If someone came up to you and asked, “What do I need to do to get eternal life?” how would you respond?
Would you dive in sharing the bridge or another illustration? Ask them if they’d like to start reading through the book of John with you? Share your personal testimony?
At different times I’ve done each of these. But here’s the crazy thing… that’s not what Jesus did!
He responded with a question! (Matthew 19:16)
In fact, if you read through the gospels, nearly every time Jesus is asked a question, he responds with a question!
Not only can this help to clarify what the person is asking, it also engages them in dialogue, drawing them into the conversation.
This is not only helpful when doing evangelism, but especially when discipling someone. There’s a fascinating verse in 1 John 2:27, “But you have received the Holy Spirit and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true – it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”
Once someone has entered into a relationship with Jesus, she has His Spirit living within her. And God’s Spirit is so faithful to do what He’s promised to do – to teach us… if we’ll listen. Over and over I am amazed at how true this verse is.
As I grasp the reality of this I realize my main job in discipling someone is not to teach her, but to come alongside and encourage her to remain in fellowship with Christ, to help her learn how to place herself in a position where she is able to hear what God wants to teach her and to help her learn to persevere in doing this.
A great way to do this is to ask questions – and teach her to ask questions.
The first question I ever ask before meeting with someone is of God, “What do you want me doing with this woman today? How can I come alongside her and join in with what you’re doing?”
Then I seek to start our time asking questions about how she’s doing. I recently met with a precious young woman who wanted to learn about forgiveness. When I asked how she was doing she started to weep and share some painful things she was wrestling with. It quickly became apparent learning about forgiveness was not the main reason the Lord brought us together. When I asked, “What lies do you think the enemy is trying to get you to believe right now?” what followed was one of the most amazing one on ones I’ve had. And I mostly listened! Then together we considered the truth God gives in His Word to combat those lies. And yes, we ended up in the last ten minutes talking about forgiveness as it tied in with what she was struggling with but do you see? Without asking questions I so easily could’ve missed out on what the Lord really wanted for our time!
When I’m having a shared quiet time with someone I’m helping her learn to ask, “Where do you want me to focus today in your Word, Lord?” “What do you want to say to me through this?” and “What difference do you want this to make in my life?”
You don’t have a daily quiet time to “be a good Christian” or to earn God’s favor. You have one because this is an incredible way to learn to listen to the Lord and remain in fellowship with Him, so when He wants to teach you something you’re picking up on it and developing the discipline of responding and doing what He teaches you! I cannot stress how radically life changing this is!!!
Now while I initially may “teach” them what I do, note the focus is on them showing up to learn from the Lord. This helps them grow in their dependence on Him and not on me!
I need to be careful because it can be a heady thing having someone ask for your advice or ask you how to do something. My pride loves to demonstrate what I know. It’s so easy for that to kick in without me even realizing it and suddenly a one on one becomes a monologue.
But you know, when I take time to ask questions that really helps save me (and the woman I’m meeting with!) from this!
Plus it’s amazing how many times when I respond with a question I discover what she really is asking is rather different from what I first thought!
Good question asking is a skill. It’s so much easier to “tell.” But I have been amazed at how much more effective it is when my questions help people discover on their own the answer the Holy Spirit is giving them.
The good news is this is something anyone can grow in! So I’m asking God for the grace to be more like Him in this. And as I do, what a difference it’s making in my discipling!