Answering tricky questions in your Bible study group, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I showed how to answer tricky questions that are innocent, the first of two categories of questions we are asked in a Bible study setting.

Today, let’s answer the question, “How do I handle the other category of question: the malevolent question?”

If you’ve ever been put on the spot intentionally by someone during a Bible study, don’t despair! This happened to Jesus at various times. In Luke 20 a group of men came to him to trick him, and he turned the tables on them. He wouldn’t respond to their question before they responded to a question he decided to throw at them. The result? They dared not ask him any more questions! I think there is some humor in the Bible, and that’s one of the spots – I’d have loved to have been there to see Jesus expertly handle a group of people with a malevolent question!

But back to our groups today. Just like in yesterday’s post, here are four ways to respond when you’re asked a question that does have a bite – you sense that it has been asked to derail the study or to challenge you. Take a deep breath, compose  yourself, and choose one or more of the following ways to deal with that malevolent question:

  • DEFLECT – Deal with that potential barbed question by deflecting it. Say, “If I have time before the Bible study is over, I’ll get to that question. If not, I’ll visit with you after class. Let’s continue our study…” I never get to the person’s question (imagine that!). If I sense that the question was asked to do me or the group some level of harm, I always want to isolate the person and not give him or her a platform in front of the group. I always meet with the person afterwards.
  • DEFEND – On occasion, when I really do want to bring correction or rebuke to the person asking the snarky question, I choose to respond. Jesus did this in Matthew 24 when he was asked an intentionally tricky question about which was the greatest command in the law. Sometimes the best course of action is to confront the person and give your response. Defend your position. Use Scripture. Stand your ground.
  • DIVIDE – This is a great response that normally puts the person in their place, and causes them not to ask challenging questions any more. When asked one of those malevolent questions, say: “John has posed a hard question. Let’s divide into groups of 3 or 4 and work quickly to respond based on Scripture. Elect a spokesperson for you group. You have 5 minutes. Go!” What always happens is that the groups of people end up “policing” the person with the malevolent question. They put him in his place using Scripture, and you don’t have to say a word. It also give you, the teacher, time to think about a response while the groups are doing their work. I love this solution!
  • DIG – Normally when you are asked a malevolent question, there is “a question behind the question.” Do a little digging and find out what’s the real issue. Say, “Wow – I didn’t anticipate that kind of question in our study today. Why do you ask that?” Continue probing with an even more pointed question, “Why is it important to you that we answer that right now?” or “Help me see how that question connects to our study.” Just keep digging and ultimately the person will either back off, or he’ll reveal the true reason he’s putting you on the spot.

I hope that between yesterday’s post and today’s post you feel more equipped to deal with the two categories of questions that we’re all going to be asked from time to time: innocent questions and malevolent questions.

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