Once your neighbor has taken you up on an invitation, the one thing you must be ready for is their QUESTIONS. Regardless of the situation (in my experience), everyone has questions when they visit the Lord’s Church for the first time. This is no surprise and should not catch you off-guard. If they are asking questions, it is because of two things: they have noticed a difference in our congregation and others, and they want to know why we are the way we are. You may hear questions like, “Why did you have the Lord’s Supper today? It’s not even Easter or Christmas. Why were there no women up on stage? Why is your preacher not called a pastor?” And the granddaddy of them all…“Why was there no band or instruments during the singing?” These, and questions like them, are the thoughts that are inevitably going to rise to the surface of your neighbor’s mind as they visit the Lord’s Church for the first time. The way we respond to these questions can either provoke more interest in the Church or can turn them away from the Church forever.
The thing about questions is, we all have them. Everyone asks questions throughout the day. Asking questions is how we learn. We all know a kid or were the kid who could ask a million questions in 30 seconds. Just because your neighbor has questions about the Church, does not mean they should be talked down to. So many times, I am afraid we tie the Lord’s hands behind His back with how we respond to the questions posed by non-believers. It could very well be the case that they sincerely want to know the answer to their question. According to 1 Peter, Christians are called to be peculiar and strange…and if our neighbor notices our strangeness or peculiarities, then that is our opportunity to tell them why, NOT our chance to get them told!
The fact of the matter is, in the religious culture and setting of our day, denominations that claim Christianity share little, to no resemblance to the Church found in the New Testament. After 2,000 years of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 coming true, what should we expect? “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” When you take someone out of that background or setting and place them into one based on the first century…you are bound to provoke questions. We have to be prepared to have an answer.
Our answers are not in an attempt to BE RIGHT; they are an attempt to SHINE LIGHT on something they may have never seen before in their entire life. The way we do that is to be prepared to have an answer (1 Peter 3:15) and speak the truth in love when we get that opportunity (Ephesians 4:15). We must realize that the Word of God is all we need to answer their questions. There is not a question that God’s Word cannot sufficiently answer. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for EVERY good work,” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. God has given us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The insufficiency is never on the Bible’s part…it will forever be on OUR part! If we devote ourselves to studying this Word that can make us complete and equipped for EVERY good work, and has given us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness…then we need not be ashamed because we KNOW how to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear,” 1 Peter 3:15. I cannot help but point out that this was written by the man who denied Christ three times (Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-27). At a certain time in Peter’s life, he was not ready to give a defense. However, many years later, he had learned that to be a faithful follower of Christ, he had to be READY to defend the truth, and to have an answer. We must prepare ourselves for whatever questions our neighbor might have. Notice, Peter of all people, even notes how we are to answer, “with meekness and fear.” Other translations use “with gentleness and respect.” Our answer must be gentle and respectful, but ultimately…truthful.
Step eight is a challenging one; it takes preparation like few others. However, there are so many resources at our disposal. All we are attempting to do in step eight is to give them all the necessary INFORMATION they need to answer their questions. We have over fifty tracks in the lobby of our church building that help answer many of the questions that are posed. We have shepherds that would love to help you answer any question your neighbor might have. We have ministers that are equipped to help you with whatever question needing to be answered. We have a tremendous library of articles, sermons, and other resources on our website that are intended to facilitate you in any way you need. All of this is at your fingertips. None of this, however, will EVER replace the value of learning the information for yourself. Committing the verses, the answers, and the reasons to your heart and your memory will empower you to seek and save the lost like never before. For every question they pose… HE has an answer!
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism