The reason for this little announcement was that the Q&A was to some degree the beginning of a process of assimilation into the church. The non-Christians needed to get into a venue where they could more systematically explore the case for Christianity. The Christians needed to get to a place where they could be more systematically instructed and readied for church membership and other ways of participation in the body.
Afterward I always left time to talk to those who lingered. There were usually one or two who had a question they didn’t want to pose publicly. For many people, my accessibility at those moments, and my interaction with them, was an important way for them to come to trust the institution of the church. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had a similar time of “calling hours” after each service when inquirers and others could see him, usually briefly, to get an answer to a spiritual or pastoral question.
Here are five reasons to do this yourself:
1. It’s a way to get instant feedback on your sermon.
You will quickly discover if you raised more questions than you answered, if you gave false impressions and so on. The Q&A is good pedagogy. Lecturers leave time for questions because they want to be sure listeners have understood them. Often the Q&A teaches you that you weren’t as clear as you thought you were. It’s a tremendous way to upgrade your preaching.
2. It’s a way to get bystanders—people coming but not committing—to become more involved.
For many it was their first step in doing something more than come to worship. It was a way to get to meet the pastor of the church personally (since the Q&A was a much smaller gathering than the service itself) and often to meet others in the church.
3. It’s a way to do evangelism on Sundays.
Not every Sunday, but usually, non-Christians asked me questions and I was able to point them (and the other non-Christians present) to the gospel. Many non-Christians were actually shocked that a minister would let himself be publicly questioned, and that a church would provide a forum for skeptics to express their doubts. It was also a way to draw nonbelievers into a longer process of exploring the faith.
4. It’s a way to model how Christians should talk to people about the faith.
There were always a few longtime members who stayed for the Q&A to learn how to field objections to Christianity and questions from their own colleagues and friends. I often had prickly or even hostile people say abrasive things to me in the session. That was a great opportunity to teach how to not be defensive, threatened, angry or patronizing, but to be gracious to someone with an opposing view. Many nonbelievers watched carefully how those kinds of angry objections were received. When we responded with grace, it made the gospel look much more plausible.
5. It’s a way to learn to think on your feet, and to develop good, brief answers to the main questions people in your time and place have about Christianity.
It will make you both a better pastor and preacher. In particular, it helps you as a preacher discover what’s on people’s minds, both believers and nonbelievers. It helped me to understand the culture in which they were living. It also helped me, later in my sermon preparation, to address from the Word of God the issues troubling them. It’s too easy for preachers to answer questions from the Bible their people aren’t really asking.
I am so grateful that a post-service Q&A session was part of our church’s rhythm for many years. The benefits were enormous, and I commend the practice to you.