When I started my church, our vision was to be the presence of Christ in our neighborhoods and work places. We called our small groups "Living Rooms" and we hoped that those groups would "move into their neighborhoods."
That meant building relationships with our neighbors, tangibly loving people through service, and welcoming people into our homes. Our people took this seriously. They hosted barbeques at their homes, inviting their "lost" neighbors over. They built relationships with them. One Sunday each month, we left our seats and went out and served our neighbors so that we could demonstrate to them that God loved them.
After a couple years of building relationships and loving people, our Living Room leaders came back and said, "OK. We've built these relationships. We're ready to take the next step. We want to know how to engage our neighbors in a conversation about God. We want to begin to tell them about what we believe. I guess we want to proclaim the gospel to them, do evangelism."
Then came the crucial question: "What do we do next?"
A circle at Crilly's
Of course, they expected me to have the answers. But I had no idea what to do either. When I suggested inviting them into a Bible-focused "living room," they told me their neighbors would run. "Our neighbors won't sit in a circle with a Bible on their laps. They have no interest in that. It will freak them out."
Their concerns were valid. Here we were, living "missionally," doing really well at loving and serving and building relationships, but unsure how to take the next step in proclaiming the gospel to our neighbors.
Around that time, I met John Crilly. "Crilly" had just left his marketplace career to begin working with a ministry called Q Place (the Q stand s for "questions.)" Their focus was to help everyday Christians have meaningful conversations about God with people who believe differently. How did they do it? Questions.
While Crilly talked about their process, I was thinking, This might turn out to be our church's "next step". Crilly told me that he and a friend wanted to start a Q Place together, and they were praying for one other person to join them. The idea was to get a small group together to have an ongoing spiritual conversation in a safe place to explore and ask questions. A place where Christians host an opportunity to embrace the questions and the process of discovery, and the Holy Spirit can direct discussion as people explore their beliefs.
It didn't take long for me to decide that I was in.
We pulled together a list of people we had built relationships with and could naturally invite to our gathering. While learning how to facilitate a Q Place and praying together, we narrowed our list to those we suspected didn't really know Jesus. Then we began making invitations to a "one-time" discussion about God.
On the night of our meeting, eleven of us sat in a circle in Crilly's living room. Three of us were followers of Jesus, and the other eight guys just agreed to show up.
After an ice breaker or two, we asked a question:
"If you could ask God one question, and you knew he would answer, what would you ask him?"
For the next hour, the questions came: "Why couldn't you have made things more clear?" "Why forgive people who do terrible evil?" "What's the end game?" "What's life all about?" "Why punish people for all of eternity for the decisions made in this short life?" As we listened to their questions, we also asked why each question was significant to them.