Note: At our next PALC Ongoing lunch on September 11, 2014 (complete details here), we are going to explore 20 great questions that can help us create a disciplemaking culture in our lives and ministry. To that end, here's a brief and thought-provoking article. I hope you take the five minutes needed to read it and let it speak to you.
Learning to Ask the Right Questionsby Skye Jethani
Whoever defines the question defines success.
A great deal of Jesus’ ministry was intended to challenge and transform the questions being asked by his disciples. For example, when the widow put a penny into the offering Jesus’ disciples dismissed her gift as insignificant. Their culture was conditioned to ask, “How much did she give?” Jesus, on the other hand, celebrated her offering because he asked a different question, “How much did she sacrifice?” In this case, like so many, determining the right question is the difference between success and failure.
Before we evaluate our lives we must first determine what questions to ask. Sometimes identifying the right question is far more difficult and time consuming then the evaluation itself. Consider Albert Einstein’s observation. He said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
If we’ve adopted the wrong questions, then it is very likely we are judging ourselves incorrectly. This is vividly displayed in Numbers 20 when Moses led the Israelites to Meribah. As they often did, the people complained to Moses about a lack of water. The Lord commanded him to speak to a rock and it would “yield its water.” Instead Moses disobeyed God. He rebuked the unfaithful people and struck the rock twice with his staff. Amazingly water erupted from the rock. The people and their animals drank. The crisis was averted. Moses had saved the day.
Let’s evaluate Moses at Meribah with the question we frequently ask. Was his ministry relevant? Yes. What could be more relevant than giving water to thirsty people in a desert? Was his ministry effective?Absolutely. Was Moses’ ministry powerful? Yes. In fact it was miraculous. Each of these questions leads us to conclude that Moses was a success, but God asked a different question: Was Moses faithful?
While the Israelites splashed and celebrated in the water, God severely punished Moses for his disobedience. “Because you did not believe in me...you shall not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.” Success or failure depends entirely upon the questions we ask. What the world celebrates as an effective, relevant, and powerful ministry God may declare a failure. No doubt if Moses were leading today we’d all be reading his book Sinai Success: How to Draw Water From Rocks in 3 Steps. But when we ask God-oriented questions we may discover that a leader stuck in obscurity and panned by the Evangelical Industrial Complex is actually highly successful in God’s kingdom.
All of this means whoever determines our questions wields enormous power over our lives and work. We must consider the resources we engage, the books we read, the leaders we follow. What questions are they asking? How are they shaping our assumptions about success and failure? Are they helping us ask God-directed questions, or merely human ones?
So much of contemporary life, including in the church, is focused on answers and solutions. But maybe we need to take Einstein’s advice and spend more time in self-reflection determining whether we are asking the right questions. Ultimately it's the question that determines success or failure, not the outcome.
Can't wait to lunch with you and our other disciplemaking friends in the Peoria Area Leadership Community Ongoing THIS Thursday, September 11th, 11:30AM-1PM! Complete details here.