When my friends visit Hill City Church’s Sunday worship, I consistently hear the comment, “Wow! I thought it was so interesting how you had a time of question and answer (Q&A) following the teaching! I have never seen a church do that before!”
I do not think HCC is alone in doing Q&A. However, among our fellow evangelical churches, it is uncommon. At HCC, we promote discussion as a core value. As we have grown and evolved as a church, we realized that it is difficult to facilitate discussion when the main communal teaching is a monologue. However, this is what we normally see when we “go to church.” At best, a congregation might be encouraged to discuss what they heard with their small group or Bible study. Rarely does the congregation have a chance to directly and immediately respond to the minister, pastor, or teacher with questions or disagreements (And yes, I mean disagreements). At nearly every public speaking event or seminar, there is a chance for the audience to respond... unless you are in church.
At HCC, we end every time of teaching with Q&A. We invite a panel of our teaching team to answer questions on the discussed topic posed by the congregation. Sometimes the answer is easily expressed; sometimes the answer is “I don’t know.” Often we agree, but sometimes we disagree (even as a teaching team). Nevertheless, we are committed to having a time of questioning and responding because we believe it benefits the church in the ways described below.
1. Establishes Teacher Accountability
In general, I think the Church has created a culture which asks its congregation to not question areas of authority, whether that is scripture, an elder, or a pastor. Despite this underlying expectation, most of us have heard a sermon, message, or teaching and thought that something did not sound quite right. That’s good! We are the body of Christ, and the head is Jesus, not the person standing in the pulpit. By questioning what does not make sense, or what seems wrong, we promote accountability among our teachers to be seeking and teaching the way of Jesus effectively. In addition, the teacher and the congregation seek what God is doing by determining what seems good to them and the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28).
2. Facilitates Discussion
As we reduce teachings in the church to a monologue, we effectively lose our voice as a church. The Gospel of King Jesus is meant to be proclaimed… and not just by select leaders from the front of a church. As Jesus followers gathered in communion, we should be openly discussing, hypothesizing, and questioning the reality of the Kingdom Jesus came to preach where mankind is reunified with one another and God. This cannot happen if we simply regurgitate what we are told on Sunday morning. As we talk, we discuss the ways of the Kingdom.
3. Calls the Church to Action
The most common opposition to our style of teaching has been posed in the question, “Are people being fed?” People are obsessed with this idea of “being fed” in our churches - namely, are we receiving spiritual sustenance from the Bible and the message as delivered by the pastor? While I promote receiving spiritual guidance in our study of scripture and our worship gatherings, we must move beyond the idea that our congregation are sheep simply to feed. We are people of Jesus joining as his hands and feet. We must take what we receive on Sunday morning and go out into the world in response as doers of good. The practice of Q&A helps us decipher God’s call to action and, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the teaching, can leave as participants in God’s work in the world.
4. Promotes Generous Orthodoxy
Orthodoxy can be defined simply as “the right beliefs.” Much of Christian teaching has been focused on what to think instead of how to think. In promoting a question-and-answer culture at HCC, we hope to establish a how to think mindset. This creates what we call Generous Orthodoxy. Generous Orthodoxy assumes that we do not have all the answers, or even the right answers. Generous Orthodoxy promotes discussion among conflicting beliefs. Generous Orthodoxy beliefs listen to the contradictions and pursue the root of beliefs. Most importantly, Generous Orthodoxy allows us to question and think about how the Word of God applies contextually to our world and how we can continue to promote the way of King Jesus in the world.
Like what you see here? Join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30 at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington for the conversation and our Q&A.