John Wesley was noted for the use of required questions in small groups to create dialogue and spiritual learning. Wesley, who turned the tides of English spirituality, did so through a method of requiring these questions as agenda items. Let’s look at some agenda questions that can stimulate spiritual discussion and learning.
Sermon-based agenda questions.
One of the best ways to unite a congregation is for all segments of the church to study the same thing. Many churches utilize “sermon-based questions” in their small groups to create this. Often in this scenario, the preacher prepares a series of questions based on the previous week’s sermon.9 These questions encourage the small group participants to go deeper into the message and deeper into the application to their local context.
Locate your focus in small groups. There we saw examples of churches that have created unity and learning by employing sermon-based questions.10 A caveat should be mentioned here. Many preachers seem to dislike the thought of having small groups dissect their sermon through such questions. This is a fear that must be overcome.
The importance of making learners in small groups trumps the preacher’s insecurities. We all know that congregants talk about the sermon anyway. In this manner at least, the preacher has a chance to frame the questions and the topics. Therefore, it is critical for preachers today to overcome any reticence.
Lifestyle-Based Agenda Questions.
The questions Wesley required were very poignant questions that make people squirm today no less than they squirmed back then. But, such disquieting questions are needed today, especially when social- and mass-media bombard us with ever more sexualized and sensationalized themes. The church must not shirk her responsibility to help people discuss and learn a biblical perspective on such issues.
Below are some of Wesley’s questions.11 They are given here to provide an introduction to the personal issues that Wesley thought should be addressed in discipleship venues.
- Have you the forgiveness of your sins?
- Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?
- Have you the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit that you are a child of God?
- Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?
- Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?
- Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and simple?
- Do you desire that every one of us should tell you from time to time whatsoever is in his heart concerning you?
- Consider! Do you desire we should tell you what so ever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you?
- Do you desire that in doing this we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?
- Is it your desire and design to be on this and all other occasions entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart, without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?
Some groups that have a close relationship might be able to use most of these questions immediately. Other groups with less intimacy may need to start with just one or two. But the key is to progress ever deeper into these questions.
Figure 6.2 gives a sample agenda that sets aside time for questions on spiritual matters.
Figure 6.3 suggests questions that can foster learning during each of these agenda segments.
Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012).
For further online notes: See Chapter 6 Complete Notes.
Bob Whitesel / Bob Whitesel (D.Min., Ph.D.) is professor of missional leadership and founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. A sought after speaker, church growth consultant and award-winning writer of 12 books on missional leadership, church change and church growth; he also holds two earned doctorates (D.Min. and Ph.D.) from Fuller Theological Seminary where he was awarded “The Donald McGavran Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Church Growth.”