breathe a prayer to the Lord asking him to show you who to interact with. Ask the normal questions that go with regular social interaction but rather than ending the conversation or pursuing those topics further than needed, catch up with them spiritually by asking a spiritually probing question. Remember, Scripture says that the purposes of man’s heart are deep waters but a man of understanding draws him out. Use the ones in the following list that seems most appropriate or that you are most comfortable with.
- What has God been doing in your life lately?
- What’s been going on with you spiritually this week?
- What’s your biggest challenge these days?
- How do you see God at work in your family/ the church lately?
- What has the Lord impressed on you in the word lately?
- What new insight has God given you recently?
- What particular praise or promise has God place on your heart recently?
- Have you been reading any good books lately? What have you been learning?
- What has the Lord been teaching you lately?
- How can I pray for you? (And do pray the following week.)
- What are you asking God for that I can pray for along with you?
- Tell me something to encourage me!
I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at how open most people will be and the blessings of interacting at this level. Likewise, most people will ask you that same question in return. You might write the questions you like best in the flyleaf of your Bible so that it can prompt you if you are at a loss for something to ask.
I cannot tell you how important this type interaction is to the health and strength of a church. Those times surrounding a service, shepherding group meeting or over at each other’s house for a meal are times when the Lord just seems to stand in your midst, ministering to you and the person you are talking to. There will be times you will encourage the person, times their answer will be just what you need to hear and there will be times their eyes will well up with tears that someone cares to interact with them on that level. I urge you to ask the Lord for a desire to minister this way and the skills to ask good questions.