Imagine you’re having a great time teaching, sharing, and discussing the Scriptures you’ve each been reading, and then it happens. Your disciple asks a question you have no idea how to answer.
Our first reaction is possibly to feel a little embarrassed because we kind of feel like we should know all the answers before we start teaching (yeah, like that’s ever the reality for any teacher, parent, or Bible study leader). Or we might be concerned others will think we don’t know enough to be discipling someone. Both of these are false ideas, but they are real feelings. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we will recognize pride, fear, and shame are at the core of feelings like these, and we will repent, pray, and move on.
After that, how do we react? How should we respond to the one asking the question?
#1: Rejoice! Your student is learning, is curious, is growing in their faith and understanding of God. This is our hope and our goal.
#2: Don’t panic – okay, if it’s too late to remember that, then go on to #3
#3: Be honest. Simply let your disciple know you don’t know the answer. It is good that we don’t think we have all the answers and that we must sometimes research or think about their questions. It reminds us that we all are still learning and growing in our walk with God, and it reassures our disciples that we will always be honest with them and that we all are literally lifelong learners in our faith.
It may seem simplistic, but this is the best way to deal with the situation. After you let them know you aren’t sure of the answer or that you need to do a little research, do the research. Enjoy digging into a question you hadn’t thought about before or haven’t found the answer to. You can also talk to your pastor or others who teach you for help.
I find it helpful to do a “heart check” too. As I mentioned above, if I panicked about not knowing the answer or felt guilty for not knowing the answer, it is a sign that maybe my heart isn’t quite in the right place. Remaining humble is vital to being a teacher and disciple-maker. We are carrying a responsibility that we need to take seriously, and part of that is recognizing that we don’t have all the answers, but we know the One who does and who has all wisdom. If we lack wisdom, we only need to ask Him.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5, NLT)
One last point we may often neglect for those who are already leaders: Discipleship is often about modeling the Christian walk. If we are puffed up with knowledge and pride thinking we know it all or should know it all, what are we teaching others? For one thing, we may be teaching them they cannot teach or disciple others. I want to scream: DON’T DO THIS!!! We cripple believers into thinking only certain people with seminary degrees and no visible sins can make a difference in the kingdom of God, share the Gospel, or teach.
Points for those who are not yet leading:
All of us are called to minister and share the Gospel.
All of us are called to make disciples.
Pastors and other leaders in the church are tasked with teaching us and equipping us, but if you know Jesus, you can tell someone else how you found Him and what He’s taught you. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can help others find Christ and minister to others’ needs. Don’t wait until you feel ready. Like most things in life that are worth doing, if we wait until we feel ready, we will never do it.
We are doing God’s work under God’s leadership with God’s Spirit helping and guiding all along the way. Step out in faith, even if you feel you have a very tiny amount of faith – use it anyway. And see what God is going to do in and through you as you follow Him.
Whichever role we find ourselves in, we know that the only One who knows the answer to every question is God. Trust Him. Rely on Him. See Him bring fruit in people’s lives.
It’s kind of silly to say, but I think of discipleship a the domino effect in faith:
We either stumble over our pride pretending we know all the answers causing our disciple to stumble thinking he can’t be used by God causing others to stumble in never finding the Truth.
Or, we simply need to change stumble to humble. Then, we humbly teach others so they can humbly teach others who humbly come to new life in Christ, and we all stand and follow Christ together.