CHURCH & MINISTRY
Advice for Answering Questions from GotQuestions Writers, Part 2
Answering Questions: The Series
Although our answer should always come through Scripture, we won't understand the question if we don't understand the questioner. That's hard to do with a few short lines in an email. But there are some things the GotQuestions writers look out for. Their insights may help you as you minister to others.
Spiritual questions need to be addressed on both an evidentiary and emotional level. If a person is exclusively digging for logical explanations, there is always an emotional reason for that search. Provide the best logic and evidence you can, but don't forget to inquire what is happening in their lives or hearts causing them to look in the first place. Likewise, emotion-based spiritual upheaval is often tied to an underlying spiritual inconsistency, which should be discovered and addressed with gentleness and love. ~KJM
Do not to give a "canned" answer. Some people need to hear something at least three times, explained with three sets of different words, to understand a concept. Speak in a way that will result in feedback so you know what worked and what did not. ~DF
Another problem is that a family member or close friend may be afraid that by asking a question, they will open a door to being preached at. And since any sincere Christian will want family members to be saved, this is a real possibility. For this reason, it is suggested that the best way to help people spiritually is to not answer questions that are not being asked. With prayer and sensitivity, a safe place should be provided in which the loved ones can voice their concerns and questions without fear of laughter, disclosure, or gossip. Getting a person to ask a question is more important than any particular answer. ~RG
When answering a question, it's important to remember your audience. Choose your words to match the level of literacy you see in the question being asked. If the question is written using 6th grade level English, respond with words a 6th grader could understand, if at 12th grade then you can use larger words and more complex sentences. Also, avoid using words you have to explain. I poke fun at preachers for using the word propitiation because they always have to explain its meaning immediately afterward. We come across much more sincerely and effectively if we speak at a level the hearer can understand and digest. And that's the goal, isn't it, to explain the answer in a manner the requester can understand well enough to apply to daily life? ~DP
Proverbs 18:13 warns us not to answer questions before we have really heard the issue. This requires us to probe a bit into what is going on in the life of our friend. There are two types of questions [to ask]. The fact-finding questions are very general and help you understand your friend's situation. Deeper questions will help you determine specifically what your friend is thinking or doing in response to the situation. Being equipped with this information allows you to focus on answers that are closer to her concerns. It also conveys that you care as much about her as you do about giving a good answer. It is helpful to remember the old adage: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." ~SO
Questions deserve more than an answer; they deserve a careful analysis to ascertain we know what is being asked, who is asking it, and why it is being asked. I then check to see if my answer could cause harm or serious misunderstanding, followed by a prayer. ~SW
Ask them if they have any thoughts as to its answer. "What do you think?" This is important because with friends and family members you don't want to come across as a know-it-all. Many times they will answer their own question and then all you have to do is agree with them. Then the harmony of the relationship is maintained, your marriage is still intact, your in-laws still love you, you're not worried about seeing them again, you're still available for other questions, and you will have time to pray about the underlying root of what precipitated the original question. ~BH
Keep in mind that there is sometimes a question beyond the question, or a more deeply rooted question/issue that is driving what a person might be asking. Some questions or comments in dialogue may be a subtle way of raising the real issue at hand. Clarifying the terms in any discussion is critical to make sure you aren't simply talking past the other person. Avoid assuming the other person knows what you know or has a similar background/lifestyle/etc. as you do so as to prevent unwarranted biases from slipping into the conversation. The framework with which people approach things like faith in God is often shaped dramatically by their upbringing and culture. ~AD
Everyone's looking for the real thing, something reliable that won't disappoint. The more resistant, the more desperate for truth. Scoffers aren't attacking Christianity but rather errors, lies, and hypocrites. Affirm them for rightly rejecting these. Never argue on the defensive; ask how their view explains reality better than Christianity. Argue from the known to the unknown. Spiritual reality has logical correspondence with physical reality, but is not humanly comprehensible. ~GM
1. Listen carefully and prayerfully. Allow the friend to continue to express the problem completely. Ask probing questions. Anticipate that many will discover their own answer upon verbalizing the problem.
2. Listen for the heart issues. Most problems in a struggling believer can be attributed to one of three heart issues:
A. Lack of knowledge/understanding of God's Word. In Hosea 4:6, God said that a lack of knowledge leads to destruction.
B. Lack of Lordship of Christ. Many Christians want control of their life while enjoying the relationship with God. However, that is not of God's plan for a victorious life. Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek God's will first and many remind us that we have to die to self (Matthew 9:23-24, Romans 12:1-2).
C. Lack of faith. Many problems come from not believing what God says.
3. Don't speak until you are sure God has spoken to you.
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Got-Questions? | Ministry-Church | Personal-Relationships
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