HEAR-U: Training teams to ask questions that invite dialogue

By Rick Duncan

When we study the evangelistic methodology of Jesus, we discover that asking great questions was one of the tools in His toolbox. In Luke 10, a religious seeker asked Jesus what we must do to have eternal life. The Lord responded with a question, “What do you think?” Later, He told the Good Samaritan story and asked another question, “So, who do you think was a good neighbor?”

Since we live in a pluralistic culture, it’s especially important for us to learn to ask great questions. Being willing to dialogue and truly listen, without hostility and with civility, is an unexpected way to gain credibility in today’s culture.

In an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship article “Why You Should Ask More Questions in Spiritual Conversations,” Luke Cawley comments on Jesus’ interactions in Luke 10: “Jesus’ first question was a very open one that allowed the man to answer in a range of different ways. Only as the conversation progressed did Jesus transition to a question that required a one-word answer. To begin with, however, he tried to simply draw the man into a meaningful dialogue.”

Planters not only need tools like the 3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide to equip their members to share the gospel, they also need tools to help them listen to the concerns and objections that non-believers have. It makes little sense for us to be answering questions secular people are not asking.

So, how can we learn what their questions, objections, and concerns are? We have to ask! And listen! Great questions say, “I don’t just want you to hear me. I want to hear you.”

Here are questions using the acronym HEAR-U: Are You Hesitant, Enthusiastic, Afraid, Reserved, or Unconvinced?

Where are you with Christ and His church? Are you …


What concerns or questions are holding you back?

What troubles you about Christianity?


What about Jesus is especially attractive or intriguing to you?

What do you need to know before you take your next step toward Christ?


What fears are holding you back?

What cost of following Jesus are you not sure you want to pay?


What reservations do you have about Christ and His church?

What does not make sense to you about the Christian faith?


What aspects of Christianity do you find unacceptable or distasteful?

What is it about the Christian faith that makes you skeptical or hostile?

Questions like these can take the pressure off an evangelistic conversation. Obviously, we want to see conversions happen! But usually they happen after true dialogue takes place. Sometimes, it’s best not to press for a decision.

Asking these kinds of questions gives the seeker permission and freedom to be honest about their struggles, questions, fears, and doubts. Questions like these also remind the believer who is witnessing that it actually is OK for a non-believing person to be somewhere on the journey toward Christ.

Great questions say to the seeker, “I don’t just want you to hear me. I want to HEAR-U.”


What do you like best about this tool? How have you used questions like these in the past? Which question pathway do you like best? How would you make this evangelistic question-asking tool better? Keeping the HEAR-U theme, are there other words you would substitute for Hesitant, Enthusiastic, Afraid, Reserved, or Unconvinced? Who is an unbeliever you could use this tool with? When will you do it?


(Note: The idea for this tool came from Redeemer Church Planting Center: Church Planter Manual by Timothy Keller and J. Allen Thompson, Chapter 7, Connecting People to Christ.),

Published August 12, 2018

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Rick Duncan

Rick Duncan currently serves as the East Coast Trainer for the Send Network, the church planting arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). As an appointed missionary by NAMB in 1986, Rick was Founding Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC) near Cleveland. A graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Rick earned All-SEC baseball honors three times as an outfielder. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins and spent five years playing professional baseball. Before becoming a pastor, Rick served four years on staff of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Jacksonville, Florida. Rick graduated from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He loves to encourage younger leaders to create environments that God can use to invite people to new life in Christ. After 42 years of marriage, Rick is still in love with his wife, Maryanne. He enjoys spending time with his three sons: Alan, Ryan, and Evan. He is the proud father-in-law of Joanna, Alan's bride, and the proud grandfather of Ethan (7) and Caleb (3).