By Amy Seiffert
A few months ago I preached a sermon at our church on being Sent to Speak With Others. And the Big Idea for that sermon was:
Caring. Listening. Responding. We watch Jesus do this over and over again. He not only ministers to us in this way, but He also models for us how to do those same things in the power of His Spirit.
The practical application for that sermon was:
If we are going to care like Jesus, we need to practice engaging with empathy.
If we are going to listen like Jesus, we need to put good questions in our pockets.
If we are going to respond like Jesus, we need to ask “What is Good News here?”
I was asked afterward to expand on putting good questions in our pockets. Gladly!
Listening to anyone about anything means you most likely have to ask a question. And then a follow-up question. And a few more after that. That alone is a Spirit-filled shift from yourself to others. So what are good questions to be asking? What are good questions to have in your pocket as you are living life and loving people?
And let’s take a moment to say - living life and loving people - is a really important piece. Because you have neighbors and friends and family who mean a lot to you that you are doing life alongside. You have, and are, building relationships. You are being a relational human and are enjoying those fellow co-workers and soccer moms and neighbors and long time friends. And you also love Jesus.
This is the Deuteronomy 6 life you are aiming at:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
You are loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and you have His ways impressed on your hearts and talk about them with your children, along the sports sidelines, in your front yard, at your job.
So let’s get to it - what are good questions to be asking? Good perspectives to Hang onto?
I polled some of my favorite missional thinkers and got some great ideas:
“I would say prayer is a huge component. Asking the Lord for opportunities and asking to help me be more spiritually aware of how I can engage others. It's been fun to see the Lord answer those prayers and allow natural opportunities in my sphere of influence. Right now, a sphere of influence is with parents on the sidelines at sporting events that my kids are involved in. Asking moms if they stay at home or work outside of the home typically leads to them asking what I do. Because I am in ministry, it is a natural transition. But there are other ways this translates, if you are not in ministry. Recently, there were some mom's talking about the story behind how they named their children and it was a natural way for me to share about naming Jensen "God is gracious" and the story behind it ... which led to some fun spiritual conversations. Another mom was talking about her son being in Hebrew school, which was a great opportunity to engage and ask questions about what they believe. All that to say, praying that you'd be spiritually aware helps me be more purposeful in the conversations that are already naturally taking place.” -Kelly Steffen-Lindell
“Always, the ever faithful very first question I ask as God leads... "What was your spiritual background growing up? Did your family have any beliefs or traditions you guys practiced? How's all that affect your view of God today?" If later in the relationship... "When you boil it down, bottom line, what do you think your biggest hesitancy is toward God?" -Lori Brittenham
“It tends to be relationship specific, but it usually ends up being some version of, "you know that God is important to me [based on some knowledge built into our relationship like I'm a pastor, or how I vote], so what's your take on the whole God thing?" -Steve Rieske
“How do you make sense of life? ; What holds it all together? ; Is there something that runs through everything that makes sense to you? ; How do you know what is right? Good? True? Beautiful? Wrong? Bad? Evil? Some version of those questions, preceded by "So... What makes you, you?" -Sam Schmitt
“I don’t cross over into this territory by asking them a question “about them.” Instead, I tend to ask them for their opinion or for advice. “I’ve been wondering about this.” “Guess what happened? This is cool.” “I’m so mad about this or confused...” ...whatever the case may be. And talk about how I’m experiencing it and then ask for their opinion. “What do you think?” “Am I off?” “How do you deal with things like this?” AND, at the same time, I rejoice and mourn with them where I can....caring about their world. So, as I open up my world to them and invite them in with their own thoughts and perspective, they also get to hear me process about the HOPE that is within me...and that’s where the conversation can turn. The verse “Always be ready to give a defense for the HOPE that is WITHIN you” (1 Peter 3:15) is a big deal to me. They need to see what’s IN me. They need to see that I have real HOPE. So I talk to people like I would to someone who also believes (with, at times, a modified vocabulary) but still the same conversation.” - Nancy Bartolec
Great ideas, right? Praying. Being spiritually aware. Asking your friends opinions as you are vulnerable with them. Asking about their backgrounds and family life. Asking their thoughts on life.
Becoming a good question asker is one of the best ways to breath life into others - to bless them. Here’s a few more lay-ups for you:
- How has your day been going so far? (easy, normal)
- Do you have weekend plans? (see what they are into)
- How did you feel about that? (follow-up questions when they share something)
- How would you do that differently? (when they are expressing frustration)
- (deeper questions) Do you think God plays a part in that?
- What experiences have shaped your world view the most?
Pick a few and start asking your friends and see what God does as you ask good questions by faith. Have a pocket-full of questions. When others inquire about your life, doesn't it breath life into you? Let's be life-givers and good question-askers. They go hand in hand.
May our hearts be prayerful and our questions be genuine as we walk with our God.