In the last post, I asked how you felt about the five questions recently posted by Forbes. I wondered if the questions they proposed would be useful for Christians. In this post, I will critique each of these questions then offer a way to reframe them to reflect our love for God and one another. As we examine each question, decide if the question they offer is based on love.
1. “What was the best part about your day?” Why do I feel like my mother is asking me “How was school today?” Though I would have agreed to answer this question for the benefit of the company, deep inside I probably would have resented the intrusion. In addition, I would be asked this question at the end of the day when I would be tired. So the writer for corporate suggested asking at the beginning of the day, “What are you most looking forward to about your day?” Is this before or after I had my cup of coffee?
Though this question could be based on love, timing, tone of voice, and the health of the relationship matter. I would reframe this question: “How has God blessed you today?” but only if I was asking based on love. I would NOT ask that question if that person recently lost a loved one or experienced a catastrophic event in their life! In those cases, I would ask: “How can I pray for you?” and later ask, “How has God strengthened you in this time of grief?” or “How did God help you through this time of stress?”
Ask your congregation or small group to brainstorm a list of questions to ask other Christians. Practice asking each other these questions and ask how people felt being asked. In this way, each person will find the best questions that will honor Christ. Though practice can seem stilted, practice helps us be more at ease. Practice is like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. Eventually, we will be able to ride everywhere without them. In addition, being together, sharing, brainstorming, interacting all contribute to building more loving relationships.
One of the quirks about congregational life today compared to fifty years ago is that most people attend church one hour on Sunday morning then go home. Churches do not offer time or opportunities for meaningful interaction between members or visitors.
What are some alternative ‘first’ questions we can ask each other that would show genuine concern? When is the best time to ask? How do I ask? Sometimes we do not know we sound judgmental or uncaring. Practicing with each other and listening to feedback improves our ability to love.
2. “What work is most exciting you this week?” The writer for Forbes said this question was designed to help team members listen and identify colleagues’ strengths and passions; align those two things with your work; and expect an increase in productivity and engagement. The writer thought this question would reveal the small ideas and accomplishments that might not make it into a bi-weekly check in, but are worth celebrating.
Identifying each other’s strengths and passions is always helpful. Feedback is necessary to keep us honest before the Lord. However, we need to ask if our motivation be to increase productivity or mirror the attributes of God such as being compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness?
As the body of Christ, we are expected to rejoice in the success of others. Sadly, as sinners we can harbor resentment. Many times, I have heard pastors either exaggerate their success or resent the success of others. Neither advances the kingdom of God.
Jesus spoke of our unity in his prayer to the Father (John 17). Jesus did not intend for his churches to be in competition with each other. Each church is to be guided by the Holy Spirit and not the latest marketing techniques. Not every church attracts wealthy people who give in abundance so the church or ministry can afford glossy mailings or high end auctions. Success in the kingdom of God is a different than success in the corporate world. A successful church is not one that grows in number or outreach, but one that loves as Christ loves!
How might this question be reframed to reflect our love for God and for each other? Might we ask: “What has God called you to do this week for the sake of the kingdom?”
3. “What new ideas are giving you energy today?” The writer for Forbes states, “Though similar to question 2, the third question differs in that it targets opportunities for innovation. As a leader, you can welcome the half-baked ideas and emerging thoughts that are beginning to tickle your team member’s minds. Find ways to build in the areas of these new ideas and you’ll find a short cut to the traditional research and development process.”
Like the others, this question focuses on one’s own ideas rather than seeking God’s will. The questions seem to indicate that only what you think matters. The questions do not reference any outside source or authority. Christians rely on the authority of God’s Word. So how does Scripture inform the way we interact with each other and the reason why we interact?
Paul and his team encouraged the disciples to remain true to the faith (Acts 14:22). A member of my family who was a Christian criticized others but never encouraged. How do we encourage? When do we encourage? How can our questions contain encouraging words?
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:2-3).
How would you include these words by Paul to encourage other Christians?
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words (I Thessalonians 4:14-18).
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (I Thessalonians 5:8-11).
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people (Philemon 6-7).
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:12-13).
4. Tell me one thing you learned today that really inspired you (not a question). The writer in Forbes stated that the most rewarding leadership development often occurs through two channels: crisis situations or self-reflection. Do you agree? What do you consider the most important way to grow spiritually? Sharing insights that inspire helps extend learning.
In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul wrote about three specific events that should have caused him to be downhearted. First, he had to convince the Corinthian church he had not wronged anyone, corrupted anyone, nor exploited anyone (7:2-4). Then he turned his words of conviction into encouragement. Are you having problems in your church? Is there division? Is a member or the pastor being accused unjustly? How can you encourage each other during difficult times?
Second, Paul disclosed that he and his team experienced harassment and persecution at every turn when they arrived in Macedonia. He said they experienced conflicts on the outside and fears within (7:5-7). What type of conflict has your church experienced? What kinds of fears? Did you lose a pastor under unseen circumstances? Was your church reputation attacked? Did your church burn down? Did your church split over differences? Did someone attempt a hostile takeover? How did Titus encourage Paul? How can you encourage each other?
Third, Paul divulged that he caused them sorrow when he accused one of their members of doing wrong (7:8-13a). He may have been referring to the first letter he wrote to the Corinthians or a letter that has not yet been discovered. Though he acknowledged he caused them sorrow, he does not regret what he wrote. Why was he happy that he caused them sorrow? What good came out of their pain?
And lastly, Paul sent Titus to help the church follow Paul’s instructions. Titus came to Paul with a positive report. Paul was encouraged when he saw Titus was refreshed by the Corinthian church. (7:13b-16). Was your church ever examined by an expert in church management? Did you followed these instructions willingly? How could you encourage each other during these times of spiritual growth?
Encourage people to tell their stories of how God turned a difficult time into one of joy.
5. “What is one thing we could do right now to make this (day, project, or event) even better?” Urgency and accountability is critical to growth. How might we reflect on what God has called us to do? Must we always be doing our work better? What increases productivity in the Christian life? How might we change our routine to better represent Jesus Christ? What could we be doing that we are not doing? What should we stop doing and why?
In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul gave several reasons why Christians are together as a church. What are his four reasons in verse 1?
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion (Philippians 2:1).
What did Paul say would make his joy complete in verses 2-5?
Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
What mindset of Jesus should we consider?
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…
Why should we consider the mindset of Christ?
…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:1-11).
Per Paul’s instructions, ask: “What can I do to honor the mindset of Jesus Christ?”
In conclusion, the questions we decide to ask other Christians, visitors to our church, or unbelievers should reflect the attributes of God: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Basically, our questions should encourage others. Encouragement is an act of love.