When Jesus taught one of the most important things in the Bible, he chose to ask a question first. Why?
All the great Sunday school lessons, small group discussions, and Bible study meetings have something in common: they involve engaging questions. If questions are so important to our ministry, we should take a look at how Jesus used questions in His ministry.
We have about 100 examples of Jesus asking questions. Why did Jesus use so many questions when He taught? Why are questions such a powerful way to teach?
One of the classic examples of Jesus using a question to teach is found in Luke 9.18 where Jesus says, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Jesus’ warm-up questions
Why did Jesus ask this? Did he not know? That could be. When he became human, he set aside some of his god-ness. In another context, he said he did not know the day or the hour when he would return. I think it is more likely, however, that it was a teaching moment for the disciples.
This is what I call a warm up question. It is a get-em talking question. I write small group curriculum for a living. I start nearly every lesson with this kind of question. It is a question to get the group started talking.
People have said to me, “I have tried using discussion questions and my group doesn’t want to talk.” Do what Jesus did. Get them talking about somebody else. People love to talk about someone else. I think this is why Jesus asked them about what other people thought. It is always easier to talk about what other people think than to share our own convictions or feelings.
Jesus taught through people’s answers
Once Jesus got them talking, Jesus narrowed the focus: “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter declared one of the most profound statements in the entire Bible: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
Stated a different way, Jesus led the disciples to hear one of the most profound statements in the entire Bible. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Questions aren’t safe
Question: why did Jesus craft this centrally important teaching in the form of a question? Why not just say it to his disciples: “I am the Christ, the son of the living God!” It would have been a lot safer that way.
A lot of teachers don’t like questions because they are into safety—and they know that questions are not safe. You ask a question and you have no idea what kind of answer you might get. If you make a statement, you can carefully craft it so you know exactly what you are going to say.
But on this occasion of teaching one of the most centrally important things in all the Bible, Jesus chose to use the teaching method of a question.
Answers change lives
Jesus knew when Peter declared him to be “the Christ of God,” that Peter would be changed by this declaration.
Jesus taught that we are changed as much by what we say as what we hear.
“Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’” Mark 7:15 (NIV)
“What comes out of a man”—what a man speaks is what makes him clean. We are changed by the truth when we speak the truth. When Peter declared Jesus to be the Christ, he believed ever more firmly that Jesus was the Christ.
This is why the Bible makes a big deal about “if you confess with your mouth.” (Romans 10.9) It is not that God needs to hear. It is not even that others need to hear. It is that you need to say. When you confess the truth with your mouth, you are changed by that truth.
FREE GUIDE: More tips for teachers
Asking questions is key for teachers—but what are some other ways Sunday school leaders should grow? Pastor Greg Baird explores 8 qualities of a great Sunday school teacher in this free guide!