What Questions Do That Answers Don’t

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“If there is a God who knows everything,” Collette Gary asked, “why does he ask questions?” Since God knows everything, they certainly are not for his own knowledge. What is it God knows questions do, that answers often don’t? 

In the Bible God asks a lot of questions. There are over 3,000 questions in the Bible and the majority of them are asked by God.

  • The first four things God said to Adam and Eve, after they disobeyed, were all questions. (Genesis 3:9-13)
  • The longest list of questions in the Bible was God’s response to the suffering of Job. (Job 38-39)
  • Jonah is the only book in the Bible that ends with a question. (Jonah 4:11) Any guesses who asked it?

So what is it that God knows questions do, that stating facts, or just explaining steps a person must take, doesn’t?

Questions make us think. They engage the mind. God wants to create engagement with what matters most. Questions invite us to get involved.

The better we get at engaging ourselves and others with profound questions and awakening the imagination to get involved, the more similar we are to approaching situations like God.

What is a situation where you can insert a question instead of an answer?

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Mission Questions > Mission Statements

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Some form of Jesus’ statement

The church is God’s people. Since the church is God’s, it makes sense that he would define her purpose. The purpose, or mission, can be worded a lot of ways, but it will be some form of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus’ followers are to help others from every nation follow his way of life.

Mission statements are valuable

A lot of time is devoted to mission statements. There is a desire for it to be memorable and catchy. I think mission statements are valuable. Jesus obviously did too or he wouldn’t have given one! They point the direction everyone should be heading. They, also, answer the most important question anyone asks: Why?

More mission questions

That sets up the point I want to make. If we already have the mandate (some form of Make disciples of all nations), maybe we need mission questions instead of a mission statement. Like I said, mission statements determine the direction, but it isn’t the direction that is the ultimate concern – the destination is.

Hang a question mark

A mission is meant to be accomplished. People on a mission like to know they are making a difference. Mission questions, not mission statements, help us know if the direction we are heading is still aimed at our destination. Someone once said, “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you take for granted.” What would it do to hang a question mark on the end of the Great Commission?

Other questions appear

Let’s try this out on the core of the Great Commission: Make disciples of all nations? At once, other questions appear and assumptions are challenged.

  • How are we to make disciples?
  • What is a disciple?
  • Do we have a vision for the nations?

Mission questions can provoke us to ask even more basic questions, such as:

  • Is this my mission?
  • Are we making disciples?
  • Is the team on this mission together?

Mission drift is real. It takes no effort. That’s why it is called mission drift. Without trying and usually without noticing, a person, team, or church can go off course from its original purpose. A question, though, has the power to snap us back in the direction of our intended destination.


What would happen if you hung a question mark on the end of your mission statement?

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Draw It Out

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What if developing leaders isn’t about what you put within them?

The best question ever

What is the best question you have ever been asked? I asked a friend to give me some personal coaching several years ago. He started by listening to where I thought I was in my personal development. I rehearsed the list of things I felt I was called to do. In addition, was a longer list of things I felt I should be doing or doing more of.

How would you answer?

He reminded me of the story of Blind Bart in Mark 10. You remember, he was the beggar on the roadside, shouting at Jesus for help. Jesus called him over and asked this question ”What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) My friend then asked this powerful question: “How would you answer Jesus if he asked you that question?”

Asking good questions

It may sound simplistic, but leadership development starts with being a good listener. Being able to listen means getting the other person to communicate with you. The way to get a person to communicate, meaningfully communicate, is by asking good questions.

Impact of a powerful question

He went on to say, “Chad, you have this long list of all the things you should be doing for God. Also, you admitted the guilt you feel for not doing all of them. You need to stop should-ing all over yourself! Have you ever stop to ask what God wants to do for you? I hadn’t. It was a marker in my life. I began to see there was more I was to receive from God than accomplish for God. That is the impact of a powerful question.

Draw it out

You can’t develop someone until you know what you have to work with. You will not know what you have to work with until you know what is in them. You will not know what is in them until you draw it out of them. You can draw it out of them by asking good, appropriate, timely, purposeful, questions.

Get leaders talking

I have seven questions that I work from in all my interactions with leaders. I don’t know if anyone has caught on yet. I hope some have and I hope they have started the practice with others. I found these to be effective questions to get leaders talking.

Then listen

Then I listen. If something surfaces in which I feel I can contribute, I step in and offer my advice, make a connection, or bring someone else into the conversation who is needed. There is an input piece to development, but you will not know what is needed until you know what is already there.

Investment of listening

I don’t think you can play a part in developing a leader without this initial investment of listening. You have to become a world-class question asker and then actually listen to the answers the other gives you.

Not counseling

Development is not a counseling situation, in that, there isn’t a lot of dipping into the past. Development is about the future and moving forward toward the good works God has prepared beforehand for a person to walk into.

Not mentoring

As well, development is not a mentoring relationship, in that, it’s not largely about how a person is supposed to do things. Development is about coming along side to draw out what God has already been placing within him or her.

What is Jesus doing in them?

I am convinced the most effective way of drawing out of a person what Jesus is doing in them, is getting really (I mean really) good at asking questions.

Last week

Last week I began this conversation on leadership development by addressing why leaders have reluctance in developing leaders. You can read that article here.

Next week

Next week I will talk about the role delegation plays in developing other leaders. In the mean time, explore the SUMS Remix below on the question: How does developing someone else actually develop my leadership? There are some great exercises to further engage in this idea.

Question to consider:

What is one of the best questions someone has ever asked you?

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The Most Powerful Thing You Own

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Columbo Curiosity

5 seconds of doing this one thing, could be worth a month of work. Using this will benefit every area of your life. It will make you a better husband, dad, employee or boss, and a better person of faith. Jesus told people if they will simply try this more, it would totally change their relationship with God.

Most of us are awful at this though. But, it’s not hard. And anybody can do this.

I went through this book last week by Brian Grazer. You may or may not know who he is. You definitely know his work. Some people have called him the most important person in Hollywood you’ve never heard of.

He is a movie and television producer. He wrote Splash with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hanna, produced Backdraft, Apollo 13, The Grinch, Liar Liar, Da Vinci Code, 24 with Kiefer Sutherland. Grazer’s films and TV shows have been nominated for a total of 43 Oscars® and 152 Emmys. He personally won best picture for A Beautiful Mind. His films have grossed around 14 billion dollars.

He was in law school in 1975 when he decided he wanted to make it in Hollywood, so he dropped out and took a $5/hr job delivering contracts around Hollywood. His ruse or trick was he would always say for the contract to be valid he had to personally deliver it. So he was able to meet all the stars and heads of studios doing this.

As he tells all these amazing stories of his interactions with very interesting people; everyone from Andy Warhol to Tom Cruise, he makes the case that there was a single quality that got him to where he is today. I propose the same quality is what will bring about all those things I mentioned at the beginning. The book is titled A Curious Mind.

Your curiosity is the most important thing you own. Being highly curious is like having a super-power. The bottom line is you don’t know what you don’t know. 5 seconds of curiosity can be worth a month of work. One curious thought can cause you to go a particular direction (or keep you from getting into something). Being curious can benefit you in every area of your life. It will make you a better husband, dad, employee or boss, and a better person of faith.

One time people around Jesus asked for him to teach them how to talk to God. He gave them a little template of what to say and told them a couple of stories. But then he basically said, “Really, guys, it comes down to being curious.”

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)

Finding is reserved for those that search. Doors open for those that knock. Getting happens to those who ask. Asking is the beginning of receiving. The worst thing one can do is not to ask, seek or knock–to not give in to curiosity.

So you might be going through something intense right now. Are you curious what God might mean by this? With your spouse, are you curious about what support he/she needs in his/her life right now? A question you could ask is, “What do you wish I would ask you?” With your kids, are you curious what their hopes or concerns about the future are?

Your curiosity is the most important thing you own. You don’t know what you don’t know, so spark your curiosity and find out.

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What 5 Questions Do You Need To Ask Yourself?

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The New Testament records 183 questions that people asked Jesus. He gave a direct answer to three of those questions, but he asked 307 clarifying or redirecting questions in response. Jesus seemed to think one well-placed question is better than ten good answers.

Do you remember taking a class in school on how to ask great questions? No? That’s because there is no such class. Questions are a great tool for opening up the mind to think in new ways. However, we often haven’t been taught to use them.

The best way to learn is to pick one up and give it a try. Especially if you’re feeling stuck, questions are great tools for prying a situation loose. Give these five questions a try and see if any help you. Here are my 5 favorite:

1. What will be the impact of things staying the same?

What are the implications of not taking any action? Being aware of the consequences of inaction might be the motivation you need to act. Perhaps after answering this question you still aren’t incentivized to do something about it. That’s when you need to ask yourself why you are content with the inevitable.

2. What is the question that, if you had the answer, would change everything?

This is a trick to get you to confess to yourself what is really important. But it works. If someone says they don’t know the answer to something, this is kind of like asking them “Well if you did know, how would you answer?” The fact is, we are often lazy and thinking is hard work. So sometimes we have to trick ourselves into doing the hard work. Someone has said, “Whoever defines the question defines success.” It might as well be you.

3. Why did I come up with that question?

This question only works if you do the hard work above. Questioning our motives is a healthy habit to hone, because we can lie to ourselves—and we don’t even know it. We’re good. With the previous question I suggested you trick yourself. Now, I’m telling you to make sure you’re not tricking yourself. Are you confused? Perhaps you should question all the questions up to this point.

4. Is there a different question I should be asking?

Why did you come up with that question? Don’t let yourself get away with anything. What are you assuming is true with those questions? What are you assuming is false or an impossibility? Keep peeling the onion, because there is always more if you’ll give yourself time.

5. What else?

For me this is probably THE most powerful of questions. The beauty is both in its simplicity and the suggestion in the question that there IS something else. There is a closed (can be answered with yes or no) version of this question: “Is there anything else?” The ‘What’ prompts the brain to search and find, whereas the ‘Is there’ results in either a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. For best results, ask yourself this question several times.

Are these five questions enough? They’re certainly enough to get you moving in a new direction!

Hungry for more great questions?

  1. The Five Most Important Questions
  2. 10 Questions Every Change Agent Must Answer
  3. 35 Question That Will Change Your Life

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4 Beautiful Questions to Ponder

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Crumpled question marks heap

Sometimes we don’t find the answers we are looking for because we don’t ask ourselves the right questions. Maybe you feel stuck, are facing a problem, or need some added motivation. James Allen, in his book As a Man Thinketh, offers 4 great questions to ask yourself.  Ask yourself these 4 questions and see if they trigger something inside you. The poet E.E. Cummings wrote, “Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.”


The first beautiful question: Why? Do you know your why? Answering this question is the key to motivation, because motivation requires motive. You’re the only one that can answer your Whys? What is your list of whys? One of the thrusts of success is to come up with a strong enough why. If the why is powerful, the how is easy.

Talk show host Larry King retired in 2010 after 25 years and 6,120 episodes (to put that in perspective, there were only 180 episodes of Seinfeld; and Saturday Night Live, which has run for 40 years, has only racked up around 760). Can you imagine throughout that many shows and all those interviews all the questions he must have asked? On the final show, King offers an insightful answer when asked, “What question have you asked more than any other over the years?” King’s reply was, “Why.” He explains, “Why is the best question of all because it can’t be answered in one word and it forces the person to think.”

Why Not?

The best answer to the question Why? is the second beautiful question: Why not?

I once read about an interview conducted with Elie Wiesel–holocaust survivor, Jewish novelist, and writer on spirituality. The interviewer said “I’ve noticed that you Jews often answer questions by asking another question. Why do you do that?” To which Wiesel replied, “Why not?”

Why not try it? Why not take the risk? Why not reach out? Why not share? Why not go further? Why not push yourself? Why not put yourself out there? Why not take the responsibility? Why not?

Why Not You?

The third beautiful question is Why not you? I want you to take this personally: Why not you? You have the brains. You can make the decision. You can work the plan. Why not you? Why not you change? If one person can do it, why not you? If they can figure it out, why not you? If that person can turn it around, you can turn it around. If they can accomplish it, why not you? If anybody can do it, why not you?

Why Not Now?

The final beautiful question: Why not now? Why not now? Is there a better time than now? There is not a better time than now. What are you waiting for? If you’re going to give it a try, why not now? What could you gain if you started now? What will you lose if you wait? Why not do what you can now?

Why not make the decision now? Why not capture the thought now? Why not make the call now? Why not write the letter now? Why not do it now? Why not now decide to make it right? If you’re ready, then why not now? You may not be able to finish right now, but you can start, so why not now?

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What Questions Do That Answers Don’t

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“If there is God who knows everything,” Collette Gary asked, “why does he ask questions?” They are certainly not for himself. So what is it that God knows questions do that answers don’t. He certainly used them often. There are over 3,000 questions in the Bible and the majority of them are asked by God.

If someone had just ruined something you worked really hard to make or spoiled plans you spent a lot of time preparing, how would you respond? That’s what God faced after Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden. But did you know the first four things God said were all questions? (Genesis 3:9-13)

If someone you knew had been going through terrible pain and loss, for no fault of his own, and was looking for answers to his experience, how would you respond? God responded in this kind of situation with Job by asking questions. The longest list of questions in the Bible was God’s response to the suffering of Job. (Job 38-39)

Jonah was an awful missionary. The man had deep anger issues. He had no respect for his calling. He openly hated the people God asked him to minister to. He had no passion for his work. His main concern was his own comfort. His story is the only book in the Bible that ends with a question. It is a question that God asked. We know the question worked because the only reason we have the account of Jonah is because God broke through to Jonah and he was willing to disclose his self-condemning story.

So what is it that God knows questions do that doesn’t happen by simply unfolding the facts and necessary steps that a person must take?

Questions make us think. They engage the mind. In contrast, imperative statements are embedded conclusions. The next step has already been decided. The subject really isn’t involved, or at least given a choice. But God wants us involved. Questions invite us to get involved.

The better we get at engaging others and awakening the imagination to get involved, the closer we are to relating to others the way God relates to us.

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