As a former Marine who served in Iraq, there were designated times where we would receive information about the upcoming mission. These were known as mission briefs. These were times to survey the battlefield, mission, and apply the correct tactics in order to complete the mission successfully. The mission brief was also a time to ask any final questions to clarify meaning, purpose, and implementation of the tactics. Asking the right question could potentially lead to a better mission outcome. Failing to ask a question could lead to mistakes and loss of life. Anytime we engage with non-Christians, one of the best approaches to dialogue is asking questions. Too often, we want to blast our opinion without considering the repercussions. “I don’t know why they didn’t want to ‘study’ again, all I did was tell them the truth” is often a line we use, not knowing that our idea of “studying” was actually a series of contentious, condescending and sarcastic comments. Instead of this approach, what about asking questions? I was talking to a friend several months ago and he said, “I don’t believe in God because of all the evil in the world.” As I listened, I was processing the information he was giving me:
1. He was a non-believer who identified himself as a naturalist
2. He did not believe in God.
3. His disbelief in God stemmed from the evil he saw in the world.
Given this information, I knew blasting him wouldn’t work. Instead, I ask a precise question, “If you are a naturalist, and you’ve identified this thing call ‘evil,’ by what standard can you call anything good or evil, given, you cannot test for morality through natural processes? “That is a really good question and I’ll have to think about that some more,” was his response.
To this day, he and I are still on good terms and we continue to have dialogue about this very subject. What would have been his response if I told him being a naturalist was the dumbest thing anyone could ever do? Would we still be conversing? I doubt it. A well-placed question or series of questions is one of the greatest tools we can arm ourselves with.
Here are some reasons why arming yourself with precise questions is a great tactic:
A sincere question dismantles hostility. If the person on the other end of the conversation believes we are sincere (which we should always be), the temperature in the room drops, and the likelihood of a shouting match is greatly diminished. This encourages the learning process and the exchange of ideas.
A sincere question shows we are interested. If all we do is shout down those who see the world differently than we do, we communicate that we do not care. However, a well-timed, sincere question, expresses a genuine care for understanding an opposing worldview.
A sincere question frames the conversation. Everyone wants to “own” the conversation. Too often, when trying to communicate our worldview, we become to pushy. A sincere question gives both parties a framework in which the conversation can take place.
So remember the next time we are in a conversation in which worldviews are being discussed, that the best tactic may simply be to listen and ask questions. Asking questions allow us to dismantle hostility shows others we are genuinely interested and gives us a framework for the conversation. By applying these principles, our mission has a great chance of success!
1) In the last conversation you had, did you ask multiple questions or try and jam your opinion/worldview by talking over the person?
2) Given the principles seen in the blog, what is your opinion about being armed with questions? Do you think it helps? Why or why not?