Telling or Asking?

Over at Adventist Today, I got into a discussion concerning my article there, “Turn Out the Lights.” In the comment section, I made this suggestion concerning retaining more young adults:

One step we might take is to start listening, and asking questions ourselves, instead of assuming we already know what others want, what they mean, or what they are saying.

Which elicited this interesting response:

In evangelism, Ed, we don’t wait for people to “ask the right question” because sinful man often does not know what question to ask.

Anyone interested in the rest of the discussion can read it there.

The reason I bring this up is not that I disagree with what my respondent wrote– quite the contrary. It is precisely my experience that in evangelism we rarely, if ever, ask any questions of those we seek to reach. And, surely, sinful people do not necessarily know the questions they “need” to ask. But I’m not certain that other sinful human beings — or are evangelists sinless?!! I don’t think so — are so all wise as to know precisely what someone else should be asking. That idea makes me more than a little uneasy.

My first impulse is always to go back to basics–back to the beginning, to the Bible, to the record of how God does things. And when I do that, do I find more telling— God, after all, does know what people need–or more asking?

The Bible shows that God does both. But what fascinates me is how often God begins with asking. God, who knows everything.

In Genesis 3, for example, when Adam and Eve have sinned, and hidden from God (now there’s a sign of sin degrading our reasoning process, imagine hiding from God), God surely knows what has happened, and where they are. Does He start by telling them their terrible mistake? No. Gen 3:9 indicates God asks, “Where are you?”

And when Adam replies that they are hiding because they are naked, God does not say, “Oh, ho! You’ve been a bad boy!” Instead, God asks another question “Who told you you were naked?”

And then, when Adam explains that he ate the fruit his wife gave him, God asks yet another question. “What is this that you have done?” Only then does God tell them the consequences.

And this pattern is repeated throughout the Bible. When Cain kills Able, God asks, “Where is your brother?”

Jesus, God with us, demonstrates the same behavior. A pastor friend of mine from another denomination wrote his dissertation on the questions of Jesus. And there are so, so many.

Jesus at 12 in the temple: Didn’t you know I would be about my Father’s business?

Jesus in the boat on the Sea of Galilee: Why are you so afraid?

Jesus to the man at the pool: Do you want to be healed?

Jesus to Peter: Who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am?

Jesus to Judas in the Garden: Do you betray me with a kiss?

When I see how often God, Who knows all, asks rather than tells, it persuades me that perhaps I, who know so little, should get in that same habit.

What do you think?

P.S. Please forgive me for taking this opportunity to wish a Happy Birthday, today, to my delightful daughter Elise!


Telling or Asking? — 1 Comment

  1. It seems to me that learning how to talk to people using an “Adult” voice – asking questions, developing win-win solutions, etc is what is desired. Evangelism as I experienced was more like someone using a “Parent” voice – telling me what to do, talking to others in an authoritative and win-lose manner. Just a thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *