Jesus was the world’s greatest teacher. He amazed crowds with the stories he told and the depth of his wisdom. But what really made his teaching style so unique and powerful was his mastery of the art of asking great questions. Throughout the Gospels, we discover how Jesus’ questions caused people to really stop and think:

“Who do people say I am? … But what about you? … Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:27,29)
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36)
“What good will it be to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
“Why are you thinking these things?” (Mark 2:8)
“What do you think…? (Matthew 17:25,18:12, 21:28 and 22:42)
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (Mathew 21:31)
“What is written in the Law? … How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26)

In her book, How to Ask Great Questions, Karen Lee-Thorp makes some noteworthy observations about the questions Jesus posed. “His questions were simple, clear, never condescending, always provocative. They made people think for themselves and examine their hearts. Jesus’ questions were always fresh and attuned to the unique needs of the people he was talking to. Instead of following a rote method, he seemed to have thought about how his questions would affect his audience.”

Just as questions were a significant teaching tool for Jesus, questions are also an excellent tool in the hands of his followers. Questions are terrific conversation starters. And the really insightful ones force people to think, look within themselves, examine their hearts, and search for answers. By simply raising a few interesting questions with our seeking friends, we can prompt in-depth spiritual conversations naturally. What is your religious background? How have your beliefs changed over the years? Where would you say you are now in your spiritual journey? What are your hang-ups about Christianity? These, and all sorts of similar type questions can become the nudge a seeker needs to open up and disclose spiritual roadblocks and eventually take steps to overcome them. “Just think what could happen,” Becky Brodin writes in a Discipleship Journal article called Let Me Ask You Something, “if we would slow down the verbal exchange by asking good questions, listen intently to hear what the other person is thinking and feeling, and, in the spirit of conversation, talk, truly talk, about the Gospel.”

Jesus’ example of using questions to fuel spiritual conversations succeeds not only with individuals, but also with groups. Asking lots of stimulating questions is the key to facilitate exciting discussions and interactions within a seeker small group setting. That’s not the place to teach or preach and give a monologue. In fact, the role of the leader consists primarily of asking a series of provocative questions to challenge group members’ thinking, explore the feelings behind their statements, and compare what they believe with what the Bible teaches. This process provides seekers with an excellent opportunity to tackle and discover spiritual truths for themselves.

When people verbally respond to thought-provoking questions, they are, in effect, processing their thoughts out loud—which greatly enhances learning, comprehension and retention. We’ll know the seekers in our lives are really starting to understand spiritual matters when they articulate their findings in their own words. Great questions not only create opportunities for learning, but they also aid people in remembering what it is they are discovering. Seekers remember what they say far better than what they hear us say. And they retain what they discover for themselves way more than what they get force-fed from us. By asking questions, we give them the chance to do just that. Our questions will spark this discovery process and encourage them to articulate out loud the spiritual truths they are beginning to grasp.

As we cultivate the skill of asking carefully thought-out questions and then patiently allowing seekers the freedom to grapple with the answers, we put ourselves in the position to witness firsthand some amazing “ah-ha” moments. When a seeker says, “I’ve never quite understood things this way before” or “I’m finally getting it!” or “Wow, this is all starting to make sense to me,” we can almost see the light bulbs click on and the puzzle pieces fit together. Let’s focus on asking great provocative questions, and look out for those moments to happen over and over again in our on-going dialogues with our seeking friends.

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