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Find out ‘ where people are’ with questions, he advises


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Asking questions can immerse adults in deeper Bible study while knocking down barriers that keep some people away from God.
Phil Bradley, leading a workshop on “ How Do I Help Adults Understand and Apply Bible Truths?” at Kentucky Baptists’ “ Super Saturday” conference Aug. 14 in Louisville, said, “ The most valuable thing about questions is you find out where people are by asking them.”
Bradley, a bivocational youth minister and locksmith from Mayfield, Ky., noted, “ Everyone has that thing in life that’ s eating at them and sometimes we won’ t find out what it is until we ask the right questions.”
To Bradley, “ There’ s no need to be answering questions that people aren’ t asking.”
Among the issues that keep people away from God are past relationships, religious misconceptions or faulty images of the Lord, Bradley said. Sunday school teachers and small group leaders can discover these obstacles by asking questions.
They also can use them to reveal they don’ t know all the answers, Bradley said.
“ If learning in class is based solely on what I know, there may not be a lot of learning,” he said. “ I love the Bible, but I value application of Scripture. You can memorize all 66 books of the Bible and still live like the devil.”
Such application can come through questions that may seem rather simple. For example, a Baptist church in California studies the Bible in home groups by selecting a passage and asking six questions about it:
— What did you like best?
— What did you like least?
— What did you not understand?
— What did you learn about God?
— What do you personally need to do after reading it?
— Which phrase or verse will you take with you?
“ I’ m not saying we need to do away with curriculum, but we can use these questions with any lesson,” Bradley said. “ If a lesson is far fetched or no good, try using these questions.
“ This appeals to Christians and seekers. They appreciate [Scripture] as they struggle together and try to discern what God is saying.”
Other questions that he said can provoke discussion are asking what the text says, what it means, what God instructed someone to do and why, and what it was like for characters in different Bible settings.
“ One thing that has never changed is feelings,” he said. “ They’ re there. What was the prodigal son thinking as he approached his father? What was his father thinking? How did the older brother feel? Get them to think.”
Other questions that Bradley said can enhance learning include:
— “ Jump balls,” meaning answers can go either way. Examples: Asking whether being a Christian is easy or hard, or if it is more important for a teacher to be accurate or fervent.
— Asking class members where they are in their spiritual life.
— Application, such as steps they can take to make Scripture teaching a reality. When someone reveals how a lesson led them to apologize to another person, that is significant, he said.
— Accountability, determining whether those who promised to take action have followed through.
Question-based lesson plans are available on the Internet, he said, listing a website that follows Southern Baptists’ “ Life & Work” series — www.joshhunt.com.
“ Be open to how God can use you to show others truths of the Bible,” Bradley encouraged the workshop participants. “ If you’ re motivated, it’ s more likely others will be motivated too. Expect God to excite people as we study his Word.”