By Stephen Jones, Student Ministries Team Leader
I recently began a brand-new, open-ended Bible study with a group of high school teens.
When I say open-ended, I mean I am allowing them to choose the topics of our conversations over the next several weeks. I’ve entitled this series simply, “Hey, I Have a Question…”
Don’t be alarmed—I’ve definitely done this before. In fact, each time I’ve opened this door with teens, I’ve found it to be some of the most interactive conversations we have.
I always start with a caveat.
It’s critical for them to understand from the outset that I DO NOT have ALL THE ANSWERS to their questions. There is no pretense that I could fully explain every mystery related to life and godliness. Those teens are way more engaged with the world (and with God) than we often realize, and their questions are not always simple or detached from real-world applications. Moreover, if they thought I was trying to be The Answers-Man, I would actually undermine my own credibility.
So we start there.
First, I don’t claim to know everything, and second, I don’t even promise to completely answer their questions. (Kind of a letdown, right?) I only promise to hear their questions, empathize with their confusion or misunderstandings, and then try to offer insights from the Scriptures that speak to their inquiries.
This past week, I began with a familiar quote from one of my favorite authors and one of his most inspiring books.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
A.W. Tozer began “The Knowledge of the Holy,” by asserting that how one thinks about God is more important than any other quality or accomplishment in a person’s life… that their conception of God will dictate their spiritual futures and the trajectory of their entire lives… that the foremost task of the church, and every spiritual leader, should be to recalibrate and realign our thoughts about God to the truth of His revelation. The first chapter of the book is aptly titled, “Thinking Rightly About God.”
We thus began our series of questions by acknowledging the importance of thinking rightly about God, agreeing that a fair and honest question about God deserves a thoughtful, even-handed response, that who God is and what He actually said is worth examining, that He should be allowed to speak for Himself, and that He is quite capable of doing so.
I started that way because we needed a common starting point. Not every one of my students believes in God, and even among those who do, there are some radical differences in education, experience, and how they perceive His character and nature. In order to answer their toughest, most intimate questions, we needed a foundation to build on; we needed to find the right wall on which to lean our learning-ladder. Having been checked into that conversation by Tozer’s words of caution, we concluded that meaningful answers to questions about Him, what He said, who we are, or what He desires from us MUST begin with an accurate picture of Him—at least one as accurate as we can conceive.
Then we dove into Scripture. We understand that Jesus Christ is the foremost revelation of Himself to us (Hebrews 1:1-3), and every word of Scripture is God-breathed, infinitely profitable for every application in our lives, revealing to us the Person and work of the son of God. Such is the definition and beginning of a biblical world-view—starting with Scripture, examining the questions of our lives within the lens of who God is, by what He said about Himself. What questions might arise whose answers can’t be found within the Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher of all creation?
That approach was modeled for us in the book of Acts by the first converts on the day of Pentecost. We should observe the way the early church devoted themselves “steadfastly to the apostle’s doctrines…”
They measured their lives using the plumb line of Scripture. They searched the scriptures and devoted themselves to sound doctrine– to thinking rightly about God and His Son, so that they might align their lives with the truth.
Consider those who first heard the gospel at Pentecost. Observe the diversity in their ethnicity and experience. Imagine the questions they must have held about God.
What about the Jews who responded to the fisherman, who claimed God had resurrected Jesus of Nazareth from the dead?
Their response is a model for each of us—to continue steadfastly in studying the doctrines delivered to us, by those whom the Lord sent.
Such is the task of all spiritual leaders and especially Student Ministry leaders, both personally and professionally. It is our task to shepherd the flock God entrusted to us, and to teach them to obey all that God has commanded us. We search the scriptures, that we might be sound in doctrine and face whatever questions this life brings, with a clear sense of direction from His word… and we lead our students in that very same steadfast pursuit.
 Tozer, Aiden Wilson, The Knowledge of the Holy (HarperCollins: New York, 1961), 1.
 Ibid. Tozer continued, “The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. … Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘What comes into your mind when you think about God,’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.”