Posted by: Postordinandy | July 1, 2010

Asking the “Big Questions”, or not.

I was recently asked to write a ‘guest blog’ article for Share – a site dedicated to help practitioners in the field of emerging church / fresh expressions. Below is the text. If you have comments to make, feel free to make them here and/or on the Share site.

We keep loose records of the conversations we have: conversations that cover subjects from the weather to advanced ecclesiology. Specifically, we have wanted to record those conversations that touch upon the so-called ‘Big Six’ (see Croft, ‘Evangelism in a Spiritual Age’).

These 6 are loosely held under the following headings: Destiny, Purpose, The Universe, God, the Spiritual Realm and Suffering

I have no doubt that for many people these are important questions that require answers, but our experience appears to paints a different picture. Relativity few people ask us to provide answers to one of the ‘big questions’ – instead, we have regular conversations with people about general issues of spirituality, relationships, prayer and politics. The people we meet, it seems, are less concerned with intellectual answers to the great issues of life – ‘why’ they should believe in and follow a god of any kind; and more interested in ‘how’ a life lived following the Christian (or any) God may be led in a meaningful way.

Over two thirds of those we meet with would be classed de- or non/un-churched. We meet some who describe themselves as atheists, but the majority are those who are not particularly pro or anti-God. They are usually open to the idea of a higher being, and frequently very supportive of us and our work. According to the research behind the Big Six, they are the very people who should be asking us those questions – and yet, so far, this is not the case…

I find myself wondering which of the following possibilities are more likely:

1) The ‘Big Six’ are wrong: these are no longer the questions people outside the church are principally interested in;

2) We are having the wrong conversations: perhaps we are still gaining peoples’ trust, or they want to explore more general issues and come onto specifics in time;

3) We are speaking to the wrong people: those who we speak to are somehow not representative of the wider population.

My gut says that most of the deeper conversations we have are about the issues that genuinely concern or interest people. I can recall talking to people for whom intellectual evidence for God – while not a waste of time – is certainly secondary to discussions about the impact of choosing to adopt a religious world-view. I am yet to meet someone who is offended by the beliefs that I own and express, even when they themselves cannot subscribe to the same.

What is your experience of talking to people in a missionary context?

Are you compelled to brush up on sound theological answers to the Big Six?

Are there other questions that you find yourself revisiting time and again?

Should we abandon or revise the assumptions that we continue to make about ‘where people are’ with God?


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