We often want to skip this. We like to move, too quickly I am afraid, to explanation and application. Perhaps this is because we are so familiar with the text we assume everyone is, or perhaps we just don’t want to take the time. It seems more interesting to get to the fun stuff.
It is safer to assume that many are fuzzy on at least the details of the text and need to be reminded. Many people don’t read well. We serve them by getting them thoroughly acquainted with what the text says. If we are doing our outreach well we will have a number of people who do not know the Bible well. It is a shame for a teacher not to have a number of spiritual babies or pre-Christians in their class. Sometimes you hear comments that make you think teachers are proud of how well the whole group knows the Bible and grasps deep spiritual truths. “Everyone in my group knows the Bible really well,” a teacher will brag. This can mean good teaching or it can mean that no outreach is taking place. Healthy groups have spiritual babies in them.
It is a shame for a teacher not to have a number of spiritual babies or pre-Christians in their class.
“What the text says” questions are good questions to draw out quiet, shy, or introverted people. Just get them used to opening their mouth in front of this group. I might call on a quiet person to look at a specific verse and tell me one bit of information from that verse. I make sure it is a question the can successfully answer. You can bet they will pay attention. Alternatively, you can break the group up into small groups of 3 – 5 and send them on a fact finding mission. Here are some examples, along with the verses so you can really see how they work.
☞ Jerry, who was the demon possessed man commanded to tell?
Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” ( Mark 5:19)
● Follow up question: what is the application? (This is asked to the whole group.)
☞ John, how does Paul describe what God has done for us in verse 21?
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ( II Corinthians 5:21)
● Follow up question: How does it feel to you to say, “God has made me to be the righteousness of God?” From there I might ask questions like the following.
⇒ Why does it feel awkward?
⇒ Is it true, or is this just hyperbole or God-talk?
⇒ What difference would it make if we came to accept this on face value?
⇒ If I am the righteousness of God, why do I so often feel like a crumb
⇒ If I am God’s righteousness, why do I sin so much?
⇒ How could we come to take ownership of this truth so that our feelings about ourselves were not so far from what the Bible says?
● I might also throw in a short talk on how identity produces behavior. I believe in a rather heavy use of questions in teaching. But, don’t be afraid to lecture, or preach a bit here and there. We need both good interaction around the Word and a prophetic, “thus sayeth the Lord” voice.
☞ Sarah, what is the job description of pastors and teachers in verses 11 and 12, and by implication, what is the job description of everyone else? (This more complex question I would only ask to someone I knew could handle it.)
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, To prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. ( Ephesians 4:11, 12)
- Follow up questions: What do you think these works of service include? What are some examples? What works of service have we been equipped for and done in the last three weeks?
Just a word about open ended, and closed ended questions in leading discussions. Closed questions have one right, normally simple, answer. “Who was the demon possessed man commanded to tell?” is a closed ended question. There is not a lot of difference of opinion on this. The demon possessed command was commanded to tell his family. Open ended questions, on the other hand, can be answered in a variety of ways. There is no one right answer. These are the meat and potatoes of the lesson that really produce the life changing conversations. Closed ended questions are the hors d’oeuvre that bring people to the table. They should be used in a limited way just to get the facts out in the open. Quite bluntly, they are not all that interesting. However, before we can eat the meal, we have to set the table. Closed ended questions can get the facts of the passage on the table very quickly so the group can discuss them.
Alternatively, the teacher may not want to use a question at all to get the facts before the group. These facts can simply be stated by the teacher. The teacher might say, “Jesus commanded the demon possessed man to go home and tell his family. What is the implication for us?” Either approach is valid. Asking the group tends to take more time, but, it does involve the group and establishes the Bible more firmly as the source of authority. It can also be used effectively to draw out quiet people. If you do use the quick, closed ended question, make it quick and move on to the good stuff.