How to Answer the Biggest Questions Seekers Have About Faith

The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 208

Engaging with skeptics may be intimidating for many of us. But one of the most important skills that church leaders need to develop is how to answer big questions that spiritual seekers have about faith. The good news is that you will rarely see a “new” question. So taking the time to thoughtfully develop your answers to the most common questions will pay major dividends in your efforts to share the Good News.

As believers, we should thoughtfully prepare to address people’s deepest objections regarding God, the Bible, church, and morality. In this article, we’re going to explore how to develop a strategy for being ready to “give an answer for the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15). We want to empower you with key steps you can take so you can effectively address skeptics with clarity and without fear.

We will explore how you need to be proactive in creating environments both online and offline for respectful truth-seeking discourse. You’ll see how you can approach these encounters as a chance to build relationships and strengthen our own faith. With prayer and wisdom, you will discover how these questions can draw people to greater understanding and a saving relationship with Jesus.

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Step One: Define Your Answers to Critical Questions

Seekers today have more objections and doubts about God, Christianity, and the church than ever before. A vague faith statement is not enough anymore. While this is a good starting point, it cannot be the end of your answers to key theological questions. Churches must be prepared to address the hard questions people are actually asking.

Start by making a list of the toughest questions your community is wrestling with regarding God, faith, biblical reliability, social issues, and more. Identify the specific objections you hear most from skeptical friends. Lean into these challenges rather than avoiding what makes Christianity seem implausible to many.

Assemble a team–including elders, staff, and other Biblically mature believers–-to brainstorm thoughtful responses. Look at all sides of these complex issues. Avoid pat answers that trivialize sincere concerns. Demonstrate you have grappled with each question intellectually and spiritually.

Move beyond presenting what Christians believe to directly engaging objections. Know how your core convictions withstand scrutiny. But also identify areas of honest uncertainty where you still struggle.

Approach this exercise with humility. The goal is not winning arguments but having communicating the truth effectively, clearly, and in a spirit of love. Teach the truth while building trust and empathy. Work through critiques to clarify and strengthen your own faith.

Questions on God’s existence and character:

  • Why is there evil and suffering in the world if God is good and all-powerful? This is a major stumbling block for many.
  • Isn’t faith irrational without proof? Why believe something when there’s no empirical evidence? In our scientistic society, it’s important to expose our reliance on faith in everyday life.
  • Why would a God who is loving send people to eternal punishment in hell? This seems excessively harsh to skeptics. 

Questions on the Bible and core Christian beliefs:

  • Hasn’t science thoroughly disproven Christianity and the Bible? Many see conflict here, and so you must address the perceived gaps in Biblical teach. Avoid thoughtless answers to this question, as skeptics are often well-educated on this issue.
  • How can you seriously accept the Bible with all its errors, contradictions, and questionable authorship? It seems historically unreliable to skeptics. This is largely a function of biblical illiteracy and ignorance, but it’s critical to educate skeptics in a way that does not insult them.
  • Isn’t the idea of Jesus being resurrected far-fetched? This defies everything we know about biology! This is the fundamental faith claim of Christianity, without which Chrisitianity cannot exist. Be sure your answer to this is clear.

Ethics and social issues:

  • Why is Christianity so exclusive compared to other religions? How can your beliefs be considered universally true? The question behind this question is about the sovereignty and the character of God. Be sure not to just address the issue of exclusivity, but about the generosity of God and universality of God’s presence through all generations.
  • How can Christians justify beliefs on homosexuality, gender roles, and other contentious moral issues? These seem archaic and offensive to modern sensibilities. It’s important that you make a defense of the Christian sexual ethic on the basis of human flourishing, biological reality, and moral wholeness.
  • Why are many devout Christians so judgmental about lifestyles they personally disagree with? This apparent hypocrisy turns people off. It’s often helpful to separate real versus perceived hypocrisy and judgmentalism. It’s often helpful to also point out the existence of judgment and hypocrisy in the secular world, too. Therefore, it’s a human sin problem, not a problem derived from or exclusive to Christianity.

Step Two: Determine the Environments Where You’ll Engage with Skeptics

Once you’ve done the hard work of clarifying answers to tough objections, the next step is considering where you’ll proactively raise and discuss these issues. Be strategic and intentional.

The days of only answering questions if asked are over. You must become the initiator of important spiritual conversations. Bring substance to the table and create natural opportunities for truth-seeking dialogue.

There are three primary environments to consider for engaging skeptics: online spaces, in-person courses/groups, and one-on-one pastoral conversations. Each venue has pros and cons.

Carefully target your approach to each channel. The way you format and present content for a website is quite different than leading a small group discussion. But across all mediums, focus on listening first and aiming for mutual understanding. 

Be sensitive to different dynamics while staying rooted in grace and empathy. There is no one-size-fits-all here. Lean on the specialized gifts of your team to craft the right outreach for each setting.

Now let’s explore creative possibilities within these three categories of online, in-person, and one-on-one engagement. The more thoughtful and multi-faceted your response, the more lives you’ll reach.

Answer Seekers Questions Online

The internet provides amazing potential for responding to objections through thoughtful content. Develop sections of your church website that directly tackle frequently asked questions, such as unique landing pages. Create podcast episodes where your pastors compassionately address controversial issues. Release short videos briefly explaining your church’s perspective on debated topics. 

Craft online content aiming for nuanced dialogue rather than dogmatic monologues. Use gracious language that affirms mutual seeking after truth. Include links/resources for further exploration. Populate the site with regularly updated blog posts and social media discussions. The always-on nature of digital platforms allows for ongoing conversation.

Answer Seekers Questions In-person

While online engagement has advantages, nothing beats in-person small group discussions for facilitating vulnerable sharing around deeply personal questions. Courses modeled after the Alpha format work beautifully to cultivate truth-seeking community.

Recruit skilled facilitators to lead small groups and appropriately explore tough topics. Make these courses a regular offering for both church members and non-believers, advertising them as judgement-free zones to investigate Christianity’s claims in a safe space. Structure sessions to maximize genuine dialogue. 

Encourage humility and story-sharing versus just stating opinions. Take a relational approach of people coming together, not just presenting content. Go deep but stay gracious.

Answer Seekers Questions One-on-one

Even as your church addresses hot-button issues publicly online and in group courses, leave abundant space for individual pastoral conversations. Some questioners feel more comfortable discussing their deepest doubts privately with clergy in mentoring relationships.

Equip your staff with resources for having fruitful one-on-one meetings focused on spiritual guidance rather than quick fixes. Listen carefully to personal struggles and objections. Ask good follow-up questions without getting defensive. Research issues further together. Make it an ongoing journey.

Keys for Responding Well

When engaging skeptics and seekers, how you answer tough questions is just as important as what you communicate. Interact with humility, nuance, and care. Your demeanor and approach can either facilitate helpful dialogue or shut it down completely.

First and foremost, lead with genuine listening and empathy. Make it clear you want to understand their perspective, not just persuade them of yours. Ask follow-up questions to clarify objections. Affirm positive motivations behind doubts rather than getting defensive.

Be secure in your convictions but also admit there are complexities you still wrestle with yourself. Offer your viewpoint humbly rather than preaching. Leave room for debate within Christian freedom. If you lack sufficient answers, commit to sincerely studying the issue further.

Now let’s explore three important attitudes for constructive engagement with questioners: listening with empathy, speaking with clarity, and engaging with humility. Embrace the journey of working through doubts together.

Listen with empathy

Start from a place of trying to understand the personal experiences and motives behind someone’s questions. Listen patiently without interrupting. Imagine yourself in their position. Ask clarifying questions and restate objections to ensure you grasp concerns accurately. 

Avoid reflexively rebutting. Affirm positive intentions, even if you disagree with conclusions drawn. Seek to connect first at a human level rather than arguing. Demonstrate that you care about the person, not just winning a debate.

Speak with clarity of convictions

While empathetic listening is crucial, also speak plainly about your core beliefs when appropriate. Don’t downplay or hide long-held Christian teachings just to avoid controversy. State convictions with confidence but not arrogance.

Make sure skeptics understand Scripture’s life-giving intent behind challenging doctrines. Affirm the desire to apply biblical truth lovingly. Clarify instances when there is room for interpretation versus central tenets of the faith.

Humility when you lack an answer

When faced with a difficult question you can’t adequately answer, resist the urge to bluff. It’s perfectly acceptable to admit you don’t know something but are committed to seeking greater understanding together. 

Thank questioners for bringing up thoughtful points. Ask permission to follow up with them after you’ve had time to research and reflect further. This models intellectual honesty and builds trust for future conversations. Demonstrate a shared commitment to truth.

Seeking truth alongside skeptics requires empathy, nuance and patience. Avoid reductionist black-and-white answers. Be willing to explore doubts honestly, even at personal cost. Focus on facilitating mutual growth through ongoing dialogue.

While convictions are vital, equally important is creating space for people to process faith over time. We don’t need to rush to resolution but simply walk with questioners on their spiritual journey. With care and courage, the toughest questions can become seeds for faith.

BONUS: Watch this episode on YouTube.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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