Leadership: asking the right questions
What makes leaders leaders? In any part of culture — industry, education, politics or even ministry — it’s not that they know all the right answers. What makes leaders leaders is that they ask the right questions. Ask the right questions and you are on the right path towards finding the right answers. Start by asking the wrong questions and you can’t help but go wrong.
The same thing is true when we try to gain insight and direction from Scriptures. I work a lot with student leaders whose primary complaint about the Scriptures is that they don’t seem to get anything out of them. Nine times out of ten, that’s because they’re asking the wrong questions, or perhaps asking the right questions in the wrong order.
Here are four key questions that scripture is interested in answering. If a leader approaches the text with these, much insight will be gained for his or her leadership:
1. Who is God?
What is God like? What are the “names” he might be called in the text under study — descriptive phrases that tell what he’s like? (See this article for more on the names of God in the Bible.) What is his essential nature, his essential character? What are his attributes?
2. What is God doing?
What’s God doing in history? How has he already acted? How is he likely to act? What does that tell us about what he might be up to right now? What does God’s activity tell us about question number one — that is, what does his action reveal to us about his character?
3. Who are we?
Scripture has many different descriptive names for the roles and states of people’s lives: slaves, orphans, daughters, sons, beloved, dead, alive, saved, lost, broken, wounded, redeemed, rescued, blessed, holy, saints, sinners, and many, many more. What is our identity? Who are we?
4. What can we do?
So in light of all of these other things, how are we to respond? What’s our next step? Where do we go from here?
It’s critical to note that when we read the Scriptures we are often interested in these questions in precisely the wrong order. Many of us go to Scriptures looking for guidance about what to do with our lives: take this job, marry this person, do this major, deal with this person who’s bothering you, make this deal at the office. These are not bad things — we need guidance. But they are the least important things.
The Scriptures are obsessed with God. We are obsessed with ourselves. And so we read the words of life in scripture and get nothing out of them because we are blinded by our self-absorption.
It is the infinite wisdom of God that he should be least interested in giving us answers to question number four. If the Scriptures were as obsessed about giving those answers as we were about finding them, we would be but empty shells of people. When separated from knowing who God is and how he’s already been acting throughout history and on our behalf, all of our doing is just rote obedience. If we don’t know our identity as God’s children, our activities are simply out of obligation or guilt.
It is less important that you know what to do with your life than that you know there’s a God who loves you, is for you, and is sovereign over every step of your days. Under the umbrella of that sovereign grace, you can act freely, joyfully and gladly in the obedience and worship you were created to offer, and in the spirit with which you were made to offer it.