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Using the “Arrow Question”

The other day at the gym I crossed paths with a young man I had met not long ago. In an earlier conversation, this young man had shared with me that he is very new to Columbus, and that he attends a local public high school. We’d had a nice discussion about his background, and he was kind to point out that he felt people at the gym had been welcoming.

I decided this time to greet him and ask him how school was going. His transparent response created an opening to talk about spiritual things, and I had an opportunity to share the Gospel with him as a result. In fact, our conversation was taking place in an area of the gym where others could hear. It will be exciting to see how God uses this interaction for His glory.

Reflecting on the incident, the human means by which God opened the door for spiritual conversation was something we’ll call an “arrow question.” Arrow questions differ from everyday questions in their depth. An everyday question is an expected part of conversation—something like, “How are you?” or “What did you think about the Super Bowl?” Arrow questions strike deeper than the surface by touching on a matter of importance to the addressee. They are the sort of questions that often provoke the hearer to decide how straightforward an answer he wants to provide. Arrow questions demonstrate a thoughtfulness and concern on the part of the questioner that everyday questions don’t communicate.

In the course of human relationships, we normally ask everyday questions to have the fodder for arrow questions. It would be weird to initiate a conversation with a stranger by saying, “How are your kids?” However, if someone has mentioned that he has kids—and especially if he has expressed concern about them—a question like “How is David doing?” has the potential to lead to a significant dialogue (the use of the child’s name sharpens the arrow, so to speak).

One reason arrow questions have great spiritual potential is that they are a demonstration of Christlike humility and concern for others (see Philippians 2:3–11). To ask arrow questions, we have to be paying attention to people when they speak and we have to remember what is important to them. Unfortunately, this isn’t very common. Its rarity, however, provides a tool for impact.

It’s your turn now. What arrow questions have you used in the past?

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2 Responses

  1. Charles Ohrstedt says:

    What are you dealing with and how can I help you? What do you want me to do?

    • Beau Stanley says:

      That is a good one, Charles, so long as you’ve established the rapport to ask it (pretty direct). Thanks for your response.

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