I have been thinking and talking about a subject a lot lately. I am currently serving as an interim pastor for a church in Virginia and the leaders there and I have been praying through and talking about this issue constantly. The wonderful team of people I have the privilege of serving here at Southeastern talk about this principle all of the time as well. I have come to refer to it simply as the “Discipline of Why?” I have alluded to this principle in previous blogs but want to zero in on it for just a moment. If nothing else, this will help me put it into better words for the future. Thank you for allowing me to think out loud for a paragraph or two!
The Discipline of Why Principle goes something like this: “Why?” must always precede “Who?” which must always precede “What?” which must always precede ‘How?” This disciplined way of thinking and planning seems simple right? The problem is, after 34 years of ministry, I continue to constantly notice its absence. It makes me want to ask, well, why?
So many leaders it seems want to immediately plunge into the “How?” How can I fix this? How can we do that? How can we change? How can we grow? How can we reach people? Seemingly good questions with good intent. I mean, nuts and bolts type stuff, right? The problem is, however, without the more important questions being asked in preparation for this stage, they often become victims of reactionary thinking and doing. They hop from one “How?” to the next without much long term success or effectiveness.
We could begin by asking, “What?” What do we need to do? What do we need to do it? Questions like this. Again, seemingly a very reasonable path, but it is still lacking much depth and proactivity. Our “Whats?” and “Hows?” are often driven by what we see happening on the surface around us and do not require much true theological or even contextual assessment or searching. They are basic questions of tasks and resources, programming and projects. Catalogs, conferences and calendars can answer most of these questions.
“Who?” is a question of identity. It is a search of being and not just doing. Who are we? Who does God want us to be? Who is our community? Who does God want them to be? This line of inquiry takes us much deeper. These are questions of theology and relationship and discipleship and contextualization that should define the resulting needed tasks and resources. We need answers to these questions of identification in order to even begin to uncover in what actions we are supposed to engage and use how we are supposed to engage in them.
But the discipline of beginning with “Why?” is even greater. “Why?” is a question of purpose, of mission, of existence. Why did God create and save me? Why did He put me or us in this place at this time with these people? “Why?” changes everything else. The answers provide us with proper perspective and focus. Knowing “Why?” produces the opportunity for obedience and to bring God glory. Our motivation, our reason for everything comes from these answers.
I am a very task oriented person. Very. It is an innate default setting for me to hop to “How?” I am thankful for those God has placed in my life who have helped me to understand the incredible value of asking the right questions in the right order. I challenge you to become disciplined in the “Why?” You will see His mission more clearly, be able to remain focused upon that mission and be strengthened to follow the mission with more endurance.