by Sherry Bohn, Entrust, Massachusetts
Questions. They are not created equal.
Who are you?
Why did you do that?
How do disc brakes work?
What did the author mean when she said …?
What was your best learning experience?
Are you hungry?
What do you plan to do this weekend?
What makes the biggest difference in the questions we form? Could it be attitude?
Questions reveal attitude toward others, even if attitude wants to hide. What attitudes could be behind our questions?
I’m the boss and you will do this my way.
I know more than you do.
I want to hear your ideas and thoughts.
I want to help you be as much as you can be.
I will help you prepare to reach your potential.
I want to understand and know you.
What are the best attitudes to have in order to ask the best questions?
Maybe to answer that we need to go back before there were questions. In Genesis 1 we are told that God created humankind in his image. The Bible tells us that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27 NIV) There are many facets of the image of God. We are created to be like God in many of those facets.
In the image of God: relational
God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have relationship. As humans we recognize our thirst for relationship, too. Much of the Old and New Testaments are filled with best practices for relating to others and God. Maintaining a good relationship with God and with others is a vital characteristic of humans created in God’s image. If we look at the relationships within the Trinity, we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with a holy attitude toward each other showing respect and deference, listening, hearing and honoring each other.
Relationship is also key in our learning situations since most questions require at least two people: a questioner and an answerer. A helpful, constructive, learning attitude supports a good and respectful relationship between the questioner and the answerer, enabling a better experience for both parties.
In the image of God: creative
God is creative and he gives us creative gifts. The Bible starts with God creating the world (Genesis 1). In Exodus 31 we read that the Lord filled chosen people with the Spirit giving them wisdom, understanding, knowledge and artistic skill in gold, silver, bronze, stone and all sorts of crafts. Jesus left this earth but sent the Holy Spirit to empower and teach the church. God intentionally gives spiritual gifts to individuals within the church, based on his choice, not human merit. (Rom 12:1-8, 1 Cor 12 and Eph 4:1-16) The God-given gifts and church offices are unique, creative, and not to be used for personal aggrandizement, but for the strengthening of God’s family, the church, and individual and corporate health. If one part of the body is missing, the whole body suffers.
God encourages us to have the right attitude toward others in the body of believers. Each person is important. Questions should honor and involve the gifts and qualities God has given each person involved in any discussion. Some of that honoring requires us as the questioners to be creative in how we ask.
In the image of God: mutual deference
Adults learn best through taking part in their own learning process, knowing they contribute value to the process and are not just containers to be filled or cogs to be manufactured. If each person is valued, if their process of learning is valuable even as it is unique, if each person’s voice is valuable for their own development as well as the group’s development, how do we give each person a platform to hear, be heard, learn and grow in an efficient and maximum way? How does the facilitator of a learning experience make sure each person recognizes and uses the “image of God” in which he is made? How do we follow the model of loving deference God himself models in the relationships of the Trinity?
How can we value the journey of each facilitator and participant in the learning process? How can we defer to, respect and encourage the learning process in each other? In fact, if we silence a learner, we risk silencing the Holy Spirit who resides and speaks within her.
In the image of God: why we ask questions
Going back to where we started. If my attitude toward my family, colleagues, students and church family recognizes their value to God, how does that impact the questions I use to interact with or teach them? If my attitude reflects the attitude of God, my questions will reflect his attitude. My questions will bring out the best in each person, give him a voice, make her think, make them search for God’s truth. My questions can be a tool to further God’s creative growth process in each person.
Questions for further consideration and discussion
Take time to reflect on what Gen 1:27 and Gen 5:1-2 say to you about your being created in God’s image.
How does being created in the image of God affect humankind?
What verses can you think of to support or amplify your thoughts?
How have you honored God’s image in each individual to whom you’ve ministered?
How might the fact that you are created in the image of God affect the way you participate in or facilitate a small group learning environment?
What is one step you could take this week to better formulate and incorporate thoughtful questions with your family, co-workers or Bible study group?
Like this article? Sign up for our ECL blog!