Do you like asking questions?
To question is part of being human, to explore and investigate, to think and seek understanding. Children do it all the time!
But when it comes to faith matters, some people come up with questions which seem like massive obstacles to faith, at least in their minds. Questions which seem so blindingly obvious, as if they are roadblocks to any further pursuit of exploring Christianity or faith in general. These big questions have sometimes been called ‘defeater beliefs’ – ideas held so deeply that they appear to defeat any possibility of belief.
How would you begin to answer these, for example:
- Is there a God?
- Hasn’t science made God irrelevant?
- How can a good God allow suffering?
- Isn’t Christianity basically just a myth, a nice fairy tale?
- What is the meaning of life? Can we even know? Does it matter?
We all have those people – our family members, friends, work colleagues – who love to talk about these things, or perhaps take aim at Christians for our faith, as if we are like Alice in Wonderland – believing 100 crazy things before breakfast. But we are surrounded by people who are asking, thinking, seeking. And maybe we can help remove some of the roadblocks along the way to get them on the Way. Maybe acknowledging their questions and engaging openly will help open up new thinking.
Many have not heard the good news of Jesus Christ, not because it isn’t being proclaimed, preached and taught but because these other questions rule out ever coming near hearing the gospel. They would certainly not bother with church.
So maybe some clearing of the way is necessary.
These questions may be big, but there are answers, good answers, which can be given to show that Christianity makes sense, that it is robust enough to cope with the questions, and show how it offers good and even deeply satisfying meaning to these and many more big questions. Jesus himself seemed to delight in asking questions as much as answering, but both he and his apostles also sought to explain, persuade and defend the message of the kingdom, leading people into confident faith. Apologetics is important to reach our communities, it can also greatly encourage and equip the church in our faith in Christ.
At Ampthill Baptist Church, we developed a 5-week course called Big Questions. We’ve run this for several years now and been greatly encouraged by how it has helped us make connections with our community, open up some remarkable conversations, and also build up the confidence of many Christians in their faith. Yes, these are good questions, but they aren’t ‘killer’ questions!
We host our course in our local Costa café and have seen very encouraging responses in terms of conversations, engagement and attendance. Over the past 3 years we’ve had over 120 different guests, the huge majority with no prior church connection. We’ve heard people’s struggles with faith and life, with God and the Bible, and seen newfound faith, eyes opened to God, people join the life of the church and more. A short video intro to the course is here.
The resources and ideas behind the course are also now available as a book. Big Questions is available on Amazon, £6.99 in paperback or £5.99 for the Kindle. You can have a look at it here.
Big Questions (the book) outlines a 5-week course for any church to run, exploring and engaging with some of the biggest questions which our friends, family, colleagues and culture ask. This course encourages and enables the church, bringing all the materials and practical tips together to facilitate your own Big Questions event. It includes ideas for how to run each evening, examples of 5 talks (but intended to be a starting point so you can write and shape your own), and a chapter of resources if you wish to dig deeper.
It’s an accessible and thoughtful introduction to these key questions, to equip the church and engage your community. The book is aimed at the church but is also suitable for individuals exploring these questions.
Why not consider talking with a local café or pub and give this a go. Look around your town at where you could invite your friends – neutral territory – buy them a coffee, and enjoy engaging with some of these great big questions. You may be very surprised who turns up, what they think, and where it goes, but God is big enough to handle any question, and the gospel is wide enough to invite all to finally find the meaning, the reason, the Author of it all.