It can be tough to make disciples of Jesus. Have you spent weeks with a group of budding Christ followers and began to feel like they are not progressing? Or, maybe they are progressing but it’s unclear how to test their understanding of Jesus and his mission.
A suspected stall in progress can be frustrating because we earnestly pray for people to grow in their confidence in Christ and obedience to His commands. We want new followers to develop an openness to the Holy Spirit and grow in their affections for Jesus and His ways. We want to wed them to Jesus and not ourselves.
But, how can we do this consistently and confidently so that disciples of Jesus grow and multiply beyond themselves?
The short answer is to stop trying to answer all of your fellow disciples’ questions. Instead, learn to ask some key questions that create tension and reveal progress.
Asking questions shows that we trust the Holy Spirit to transform and a belief in another Christ follower’s newly formed walk with Jesus. Questions encourage others to process their faith and lean on Christ instead of me. Questions help form a culture of disciple making that is Spirit dependent, not me dependent.
If anyone could have answered all of a disciples' questions it was Jesus. Interestingly,Jesus used questions in a powerful way as part of his disciple making strategy- teaching by example, testing with questions, and delegating with trust. We see this strategy unfold when,
Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Matthew 16:13-20
We find in this milestone moment one of Jesus' priorities as a disciple maker - his desire for the disciples to grow in their personal awareness and trust in God the Father. They needed to learn how to relate personally to God the Father in preparation for his departure to heaven.
By the time of Peter's confession, Jesus had turned water into wine, healed Peter's mother-in-law, walked on water, and fed two crowds numbering in the thousands among other miracles. Throughout his ministry, Jesus taught that these miracles were done through prayer and in God’s power.
Likewise, he attributes Peter's confession to a direct revelation from God the Father instead of Jesus’s direct teaching or his identity confirming miracles. By asking, "But who do you say that I am?" Jesus tested Peter's progress in the faith and created an opportunity for Peter to demonstrate his trust in God the Father. Jesus fostered Peter’s faith in God before validating himself.
Similarly, we pattern our disciple making efforts after Jesus when we train by example and test with questions. This is how we'll know if we're making followers of Christ instead collecting followers for ourselves.
Peter wasn't selected for leadership because he scored high in etiquette and education. Jesus confirmed that he was teachable and attuned to God the Father, an essential for leadership that transcends worldly status. And, while Peter wasn't the most cultured, Jesus trusted him to lead the next phase of kingdom expansion even though he knew that Peter would deny him.
People like Peter will lead your future discipling groups, but how will you prepare them and test their readiness without asking Spirit-led questions?
Going back to the familiar comfort of fishing nets, Peter probably thought his denial meant disqualification (John21:1-19). However, Jesus restored Peter with a simple question, not a monologue supported by memory verses. Having trained by example and delegated with trust, the resurrected Jesus restores Peter with a clarifying question - "Do you love me?"
Can you imagine the tension? Peter is singled out by the fully alive Jesus - having endured a tortuous cross and escaped death's grave. Gone is Peter’s characteristic overconfidence as he answers "Yes Lord, you know that I love you."
Instead of clarifying Jesus' identity, this question clarified Peter's mission and that of every disciple maker. Loving Jesus means looking after the spiritual needs of others to the denial of oneself. A mission that Jesus helped clarify with a question and Peter lived out through his eventual martyrdom on a cross.
Yes, there were times when Jesus directly answered the disciple's questions. Questions such as why they couldn't cast out a demon? (Matthew 17:19), Why did He speak in parables? (Matthew 13:10), When would He return? (Mark 13:4). Jesus' answers clarified Kingdom principles and ways of following. We also must be ready to answer questions to keep a growing disciple on track with Kingdom ways.
But, remember that questions create tension and test understanding of Jesus and the mission of expanding his kingdom through disciple making. Asking questions shows that we trust the Holy Spirit and believe in another Christ follower’s newly formed walk with Jesus. Questions encourage others to lean on Christ instead of me. Questions help form a culture of disciple making that is Spirit dependent, not me dependent.
Here are some suggested questions for your consideration:
1. Who is Jesus to you?
2. How have you seen Jesus change you recently?
3. What habits have you implemented to love your spouse?
4. What rhythms are working for you in loving and discipling your children?
5. What neighbors, friends, or coworkers are you asking the Holy Spirit to open doors for spiritual conversations?
6. When will you next have your neighbor over for dinner or out for coffee?
7. What is the Holy Spirit asking you to eliminate from your schedule so that you can invite others into your life?
What questions do your young Christ followers need to hear? How will you use questions to create tension and evaluate their understanding of Jesus and his disciple making mission? In other words, how will we answer less and ask more?
Prayer: O Lord, teach me how to answer less and ask more questions that help make confident followers of you. Holy Spirit, teach me to listen to your voice so that I can discern when to answer a question and when to ask one. Jesus, by your sufficient grace, teach me how to pattern my disciple making strategy after yours so that your Kingdom can expand in my neighborhood and city as it is in heaven.
Here are a few thoughts to summarize the power of questions when you make disciples…
● Great Questions are the Key to Effective Discipleship
● Jesus Modeled Direct Relationship with the Father
● We Should Follow Jesus’ Model in Disciple-Making
● Simple Questions Can Help Restore Failure and Clarify Mission
● Questions Create Tension Which is a Key in Disciple-Making