The best ministry happens in the context of the closest relationships. Spiritual growth is not about following a formula, or merely filling your head with content (even Bible content). You have to live out God’s truth in real life within the context of community. God made us to need each another.
The relationship component of Christianity is an important reason why being a part of a healthy church is a Christian essential. By the way, it is also why it is better to be live together at church meetings. Certainly, we were grateful for being able to Livesteam the church services during the pandemic, but it is past time to get back to the church building, if you can.
Good questions can help build a closer relationship. If you meet someone new at church, you could stand near each other awkwardly, make small talk, or spout off your best sports takes, but these are not the best ways to build closeness. Closeness counts for the best ministry.
Let’s consider some strategic questions to build a closer Christian relationship.
The first category is about sharing testimonies with each other. Basically, what you are looking for is what their life was like before coming to Christ, the occasion of their salvation experience, and a bit about the changes that the Lord is working into their life.
You could get to these answers in different ways. How do you become a Christian? Were you raised in the Christian home? When did you start caring about the things of God? What is your understanding of the gospel? How has the Lord worked in your life since you became a believer?
Learning the overview of their spiritual story will provide plenty of other places to dive deeper into the details. You could begin by taking the conversation to their early years.
Where did you grow up? Do you have siblings? How big of a priority was church in your family? What are some lessons you learned from your parents?
Next you can begin to move ahead in their spiritual journey.
What have been the key events that the Lord has used in your life? While most Christians experience a lot of normal ups and downs with small gradual progress week by week and year by year, there are often special times that the Lord punctuates a person’s Christian life. Perhaps you will hear about a special speaker that visited the church, maybe it will be meeting a missionary back on home assignment. A conference or a camp experience is often a concentrated time of spiritual growth, or it might also be a time of special conviction about an area of life that needed to change. Maybe a few sessions meeting with a wise friend or counselor made a big impression. God uses all kinds of things to make his children more like Jesus, ask the questions to find out about their key spiritual events.
One of the benefits of these kinds of questions is the connections you will discover with ways the Lord has worked in your life. As you add layers of connection, you will find that your relationship is growing closer.
Related to the key event category of questions, also ask about key books and authors that have most impacted your new friend. What have you read that has really made a difference in your Christian life? What were the circumstances that made it the right book at the right time? Have you enjoyed other books by the same author? How did you first learn about that book?
Asking questions about their spiritual heroes opens up even more avenues for connection. When a person reveals their hero, it can show what they find heroic. You won’t want to be satisfied with just a hero’s name, you will want to ask follow up questions. Who is your spiritual hero? What makes them heroic to you? Why do you admire him or her? When did you first encounter your hero?
A related question is: Who is the most humble person you know? The answer can give you clues about how they understand humility and if they have surround themselves with humble people. It would be interesting to know if they think of humility as a heroic quality.
As you get to know the person, you will want to understand how much experience they have with spiritual disciplines, such as reading the Bible? You can start with easy questions and then build on their answers. Who is your favorite person in the Bible? (Jesus is certainly a great answer, but sometimes it makes you wonder how many other characters they know!) What do you like about that character? What is your favorite book of the Bible? How often do you read the Bible? What is your reading plan?
Other basic spiritual disciplines to learn about are the person’s prayer life and church involvement. Do you pray regularly? What sorts of things do you pray for? How do you add variety to your prayer times? What is the most intense time of prayer you can remember?
What do you think are the marks of a healthy church? Where has the church helped you? Where having you struggled in church? How have you served in church? What is your favorite part of church?
You have got to get closer to people to increase the quality of your ministry. Asking strategic questions can draw you closer together.
By John Crotts