The Power of the Question

By Tim Dahlstrom

Many Christians assume they should answer anyone who asks about their hope (1 Pet. 3:15) with a statement, such as a fact or an argument. Answering with a question, however, is also a powerful tool that can be employed successfully with a little practice. Both Jesus and Paul regularly used questions in evangelism, apologetics, and teaching.1

The writer of Proverbs 18:17 also highlighted the value of asking questions: “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” (niv). Why are questions so powerful? Because questions demand answers, stimulate thinking, give us valuable information, provoke people to open up, and help people convince themselves.2

The greatest practical value of using questions is that the questioner does not have to possess all the answers. A Christian can engage in a discussion without knowing everything about an issue since he or she is not telling but is asking. For those who are not comfortable with their level of knowledge on a subject or who feel they are not skilled at making arguments, questioning becomes an excellent tool that makes the difference between actively engaging the culture or sitting on the sidelines.

An Example from Jesus. Matthew provides us with an example of a statement-and-question format that Jesus used many times (see Matt. 6:25–34). Here He is teaching His followers not to worry. He first states the principle, then asks a series of questions, then finishes with a summary of the concept. What purpose do the questions serve? They stimulate the listeners’ thinking while provoking the listeners to persuade themselves. I imagine that Jesus’ followers could have easily dismissed His exhortations not to worry with internal dialogue about their problems, the stresses and strains of life, and the risks they faced each day. The poignant questions Jesus offered, however, demolished these arguments by directing their attention to two thought-provoking questions: (1) What does worry do for you? and (2) Is God faithful? At the same time, they also stimulated His listeners to think through the issues, thereby persuading themselves to reach Jesus’ intended conclusion.

The answer to the first question appears to be obvious — worry does nothing for you. The second requires the hearers to do some self-evaluation…

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The Power of the Question | Christian Research Institute