Friday, July 9, 2010

"Just Trust Me" and "You Don't Understand"

Here's the scenario:

You are reading your bible and see something that doesn't make sense to you. Maybe it is a difficult passage to interpret. Maybe the theological truth it indicates seems to conflict with what you have learned elsewhere. Maybe it describes functioning of church life that is different from what you see in your church. Maybe it exhorts you to live in a way that you have never heard before. Regardless, something just doesn't make sense.

You go to your church leadership to ask about what you have read. Maybe you go to your elders, pastors, small group leaders, etc. You ask about it.

There are two responses that, if you receive them, you need to immediately question.

The first response is "Just trust me." This happens when you ask a question and receive an answer that seems unsatisfactory. Maybe it is a vague answer. Maybe it doesn't deal directly with the scripture. Maybe it avoids the situation entirely. Maybe it fails to speak to inconsistencies between what you have read and what you see in the lives of individuals and/or the church as a whole. When you question further, you may receive some form of "Just trust me." Basically, the leader is telling you that he knows best, even if he has failed to provide you with an adequate answer. When he says this, he is avoiding the situation for some reason. Maybe you have pointed something out that makes him uncomfortable. Don't accept this answer. It is a cop-out. Keep graciously asking questions.

A second response, which is related to the first is "You don't understand." You will often receive this answer if you question the popular interpretation of a difficult passage of scripture. You will also hear this if you question church traditions that have no place in scripture. Additionally, if you question the "Just trust me" response, you will probably then hear "You don't understand." This is a fall-back response of some in leadership positions that says, in essence, "I'm the expert and you are not. Therefore, you don't understand but I do because I have read more than you and (maybe) have a seminary degree."

In my life I have met many in church leadership positions who do not answer in this way. They really try to give solid, biblical answers. However, there are certainly some who do not. If your question deals with a relatively obscure matter (such as how Cain found a wife), almost any church leader will try to give a biblical answer. However, if you ask questions that, in particular, challenge how he exercises his leadership or how the church does things, you will often hear the two responses mentioned above.

As examples, here are ten questions that might lead to the "Just trust me" and "You don't understand" answers:

1. Why do so few people talk as we gather together as a church body?

2. Why do we have a scripted service?

3. Why do we celebrate the Lord's Supper in a way that isn't a supper?

4. Why do we spend most of our money on our church building and salaries?

5. Why do we seem to care more about the lost on the other side of the world than the lost in our neighborhood?

6. Why do so few people get to preach?

7. Why do we pay our pastors?

8. Why do we interpret this bible passage (whatever it may be) as descriptive only but not prescriptive?

9. How do we understand the O.T. law in light of N.T. grace?

10. Why do we separate from other Christians over non-gospel issues?

These ten questions are difficult ones. I encourage you to graciously ask your church leadership about them. My hope is that you will receive solid, biblically-based answers.

However, if you receive answers that amount to either "Just trust me" or "You don't understand," don't accept these. Keep graciously questioning.

Keep asking.


Alan Knox said...


Yep. I've learned another way to answer questions. This answer tends to be more honest (at least from me): "I don't know. What do you think?"


Eric said...


I like that humble approach. Also, it makes the person think and be less reliant on others in reading their bibles.

Aussie John said...


I certainly agree with Alan.

A "pastor" I know, from a church not far from me, was tired of people asking questions, such as you suggest, and declared to the deacons,"I'll show them who's boss!"

Surely no one would be noble minded as the Bereans :)

Eric said...


The thing I find interesting on this issue is that there are plenty of pastor/elders who are willing to humbly answer the hard questions and even be challenged. I suppose we can fairly easily get a clue about their character and ideas of leadership by simply inquiring about why they do what they do.