They are familiar words. Many versions exist. Some are rich with local flavor. In California you might hear a pleasant, “How are you?” In Minnesota: “How you’s doing?” Down south a buddy might say, “What’s hapnin’? Or, “¿Qué pasa?”

Where I live, people acknowledge another person’s presence with a quick upward nod of the head and slightly raised eyebrows, while uttering, “How-ya’-doin’?” (Think: Philly tough guy and you’ve got the accent.)

This is usually not a serious inquiry into our personal wellbeing, though. It really is nothing more than a casual greeting.

When people “ask” us this question, they generally aren’t expecting an answer. In fact, just for grins, I’ve tried responding a few times. The reactions of some people can be quite entertaining. Most are caught completely off guard.

Pondering this common practice brings to light a matter of great seriousness. This casual greeting seems to be reflective of a casualness that is permeating our culture. It seems that people are willing to engage in perfunctory greetings, but nothing more.

In some places I’ve been, this attitude seems to be creeping into the Christian community. It makes me wonder: Are we becoming content with casualness?

Sometimes, relationships amongst members of our church family just aren’t what they ought to be. Our interactions are often more like marbles clicking together in a box than children of God interacting as family.

We casually bump into one another occasionally, but never really interact. When we do interact, we do so with a relatively small and static group of people. Consequently, most members, especially newer members, find that becoming part of a new church family is a grueling task, rather than a joyous journey. Deborah Simmons has an excellent post about this on her blog. Unfortunately, many people feel more like observers of congregational life than participants.

How, then, do we navigate these choppy waters? Two words: transparency and accountability.

First of all, I believe it would help us to build community if we would become more transparent. Only then will we open our lives to the extent that we can fulfill the mandates of relational Christianity described in the New Testament. Only then can we encourage and be encouraged; admonish and be admonished; teach and be taught; and etc.

One of my favorite songs is God’s Family, written by Lanny Wolfe, describes what I’m talking about here:

God’s Family

Verse 1
We're part of the fam'ly
That's been born again
Part of the fam'ly
Whose love knows no end
For Jesus has saved us
And made us His own
Now we're part of the fam'ly
That's on its way home

And sometimes we laugh together
Sometimes we cry
Sometimes we share together
Heartaches and sighs
Sometimes we dream together
Of how it will be
When we all get to Heaven
God's family

Verse 2
When a brother meets sorrow
We all feel his grief
When he's passed through the valley
We all feel relief
Together in sunshine together in rain
Together in vict'ry through His precious name

And sometimes we laugh together
Sometimes we cry
Sometimes we share together
Heartaches and sighs
Sometimes we dream together
Of how it will be
When we all get to Heaven
God's family

Verse 3
And though some go before us
We'll all meet again
Just inside the city
As we enter in
There'll be no parting with Jesus we'll be
Together forever God's family

Secondly, I believe it would be helpful for us to begin to emphasize and practice accountability. This is at heart of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Jesus said disciples are to be about the business of learning and doing the things He commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). If we are going to help one another become what Jesus wants us to be—that’s what accountability is all about—we must develop mighty strong relationships.

The means by which we do this is easily identified, but not so easily practiced. If we will begin to practice the “one another imperatives” alluded to above, we will simultaneously build strong relationships and help one another grow to be more like Jesus. Like I said, it’s easier said than done. Still, this is what we are called to in Christ—lovingly holding one another accountable in our walk in the Master’s steps.

We need to ask one another, “How-ya’-doin’?” and mean it!

© Bill Williams

June 10, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Discipleship Training, Evangelism, Following Jesus, Life, Reading, Religion, Spirituality & Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to How-ya’-doin’?

  1. Nancy says:

    Hey Bill! This made me think of my good friend who was having marital problems when he went to check out a “small group” Bible study at a new church. They asked him to introduce himself, so he said,

    “Hello, my name is “Hugh,” my wife and I are struggling because we’ve both been having affairs, relationships that began out of our mutual addiction to cocaine.”

    And everyone smiled and went on to the next person.

  2. Back home in Oklahoma we’d say that’s “getting down to the nitty-gritty-from-the-get-go”! Unfortunately, most of us aren’t equipped to handle such revelations. I hope “Hugh” and his wife did find help, though. Do you know if he/they did?

  3. Dee Andrews says:

    I just wrote a long (and much too revealing) post here about the issues of transparency and accountability and when I went to submit it, it disappeared. So I have to think that it was for the best. So much for me sticking my neck out and being transparent and accountable.

    I guess I’m much to cynical and skeptical (the older I get the worse it is, I think), but I’ve been terribly burned in the past in trying to be that way and have since greatly curtailed my ingrained inclinations to be that way with anyone other than those I’ve long known and fully trust.

    On the other hand, because of my own experiences and prior often judgmental thinking, I ever strive to be a person that anyone could confide in about any matter. I always told my kids that as they were growing up, that there wasn’t anything they couldn’t tell me and I meant it and they did tell me all that troubled them.

    I practiced that attitude as an attorney and I practice that still as a wife, mother, friend, sister, in whatever way I can serve and offer sympathy and/or empathy.

    BTW – here in South Mississippi and over in south Loooseana, the prefered greeting is “hey,” as in “hey, how ya’ doin’.” That’s why I tend to start emails (and, of course, phone calls) with “hey.”

  4. Hey, Dee, how ya’ doin’?

    I don’t know what to tell you about the glitch. Did you get a screen full of jumbled up characters? That happened to me a couple of times last night. Must have been some gremlin lose in the wiring somewhere.

    Your comments are so thoughtful and usually so encouraging. I enjoy reading them and, oftentimes, take a walk down memory lane with you. Hope your time in worship this morning is uplifting. I just hope the preacher where I am preaches a short sermon! Oh, that’s me! Have a great day!!

  5. Dee Andrews says:

    Well – I’m a big believer in short sermons, myself, but – hey – I don’t have to try to do it every Sunday morning, either. My mom and I are much alike about this. We figure if a guy can’t figure out what most needs to be said about his topic and say it within the first 20 minutes, he’s probably not going to get around to it. (Back to my “get to the point” philosophy in speaking and writing, which you notice I certainly don’t practice as a rule in blogging!

    I wish I could have been in worship this morning, but my current situation dictates otherwise so I try to spend my Lord’s Days engaging in as much Christian service as I can, either here at home with Tom in whatever we’re doing or online commenting or emailing or whatever. I try to really use it as the “Lord’s” day, in other words.

    Thanks for all of your well wishes and kind words, too.

    So far today since I’ve been up, Tom has been sleeping nearby on the sofa after working yesterday from 10 a.m. until 5 a.m. this morning trying to get the Sunday paper out. Post-Katrina trials and tribulations abound still.

    So I’ve been here on my computer trying to type “quietly” while I read and comment aroundand trying not to worry about the first tropical storm of the season on its way into the gulf.

    God help us all.

  6. Jennifer says:

    A couple of my friends and I (all in our early-mid 30’s) think that this lack of transparency is ONE reason why the divorce rates are so high within the church. We feel (some of us from experience) that members of churches are programmed to leave who they really are at the door of the church. You know…go into Sunday School with a smile on your face, holding your honey’s hand, when seconds before you were at each other’s throats.

    I think there is some unwritten rule that we believe that we have to have it all together in our faith communities. Sure, we tell the unbelievers that they don’t need to get their acts together before receiving Christ….just come to Him as you are. He’ll accept you. We’ll accept you. However, if you plan on coming back here AFTER you have accepted Him as your Savior, THEN you’d better be cleaned up and cleaned up good because we just don’t know what to do when a couple comes in our Sunday School class and mentions that there are…..gasp…..whispers….PROBLEMS!

    I have been discussing divorce, but it applies to all human conditions. I have a friend who is embarrassed to reunite with an old college friend because her husband has gone off track sexually and has become addicted to porn. I myself am reticent to reconnect with people from my past for fear they will shun me because my husband left me for another.

    So, what do we do? We put a smile on our faces, and when asked how we are doing, we simply say, “Fine. And you?” And we keep on walking as the tears begin to roll….

  7. Dee Andrews says:

    Jennifer –

    I understand and fully appreciate your situation and all of the ramifications thereof. Believe me, I do.

    And I described myself as a cynic and skeptic in my first comment above in talking about these issues of transparency and accountability with each other in the church as Christians.

    Yet, having said that, I have to say that I persevere(d) and have come (some 19 years now after going through a divorce – good grief, has it been that long ago?) to a place in my life within several most wonderful fellowships where I feel I indeed “belong” and can be of service and encouragement using all of my talents I’m capable of using for the glory of God.

    It WAS very difficult for me at first and I DID tread lightly and carefully in trying to find a place to fit in. It wasn’t easy and I won’t tell you it is. For me it was so difficult that I ended up not being part of any fellowship for more than four years. I thought at that time I would never go back or ever be (or allow myself to be) a part of any church again.

    But God provides and is faithful in all, even when we aren’t. Thanks be to God my circumstnances changed in what I deeply consider to be providential ways, and I moved to a new place in a new situation where I could once more be part of a vibrant, loving, caring group who accepted me and each other in every way.

    The last three churches (congregations) I’ve been in have been wonderful. I’ve now moved to a new town (where I once lived, actually, where things were really terrible for me and my kids through the divorce) and so must begin again. But you know what? Since we’ve moved here, God has worked providentially again (IMHO) to remove some major obstacles from my path in trying to re-connect with the fellowship here and I look forward to when I can get out of the house from my current confinement to do so. I’ve already talked with some very close friends from long ago when I lived here before who have been very encouraging about me coming to work with them.

    I don’t know where you live or how things are exactly where you live and I understand the deep problems some have about problems such as you describe, but I would encourage you to do this. Pray and pray and pray, first of all. And seek out those in your fellowship who you CAN talk with and share with and work with.

    I truly believe God will work it out in your life, as well as mine. I KNOW He will. No doubt in my mind.

    This journey through life is not an easy one, nor is it without its tragedies. They are many and some of the worst have and are occuring among those who claim to be Christians. But God is above all and His love and grace for you is not determined or limited by the behavior of others here in this life.

    So – what do you do? Let the tears roll in whatever circumstances you find yourself? Perhaps. For now. But that is not the END of the story. Hopefully not even in this life, no matter how dark things may seem at the moment.

    Also hold fast to your Father’s promise that He loves you above all and will care and provide for you and sustain you – through all. Because He will.


  8. Thank you, Jennifer and Dee, for your transparency. The poignancy of your comments reflects, IMO, deep thought and intense emotions—both of which are not easy open up about. So, again, thank you for sharing. My sense is that many readers will be benefited. May you both continue to experience the comfort of God’s grace. -bill

  9. Greg England says:

    We’ve been very intentional about trying to be more transparent in our lives and in our church fellowship and worship. Stupid comment … we could not be more transparent than in our worship for God see our hearts and knows our thoughts. But aside from that, it is not an easy task to bring people into this aspect of relationship.

    Years ago I shared a struggle of mine from the pulpit and was “reprimanded” by the wife of the other minister (supposedly retired after some 40 years or more of preaching) for daring to suggest that ministers are less than ideal. She said the people need to see us as strong! I said, “No, they need to see us as real.” We never got along very well. But I often thought of writing a book titled, “The Transparent Pulpit.”

  10. Yes, Greg, yes! Well, I’m not referring to your initial comment. I think we can actually engage in some pretty ritualistic, non-transparent “worship”. But, that’s another topic.

    The thing you said about the need for ministers to be “real”: that’s what I’m amening. You should write the book, brother. And, I’m not just tossing around gratuitous adulation. I’ve found the posts on your blog to be refreshingly “real”. If you need someone to write the forward, I’d gladly volunteer. Perhaps I just did! Go for it!

    Grace and peace to you,

  11. Jennifer says:


    Thanks for your words. Actually, I am pretty much over my part in the “tears rolling” season; however, as a DivorceCare facilitator I see many people each week (all from different churches and denominations) who are struggling with the embarrassment of divorce and are finding it hard to be transparent outside the walls of our support group. In fact, some people won’t even go back to their churches because they don’t want to face their priest/pastor or fellow congregants.

    My reason for using divorce as an area where it can be hard to be transparent was because I know from my own experience as well as the experience(s) of those to whom I minister.

    But it could be anything….an addiction to porn, an addicted to gambling, a struggle with an eating disorder, etc. It seems that when the prayer time rolls around, we hear mostly about people’s physical ailments; rarely, if ever, do we hear their struggles. People are NOT transparent in most churches, and without transparency there can be no accountability.

  12. Natalie Rae says:

    lol – you mentioned that Americans ask ‘how ya doin’ often, but don’t expect an answer. Aussies tend to ask, ‘how are you’ as a greeting. my phillopino step mother found this bemusing and silly. She would often ask why people asked ‘how are you’, when they really didn’t want to know the answer. she took to answering ‘how are you’ with ‘i’m beautiful’…it got many suprised reactions

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