Have you ever been asked this question? Maybe you’ve asked the question of others.
How should it be answered? Is there a right or wrong way?
I recently heard Randy Pope, author of Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church (Leadership Network Innovation Series) share an account of how he has often posed the question, “How is your relationship with God?” to men in his discipleship groups. He often gets answers such as, “Well, I’ve been traveling for two weeks so it’s been really hectic. I haven’t read my Bible as much as I should. I probably am not in a good relationship with God right now.” His response in those situations essentially is to ask, “What does that have to do with what I asked you?”
He gave this example to clarify: if you had been on the road for two weeks and hadn’t seen your wife, maybe just barely spoken to her because of the hectic pace of that period of time, and were asked, “How is your relationship with your wife?” would you say, “Well, probably not that good. I’ve been traveling for two weeks so I’ve been too busy to talk much. I just don’t know about my marriage relationship right now”? Of course not. Admittedly, if you repeated that pattern consistently over time, the relationship would likely begin to disintegrate.
He made a good point about how we evaluate our relationship with God based on our most recent encounters with Him or the lack thereof. But it got me thinking: how should one respond to the question, “How is Your Relationship with God?
My Own Days as a Questioner
For nearly a dozen years as I served as a Christian school administrator, I was tasked with interviewing potential families and students as part of our admissions process. Our school was a bit unique in that we understood our role to be one of discipleship, not evangelization. I’m not arguing for one or the other here, just stating the fact of our understanding of our calling and mission.
Because of that clarity of calling, we only accepted students from middle school to high school who claimed to have trusted Christ for salvation. And we only partnered with families in which at least one parent shared that faith, as well. The simple fact was that we knew if we weren’t on the same page in our understanding of our faith and foundational relationship with God, we would simply be setting ourselves up for constant conflict that would distract from our ability to effectively disciple those who did share our faith.
“How would you describe your relationship with God?” was one question I usually asked each child and each parent in that admissions process. I learned that if I wanted consistently sincere responses that I should ask the child first, because once the parent answered, the child often just followed their lead — “What they said.” (I also discovered that sometimes the child’s response exposed the shallow faith of the parents. But I digress.) I discovered that many people struggled with how to answer the question. So I often gave some follow up questions to give it some further definition, such as, “Do you have a relationship with Him at all? What does that look like on a daily basis?”
Let me tell you, I got all kinds of responses. All kinds. Some were vague religious platitudes about how they had always believed in God. Some cited baptism as a child. Others rattled off their involvement in service at church (choir, Sunday School, pew with the family name on it, hours spent living in the building — at which point the kids often rolled their eyes. By the way, you can learn a lot about a family by the kids non-verbal expressions while their parents are talking. But I digress again.)
Because of the vague responses about God, I changed the question to this: “How is your relationship with Jesus?” When the person’s response didn’t include any reference to Jesus at all, but just a vague allusion to God and the church, I knew I needed to probe deeper. Sometimes that conversation turned to a more evangelistic focus — and not acceptance into the school at that time — while with others it turned out that the person seemed to share our faith but used a different vocabulary to describe it.
I wasn’t looking for anything deep necessarily, just a basic understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a personal commitment to Him. What amazed me many times was that such a seemingly simple question seemed so difficult to answer.
So How Is Your Relationship with God?
After all, the Bible is clear that our relationship with our God is not dependent on our circumstances, and yet often circumstances can expose the fact that we have a shallow relationship with Him — or none at all.
But then all of us have a relationship with God of some kind, don’t we? Even if we have not trusted in Him, we’re enemies and strangers. We’re not neutral. Thanks to the Fall, we’re all born into this world as sinful people opposed to our Maker. I don’t mean that in a harsh manner. It’s just the Biblical description of reality.
Yet even for those of us who, by God’s grace alone, have trusted that Jesus died in our place and for our sins, the question can be a challenging one to answer.
So how would you answer the question, do you have a relationship with God? How should it be answered? Or is there a better question to ask or a better way in which to ask it?
Leave a comment with your thoughts below.