Start with a Question

by Bill Mowry www.alongsider.com

The adventure of the alongsider begins with a good question. Have you ever noticed how God consistently engages His creation through questions? “Where are you Adam?” “Have you considered my servant Job?” “Whom shall I send?” When God asks questions, He’s not simply collecting information (after all, He is omniscient). I believe His questions are intended to draw His creation into a relationship where reflection and discovery takes place.

Jesus understood the power of a good question. Our Lord exasperated his followers and critics by refusing to give packaged answers to their challenges. Instead, He would respond with a penetrating question (Luke 14:3-6) or an ambiguous metaphor (John 4:13-15). Questions and metaphors raise more questions. Jesus intentionally engaged people in thoughtful discovery and application.

Today’s churches are not at a loss for good programs, books, or study guides to disciple others. With all of these great resources, we can forget the fundamentals of disciplemaking. What would our ministries look like if all we had were the Bible, a relationship, and some good questions? A well placed question is like a hand grenade –exploding in a life with new insights and obedience.

Two principles guide how I use questions in my alongsider ministry. First, I try not to tell people what they can discover on their own. Instead of explaining a Bible passage, I ask questions about the passage. Personal discovery creates personal ownership.

Second, I employ a variety of questions that move beyond the “how” and “what.” “What” questions help people observe. “How” questions encourage application. These questions are important ones to ask, but let’s try some higher level questions.

Higher level questions encourage people to analyze, interpret, feel, and imagine. A variety of questions engages the total person and adds a creative zest to a discipleship time. Take a test drive with these higher level questions. Feel free to fill in the blank with a topic and use them with someone else:

• How would you compare/contrast _________ with ____________?

• Why do you think the author feels this truth is so important?

• If you could debate the point about ________________, how would you do it?

• How do you feel about ________________?

• Imagine ___________ being an integral part of your life. What would be different?

I don’t leave good questions to chance. I write them down on index cards, in the margins of my Bible, or in a study guide before I meet with people or lead a small group. Alongsiders ask good questions in discipling others. What new question can you ask someone in your family, at work, or in a church setting this week? The alongsider adventure begins with a good question.