A Kingdom-Centered Website for Questioners – Part 2

by Stephen Trout


Lauren Whitman’s daughter was excited about her class hike through a nature preserve – until her glasses disappeared. 

She’d hung them on her collar in order to peer through her binoculars; but when the hike was over, the glasses were gone. To make matters worse, a sudden downpour swept in, making it even less likely the glasses would be found!

Afterward, Lauren recalls their conversation:

“…as she and I trudged along the muddy paths, I was trying to carry the mantle of hopefulness for our little two-member search party. “Look along the edges of the path!” “Keep praying!” “Keep your eyes on the ground!” 

But when we reached the end of the route that her class had traversed without spotting the glasses, discouragement started to set in.”

Can’t we relate? What a perfect metaphor for the journey of faith: we’re moving along fine, enjoying the scenery. Suddenly trouble comes. Things get cloudy; we lose our vision.

Such experiences are common to us all. But what we do next – as Lauren notes – isn’t always approved – either by us, or others. 

“As we turned around to go the same way back and comb back over the same terrain, my daughter’s questions started.

“Why doesn’t God just send angels to show us where the glasses are?”

Good question! “He certainly could do that,” I replied cheerfully.  

A few minutes later: “Why doesn’t God just end all the sin in the world right now?”

A deeper question—and much harder to answer! I could see her logic: a hardship like losing your glasses is connected to a world that isn’t fully redeemed.

We continued to talk and look, look and chat. And when we found the glasses several minutes later—yes, we found them!—I noticed that I felt a little disappointed. 

We were happy, of course, but a simultaneous feeling of disappointment after receiving the blessing of an answered prayer? Curious. Yet I understood it: finding her glasses meant we’d now head home and switch gears. With the glasses found, the tension she had been wrestling with— We’re praying. I know God can answer, but will he?—was resolved. 

My disappointment indicated just how much I valued that she was asking questions about her faith—so much so that I would’ve gladly kept looking for the glasses to give her more time to wrestle with that tension!”

Questions & Wrestling are Scripture’s Model

For many, expressing questions about God’s ways in our lives can seem like a weakness. “If you were really walking in faith,” they say, “you’d respond differently. Say ‘Praise the Lord anyway,’ and move on.”

But is that really what we’re called to? Are we meant to just passively or stoically accept whatever comes our way, without ever voicing our pain, or processing aloud what God is doing? 

Whitman says that on the contrary, questions (like her daughter’s) are actually a sign of honest engagement with God, and of being human. 

Do we question this? Notice the numerous examples in Scripture that show God’s people – and even the perfect human, Christ himself (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”) – questioning in the midst of suffering and pain. 

God includes questions like these in His Word, Whitman notes, to validate emotional engagement: 

“Why, Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1–2)

“How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever? (Psalm 13:1)

“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Habakkuk 1:2)

“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” (Habakkuk 1:3)

Our Ministry and Website

As we saw last week, we all have questions about God’s ways and his love, our guilt and shame, and whether we’ll be accepted. They’re natural in a fallen world.

Loneliness and despair may be understandable apart from knowing God as Father; yet even believers can “lose their glasses” and struggle with difficult providences.

In addition, we are strugglers with sin, often doing the things we don’t want to do (as Paul himself said in Romans 7). 

Yes, it’s true that there is no condemnation in Jesus (Romans 8) – but are we honest about the struggle? Do we validate for others?

So we need to ask a pertinent question: Do we make space – in our relationships as well as on our websites – for those kinds of questions?

  • Are you feeling alone? 
  • Hopeless? 
  • At the end of your rope? 
  • Helpless, possibly in the face of injustice?
  • What are you struggling with, and believing about your situation?

Perhaps we don’t ask because we’re not ready for the answers!

And so we opt for a glittering image of Christianity, everyone smiling and happy, all the time. And if they’re not, well they just need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and fix things.

This is hardly an honest portrayal of the Christian life – life in God’s kingdom of grace. Nor is it a picture of the relational love to which we’re called. 

We’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: we tend to want to change our circumstances, but God wants to change our hearts. 

This is critical, because circumstances and sufferings may not change. A restored vision to see “a big God” who is with us is what we all need most.

This way, when we do face the fire and the storm, we will not ultimately be overcome, for we know and trust that the Lord is with us (Isa. 43). 

Let’s end with some final words from Lauren:

“The very essence of faith is believing in what we can’t see (Hebrews 11:6). That’s not easy to do! We live in a world that’s not our home, where all things haven’t been made right. And in this place, trusting God is not a given. The hope is that greater trust comes on the other side of asking questions. And that is indeed the goal when we wrestle with our uncertainties: that our love for God would increase, and that, after our wrestling, we’d be left with a deeper sense that true rest will only be found with him… when you are struggling with doubts and hard questions, find a trusted person to voice them to, someone who will value them. Wrestle through them together. Pose them to God directly, as the psalmists did—and as Jesus himself did (Psalm 22:1). And be encouraged that your questions are a sign of a living, engaged faith.” 


Lauren Whitman is a counselor with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF). Her original article can be found here.


A Kingdom-Centered Website for Questioners, Part 1

If there’s one thing that’s true of all of us – embedded deep in our hearts from creation – it’s that we ask questions. 

We ask because we’re not self-sufficient; we’re dependent creatures. We need to wonder, wrestle, and learn – it’s actually a good thing. 

Relational inquisitiveness propels exploration, and deepens knowing. Gracious questions can be an expression of love, a way of not being preoccupied with self (1 Cor. 13:5).  

Yet sometimes our questions do reveal our unbelief:  

“Did God really say…?” (Gen. 3:1)

But then God himself comes asking us a question (though he already knows the answer!): “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9)

It’s a way of helping us face ourselves; we’re meant to hear and reflect: “Where am I indeed?” And, “Will I be honest about my hiding, and my guilt and shame?”

Now, since that great fracturing of our relationship with God, we ask even more questions, expressing our deepest fears, hopes, and longings:

“Am I loved? Will I be Accepted?”

“Can I really be forgiven? If so, will I always feel it?”

Is there healing for my shame?”

“What am I looking to (trusting in) to find meaning in my life right now?”


Multitudes of self-help gurus offer answers to these questions – yet their answers send us inward, and leave us wanting. After all, a curved-in self is part of the problem.  

But what if we linked our questions to God’s unfolding story?

The gospel – this “divinely orchestrated narrative” of good news (what “gospel” means) actually drives us outward, away from our own schemes, to the true King.

In other words, as Tim Keller notes, the gospel is news, not advice.

And the good news is, his heart is not set on crushing us (2 Pet. 3:9). He asks us to simply admit what we are, and come open-handed.

When we do, we see that this King is unlike all others, for he stoops from his throne to personally come and rescue us. The devastating effects of our cosmic treason – guilt and shame – are answered with unimaginable grace. 

The Kingdom

Yet what makes the gospel especially good news is that it’s not only our past and future hope, it’s our present hope in the face of heart struggles and sufferings as well.

We may have come to trust Christ as our Savior, yet our deepest questions about being loved, accepted, and finding true meaning still persist.

Thankfully, they find their ultimate answers not in ourselves, but in the finished work of Christ – including what he is now doing: interceding for us, and “making all things new” (Isa. 43:19).

Faith may wax and wane, but the cross and resurrection changed everything; now, wherever the King is, there you will find the kingdom.

So how do we understand this kingdom?

Unlike many conceptions, the kingdom of God isn’t an ethereal, pie-in-the-sky, off-in-the clouds reality. Rather, it’s an unfolding story now taking shape; a King ushering in his new society.

As theologian Nicholas Perrin says, it is a “sphere of reality conspiring with a community of human image-bearers in the task of restoring creation to the worship of the one true Creator God.”

The resurrection of Jesus has opened that door. 

NT Wright fleshes this out for us when he writes:

“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether…They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

Your Website

When it comes to your website, you may have heard the popular saying “content is king.” If you listen to marketing experts, they’ll tell you that you need to use keywords (that come up in searches), well-written content, and good visuals.

These things are helpful, and shouldn’t be neglected.

Yet, we also do justice to God’s work and his unfolding kingdom when our content helps questioners grapple with the true King and his kingdom. As we’ve noted in past posts, your site should anticipate the things they will ask about, with a posture of warm and loving welcome.

We facilitate this welcome by acknowledging that every person has a story. Because we were made for this King, the questions that arise in our stories can be answered in the most healing of ways: 

“Am I loved?” The gospel answers, Yes, you are loved more than you can imagine, for the king has suffered and shed his blood to rescue you (dying the death you deserve) and welcome you into his family.

“Am I accepted?” The Gospel says you’re accepted – even on your worst day. 

“Am I forgiven?” Yes, through faith in Jesus you are completely forgiven. Jesus has sealed the adoption papers in his blood. He will bring the good work he has begun in you to completion.  

“Is there healing for my shame?” Yes, but like our other questions and because of our sin, this is easy to forget. We need continual reminders that through his cross, he has separated our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west, ” and has taken our shame upon himself.  Though we want to take it back sometimes (we insist on self-salvation projects), he says “it is finished.” 

“What gives me meaning in my life right now?” Because we’re still prone to wander, the question of where we look for meaning is always relevant. Even as believers, our heart’s worship can deviate to “self-made, artificial saviors” – whether relationships, jobs, success, feeling good and always entertained, etc. The Gospel reminds us that Jesus is better than all. 

These kinds of questions must be unpacked carefully and continually – on your site, in sermons, conferences, Sunday School lessons, etc., – and especially in God’s new community, the welcoming fellowship of believers. 

It’s easy when it comes to questions of doctrine to simply proof-text answers without fleshing them out. Your website can offer more; inquirers need to hear down-to-earth stories from those in your church family to help them. 

In our next post, we’ll add to the questions above to help your site anticipate the questions that inquirers are asking.



A Grace-full Reconsidering of your Ministry Website – Part 2

I have an older friend who watches a lot of Youtube videos, mostly about what’s wrong with the world.

Sadly, he won’t be running out of videos anytime soon.

The issues he covers run the gamut: race relations, declining civility, gun violence, war, society’s blind adherence to political figures, over-population (he’s not sure about that one), conspiracy theories, gender dysphoria… the list goes on.

By the sounds of it, most of the content he consumes is descriptive — everything that’s wrong with everything. Not much good news.

I’ve sympathized with my friend (I’ve told him so) because I share many of his concerns. The world is indeed a broken place; to deny it would be to walk around with rose-colored glasses, or eyes closed altogether.

Yet the prescriptive part for him — what might be done to address these problems — is an open question.

A Grace-less Meeting

Recently, he mentioned how he’d been invited out to lunch by an old acquaintance. (I was initially encouraged by this, mostly because my friend doesn’t get out much. And since the guy was also active in a local church, I was hoping for some good things).

Yet as my friend described it, he wasn’t 2 bites into his sandwich before the conversation took a turn. The topics covered some of the same issues he sees regularly discussed on Youtube. Now he was fully engaged, eager to add his two cents.

Before long, he found himself quickly disillusioned. Maybe it was the pejorative tone. He couldn’t help but feel that his church friend’s disdainful words — mostly about the “crazy, leftist liberals” and “moral failures” in our country — were actually directed at people like him.

Let’s “take back the country from these godless forces” was the clear, takeaway message. Leaning more to the liberal side (politically) as my friend does, he immediately felt “on the outs.”

So what was this church guy’s prescription for all the world’s problems? Don’t vote for x candidate, vote for y. Or, as author Trevin Wax puts it, Punch left, and coddle right.

I was saddened to hear this, and I told my friend so. I tried to explain that politics — whether you lean left or right — isn’t the main issue in the kingdom of God (It’s true!)

While political causes do have value, they must be demoted — seen as secondary in importance, along with all other things, as the Apostle Paul noted — to the greater goal and implications of proclaiming “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), risen in triumph, and now reigning as the one true King.

Regrettably, self-righteousness and a lack of grace during that lunch had eclipsed the chance for genuine encouragement and fellowship in Christ — which is what my friend needed most.

The Wrong Diagnosis

The story goes that GK Chesterton once took pen in hand to reply to a local newspaper’s polling question, “What is wrong with the world today?” Expecting a long, erudite response from the great thinker, the editors instead received this: “What is wrong with the world today? I am. Sincerely, GK Chesterton.”

In an age of growing pragmatism, Chesterton’s diagnosis was spot-on. It remains so today. In a few words, it sweeps away our default approach: we want to change our circumstances, but God wants to change our hearts.

Yet for many believers and ministries today, the problem is primarily “out there.” Our own struggle with sin — and how we change through daily cleansing, forgiveness, and imputed righteousness in Jesus —isn’t the main part of the conversation.

And yet Scripture is clear: it’s the sin in our own hearts — as Chesterton knew — that creates our greatest need (see Matt. 15:19,20).

Popularly expressed in the idols of political power, nationalism, and self-worship, it’s sin that keeps us from loving God and our neighbors well. Here is the root of so many of our (and the world’s) problems.

When we miss this truth, we end up running to inadequate solutions — other “gospels” (Gal. 1:6–9) — that side-step the real issue of misplaced loves and false worship in our own hearts. We miss the only true cure: gracious love, in the person of Jesus.

What about your Website?

In part one, we asked this about your website:

“Does it address real struggles, and seek to meet people where they’re at — instead of assuming we know, or making them pass some kind of knowledge test to enter our “club?”

Too often, as my friend experienced, the answers we give obscure Christ to a hurting world. If that’s your norm, it’s going to flow into your website.

Instead of the gracious character of God — that he’s “close to the broken-hearted” (Ps. 34:18 ) — we’ll offer a demanding god in our own image.

Instead of “confess your sins to one another, pray that you might be healed,” (James 5:16), we’ll confess everyone else’s sin — even though judgment should begin with the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17)

Instead of works of service, we’ll aim for power plays (“Let us sit at your right hand” See Mk. 10:37) – recognition and status.

No wonder so many today are left to conclude: “Those Christians are all self-righteous frauds; they’re no different from anyone else.”

In light of this, it’s critical that our websites send the right message.

Our aim should be to produce inviting, grace-filled content (blogs, sermons, podcasts, etc.) that fleshes out truly good news, keeping a heart-and-Christ-centered focus central.

(By the way, for an insightful Youtube message on these very things, see Arguing About Politics, by Tim Keller).

All the important “one another” passages of Scripture that envision how we are to relate — such as “love one another, encourage one another, build one another up, etc.” will only truly flow when the Gospel is kept central, and faith is energized. Only then will we be the “aroma of grace” that others breathe in.

It’s the only thing that will attract a hurting world to Jesus (and to us!)

May God give us the grace to be the arms and legs and heart of Christ, and the sweet “aroma of grace” that our world so desperately needs!




Who do you See? Vision and Your Website

It’s kind of weird to live in a culture that needs to be reminded to “see” while  walking:

And yet, “pay attention while walking” is a reminder we all need – because we’re often blind to the things that matter most.  

In contrast, have you ever noticed that Jesus actually stopped in his tracks in order to “see” people?

“Jesus looked at him (the rich ruler), and loved him.” – Mark 10:21

“When the Lord saw her (a widow), his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” – Luke 7:31

For Jesus, looking was a necessary precursor to loving. It wasn’t an interruption to the agenda – it was key to the mission.

If you’re like me, too often we see what we want to see – and it may not be helpful or loving, as author Paul Miller points out: 

“Jesus lowers himself in order to care, while the disciples elevate themselves in order to judge. The disciples see a blind man; Jesus sees a man who happens to be blind. The disciples see an item for debate; Jesus sees a person, a human being like himself. They see sin, the effect of man’s work; Jesus sees need, the potential for God’s work. The disciples see a completed tragedy and wonder who the villain was; Jesus sees a story half-told, with the best yet to come.”

― Paul E. Miller, Love Walked among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus

How beautiful are the eyes of Jesus!

Setting a Vision

Knowing how (as well as who) to see then is not only vital for our ministries, it’s also a great thing to include on your website.

When visitors see a clear vision statement – especially on your main page – they’ll know at once what you’re about, what you’re “here for.”   

Here’s one example, from Redeemer church in NYC:



The Redeemer family of churches and ministries exists to help build a great city for all people through a movement of the gospel that brings personal conversion, community formation, social justice, and cultural renewal to New York City and, through it, the world.


Notice what this vision statement helpfully includes: a who, what, and how, as well as some further, specific impacts or effects:

Who: The Redeemer family of churches and ministries

What (or purpose): …to help build a great city for all people

How: …through a movement of the gospel 

Further Effects (Specific impact): …that brings personal conversion, community formation, social justice, and cultural renewal to New York City and, through it, the world.

A vision statement is a continual reminder of our purpose, of who/what we want to keep our eyes on. Why does this matter?

As Paul Miller again notes, “We begin to resemble what we focus on. If we devote our lives to our jobs, then we mentally take the office to our daughter’s lacrosse game.”

We begin to resemble what we focus on.

Paul (the Apostle) knew this too. None of his efforts for ministry could properly be sustained unless he was turning away from looking at himself (boasting in his flesh).

He had a single focus –  “Christ and him crucified,” because not only does Christ propel us (faith working through love), it’s also the way we change into his likeness:

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:18

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1b, 2

How thankful we can be that Jesus first saw us! May he give us continual grace to see as he sees.



Grace – It’s Still Amazing

It’s amazing what you’ll find at the local Goodwill store…

I had just popped in for a quick look the other day, and found myself (as usual) at the wall of used books. One title immediately jumped out at me: “What’s so Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey.

Since I’d always appreciated quotes from his works and never read this one (even though the book first came out in ‘97), I happily plopped down a buck and took it home.

Allow me to say that the book is outstanding — and I’m hard to please when it comes to such things. So many are poorly written or dry-as-dust, and end up detracting from the one grand story of history.

Full of great stories (Yancey chooses to “show” rather than tell — as good writers will), the book makes for captivating reading. I’ll even go out on a limb and suggest that it should be mandatory reading for ministries and churches — especially those who struggle with being “grace-less” in their preoccupation with culture wars.

You don’t have to look far for those, as this recent tweet suggested: “Getting Christians to set aside such weaponized language (words like “Woke,” “Cultural Marxism,” etc.) is almost as difficult as getting nations to give up nuclear weapons.”

I mention this too because the book led me to another tasty vignette by Yancey — which not only seemed timely for the current crisis in Ukraine but also reminds us just how radical the grace of God really is :

“When the world sees grace in action, it falls silent.”

“Nelson Mandela taught the world a lesson in grace when, after emerging from prison after twenty-seven years and being elected president of South Africa, he asked his jailer to join him on the inauguration platform. He then appointed Archbishop Desmond Tutu to head an official government panel with a daunting name, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Mandela sought to defuse the natural pattern of revenge that he had seen in so many countries where one oppressed race or tribe took control from another…
At one TRC hearing, a policeman named van de Broek recounted an incident when he and other officers shot an eighteen-year-old boy and burned the body. Eight years later van de Broek returned to the same house and seized the boy’s father. The wife was forced to watch as policemen bound her husband on a woodpile, poured gasoline over his body, and ignited it.
The courtroom grew hushed as the elderly woman who had lost her first son and then her husband was given a chance to respond. “What do you want from Mr. van de Broek?” the judge asked. She said she wanted van de Brock to go to the place where they burned her husband’s body and gather up the dust so she could give him a decent burial. His head down, the policeman nodded agreement.
Then she added a further request, “Mr. van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him. And I would like Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God and that I forgive him too. I would like to embrace him so he can know my forgiveness is real.”
Spontaneously, some in the courtroom began singing “Amazing Grace” as the elderly woman made her way to the witness stand, but van de Broek did not hear the hymn. He had fainted, overwhelmed.
Justice was not done in South Africa that day, nor in the entire country during months of agonizing procedures by the TRC. Something beyond justice took place. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” said Paul.
Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu understood that when evil is done, one response alone can overcome the evil. Revenge perpetuates the evil. Justice punishes it. Evil is overcome by good only if the injured party absorbs it, refusing to allow it to go any further. And that is the pattern of otherworldly grace that Jesus showed in his life and death.” – Philip Yancey