Each Thursday night for almost an entire year, about twenty-five young adults would arrive at my house at 7:00 p.m. We would gather each week to study something interesting about the Bible as it related to the world we were living in. The group was so fun, and I always looked forward to our intense but healthy discussions.
One night, a new guy entered the living room, and immediately he started having some weird reactions toward our group. He seemed very skeptical and uneasy about being in a group setting. But we all did our best to make him feel welcome. I’m not sure where the breakdown in communication happened, but for some reason he thought our church practiced something called Omnism. Meaning, the belief in all religions and gods.
That night, he questioned me about the Bible, very intensely and argumentatively in front of the entire group. I listened and tried my best to answer his questions, but honestly, I just wanted him out of my house because he just seemed argumentative. That night became one of the greatest places of development for me.
The season of this group meeting at my home was getting ready to end.
I knew a transition for the group and myself was coming. And wow, was this situation making that decision to end the group easier. We ended the night, and I walked this young man out, barely saying goodbye. I could tell he felt bad for the way he drilled me, and I’ll be truthful, my first reaction was one of offense.
Later that night as I lay in bed tossing and turning over his questions, I realized if I was ever going to move to a place in ministry where I was able to reach people in my living room and beyond, I would have to learn to embrace these types of conversations and questions.
The next day, I sent him an email.
I thanked him for his bravery in coming to the group and explained that the group was actually coming to an end soon. But I told him I welcomed his questions and would be more than willing to discuss things further with him and a pastor if he wanted to. He declined and said ours was the wrong church for him. But he did thank me for being willing to talk to him.
All these years later, whenever I teach or write something publicly, I think of him. As I grow in ministry, it seems I encounter more people with beliefs like his. Sometimes the emails and comments that come in feel harsh. But instead of just seeing those conversations to the door, I have developed a process within me.
First, I listen.
And then, I listen some more. Then I ask this question: “Tell me—what brought you to this place of asking this question?” Most of the time their answer helps me see their heart. Are they just curious or seeking? Or have they been hurt in the past by someone in the Church? Normally the response to that question reveals something that helps me have a better reaction than just being offended by their words. If I can answer it, I do. And if I can’t, I don’t try.
I have learned over the years that sometimes people just want to argue.
But being able to discern how to handle hard questions is an important skill for a leader. May we never discount the people God sends our way and the questions bring with them.
Whether it is a young man in your living room, or a courageous young girl at a riverside, God uses questions from strangers to open our hearts and minds.
When Pharaoh’s daughter was stepping into the river (and unwittingly into a new season as an adoptive mother), Miriam was hiding and watching her baby brother in the reeds. When the time was just right, she popped up and asked Pharaoh’s daughter a brilliant question:
Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. (Exodus 2:7–8)
Pharaoh’s daughter could have discounted Miriam as just a nosey child.
Instead, the princess listened to the child’s question, and Miriam was able to report back to their mother that Moses was alive. More than alive – he had been rescued by a princess who invited Moses’s heartbroken mom to continue caring for her tiny son.
And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages. So the woman took the child and nursed him.” (Exodus 2:9)
Take a minute and think through the past few years of your life. Are there people whose questions you discounted, but you now see God used those questions to help you develop? What did you learn from that unexpected source?
Nicki Koziarz is an ECPA bestselling author, a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and host of her own podcast, Lessons from the Farm. Nicki, her husband, and their family run a small farm just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, which they affectionately call The Fixer Upper Farm.
Article adapted from Your New Now: Finding Strength and Wisdom When You Feel Stuck Where You Are by Nicki Koziarz (copyright 2023, published by Bethany House)