I have two middle-schoolers at home (9th and 7th grade). My once chatty children have been replaced by teenagers who seem to almost make a game of finding opportunities to offer 1-word answers. Today I picked them up from school and asked the standard dad question, “How was your day?” How do you think they responded? “Fine”, they both said. So I dug a little deeper… “What was the best part of the day?” “I dunno”, they both said. Getting these hormone-charged adolescents to talk is a bigger challenge than scoring a touchdown on 4th and 30.
As I talk to ministry leaders across the nation, this very thing is one of the most common frustrations. Getting conversation going in men’s groups is often just as much, of not more of a challenge. In groups I lead, I often ask only 3 questions, listen to responses and to the Holy Spirit, then discern where the conversation needs to go from there.
1) What did you learn about God?
Hiroo Onoda was a Japanese World War II soldier who continued to fight 30 years after the war was over. Sound too outrageous to be true? It’s not. He refused to believe reports that the war had ended until his former commanding officer was brought in to officially relieve him of duty. He believed the wrong story about the war and it had detrimental consequences for his life.
The same is true about God. The most shaping belief in or lives is what we believe about God. It’s foundational. If we believe the wrong story about God, the results can be detrimental to our spiritual lives. Asking the right questions and guiding the conversation to help men believe the correct story about God is essential.
2) What did you learn about yourself?
In my experience as a pastor for nearly 20 years, I’ve observed, one of the enemy’s most successful attacks is to convince us to live in an identity that is not our own. He did this to Jesus, too. Remember when Jesus was baptized, God the Father declared “This is my beloved Son in whom I’m pleased.” Then, immediately the enemy began to question that identity– “If you really are the Son of God…..”. At the heart of this question is the need for a person to understand more and more of who God says he is and to stop believing the lies the enemy is feeding him about himself.
3) What did you learn about others?
Not only does this question help men process and discover deeper ways to orient their lives around gospel mission. It also gets at something deeper… People who’ve experienced grace see people differently and naturally begin to pour that grace out on others. In other words, a man’s answer to this question actually reveals what he really believes about the other two. For example, after years of holding a grudge, a man who finally realizes his need to forgive someone actually reveals something deeper about a man’s faith journey. It reveals that he has felt the weight of his own need for forgiveness (himself) and seen God as forgiver, resulting on him finally taking this important step.
I use these questions not only because of their value to get conversation started, but also because of their value to lead to gospel transformation. Here’s what I mean… When we hear the word “repent”, we often think of it as something I should do. We think things like, “I should just once and for all repent by willing myself to stop doing this thing and start doing something different.” However, when the Bible uses the word repent, it’s not speaking of something you do. Rather, of something you think. The assumption is that if the mind is changed about an issue, behavior will naturally follow. This is why the Apostle Paul said, “…Be transformed by the renewal of your (wait for it) MIND.”