One of my favorite “breakthrough” experiences from the research for the book A Nation Reclaims Respect is the concept of interrogative influence. It is the brilliant use of questions—rather than barking orders—to help your friends, relatives, coworkers, and children—anyone—grow in respect. It works a lot better than lecturing people!

In a lecture, people learn facts. Using questions engages others in the learning experience. Since respect—“civility”—is more caught than taught, questions are powerful.

Interrogative influence is not new. Jesus used interrogative influence. He led His followers into a deeper level of spiritual experience. They caught His movement.

Some pastors focus on preaching in a form described as a “download of religion.” Jesus engaged at a different level.

If you want others to catch respect, use stories. They create pictures. Stories allow others to join the story. Instead of “I understand” (the academic level), they say, “I see.” Respect is caught!

One of the early Christians, St. Augustine, was asked, “What was God doing before He created the universe?” Augustine responded, “He was busy creating Hell for people who are too curious for such matters!”

Interrogative influence is the discipline of asking good questions. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” He could have lectured them. He could have preached, “Look, I want to make sure you guys get it. I am the Christ. And don’t forget it!”

Instead, Jesus led them with that question, “Who do people say I am?” The disciples told Jesus what they heard from others.

What Jesus asked wasn’t even the real question He wanted them to answer! He was putting them into a frame of mind. This is the power of interrogative influence!

Jesus got to the real question, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You’re the Christ…the Son of the Living God.”

In that moment, Jesus discovered: 1) They got it, and 2) they were ready for His departure. Interrogative influence is asking questions rather than telling others what you want them to hear.

Many issues about respect are supercharged with emotion. Consider issues such as gay marriage or right to life for the unborn. Think about the issue of gun control or immigration. Our world is loaded with sensitive and volatile issues. How do you approach them?

Many of the issues we face are really about respect. They are sensitive. Some jump to a position that is judgmental or critical. It produces heat, but not much light.

Ask questions. Become an active listener with a loving, open mind and a respectful heart. That’s one way that we can move beyond disrespect. More light, less heat. Become part of the solution. Help your nation reclaim respect.

Kent R. Hunter and Tracee J. Swank are church consultants and authors of A Nation Reclaims Respect, available on and

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