Two pastors understand that many Christians through the years traditionally have sought answers from clergy. But they are asking believers to consider arriving at the right queries instead.
“We live in a day when we have to ask questions, instead of just always looking to a leader as having all the answers,” the Rev. Dan Cash said.
He is author, along with fellow clergyman the Rev. Bill Griffith, of the new book, “Eight Questions Jesus Asked: Discipleship for Leaders,” from Judson Press. The 111-page effort grew out of a men’s Bible study at First Baptist Church in Columbus, where Cash serves as senior pastor and where Griffith served as pastor from 1979 to 1991.
Griffith, in a departure from normally accepted church patterns for ex-shepherds, attends the church as a member. When he and his wife returned to the church several years ago, they first sought the blessing of then-pastor the Rev. Jon Carlstrom.
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Both Cash and Griffith agree that not only is such an arrangement unusual in mainline churches, their ability to work together as a writing duo is a rarity.
“He’s very comfortable with my presence,” Griffith said. “And we’re comfortable as friends. … Both of us have to be secure in who we are.”
Cash sees the former leader’s role as a distinct blessing.
“Bill has been nothing but an encouragement,” said the current pastor. “He always finds some way to support the pastor (role). Of course, another thing that makes this work is that we kind of think alike.”
The book grew out of a men’s Bible study the pair formulated at the church.
“We sometimes tell the men that they were our guinea pigs,” Cash said jokingly.
That Scripture study magnified the focus on Jesus’ questions into a printed volume, partly fueled by Griffith’s already-established relationship with Judson Press.
“We weren’t really looking for a (ready-made study) resource in which participants merely fill in the blank (on questions),” Cash said, referring to what he called open-ended questions, requiring answers with reason and feeling. “We might take two weeks discussing one question.”
That is, rather than looking for simplistic, textbook-style answers.
Jesus’ questions they examine range from “Do you want to get well?” to the disabled man in John 5 to “Do you believe this?” posed to Martha in John 11 regarding life after death.
The writers agree that one added question not among Jesus’ is: Where did we get such an answer-oriented church or society at large?
“It sure didn’t come out of the rabbinical teachings,” Griffith said. “Those are all about asking a question, and then asking another question. This is what is modeled by Jesus, and was his style. People asked him a question, and he often turned it around, and threw a question right back at the person.”
Soozi Whitten Ford, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky, has known both authors for years. And she has spoken with each about a variety of topics.
“I often walk away challenged not just by the content of the discussion, but by the questions that form in my mind because of the encounter,” Ford writes in the book’s foreword.
She also offered this gem dovetailing with the book’s theme: “At the root of any discovery, good questions have been asked.”
It seems fitting for a woman to speak of the authors’ gifts, given the fact that two of the book’s eight chapters deal with Jesus’ questions to women.
Cash’s doctorate in leadership has blended with Griffith’s scriptural background to offer a complementary spiritual package for readers, whether individuals or small group members. And the two purposely have excluded any denominational and doctrinal roadblocks so any Christian can benefit from their work.
They chuckled when asked what readers might take away from their published work.
“Actually,” said Griffith, “that depends on who’s reading it, and what is going on in their lives.”
What: “Eight Questions Jesus Asked: Discipleship for Leaders,” focusing on the concept that good questions invite deeper discovery.
Details: The book examines Jesus’ questions such as, “What do you want me to do for you?” in Mark 10 or “Who touched my clothes?” in Mark 5.
Authors: The Rev. Dan Cash, current pastor at First Baptist Church in Columbus, and Bill Griffith, a former First Baptist pastor who now is a member there helping with men’s ministry and other elements.
A broad audience: The volume was written both for individual reading and study and also for small groups — and for Christians across the spectrum. The authors purposely steered clear of denominational hurdles.
Where to get it: Viewpoint Books in Columbus or a range of sites online.