John Piper once wrote, “Books don’t change people; paragraphs do. Sometimes even sentences.” Such was the case with a sentence that was given me by a friend over 15 years ago. I have found that whenever I have used this idea in my ministry or in my parenting I have not been disappointed. To my shame, I also acknowledge there are numerous times I have not ministered with the statement in mind. More often than not, it is a result of my impatience, my agenda, or my frustration. And the fruit of that motivation in my relationships is always short-lived at best. But what I want to see happen in my ministry is that those lives I touch as a husband, as a parent or as a pastor, or as a friend are lives that are able to think on their own and stand on their own.
It is that kind of thinking that routinely brings me back to one of the most significant “sentences” in my life. Here it is: “A question stirs the conscience, an accusation hardens the will.” Ever since then, I have been looking for questions that the Holy Spirit can use in my ministry with others. I want the question that the Holy Spirit might use to engage their conscience either right then or later as they think about it.
As I began to study the means that Jesus used to teach in the Gospels, I suddenly saw all the question marks. Jesus used questions to stir the conscience of his listener (John 3:10, 12; 8:10; 9:35 11:26; 21:15-17). Often he would just let that question hang out there, patiently waiting for an answer.
My friend also gave me another statement that was ministry-changing. He said, “Good counseling is asking questions until a Biblical parallel comes to mind.” You see, now I had something to do with the answers I would receive from my questions. What did the Bible say about this? As a pastor, one of my favorite questions is, “Did you know the Bible says something about this?” When I receive the answer I have grown accustomed to hearing, I respond with the second question. “Would you be willing to look at the Bible with me and see what it says?”
Though I nearly always receive a “no” to the first question, I have rarely received a “no” to the second. I have come to believe, it is because, in trying to follow Jesus’ model of asking questions, I am genuinely attempting to help them understand their heart’s desires (whether good or bad), not assuming that I already know them.
This is only a tool to get you started, to think through the questions, and move the listener to the Biblical answers that bring life.