Anyone who has taught for a decent amount of time knows the scenario. The lesson is going swimmingly until someone asks a question from left field. You’re so stunned by the strangeness of the question that you struggle to answer it. And before you know it the entire class is chasing a rabbit and you’re not sure how to get things back on track. O the joy of teaching!
When confronted with this situation, the key is to respect the questioner while neutralizing the question. We respect the questioner by treating him/her with dignity. We neutralize the question by addressing it quickly and moving on. Let’s look at an example scenario of a left-field question:
Teacher: So Jesus fed the 5000.
Questioner: How many calories do you think that came out to?
Teacher: You know, that’s an interesting question, but I don’t think it is central to the story. What do y’all think it would have been like to have been in the crowd that day.
Or sometimes you get a deep or theological question that, while good, really doesn’t have to do with the point of the lesson. That might go like this:
Teacher: Paul is saying that we are not saved by what we do.
Questioner: What do you think about predestination versus free will?
Teacher: You know, a lot of good Christians have debated that over the centuries, and it’s a good question. But I don’t think that is what Paul wants us to focus on here. If you’d like, let’s chat about it after the lesson. Moving back to Paul’s thrust in this passage, what is the difference between being saved by faith and being saved by works?
Respect the questioner. Neutralize the question. Move on.
Now, this is not to say that you should never let the lesson take an unexpected turn. God can surprise us sometimes. At the same time, you don’t have to let the lesson be hijacked just because someone wants to go off on a tangent. This is where you exercise wisdom and discernment. Just remember that your job is to lead your class deeper into the gospel of grace. Make sure that whatever direction you go, you end up there.