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Twice this past week, I was struck by the importance of good questions. The first time I was reading COMMUNITY by Peter Block. At one point he talks about different kinds of conversations that we need to develop a deeper community life. The conversations are centred around questions. Here are some examples: What have you said yes to that you no longer really mean? What forgiveness are you withholding? What promise do you need to make that you are postponing? What is the gift you holding in exile (withholding from the community)? These and others that he asks are good questions that can be foundation of good conversations.

Then I picked up another book, LOVE IS AN OREINTATION, by Andrew Marin. At one point he talks about questions. He notes that Jesus was asked many questions. Usually he turned the questions into new questions. Jesus was asked “who is my neighbour?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan and asked “which one was a neighbour”? Andrew wants to do the same so that new conversations can happen. So rather than asking can a gay person change is sexual orientation (a source of debate) he prefers to ask “what is changing is changing in your life as a result of your relationship with God?” That would result in a new conversation and probably a better one.

So I began to wonder what have been some of the best questions in the context of the elder’s work in the congregation. Leading the congregation in good conversations that create fresh consideration of the way we seek to live our lives faithful to God is vital to our call. Good questions are open question. Good questions force us to consider parts of our lives we would prefer to ignore. Good questions make us consider that perhaps there is a way that is more faithful to God.

So what are the better questions you have asked? Let’s share.


I can't help but wonder what intent would lie behind asking a homosexual what is changing in his or her life as a result of their relationship with God. What if the response were to be that a gay man felt led by God to solidify his relationship with his partner in marriage, or the response were to be that a lesbian woman in a relationship felt called to become a pastor? Would we in the present manifestation of the CRC be able to accept these as genuine callings and life-changes that result from a relationship with God? Or would this conversation inevitably lead back to some variation of: "Sorry, only straight folk allowed?"

I commend the thought behind asking different questions for the purpose of starting different conversations, but I'm not 100% sure that broaching the topic of homosexuality in this way will be any more fruitful... unless, of course, the person asking the question to begin with is genuinely receptive to whatever answer might come his or her way. However, if such a question is being asked with the hope and expectation that a GLBT individual might respond by saying that their relationship with God is changing them in ways that are drawing them away from their sexual orientation, I'm afraid all parties might wind up disappointed and in no better shape than we were to begin with.

Neil de Koning on August 2, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

what is the intent behind the question? it is precisely to change the tenor and content of the conversation. I know there are bridges to cross (theological, biblical, organizational) which are difficult. But it seems to me that by trying to start in these places usually leads to GLBT person asking the more basic question: will you love me? Am I lovable? or feel that the power of harsh judgment. It has often been unredemptive. So the intent of the question is to start in another place. While it may mean having conversations that are difficult, it at lest begins with the assumption that God's Spirit is already busy in our life together. While we may need to engage in tough questions, it begins with a gracious approach to each other. Good question allow me to listen better. Listening better allows a more loving response. Where it leads... I don't know for sure. I am willing to trust God's Spirit to lead the conversation. From what I read in LOVE IS AN ORIENTATION, many are not disappointed with the conversation.

I recently read the book COMMUNITY by Peter Block, and found many things that stimulated my imagination, and rekindled my passion for a nurturing community. I also found it really relevant to the thinking being done by us CRC folk on how to better work in networks of congregations and organizations and agencies. I really loved this question: what behavior am I now engaging in that is helping to create the future I long for?

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