The Jump-Ball Question: Why Question and Answer Works in Bible Study

I love a good Bible discussion. I love it when people disagree. I love it when there are different points of view.

It happened just the other night in our Tuesday night small group. The passage was one that relates to the topic of this book. It was the passage in James speaking to the idea that teachers will be judged more strictly. I have always thought of that as meaning judged by God more strictly. I have always taken that to mean that to some degree teachers are held responsible for the behavior of the people they teach. This is why it says, “Not many of you should try this.” (That is my paraphrase.)

But someone in the group had a completely different take on the same verse. He posed the question, “Is this judged by God or judged by others?” I had always assumed it was judged by God. He assumed the opposite. He talked about how all of us tend to judge teachers more strictly. The text seems to support that. It seems to support my view as well. This is what makes for a great discussion.

The heart of the discussion is what I call the jump ball question. This is a question that can legitimately go either way. The truth is often a careful midpoint between two extremes. We must lead people to find the narrow way. Jump ball questions help us to do that. Here are some examples:

  • Is Christian living easy or hard? Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Christian living is either easy or impossible. It is easy because it is not us living it. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Yet, the Bible says in another place, “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • Is Christian living about striving and straining and trying really hard to be good, or is it about letting go and letting God? Is Christian living active or passive? Is it getting out of the way and letting God live His life through us, or is it trying really hard to live a life He has called us to live? My answer? Yes.
  • Does God save people against their will? Does God keep people saved who don’t want to be saved? Can Christians misbehave as badly as they want and still go to heaven when they die? If God has predestined who will be saved, then does it matter whether or not we witness? Why do missions if God has determined who will be saved?
  • Are we saved by faith alone? Are we saved by faith that is alone? If a person says he has faith in Christ yet never shows any fruit is he really saved?

The jump ball question is the heart of the lesson, but it is not the whole lesson. I write lessons for a living. I think I’ve written more lessons that any human, living or dead. Here are some question types I often use:

  • What does the text say?
  • What does the text mean?
  • Who can locate Ephesus on a map?
  • How does your translation have Romans 12.1?
  • What are 10 ways we could serve our community? (Note: I am not asking for commitment at this point; just brainstorming.)
  • How do you think the son felt as he approached the father near the end of the story? It is always a good idea to read the Bible with an emotional question.
  • Can you think of any other verses that speak to the same idea?
  • What does this passage teach about God?
  • What does this passage teach about us?
  • Why don’t we do this more often?
  • How do I become a person of faith and confidence?
  • Yes, but how?
  • How will it benefit me to serve? To give? To forgive? To be obedient?
  • What will it cost me if I don’t serve? What if I don’t give? What if I don’t forgive? What if I am not obedient? What will it cost me if I don’t?
  • What do you want to recall from today’s discussion?  
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Josh Hunt
Josh Hunt loves small groups. He travels extensively training group leaders. He has spoken in some of America's leading churches including First Baptist Church Atlanta and Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA. He has written several books on group life including You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less, Disciplemaking Teachers and Make Your Group Grow. He writes a popular online curriculum called Good Questions Have Groups Talking. His website is www.joshhunt.com