And if we’re honest, the gospel is never familiar enough as we need it to be. It is something that must saturate every fiber of our being or else another false gospel (prosperity, works-salvation, suburban/American dream) will begin taking its place and keep us from honoring Jesus in all the particulars of life.
The other day I found myself teaching material that was somewhat familiar to my “pupils.” I had been prepared from previous teaching opportunities on the same material, but had forgotten my “lead sheet” where I had stuff underlined and several prepared questions.
On a previous occasion, I went through the same material with another individual and simply thought of questions on the fly. These were primarily observation questions (what is there in the passage or material) and some interpretation questions (what is the meaning of the passage or question). It went well and we had some nice discussion.
But on this particular occasion, observation and interpretation questions didn’t seem to stimulate the same kind of conversation. Perhaps they were simply having one of those days where people will just not talk. That happens sometimes no matter how prepared you are. However, I think I know what was going on. The material was familiar with them and so my questions were not as engaging.
What then is a possible solution? Application questions.
No matter how familiar material or a passage is to someone, application questions can really make the difference in not just good discussion, but the ultimate goal in discipleship=application/life change. For instance someone can know that the gospel saves us from sin AND from sin’s enslaving power. I can know that by asking questions that reveal a grasp of the content. However, the goal is to see how well we are REALLY believing that, and what that really looks like when we believe or disbelieve that in our lives. The gospel has to go from our head to our heart to our hands.
Some teaching materials come with great application questions. Some don’t. However, asking these questions prevents or crushes the whole “familiarity breeds contempt” mentality. It keeps familiar material and familiar passages from becoming stale because you are asking questions that no longer stay on the static conceptual level but come down to the dynamic practical level of everyday life. I can lead someone through a passage or book he/she may have studied last year, but life may have completely changed. Life is dynamic and changing. The gospel is not, and so it takes regular thought and discussion to apply that which is constantly true to life which is constantly changing (and to make sure our belief in the gospel isn’t!). As a result, application questions foster discussion that delves deeper into the heart, and opens the door to real life change.
If your teaching material doesn’t have good application questions (and if you know the group well, yours will probably be better), here are some generic application questions I keep in the back pocket and should have broken out during my last meeting time.
1.) If this is true, what will that look like for YOU when YOU’RE in __________ (school, relationship) family, church, neighborhood, sports) situation?
2.) When do you feel the most struggle to believe this?
3.) What do you believe instead of the gospel when YOU are in ______ situation? What do you believe instead of the gospel when you struggle with ____________ sin (any particular sin)
Hope these help. Remember, material that is familiar does not have to breed contempt. Some things need to be taught and re-taught. And these types of questions will work well for those in a group who may not find the material very familiar. Application questions help “level the playing field” and put everyone on the same plane: broken folks who need Jesus to live out what they know to be true.