Guided by Good Questions

I recently started defining my life’s work as “empowering individuals and communities to be missionally effective in their unique, local contexts.” Fancy words. It’s just an elaborate way of saying that I want to be a part of helping people figure out what it means to love God, love themselves, and love their neighbors in whatever unique context God has called them to.

When I first began engaging with social justice and local mission work in college, much of my time was spent on collecting the right answers. I wanted to be a know-it-all because it looked like know-it-alls got the speaking gigs, the book contracts and the followers. But as I dive deeper into working with real people in real neighborhoods with real politics and real dreams, I find that its not always the right answers that bless and serve others. It’s actually about humbly and authentically asking the right questions. I am finding that in community and relationship-building work, good questions are more inviting, compelling and mobilizing than standalone good answers might be.

So here are a few questions that are guiding my work in this season:

  1. What does it look like to keep intimacy and loving union with Jesus at the center of my presence on this work? While strategy is helpful and necessary, it’s the power of God that overflows from a life truly surrendered to and in partnership with Him that actually moves the needle on resolving complex social problems.
  2. Have we trained up the next generation social justice practitioners in ways that are sustainable and grounded in real life? Looking back on my own story and on the stories of some of my peers, while much of the “justice training” we received was life-changing for a season, much of it also led to guilt, anger and a sort of paralyzing fear about how to or not to engage in mission. Are these trends real or was this just my experience? Are there ways to reverse this trend?
  3. What does it mean for us to leave everything behind and to take up our crosses and follow Jesus? Does it mean that we can only develop communities that we live in? Should those communities be as small as a neighborhood or as big as a city? How do we define place and what constitutes and an adequate amount of time being present in that place to be effective?
  4. What power structures are at play as we do justice work and how do we redistribute power in ways that dignify and value all stakeholders, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation?

There are a few of my guiding questions in this season.

If you’re honest with yourself, what are yours? Do you feel like its okay to ask questions? Why or why not? Are you more comfortable with being the “know-it-all” in your organization? Why is that? And how might better question-asking propel you into more meaning, creativity and innovation in the work that you do?

Questions, folks. Follow the questions.