Unintended curriculum

The speaker shuffled his notes and feet uneasily. Impressionable young eyes stared back at him—some clouded with pain, others glowing with life.


He cleared his throat and told a “funny” story from his youth of a time he’d been intoxicated. The speaker went on to present a well-polished sermon. At the end of this youth meeting, a gray-haired woman waited patiently to address the speaker.

When her turn arrived, she gently questioned, “Were you trying to teach the kids that being drunk is fun?”

“No!” he snapped. “I was teaching from the Book of James.”

Shaking her head sadly, she sighed, “What about your opening? You had ‘em laughing intensely about being drunk.”

“That was just my opening illustration! It was meant to be funny. Didn’t you hear me qualify afterward that being drunk is a sin?”

“Let me be clear. I’m not saying you should hide the fact that you’ve been drunk before, but that story was merely intended to make the kids laugh. It made light of a serious issue in the lives of those learners.”

The true rarity in the story above is the woman’s wise, gentle rebuke. Thoughtlessness on the part of speakers is widespread and can be deadly. 

As a young student, leading the Bible club at my public high school, I read an article on unintended curriculum that confronted my attitude toward using my words. The article questioned, what do you teach without meaning to? What do you lead hearers to infer and what conclusions do they draw from your words? Our curriculum includes both our content and our attitude.

To avoid any unintended curriculum here, let me clarify. I’m not saying we shouldn’t share stories of past sin or present struggles. Growing to be wise and confident in self-disclosure is actually a mark of Christ-like maturity. However, always avoid speaking with an attitude that glorifies sin, sickness, or Satan. The shifty, shiny speaker in the story above neglected this for the sake of humor. As a result, his hearers were fed attitudes that may have led them into temptation and the very lap of evil. 

I have liberty to tell stories and to answer any sort of question. It’s a matter of what I say and how I say it. I often ask myself, “What will listeners hear and learn from what I speak out?” In group settings, I tell stories that lift up Jesus and speak truth clearly. In one-to-one conversations, I aim to communicate with a respectful spirit.

Afterward, I ask the Holy Spirit to convict me of any sin. He is faithful to do so. That’s part of His mission (Jn. 16:7-11). And I’m grateful for it. In fulfilling His mission, the Holy Spirit empowers us to fulfill our great commission. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for convicting and holding us accountable. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for sending Your Spirit in power. 

The Lord judges teachers more strictly, because our words hold the power of life and death for listeners (Jm. 3:1; Prov. 18:21). Oh, let us speak boldly and wisely. Whether an aged saint is present to confront us or not, every time we speak, let us do so with knowledge that we are held accountable for what we teach both intentionally and unintentionally.

The art of asking questions

“If it weren’t for God, I wouldn’t be alive today,” she said. “Before you invited me to Truth Seekers, I was planning on killing myself.” It’s a story I share often because it exemplifies Jesus’ hand on our ministry in high school.


The Bible club started my freshman year and was called Truth Seekers for good reason. We met together weekly to seek the Truth (Jn. 14:6). At one of our meetings, a student shared the above testimony.

The story started when I asked her a simple question in the hall: “Will you join us at Truth Seekers?” She agreed. She heard the Gospel at our meeting. The Holy Spirit led her to Jesus, who did a saving work in her life. It started with one invitation, one question.

I’m grateful for questions. They enable me to engage in conversation and grow to better know those I love. Questions are an effective tool to use in witnessing (Acts 8). It’s through asking questions that we meet with answers. 

I asked many questions growing up. Momma was gracious: “Now, Marcus, you know the answer to that question. Think about it for a minute. It’ll come to you.” Dad, on the other hand: “Open your eyes and you shall see. If it was any more obvious, the answer’d bite you in the nose!”

Since then, I’ve grown immensely in decisiveness, but I will always ask questions. Questions are important for nearly everything I do as a follower of Jesus. When I share the gospel and preach in the open air, I often begin my message with questions to draw a crowd, seeking to engage those walking by. The Holy Spirit electrifies simple questions and uses them to capture attention and draw hearts unto Jesus with a seemingly magnetic pull.

I’ve been so thankful for the ministries of the Way of the Master and Mark Cahill and their emphases on using questions to engage people in witnessing conversations. Using questions, I bring people through the Ten Commandments to an understanding of their sin, preparing the soil of their hearts to hear the glorious message of the Savior. 

Let’s ask questions and listen intently to responses, because we love people deeply as Christ has first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). When you discover where someone is, you can meet her there and lead her to where Jesus is.

Another week at Truth Seekers, a friend submitted an “anonymous” suggestion card, which read, “Can we have more discussion?” In other words, “Will you ask more questions, so we have opportunity to speak out more?” That suggestion shaped the rest of my ministry. 

Ask questions. What a remarkable idea! Draw the truth out of your listeners. Always submit to the Bible as the absolute measuring rod to evaluate every truth claim. Help others exegete His truth by asking questions.

Ultimately, genuine questions can lead to an encounter with the Living Truth. It’s only the truth of Jesus that sets captives free. When we ask questions, seeking truth, we will find Him. For, He is the Truth, and He is not far from any one who will seek and ask Him (Acts 17:26-31).