Session 1: Rethinking How You Think

➡ Average Reading Time: 9 minutes Cultivating Generosity When you finish this session you should be able to:
  • Rethink how you think
  • Learn from the Master Questioner how to ask questions
  • Understand three strategies to help you encourage thinking

Lesson Preview

In this session, we are going to introduce you to the concept of thinking by talking about asking questions. Then, we will provide you with three strategies to help encourage thinking.

Where We Are Going

What’s All the Fuss about Money?
It’s Cool to Think!
The Master Questioner
Let’s Ask the Right Questions
Three Strategies to Help Encourage Thinking
Ask Open-ended Questions
Follow Answers with More Questions
Give Yourself Time to Answer
Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going

It’s Way Cool To Think!

Let’s begin then this tour about Cultivating Generosity as a Lifestyle with the subject of thinking! More often than not it is more fun to talk about thinking than to think. However, we are going to talk about it to challenge our thinking process and then apply the information to our subject.

We have become a nation that does not know how to think! We are not stupid. For the most part, we just don’t know how to use our minds. We were trained and continue to allow students today to be trained to provide answers that teachers want to hear. Ever been in a situation like the following?

The Sunday school lesson for the day was about Noah’s Ark, so the preschool teacher in our Kentucky church decided to get her small pupils involved by playing a game in which they identified animals.

“I’m going to describe something to you. Let’s see if you can guess what it is. First: I’m furry with a bushy tail and I like to climb trees.”

The children looked at her blankly.

“I also like to eat nuts, especially acorns.” No response. This wasn’t going well at all!

“I’m usually brown or gray but sometimes I can be black or red.”

Desperate, the teacher turned to a perky four-year-old who was usually good about coming up with the answers.

“Michelle, what do you think?”

Michelle looked hesitantly at her class mates and replied, “Well, I know the answer has to be Jesus—but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!” (Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, 220)

This is humorous and at the same time tragic! We have used every conceivable way of thinking to keep ourselves and others from thinking. Go figure!

A second-grade class, which had scored well above the average on their state math standardization test, was given the following math problem:

  • There are 26 sheep and 10 goats on a ship. How old is the captain?
  • Thirty-six was the answer given by ninety percent of the children.

How have we created such muddled-up thinking and lack of creativity? We use workbooks with tear-out sheets that look for a fact, one answer, and nothing else will work. We program students to think “inside of the box” and nothing “outside the box” will be accepted.

Christian Educational programs are often an insult to people’s intelligence. We offer pat answers for complex questions. We live in a society, children, and adults, that are full of questions. They don’t want easily dispensed formulas with one-size-fits-all answers. One survey asked young people what they thought the church/ecclesia should teach them. They answered: how to make moral decisions. One should quickly note that they did not want to be given a list of things to do or things not to do. They wanted to learn the skills to make their own good Christian decisions. They wanted to learn critical thinking.

Critical thinking can be defined as the ability to investigate evidence, examine arguments, and construct a rational basis for a belief system. Included in critical thinking is the ability to reason and think about one’s reasoning processes so that the individual reasoning process can be evaluated as to its effectiveness. We may say that critical thinking is using your cognitive powers to inspect the presuppositions that you hold, review them, and alter them when it is necessary.

Folks want to think. We do not need to teach them what to think. We do need to teach them how to think. The more people are told what to think, the less they rely on their thinking abilities. Remember the old saying, “use it or lose it.” It’s true! The mind will atrophy without use. It will dry up! It will wither, shrink, and decay without active stimulation and use.

Once while training in an ecclesia, I was questioned by one of its newer members about the concept of Trinity. I was trying to explain that the Western rational mindset seems to be a complex way of thinking for most folks living within a Western worldview.

While I was walking through some picture examples that hopefully would connect with her thought pattern, her pastor walked by and overheard what we were talking about. He turned to me and said, “Don’t mess her up with all that information. She can’t understand what you are saying anyhow. She will never be able to understand the concept of Trinity. Just leave her alone.” He completely devalued this lady’s ability to think about new information. What a stupid tragedy! By the way, I did not follow the suggestion of her pastor.

The Master Questioner

Learning to ask questions in the thinking process is strategic. We do not ask questions to gather information, we ask questions to provoke thinking. Jesus never knew that folks in the ecclesia should never be allowed to think. Very seldom did he just outright answer a question that was asked of him. Instead, he asked more questions. He was the master at questioning. He was determined to make people learn to think for themselves. Haven’t you sat down to a passage in Scripture and pondered what the meaning could be? When you did, you demonstrated the success of Jesus in his teaching style. He planned for you to have to think!

It was the technique of Jesus to answer a question with a question that would cause the thinking process to be activated. Once a lawyer asked him: Who is my neighbor? The answer the lawyer received was the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.29-37). His use of parables taught people to think about what he was teaching. Rarely did he tell his listeners the meaning of those stories. It is okay to tell a story and not explain it, which in turn causes others to think for themselves. Jesus trusted in his listener’s ability to think. He knew that once you planted a seed, God and the soil could do the rest (1 Cor. 3.6).

Jesus also demonstrated his commitment to the thinking process by the number of questions he asked. There are scores of them. While teaching in the temple he was approached by the priests and elders and asked, “what authority do you have to do these things? Who gave you this authority?” Jesus responded; I also will ask you a question. “If you answer me, then I will tell you what authority I have to do these things. Tell me: When John baptized people did that come from God or just from other people?” (Matt. 21.23-25) The result of his method, the priest and elders had to think. We think that Jesus came to settle people’s minds. Nope! He came to jolt the minds of his listeners. As his followers, he came to stir us, cause us to think, and learn.

Learn to Ask the Right Questions

It’s not that we don’t ask questions, we just don’t ask the right kind of questions. We ask rather stupid questions like, “Where was Jesus born?” We look for one right answer. “Bethlehem!” This sort of mindless question and answer routine wastes time and chills thinking. This is the questioning style that dominates our Christian education process. Only about one percent of questions asked by students evoke more than a factual answer. Remember, facts only exercise the memory of a person. Studying and remembering facts does not encourage thinking and learning.

Questions that ask for thinking often ask for feeling as a way to stimulate thinking. Instead of, Where was Jesus born? One provides a bit of information and then ask a question, “Jesus was born in a smelling room where animals were kept. What do you suppose that was like for his mother and father?” Every student is required to think about the answer and each student can answer the question in his or her way.

Observe these questions posed by Jesus. What do you see?

  • “And why do you worry about clothes? (Matt. 6.28)
  • “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matt. 7.3)
  • Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? (Matt. 9.5)
  • Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14.31)
  • “What do you think about the Christ? (Matt. 22.42)

The key is to avoid questions that ask for a predetermined answer.

Asking questions with predetermined answers often form a hidden curriculum that teaches hypocrisy, because you will only answer what you think someone might want to hear.

Three Strategies to Help Encourage Thinking

Here are three strategies to help you turn from a non-thinking person to a thinking person. It will help you to ponder, wonder, imagine and problem-solve.

Ask Open-ended Questions

The questions you ask should be open-ended. When you ask the question, “Where was Jesus born?” you are asking a close-ended question. Typically, there is only one right answer to a closed-ended question. Asking this kind of question calls for you to remember a fact and simply repeat it. The answer is either right or wrong. If the question is answered correctly, your mind remains uninvolved in the thinking process. Open-ended questions require you to listen, think, and respond out of the content you have learned. Here are a few examples:

  • Why do you think God allowed Jesus to be born in a smelly room in a family home?
  • To what kind of place would God send Joseph and Mary for Jesus to be born today?
  • Suppose in today’s society that an unwed teenage girl gave birth to a baby in a homeless shelter, what would it take for you to believe that he was the Son of God?

Follow Answers with More Questions

Don’t settle for a no-brain memorized response of a fact you know. You are conditioned to give these kinds of answers. Encourage yourself to think by asking follow-up questions.

  • How did you decide…?
  • What does the text mean when it says…?
  • What reasons do you have to support your answer?

Give Yourself Time to Answer

Silence is golden, but often threatening. If one second has passed and you have not answered the question, panic sets in. Often we turn to a pat answer which we already think we know to take the pressure off. Remember, thinking takes time. Here are some simple guidelines to make time work for you.

  • Understand that it is okay to reflect and think before answering. Silence is okay.
  • Give yourself ample time to think before you respond.
  • Encourage yourself to ask lots of questions. This is a sure sign that thinking is occurring. Thinkers who become askers will become learners.

Thinking Can Be Alien

Thinking skills may not be a strategy that goes smoothly for you as you begin. We are not accustomed to thinking, especially in the ecclesia. Therein we are spoon-fed answers to questions that no one is asking in three points and a couple of illustrations. Be patient. Don’t give up too quickly in cultivating your thinking. An anonymous writer once said, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit.”

Thinking is imperative. Thinking and rethinking is the goal of these sessions. If you want the challenge of being presented with some tough ideas from Scripture about giving, then keep reading the sessions. It’s well worth it. Your life will be forever changed. I guarantee it!

Where Have We Been And Where Are We Going

The topic of money may cause several reactions when we begin to talk about it. How we think about it can be traced to the sources we have been exposed to in our learning about the subject. The process of thinking that we apply to the subject may be passive instead of active.

We have settled for what someone has said instead of challenging what has been said. Of course, there are many reasons for this approach.

Mainly in the ecclesiae, we have been schooled to think that the one who is upfront speaking is the authority and we should think twice before we “touch God’s anointed.” ( Only those who have a fear of not being listened to spout such narrow-minded retorts. These kinds of responses are a matter of control. So thinking for ourselves is important. Being given a frame of reference to think is important. Rethinking and changing one’s mind is painful. But, such is the case with all growth.

In the following sessions, we are going to visit the topic of what our first thoughts are when we hear the subject of money talked about in the ecclesia. Then we will give you an overview of how money has been seen through the ages.

Community Discussion Questions

➡ |CDQ Info|


  • Make a list of ten (10) questions that you may ask a believer that will stimulate him or her to think about the answer in somewhat the same fashion that Jesus used to ask questions.
  • Make a list of five (5) questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” answer and then re-ask them as open-ended questions.


  • How often do you answer a question with another question? Why is this technique a responsible way to teach one to think? Why do you think that giving simpleton answers atrophies thinking and, therefore, growth in individuals?
  • How often do you insult someone’s intelligence by offering a pat answer to their question or need? How do you feel when someone takes this tactic with you? What can you do to change this way of responding?
  • When you hear the word critical in critical thinking, how have you defined it?
  • How has that definition caused you to not pursue this way of thinking before?

End of Session

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)