Provoking Thought in the Thoughtless

(Taylor Cruz) #1


I live in an area where the culture is extremely apathetic and quite honestly void of serious thought majority of the time. Void of seriously thought meaning that few people actually think about deeper things (their future, eternity, the type person they’re becoming, why anything matters, why they do what they do and who they do it for, etc.). Helping a thinker believe is what I’m usually equipping myself for, but helping a non-thinker think has been very challenging over the last two years.

I would love to know any insights you have had in getting people to think deeply who do no more than think about their job, the to do list, and in-the-moment things. I’ve tried asking good non-pointed or rhetorical questions, but they just don’t seem to want to think deeply even about just that question.

In short, how do I get someone who doesn’t think to think deeply?

(Brittany Bowman) #2

Taylor, this is such a wonderful question. How encouraging to hear of your heart to awaken your friends’ eyes to Truth. I have had similar challenges, and I don’t have a great answer. However, I often have the opposite problem. Often, it’s my own heart that doesn’t listen for opportunities to go deeper, preferring to keep conversations in the “safe zone” of surface-level talk. So I don’t have a lot of great insight :pensive:

Maybe you’ve already found these resources, but if not, I’d like to pass them along. Both have challenged me to more of a “doing life together” approach. Looking forward to hearing from others on this thread.

This post expresses similar concerns to which you have raised, too. As you minister, I just want to say thanks. I have such respect for those who lead our hearts closer to Him. Your congregation is blessed to have you, I am certain.

(Olivia Davis) #3

Hi Taylor! Thanks for sharing this question. I want to echo @Brittany_Bowman1’s thought that it’s encouraging to hear about your heart for the people in your community.

Also, Taylor, do note that while sometimes harvests do take more than a season, God sees your faithfulness and your heart for your community. I’m convinced that we’ll never know the full extent of how God has used our individual ministries to impact the kingdom until we’re in Heaven. Take heart that God has purposely placed you where you are and intentionally designed your heart for this mission field!

I’ve been thinking about your question since you posted it and I thought, “Right there with you, Man!” At first, I didn’t think I would have anything to offer in response, but I’ve tried to spend some time thinking since I struggle with this question too. I hope something in here is helpful to you!

When we think about provoking deep thought in people otherwise un-inclined, I think it’s important that we think about how we develop interests. So, an illustration:

I don’t care about how the wi-fi in my house works. To get me to care about the science-y stuff that happens between the router thing and my laptop, you’ve got to show me how that science-y stuff is useful. For example, let’s say the wi-fi breaks and my brilliant little brother who fixes everything is out of the country. Then, I’ll become a wi-fi hero (probably using my overly limited phone data…), not because I care about the mechanics of wi-fi, but because I really want to watch Netflix. The point is: I have to have a motivation beyond the thing itself. Try to tell me about wi-fi gadgets and my eyes will glaze over in two seconds. Break my wi-fi and cut me off from my lifeline (my brother), and my motivation to learn will skyrocket. My point: If we want to provoke thought among people who aren’t naturally inclined to think deeply, we’ve got to give them a why.

I don’t think it’s our job to get people to think more deeply. I’ve had to realize — through much disappointment and sometimes frustration — that my place is to show love and grace in the places where they are most ironic. When people see Christ in us, they are motivated to discover what is different about us. This becomes their why - their motivation - to think about very difficult subjects, like God Himself.

We have to show with our lives that there IS something more to our lives than our to-do lists, starry-eyed career ambitions, and in-the-moment activities. This “something more” involves:

  • seeing the least of these and ministering to them,

  • having an attitude of faith,

  • showing grace when revenge would be “normal,”

  • giving generously time and resources, and

  • sacrificing ourselves for others’ benefits.

I fail at these very, very often, but there have also been times when God has helped me be faithful in them. Reflecting on those times, I’ve seen how they can be very powerful. Here’s a story from my life:

There was someone (an atheist) I knew who was a natural thinker and who started deep conversations as often as I did. However, there was little forward movement over the course of several years! When I was moving away, I felt like the Lord impressed me to give a gift during our last meeting. It was a gift that would cost me a lot of time, but because I felt like the prompting was from the Lord, I gave it anyway. The person’s reaction to the gift was profound - deep gratitude and kindness I hadn’t seen before. Today, I don’t know where the person is in their walk with Jesus, but seeing their reaction to the gift made me believe that act of grace and honest love made a far greater impact towards helping the person think deeply about God than any of those deep conversations we had. Deep conversations are great - but when someone else encounters the attributes of the God that they’ve been thinking about (or not thinking about) - that’s when things really happen.

I believe we see this pattern - encountering God, and then thinking - in the Bible. At the beginning of his ministry, people came to Jesus for healing. They came to him because they could receive something from him. Then, when the blind saw and when the lame walked, others wanted to know more about Jesus – that’s when they began to think about God seriously. An encounter with Christ is the ultimate thought provocation. When we become like Christ, we have the same privilege of encouraging others to seriously think about God.

I’d say that to provoke thought in other people, we must begin by living a different kind of life, embodying a Christlikeness that makes someone pause from his/her endless to-do’s because it reveals an uncommon love that doesn’t compute with a robotic, culturally-inured, and self-minded way of life. Over time - two years, ten years, one week - people will notice. And when they inquire, we should “be prepared to give an answer for the hope that [we] have!”

(Carson Weitnauer) #4

HI @Cruzcontrol93,

I am so appreciative of you raising this for conversation. I think this is one of those ‘obvious’ issues that is so pervasive that we sometimes no longer see it. That is, we just take for granted that people aren’t interested in these conversations and become habituated to talking about other topics instead.

Here are four tips that Os Guinness recommends:

  1. The consequences or logic of a person’s position is more often seen in their life than in words alone.
  2. Don’t be the one who answers all the questions – be the one who asks them.
    – use questions to raise questions
    – use questions to push towards conviction
  3. Use the other person’s prophets.
  4. Search for the signals of transcendence.

I think another factor to consider is that people are generally pretty savvy. For instance, if you had a friend who was generally probing you with questions, and hinting at or looking for opportunities to convert you to Buddhism, you would probably figure it out within a week or two. If you weren’t an evangelistic Christian, then I think you’d probably choose one of two approaches: withdraw from the relationship or politely divert any attempts to bring up Buddhism.

In other words, I recommend we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. The strength of a genuine friendship and a life that is demonstrably different because of our walk with Christ is much more significant than our apologetic. When there is a depth of intimacy with Christ and with our friend, then there may be more opportunities to simply ask for permission to have the conversation.