The question: why?

My wife and I are blessed to have a soon to be six year old, three year old, and one year old. From our oldest and three year old we’ve heard this question over and over, why? Why dad? Why mom? Over and over until the final answer becomes, because I said so. Yesterday I was telling my son that he needed to pick up the toys that were scattered all throughout the living room. His reply, why? I then proceeded to explain to him the dangers of toys all over the living room. Again, why? Trying to appeal to my oldest child logic, I then tried another appeal of these toys could get broken. But as you can guess, that didn’t appease his curiosity. He was genuinely trying to understand why these things would happen.

Have we lost our sense of wonder and questioning? I’ve been in the church long enough to know that this question is one that no one likes to try and answer. The common answers of because that’s the way it is, or because I said so should be good enough for you. When did it become unacceptable to ask the question why? Why do we do this or this, or why have we always done it that way, or my favorite, why has that chair that doesn’t match anything been sitting there for as long as I’ve been alive? While these may spark a laugh or a chuckle in our minds, all to often in real church life they spark anger, hostility, and frustration. Why? The simple answer is, emotion over rationale. There is emotion tied to those chairs, ministries, etc. Emotion will run over rationale anyway of the week.

As a pastor I’ve been trying to navigate how to ask that question with the understanding that emotion is tied to everything. What are the right questions to ask in order to move past the emotion and move forward with the mission. Here are a few things that I’ve learned to be beneficial.

  1. Ask about the history of the subject. When did this ministry begin? Who started it? What was their hope in it? When it was at its best what did it look like? What do you think happened? These are questions that you have to ask in a manner of showing that you genuinely do want to know about the ministry, and why wouldn’t you. Someone has poured years of their life into this ministry with a purpose. We can never discount their service.
  2. After you’ve gained a good understanding of the history of the ministry, usually there is a history with the person who won’t let it go or give it up. Maybe they came to know Jesus because of this ministry, maybe it was their parent or grandparent that ran this ministry. Your conversations have to turn from how can I kill it, to what a legacy they’ve left. They poured their lives into this, and it has obviously left an impact on you.
  3. Make the appeal for their legacy. Ask them what questions about what hopes do they have to leave behind. Is there a way that they can leave a great legacy?

This takes time and effort. It takes investment. But it’s worth it, why? Because these are people that you are dealing with. Every sacred cow you get rid of you are getting rid is usually tied to some emotion in the church. While we destroy idols, you don’t do so without helping people move forward. They are your people, love them well.


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