“Let your words always be gracious, . . . so that you will know how you should answer each person.”—COLOSSIANS 4:6.
1, 2. (a) What experience shows the value of asking the right questions? (See opening picture.) (b) Why do we not need to be afraid of difficult subjects?
A CHRISTIAN sister was discussing the Bible with her husband, who was not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He said that he believed in the Trinity. However, she realized that he might not know what his church actually taught about the Trinity. So she tactfully asked, “Do you believe that God is God, that Jesus is God, and that the holy spirit is God; yet, there are not three Gods but one God?” Surprised, the husband said, “No, I don’t believe that!” As a result, they had an enthusiastic conversation about who God really is.
We can teach in a way that will reach the heart of our listeners
2 What can we learn from this experience? Asking the right questions in a tactful way can be very valuable. We also learn that we do not need to be afraid to discuss difficult subjects, such as the Trinity, hellfire, or the existence of a Creator. If we rely on Jehovah and on the training he gives us, we can teach in a way that will reach the heart of our listeners. (Colossians 4:6) In this article, we will discuss how to teach more effectively by (1) asking questions so that the person will express himself, (2) reasoning on what the Scriptures say, and (3) using illustrations to make the point clear.
ASK QUESTIONS SO THAT THE LISTENER WILL EXPRESS HIMSELF
3, 4. Why is it important that we use questions to learn what a person believes? Give an example.
3 Questions can help us to learn what a person believes. Why is that important? Proverbs 18:13 says: “When anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts, it is foolish and humiliating.” So we first need to find out what our listener really believes. If we do not do this, we could spend a lot of time trying to prove that an idea is wrong and then learn that the person does not believe that anyway.—1 Corinthians 9:26.
4 For example, we may be discussing the subject of hell with someone. Some believe that hell is a place where bad people are tortured with fire. Others believe that being in hell simply means not having God’s friendship. So maybe we could say something like this, “Since people have different ideas about hell, may I ask what you believe?” After listening to the person, we will be able to help him understand what the Bible teaches.
5. How can questions help us to find out why a person believes as he does?
5 Tactful questions can also help us to find out why a person believes what he does. For example, what if someone we meet in the ministry says that he does not believe in God? We might assume that the person does not believe that we were created. (Psalm 10:4) Some people, though, have lost their faith in God because they have seen others suffer or they personally have suffered so much. They cannot believe that a loving Creator would allow such suffering. Therefore, if a householder says, “I do not believe in God,” we could ask, “Have you always felt that way?” If the person says no, we might ask if something happened that caused him to doubt that God exists. His answer may help us find the best way to assist him.—Read Proverbs 20:5.
We need to listen to the person’s answer and let him know that we respect how he feels
6. What should we do after asking a question?
6 After asking a question, we really need to listen to the person’s answer and let him know that we respect how he feels. For example, because of some tragedy, he may say that he doubts that a loving Creator exists. First, we should let him know that it is not wrong to wonder why we suffer. (Habakkuk 1:2, 3) Then, we can explain how we know that God does exist. If we are patient and loving, he may want to learn more.*—See footnote.
REASON ON WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY
7. What must we do to be effective in our ministry?
7 The Bible is our most important tool in the ministry. It helps us to be “fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) To be effective in the ministry, we must do more than just read many scriptures. We need to know how to reason on what the scriptures say and how to explain them. (Read Acts 17:2, 3.) To illustrate, let us discuss three examples.
8, 9. (a) What is one way to reason with someone who believes that Jesus is equal to God? (b) How have you helped people to reason on this subject?
8 Example 1: In our ministry, we meet someone who believes that Jesus is equal to God. What scriptures could we use to reason with the householder? We might ask him to read Jesus’ words at John 6:38: “I have come down from heaven to do, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” After reading that verse, we could ask the person: “If Jesus is God, who sent him down from heaven? Would that One not be greater than Jesus? After all, the sender is superior to the one who is sent.”
9 We could also read Philippians 2:9, where the apostle Paul describes what God did after Jesus died and was resurrected. The verse says that God assigned Jesus “to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” To help the person reason on that scripture, we might ask: “If Jesus was equal to God before he died and God later assigned him to a higher position, would that not put Jesus above God? Yet, how could anyone become superior to God?” This kind of reasoning may help sincere people who respect God’s Word to want to learn more.—Acts 17:11.
Good reasoning may help sincere people who respect God’s Word to want to learn more
10. (a) How might we reason with someone who believes in hellfire? (b) How have you helped people to reason on this subject?
10 Example 2: A householder finds it hard to believe that bad people will not be tortured forever in hellfire. He may believe in hellfire because he wants wicked people to be punished for the bad things they did. How might we reason with someone who feels that way? First, we could assure him that the wicked ones will be punished. (2 Thessalonians 1:9) Then, we could have him read Genesis 2:16, 17, which shows that the punishment for sin is death. We might explain that as a result of Adam’s sin, all humans are sinners. (Romans 5:12) We can mention that God did not say anything about being punished in hellfire. We could then read Genesis 3:19. In that scripture, God told Adam that the punishment for his sin was that he would go back to the dust. We might ask, “Would it have been fair to tell Adam that he would go back to the ground if he was really going to a fiery hell?” Such a question may help a sincere person to reason on this subject.
11. (a) What is one way to reason with someone who believes that all good people go to heaven? (b) How have you helped people to reason on this subject?
11 Example 3: In our ministry, we meet someone who believes that all good people go to heaven. This idea will affect how the householder understands the Bible. For example, if we were to read Revelation 21:4, the person might assume that this verse describes life in heaven. (Read.) How could you reason with him? Instead of using more scriptures, we could focus on a phrase in Revelation 21:4. It says that “death will be no more.” So we could ask, “Do you agree that for something to be no more, it must have been there in the first place?” He will probably say yes. Then we could say that there is no death in heaven. People die only here on earth. It is logical, then, that Revelation 21:4 is describing blessings here on earth.—Psalm 37:29.
USE ILLUSTRATIONS TO MAKE THE POINT CLEAR
12. Why did Jesus use illustrations?
12 Jesus used illustrations when he preached. (Read Matthew 13:34, 35.) These illustrations helped to show whether his listeners were sincere and really wanted to serve Jehovah. (Matthew 13:10-15) Jesus also used illustrations so that people could remember what he taught and would enjoy listening to him. How can we use illustrations when we teach?
It is best to use simple illustrations
13. What illustration could you use to teach that God is superior to Jesus?
13 It is best to use simple illustrations. For example, if we want to teach that God is superior to Jesus, we can try this illustration: First, we can mention that both God and Jesus compared their relationship to that of a Father and a Son. (Luke 3:21, 22; John 14:28) Next, we can ask: “What type of family relationship would you use to show that two people are the same, that they are equal?” The householder may mention brothers or twins. Then, we can say: “That is a very good illustration. So if we could come up with this illustration so easily, why would Jesus, who is the Great Teacher, not use the same illustration? Instead, he said that God is his Father. By doing this, Jesus helped us picture God as being older and having more authority than he had.”
14. What illustration shows that it would not be logical for God to use the Devil to torture people in hellfire?
14 Let us discuss another example. Some believe that God has put Satan in charge of hell. How can we help a parent see that it would not be logical for God to use the Devil to torture people in hellfire? We could ask, “What would you do if your child became very rebellious and was doing many bad things?” The parent would probably say that he would correct his child. He might try again and again to help the child stop doing what is bad. (Proverbs 22:15) We might ask, “What would you do if your child refused to change?” Most parents would say that eventually they would have to punish the child. Then we could ask, “What if you found out that an evil person was influencing your child to do bad things?” No doubt, the parent would be angry with such a person. Finally, to make the point of the illustration clear, we might ask, “Knowing that an evil person had influenced your child, would you ask that person to punish your child for you?” The answer, of course, would be no. Satan is the one who influences people to do bad things. So, clearly, God would not use Satan to punish these people.
15, 16. (a) Why should we not expect that everyone will accept the Kingdom message? (b) Do you need to be an extraordinary teacher to be able to teach effectively? Explain. (See also the box “A Tool to Help Us Give an Answer.”)
15 Even if we ask the right questions, reason in the best way, and use good illustrations, not everyone will accept the Kingdom message. (Matthew 10:11-14) Only a few accepted Jesus’ teachings even though he was the greatest Teacher who ever lived on earth!—John 6:66; 7:45-48.
Jehovah can help us to “answer each person”
16 What if we feel that we are not extraordinary teachers? Even so, we can be effective when we preach. (Read Acts 4:13.) The Bible assures us that “all those . . . rightly disposed for everlasting life” will accept the good news. (Acts 13:48) So let us be balanced. We should try to improve our teaching but should not get discouraged when those we talk to do not accept the good news. If we rely on Jehovah and the training he gives us, we will become better teachers, and this will benefit both us and those who listen to us. (1 Timothy 4:16) Jehovah can help us to “answer each person.” In the next article, we will learn how to be successful in our ministry by following what is often called the Golden Rule.
See the article “Is It Possible to Build Faith in a Creator?” in the October 1, 2009, issue of The Watchtower.