Building Bridges through Questions

This past week, I led a seminar for the Great Lakes District of the Evangelical Free Church.

I posed the question, “What makes sharing the gospel so difficult?”

One participant responded…

“Our lack of bridges with unbelievers.  We don’t have strong enough relationships with people outside the church to be able to share the gospel.”

People often ask me, “How can we get people to come to the Christianity Explored course?”

I wonder if we struggle with inviting people because we are better at building walls than we are at building bridges.  One way to build bridges is to learn how to ask good questions.

Earlier this week, I met with John Crilly, National Field Director for Q Place – a ministry that empowers Christians to engage in meaningful conversations about God with people who believe differently.

Q Place’s The Arts of Spiritual Conversations encourage believers to practice 9 everyday activities that will then open a gateway for talking about God naturally with anyone.  These include simple relational skills like listening, noticing, and asking questions.

Jerram Barrs, a student of the late Francis Schaeffer, is a professor that has had a strong impact on my practice of evangelism.  In his book, Learning Evangelism from Jesus, he speaks on the importance of building bridges through questions.  He makes the point that questions “help us to understand what is in a person’s heart and mind.”  However, he warns against seeing questions as a sales technique.  “Our questions must arise from a relationship that has integrity.  Jesus asks people questions because he wants to know them, and because he desires that people come to know him.”

Barrs goes on to cite an article by Paul Weston that lists the number of questions in the gospels that Jesus asked in His everyday interactions with the people around Him.

Matthew: 94 questions

Mark: 59 questions

Luke: 82 questions

John: 49 questions

“Schaeffer used to say that if he had only one hour to spend with someone, he would spend 55 minutes asking them questions, and 5 minutes trying to say something that would speak to their situation once he understood a little more about what was going on in their heart and mind.”

Here are two resources for developing good practices in asking questions:

  1. The Q Place
    For those in the Midwest, Q Place is hosting their VITAL Conference on October 30 in the Chicago area.
  2. Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did  (Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2004)

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