Want to know the secret of successfully making a point in the middle of a disagreement?
Do you think it’s possible to make a point, without using any direct statements?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Have you figured out the secret yet?
LEARN TO ASK GOOD QUESTIONS.
This week, I witnessed not one, not two, but THREE people obviously dodge a question (or series of questions) posed to them, before finally–and embarrassingly–disappearing from the conversation completely.
(Plus one more possible example, if I wait another day or two and never get a reply.)
How about some screenshots?
First, in a conversation about The Nashville Statement, somebody (color coded Gray here) suggested that beliefs about sexual sins are just ONE interpretation of Scripture.
But notice how Green responds. Everything about it is perfect!
Green repeated back to Gray what he thought she was saying. And then he asked for clarification.
If anyone reading actually thinks Gray will write a private essay this weekend, I’ll take that bet.
(And by the way, I have a pet peeve against starting conversations publicly and then moving them to private. It seems the only reason a person would opt not to answer quickly, then and there, would be to buy time and/or save face so they don’t look foolish in front of multiple people. But I digress.)
Questions are powerful. They force whoever is making claims to stop ranting and parroting and trailing off long enough to demonstrate they’ve actually thought about what they’re saying.
Questions help focus the dialog on a single point, to demonstrate for everyone reading whether a person is interested in building a case–or just interested in making speeches without scrutiny.
Example #2 involved a conversation about Christians who hate Joel Osteen whether he “opens the church doors” for Houston flood victims or not. After Yellow made the claim that Osteen couldn’t be a Christian because he teaches “a false gospel,” Red asked him a question. Brown is a third party who was trying to talk with Yellow at the same time:
Since I know Red, I can say he wasn’t necessarily looking for a particular answer. Is Joel Osteen a malicious liar who twists Scripture on purpose? It’s totally possible!
Red wasn’t necessarily defending Osteen.
He just wanted Yellow to make a statement–and then defend that statement…
…which Yellow will do, as soon as he gets to work…
It’s a long drive.
So far, 72 hours.
Example #3 is another one centered on the “Nashville Statement.” (Although it’s a different set of players.) This time it’s yours truly, and an anonymous person we will call “Blue,” who shared this terrible video of Perry Noble rambling.
Noble says Christians should stop trying to be right and just listen to other people. He calls that a “relationship.”
So I jumped in:
If a person claims “The Nashville Statement makes it harder to establish a relationship,” I expect him/her to spell out HOW.
One answer, of course, is that being too truthful too quickly can rub certain people the wrong way and cause THEM to blow up the “relationship” before it has even begun.
So my next question after that would be, “Is that my fault?”
Or perhaps I would ask, “Does that mean I need to treat non-Christians like skittish deer and barely speak above a whisper, so they don’t get startled?”
Unfortunately, I never got to ask a follow-up question, because we got stuck at the first.
I was trying to ask “how is the Nashville Statement to blame?” in a different way. But, again, instead of answering, he simply went on to detail what he never said…and to repeat what he’d already said twice and was still failing to support.
Stating doctrine is just unwise!
It’s make it hard to build relationships!
Apparently it’s just a foundational Truth and you can’t take it apart any further, or something? (It’s like asking, “How do you know you exist?” I guess.)
And, truth be told, I DID have a good night.
I called my dad and we talked about how simple–and yet profound–this little secret is.
Sometimes it’s a small challenge to figure out exactly which point to focus on or what angle to take. But with practice, anyone can learn to expose problems without having to SAY anything declarative.
You, too, can be sending people off “to work” or “to write a private message” or “to have a good night,” never to hear from them on the subject again. Like magic!
Just find a good, thoughtful question.