If Tree Top, the apple juice company, offered your church a donation for outreach ministries, would you take it? What if Coca-Cola gave a contribution, no strings attached, to your building fund? Or if Budweiser sent a sizable amount for your missions project?
Some of you will consider those questions carefully. Others of you will dismiss them altogether—after all, they pose hypothetical situations that probably won't happen to you.
Back in my elementary school days, teachers largely discouraged hypothetical questions (apparently, considering what would happen if the sun were to blow up wasn't helpful). But these days, I use hypothetical questions to help me evaluate how others might view a situation.
Currently, my church is developing a partnership called SuDance to raise money for an orphanage in war-torn Sudan. While most current aid to Sudan focuses on relief (food and medical supplies), my church wants to build infrastructure there. To help with these efforts, two DJs who are Christians approached my pastor and proposed gathering their buddies—some of the world's most sought-after DJs—to hold fund-raising dance events across the country. The volunteer DJs potentially could raise $100,000—ten times the amount my church collected for Sudan last year. Additionally, at the events the DJs would display photos of Sudanese orphans and ask dance-goers to sponsor individual children.
Here's the rub: These events would be secular gatherings held in venues serving alcohol.
After prayerfully considering this partnership's implications, my pastor contacted the church's district superintendent and received the denomination's approval. My pastor also posed hypothetical questions, similar to the ones mentioned above, to several of our church's leaders. Some of his hypotheticals seemed benign, while others made me shudder. He used these questions to get the congregation thinking: How will other people receive this partnership?
After we considered the hypotheticals, my pastor turned our attention to a bigger question: Can two groups with different value systems work together for a cause they both value?
My pastor's hypothetical questions gave me perspective on the issue. My first thought was, This partnership will offend some people. My pastor's bigger question reminded me we sometimes need to move beyond this worry, because we'll never achieve universal agreement on any idea. (When a church needs new carpet, the question of tan or gray can nearly bring Christ-followers to fisticuffs!) If my church avoided doing anything potentially divisive, we'd end up immobilized.
Those hypothetical questions also helped my church gauge whether this partnership could damage someone's faith. This consideration is crucial when making decisions either as individual Christians or as churches: "Be careful … that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak" (1 Corinthians 8:9).
Reflecting on hypothetical questions prepares you to respond to opportunities. When you ask, "if we did this, how would we do it?" you also invite others to contribute to the idea, and you may gain needed skills or know-how. Another pastor at my church was interested in developing community outreach programs, but she didn't know how to get started. As soon as she expressed interest, however, people began offering information and assistance.
So I'll keep asking those hypothetical questions. And I'll keep looking in the mailbox for that check from Coca-Cola … or whoever else wants to support my church's efforts.
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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