Become a Questioning Disciple

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
– Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

One critical skill for every Missionary Disciple is to be able to listen to people’s stories. Sherry Weddell, an expert in intentional discipleship, reminds us to “never except a label in place of a story.” This approach to evangelization can feel counter-intuitive at first. After all, how can we ever get around to sharing Jesus with someone if we spend all of our time listening?

If you are living as a Missionary Disciple, you will be asked questions because you will be living a curious life! When people ask questions, though, an answer is often the last thing they need. Jesus is our example in this. Jesus lived the most curious life of all. In the Gospels, Jesus was asked 183 questions. He only answered three of them. What is the normal way in which Jesus responds to a question? He asks another question. Out of the 183 questions Jesus receives in the Gospels, he asks 307 questions back!

Following Jesus’ example, when people come to you with questions, listen carefully and then ask good questions in reply. Asking good questions leads to more questions. A good question not only helps you really learn about someone’s story, it can help others discover things about themselves that they had not yet identified. A good question can lead to a deep conversation, build trust, stoke a person’s curiosity, and lead that person to become open to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the book I Once was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus, authors Don Everts and Doug Schaupp suggest some great questions that might lead to more questions:

  • Have you ever had a spiritual experience? Would you like to have one?

  • Have you ever felt like you have received a sign from God? What would you do if God gave you a sign?

  • What is your take on this whole God question? What do you think God is like?

  • What do you think life is about? Do you think you have a destiny?

  • Do you think that people are more spiritually interested today than they were five years ago?

  • What is the most significant thing that has happened to you in the last month?

In her TED Talk “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation” Celeste Headlee says that we don’t listen to each other because:

  • we are distracted, and

  • we would rather do the talking.

But, if we cultivate a real interest in other people, we will find that in them is a story worth hearing and a reason to be amazed. For more, see her video below: