SGL: When Leaders don’t know the Answers

Home groups are great, because they allow people to ask questions.  A home group is the informal place where there can be a good question and answer time.  New leaders may not appreciate this time, but questions cause both leaders and participants to grow. It’s a good example of “iron sharpens iron.” (Pro. 27:17). If there are a few sparks that fly in the process, eventually humble people will grow stronger and sharper. Leaders who expect to know all things will be humbled. Consider these principles for tough questions.

There will be questions that catch you off guard.

There is no end to study and learning. There will be questions that catch the leader off guard. I was visiting a home group and a person said, “Pastor, I’m glad you are here tonight. I have a question. In the New Jerusalem, will we be living there or in heaven?” The home group was discussing the book of Malachi, so I was expecting Old Testament subjects and I was NOT thinking about the New Jerusalem.  While I have studied the New Jerusalem in Revelation 3 and 21, I was not thinking about it and “it caught me totally off guard!” We just laughed and I responded with an answer that was true, but did not fully answer the question.

The issue is not “I have to know” the right answer.

The issue is not whether you can articulate the precise answer. Knowing the answer is not nearly as important as making a good connection with the person and affirming him in further study. Every question is important, however, it may be a smokescreen to what the real question is or the real issue of the person’s heart. Humility and authenticity is far more important that blowing smoke or giving a speculated answer. It would be better to be honest and encourage further study. The leader must know that God knows the answer and may even conceal it, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Pro. 25:2) It may be an opportunity for everyone to work together to study God’s Word for a more clear answer.

The issue is caring about the person asking the question.

You have heard the comment many times, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I have seen that principle too many times.  It may reveal pride on the other person’s part, but every leader ought to be a shepherd and show that he cares. (John 10:11)

Be ready to say, “I don’t know.”

When I went to seminary, I was in a class in which the instructor said the hardest three words that I would have to learn after graduation were, “I don’t know.” There is something about a young pastor, let alone any leader, in which it is hard to not be able to give an answer.  We are taught to be ready to give an answer of the hope that is within, “But sanctify the Lord God1 in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Pet. 3:15)  It is hard for people to say “I don’t know,” because they often feel like they have failed or are foolish that they do not know.  Get over it. You are not Jesus. You are merely an instrument in His hands.

Find the answer for the question.

The key is that you will say, “I’ll go study to find the answer.” And then go study to find it.  Don’t put is off. If you do not find the answer, then you are communicating that they cannot go to God for questions either. (Pro. 25:2) Do not take the next 158 hours to study, but expend some time for the sake of the person and seek the Lord’s wisdom in His Word.

Report back to the group the next week.

When you get together the next week, report your findings. Be excited that the question was asked and you might want to ask what others found. Ask if that was helpful and if it answered the question.  Do not make a big deal about your answer or how long you researched it.  It’s not about what you did, but that God provided an answer to that person’s question. Exalt God through the process, so the person becomes dependent on the Lord, not you.

I love home groups. They are the places where people have the greatest transparency and you can see the greatest growth in people.  Question and answers are part of the joy of home groups. We would all like to be like Jesus, who gave authoritative answers, “Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, “What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” (Luke 4:36 NKJ) Most leaders would secretly like to have people view themselves the same way! Brother, sister, you are not Jesus, so you will not be able speak like Him or give answers questions like He could. So follow the preceding principles.

Leaders need to relax and be themselves. We are all where we are in the spiritual growth process. We need to enjoy the people around us far more than try to be the “Bible-answer Man.” God will bless the leader who shepherds well more than He will bless the “brain on a stick.”

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