“How are you doing?” We hear and use this pleasantry all the time. And often the typical response is, “I’m fine, thank you.” But there are times when that seemingly benign question can open up deep meaningful conversations about the most important issues in life!
In fact, there are times when a seemingly benign question may open up the door to be able to pose the most important of questions: “Who do you think Jesus is?”
In this submission we unpack a critical conversation concept:
Questions are the key that open up conversational doors.
In the context of personal relationships where you have regular touch points with an individual, there is certainly time to ask lots of questions that propel conversations along. And hopefully, at some point, that most poignant of questions can be posed. Jesus had an established relationship with the disciples when “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” (Matthew 16:15)
Think about this subtle but powerful difference in thinking about conversations with others – Do I want to speak ‘to’ someone or speak ‘with’ someone about spiritual matters? Speaking ‘to’ someone conveys the idea of talking at them and wanting to get your own point across at all costs. In contrast, speaking ‘with’ someone conveys the idea of working together, sharing ideas and thoughts, seeking understanding. Questions provide a great platform for this kind of synergy.
Questions affirm others. Inquiry communicates that we care about what another thinks, believes and feels. We know Christians are sometimes accused of simply wanting to talk and be heard. Yet a winsome and humble witness will include the willingness to listen. And listening will be the result of asking questions.
In our everyday lives with people in our respective relational orbits, we have the time, margins, and regular touch points to allow relationships to unfold, rapport and trust to be built. So take the pressure off.
Now, after building rapport and trust, at some point it’s fine to test the waters and ask probing questions. Risk-taking is part of the conversational process. And questions are part of that risk-taking process. Remember, trial and error is part of that process along with lots of prayer, wisdom and discernment.
Aside from building a rapport with people, the art of questioning is essential in what we might call taking someone’s “spiritual temperature.” Questions help us find out answers that will ultimately help us know whether an individual is open or closed to Jesus? I can tell you that if someone is not open to God, I’m just a guy. What can I do? If someone is not open to talking about spiritual matters, that’s ok. For those in our regular sphere of influence, it doesn’t stop us from loving them, serving them and praying for them. And specifically, praying that some soon tomorrow they may be open to talking about spiritual things and even Jesus!
I coached our son Elijah’s little league team for a couple of years and while involved in the league developed a friendship with one of the league officials, Jack (not his real name), whose son also played. Jack knew I was a minister at a local church. One day at the baseball complex, Jack took a moment to share with me how he and his family were attending a local church and he was really enjoying it.
I told him I was glad he was enjoying it. Then I asked, “Jack, how about Jesus? What do you think about Him?” A direct question. Certainly a probing question and a risky question. His response, “I don’t want to talk about it.” And that concluded that line of questioning.
Healthy conversations include respecting boundaries. This includes only going where people allow you to go. I could have asked him, “Jack, why don’t you want to talk about Jesus?” But where do you think that would lead? Can you say awkward moment.
Here is a short list of questions that can be posed to point a conversation toward the spiritual:
- Have you ever thought much about faith?
- Do you have any kind of spiritual belief?
- What’s your religious tradition?
- What do you think about God?
- What do you think about the Bible?
- What do you know about Jesus or who do you think Jesus is?
- How do you know what your believing is true?
- What do you think God wants from you?
- Do you think you’re a good person? Why?
- What do you think happens to you when you die?
Click here for an additional article with lots more conversation starter questions.
The type of questions above can open doors to spiritual conversations. When people are open to engaging, vistas of understanding can be acquired to the benefit of your relationship and witness.
In their excellent book entitled Conversational Evangelism, Norman Geisler and David Geisler point out the necessity of conversations over presentations in our post-modern world. While not disregarding the necessity of being able to present the gospel, they note the importance of conversations be added to our witness. The world we live in has changed. They note: “The rejection of moral absolutes, skepticism and indifference towards truth, and even an increasing intolerance toward those who believe in absolute truth characterizes today’s spiritual landscape. Because of these changes many more people are less interested in a simple presentation of the gospel.” [Norman Geisler and David Geisler. Conversational Evangelism. Harvest House Publishers, 2009; pg. 18]
Evangelism is a process. The Geisler’s agree, noting: “We should take the long-term view and leave that person with the desire to continue the conversation.” Conversational Evangelism; pg. 24
Respect the process, understand everyone is on a journey, and trust God to guide and lead our conversations. Remember, questions are a wonderful catalyst in moving conversations along.
If you’ve not had much experience in this realm, it’s a great opportunity to trust God. He’ll give us the right words at the right time. Conversations and the posing of riskier questions is a process of trial and error. And even when we think we’ve blown it, that’s ok. It’s part of the process of learning, growing, and depending on God to use us as His witness.
Next time we’ll focus on the importance of listening in conversations. For now, get the ball rolling by asking leading questions and see where God takes it. Enjoy the journey!
“But who do you say that I am?” – Jesus (Matthew 16:15)