The U.S. and internet culture wants quick answers. Just Google it. Just ask. Just tell me what to do. And the church culture isn’t too different. Most everything is designed to deliver quick, “relevant” answers to a crowd. Even Biblical education is designed to provide quick answers in group guides, videos, and from prepared teachers.
The problem with quick, simple answers is that the learner never learns to learn. They remain like a baby in a high chair demanding food but never learning to hunt and gather (albeit from the fridge or cupboards!) And we must constantly serve up the next dish of truth to an audience that just wants to be told how to do it.
It’s become our way. And in the short run, it is easier. After all, learning to learn can be frustrating. Learning to learn takes time. It takes gathering data. It takes learning to assimilate that data into wisdom. But disciples need to learn to learn. It’s the only way they will become independent followers. It’s the only way they will get out of Christianity’s highchair. The writer of Hebrews wrote about this,
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.Hebrews 5:12-14
So how do we speed up the process of disciples learning to learn? Be like Jesus – ask a lot of questions. In fact, answer questions with questions. Jesus was constantly answering questions with questions, forcing his disciples to think.
Great managers and leaders have known the power of questioning for decades. An old friend and entrepreneur leader leveraged the “managing by questions” as he built his companies. By engaging his employees in the thought process (even when he knew the answer), Bill was teaching his employees to think, assimilate, and evaluate data. Bill helped them learn to learn. Vadim Kotelnikov explains it this way,
Run your company by questions, not by answers, to get a better innovative culture. Ask a lot of value, strategy, and other questions to stimulate conversation that results in innovation.
Bob Cohen writes in Just Ask Leadership,
Remarkable leaders have one thing in common: They use questions to generate fresh ideas, inspire committed action, and build an army of forward-thinking leaders.
These secular leaders learned what Socrates knew. The philosopher, Socrates, is famous for teaching by asking questions (the Socratic Method). He knew pupils learned to learn independently as they were forced to think, assimilate, and find the answer. In fact, this is how our brains are designed to learn.
But when it comes to disciple making, asking questions becomes even more powerful. Do you remember what Jesus said? The Holy Spirit will help them answer the questions.
To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge.Matthew 13:12
But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.John 14:26
God designed us to learn to learn, and he has given us the Holy Spirit to remind us and even teach us new things. So when we make disciples, the best thing we can do is get out of the way! We don’t need to be the teacher. We need to be the guide helping the disciple to learn to learn with the Holy Spirit. We need to expose them to every possible truth in the Bible. And when they ask questions, we need to ask questions allowing them to learn and be inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Sure, there are a few times when we will need to give a hint or two to keep them moving, but even then, we can guide them with questions instead of doling out baby food. Questions cause learning which is exactly what God wants disciples to do.