But sometimes the things we ask can keep others at a distance, instead of inviting them in.
They can reveal more about us and what we value, than the people we’re talking with.
I’m at a wedding and sitting next to a Christian I have never met. I don’t ask: ‘what’s been inspiring you recently or what do you love most about Jesus?’ I ask:
‘What’s your church like?’ and ‘how’s the band?’
Subtext: How many people go to your services? Rate ‘the worship’. And do you serve real – or instant coffee ?
The coffee question is an important one. But the others – er, not so much. They say a lot – but not about church. About me and what I think matters. Whether or not your pastor can tell jokes. What makes church a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’. And it’s a hop, skip and a jump to moaning about what’s wrong with The Church. Or, at a pinch, the relative merits of Java versus American Ground.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh. How about with friends? Surely in small groups we’ll ask each other how we’re really doing. Big things.
How’s your quiet time going?
Have you set up a porn filter on your computer?
Are you in an accountability group?
Where are you serving?
And, if all else fails…
Which Bible reading plan are you using?
Every box ticked. Spiritual discipline. Accountability. Service. Altogether now – that’s what I call friendship.
Except… it’s really not.
Even when I get and give the right answers to these questions, I’m still hungry. Hungry to know and be known in return. Hungry to connect, to engage and to share.
These things can be good parts of the Christian life. They’re not bad questions. But they’re not Christianity. It’s not a series of rules or boxes to be ticked. It’s Christ in us and in others. It’s sharing life as well as the gospel.
Surface engagement seems safe – but it’s a shadow of the real thing.
So, here’s some starters. ..
What is the one thing about yourself that you would like me to know?
Who do you love and how do you show it?
What makes you angry?
What would make life unbearable if it was taken away?
What event in the past would you undo and how?
What would you do if money was no object?
What is God teaching you right now?
What makes you worthwhile?
What’s the one thing you really don’t want to do? How and when will you do it?
Whose opinion matters most to you?
How do you measure success?
What can’t you stop? Why not?
What do you tell your friends that you need to learn yourself?
What is unforgivable?
How are you misunderstood?
What do you daydream about?
What have you learned from your parents?
What question would you most like to ask God?
How would you describe Jesus in 90 seconds?
Where do you feel safe?
What questions are missing from this list?