Jesus was a brilliant teacher. He knew how to tell a story that would propel people into thinking in new categories. He was king of the one-liner. He understood the power of a well-timed, well-phrased question.
- “Who do the crowds say I am?” (Lk. 9:18)
- “Do you want to get well?” (Jn. 5:6)
- “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Mt. 22:42)
- “What do you want me to do for you?” (Lk. 18:41)
- “Which . . . did what his father wanted?” (Mt. 21:31)
Jesus’ questions were simple, clear, never condescending, and 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 seems to have thought about how His questions would affect His audience.
People typically remember far more of what they say than what they hear, and far more of what they discover for themselves than what they are spoon-fed. Hence, a question that sparks discovery and gets people to say out loud what they know is an essential tool in teaching. In a small group, the question is everything.
As a rule of thumb, discussion questions usually look for information that members of the group have but the leader may not have:
- What do you think? (Only you know what you think.)
- What feelings does Jesus’ statement provoke in you?
- With which character do you most identify in this passage?
- What contrasts do you notice in this story?
In each of these cases, the person asking the question is looking for something he or she genuinely doesn’t know. That’s how questions work in normal conversation. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when formulating discussion questions.
 Discipleship Journal, Issue 130 (July/August 2002) (NavPress, 2002).
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