Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Driving Question

Written by: on January 25, 2021

In each of our journeys, there is a question that drives and guides the paths we take. While that may seem confining to some, the reality is that the question evolves and morphs as the journey continues. The question that drives us is not static, but it is dynamic. New information, new experiences, new insights, new people, new places, etc. influences the way that we see that question and can give it new life when it becomes stale. The question does not stay the same because we do not stay the same.

For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the question he pursued the rest of his life was, “What is the church?”[1] Bonhoeffer grew up in Germany in a family that can be described as an intellectual amalgamation of religion, the arts, humanities, science, and reason. The influences on Bonhoeffer are staggering and the pedigree of his family is one that would make your jaw drop.[2] Bearing this in mind, Bonhoeffer’s initial desire to pursue the path of the theologian came from a young age.  When he was fourteen, he made the decision to tell his family it was his desire to pursue studying theology. However, it was his holiday in Rome during his years in university that would light the spark to his driving question.

On Palm Sunday in 1924, Bonhoeffer attended Mass at St. Peter’s. He wrote, “The universality of the church was illustrated in a marvelously effective manner.  White, black, yellow members of religious orders – everyone was in clerical robes united under the church. It truly seems ideal.”[3] Metaxas notes that this was the time when Bonhoeffer saw the church’s transcendence of race and national identity.[4]

Throughout Bonhoeffer’s life, the question of the universality of the church, it’s implications for the lives of Christians, and how it was to interact with the world would push him into the arena (something I’ll pursue in a later post talking about Bonhoeffer’s insistence that the true church has skin in the game with the suffering and oppressed). But it started with stepping outside of what he knew and grew up with – namely, German Lutheran Christianity – into the world beyond it to gain new insights and to open his eyes.

The discovery of a driving question differs from person to person. For some, it is a huge, eye popping “burning bush” moment. For others, it is a gradual pilgrimage of discovery as the scales are slowly stripped from our eyes. A friend of mine used to always say, “We’re all on different journeys.” What forms and shapes one person may not do so for another, and that’s okay. The destination matters, but it is the journey that shapes us along the way.

…but maybe it isn’t so much that it is a question that drives us, but rather WHO drives us. The questions that drive us are not static because the One who inspires those questions is not static. We step along the road with humility and wonder as we journey toward a deeper understanding and transformation of the heart, mind, body, and soul.

May we lean into and reflect upon the journey that has brought us this far.  The moment that we step out, the moment we experience life for the first time and take those first steps along that uncharted path where God is waiting for us…that’s always a journey worth taking.



[1] Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer ( ) 52.

[2] Ibid., 7.

[3] Ibid., 52.

[4] Ibid.

About the Author

Dylan Branson

Small town Kentuckian living and learning in the big city of Hong Kong.

13 responses to “The Driving Question”

  1. Greg Reich says:

    I commented in Jer’s post that I am amazed at how the Spirit leads each one of us differently in to becoming like Christ. I find it comforting that God knows just what it will take to draw us closer to him. Though many of us want a burning bush experience God knows just what we need to move us forward on the journey. I have often thought that it is the Christ shaped void within us that formulates the deep questions that draws us forward. Though the questions differ within the individual the answers always are summed up in Christ.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      I’d agree with you about the Christ-shaped void being a force that helps to form our questions and path. It’s that draw into something more, something that gives us purpose, that pushes and pulls us along the path. That God knows the best way to guide us and call us speaks to how unique His love for each of us is.

      What were some of the moments in your own life that God used to form and guide your own question / path?

  2. Shawn Cramer says:

    It’s interesting watching you and Jer both interact w/ Bonhoeffer about different (but related) emphases. Two quick things I like about your post: I hadn’t put it in those words, but you are right, the driving question is dynamic. It’s not an electron that can never be pinned down, but it does morph, adapt, and change, for sure. Also, I like the emphasis on the WHO. In Galatians 1-2 this morning Paul talks about preaching the gospel multiple times, but once he says, “I might preach HIM.”

    • Dylan Branson says:

      Yeah. I think it’s similar to what Greg was talking about in regards to the “Christ-shaped void” in that the lack of God or the desire to know that higher purpose / higher Being is the one behind guiding us and developing the question/drive. As we come to know and understand God more and more intimately, maybe that’s where the shift begins to really change to our question.

  3. Darcy Hansen says:

    I love the simplicity of Bonhoffer’s question, and yet, it was a question that would take a lifetime to answer- shoot, lifetimes, even. It seems God gives a simple question that evokes more layers of questions, that when answered have profound implications. What simple driving question has God given you, and what subsequent questions followed? How have those other questions changed or not changed your initial question? And what impact has that had on your life and that of others in your sphere?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      For me, that initial driving question was simply, “What’s my purpose?” (maybe that’s actually the initial question we all start with before it morphs into something else). That evolved at a young age to “Who is God?”, which is ultimately led me into pursuing my seminary degrees in undergrad. I saw the church as a reflection of God in a lot of ways, so when I had my Dark Night of the Soul, it was like God had abandoned me when I felt the church had (I had never consciously thought of it like that until after I began the journey of healing).

      From there, the question continued to evolve to, “Who am I?” — particularly in relationship to God and church and purpose and everyone around me. In a lot of ways, maybe those questions end up stripping away to the core question of, “Who am I?”

  4. John McLarty says:

    You said the question doesn’t stay the same. What if it does? What if it’s the same question, but the way we approach it changes? And what if the question is ultimately about identity?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      I think as time passes and we grow and further explore that question, our angle on it changes or there’s another part of it that’s stripped away underneath (to borrow Darcy’s language).

      But I would agree that the question at its core stems from the question of identity. Who we are impacts the way that we see the question, so coming to a fuller realization of the Self in relation to God provides a lens that gives us a deeper insight to those questions that stick in the back of our minds.

  5. Jer Swigart says:

    D. Echoing Darcy a bit here, but do you think that Spirit provokes a particular question in each of us? A question that is a bit of a “fingerprint” in that it is uniquely positioned to the individual?

    This also leads me to wonder if about the implications of leaders trying to borrow & live-vicariously through the questions graced to others rather than awaken more fully to that which is simmering within each of us.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      I do think there is something unique – the “fingerprint” – in each of us in regards to question. But we also live in a world that’s so rife with comparison that we’re always looking to the next person to see what they’re doing. We see what drives them and we want that calling/journey for ourselves. But there’s something unique about each of our stories that no one else has point for point.

      I remember in university I was exposed to people with the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” testimony that – at least at the time – was seen as the “pinnacle” of what it meant to have a transformed life. And then there was whole “I Am Second” campaign that served for many as inspiration. Brian Welch – the old bassist for Korn – was an “I Am Second” story that was used time and time again in my uni circles and everyone would be amazed at his transformation. But I also remember at the time, I kept asking myself the question, “Am I really transformed? I didn’t have a story like that…”

      I talked with a friend about it once, someone who had that kind of testimony, and he said, “Be thankful you DIDN’T have that. I wish I had yours.”

      That conversation changed my perspective in a lot of ways and it was fully realized when I went to Hong Kong for the first time. During that first summer, I finally came to an understanding of how important each story really is. My story allowed me to make deeper connections with my students that others wouldn’t and it was a humbling moment when I experienced that.

      In the end, we should be thankful for the stories God has given us and for the unique stories God has given others. There are struggles and challenges in the midst of them, but we see how God uses them in unique and precious ways.

  6. Chris Pollock says:

    He was 18 in 1924. The universality of the Church, coming up with that, that’s BIG for such a young mind!

    With driving questions, I wonder at their origin and the control of the One who is able to answer. Sometimes, there’s an answer and sometimes, there’s not. Or, perhaps there’s not an answer in the form we would like it to be? Perhaps, the problem is then, with the question.

    And, there’s pain to it and, relief too. The universality of the Church could be a good one to consider in this time.

    Questions and answers (or, not answers), what does the journey toward trust look like, between us (one another) and the One who knows?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      I think one of the most difficult things to do at times is to lean into the mystery, wading into the currents of “not knowing.” Like you said, maybe there is an answer, but maybe there isn’t as well — at least not one that we recognize immediately or until much later. But this requires a humility that we aren’t willing to acknowledge or practice at times.

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