6  TRUTHS TO ENCOURAGE PREACHERS AND TEACHERS

For 45 years, I’ve been teaching Bible in both formal and informal venues. Here are truths that  have cultivated  resiliency within me  despite the inadequacy, warfare, and weariness  that accompany a teaching ministry. You’ll profit more from this post if you read the texts connected to the truths. 1.     The basis for our confidence as communicators is the inherent power of God’s Word. Jeremiah 23:29; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12Our hope and confidence as  preachers or Bible study leaders is not in our giftedness, experience, personality, or education.  It’s the life-changing nature of God’s Word that instills hope that God will use what  we say.   His Word is like a fire, a hammer, and a sword.  We sow seeds of truth within minds and hearts, giving fuel for the Holy Spirit’s work long after the teaching session ends. 2.     Bible teachers “sow to the Spirit” as they prepare and present God’s truth.  Galatians 6:7-9We equate the sow-reap principle with a negative application.  But Paul utilized this principle in a positive way for his readers.  After explaining the principle, he said, “And let us not  lose heart when doing good, for in due time we shall reap if …

3 ways to avoid relativism in group bible discussions

In a Bible study group where the leader employs discussion, “relativism” occurs when participants look inward for answers, rather than observing and interpreting the Bible text for that day. It’s a focus on “what you think the verse means,” rather than on what the text says and means inherently. Relativism occurs when learners unintentionally “create meaning” through subjective opinion about the topic or Bible passage. Here are three ways to prevent relativism, or a “pooling of ignorance,” when your group meets. 1.       Prepare the Participants – Ignorance evaporates when all participants commit to old-fashioned study of the Bible passage. Determine a reasonable amount of “homework” time and ask members to sign a covenant. Devoting thirty minutes to the passage prior to each session won’t turn them into scholars, but it may prompt them to shuck preconceived notions. When you meet, they’ll already have some rapport with the biblical text. Another option is to employ published materials. Look for a Bible study curriculum providing student workbooks as well as leader’s guides. An alternative is to prepare study questions yourself and distribute them a week ahead of time. When you meet, incorporate the homework questions into the publisher’s (or your own) more …

2 essential skills for Bible discussion leaders

During 45 years of teaching and leading group Bible studies, I’ve discovered the value of these skills to facilitate effective interaction: 1.       Qualifying My Questions A good discussion leader keeps the focus on God’s Word rather than human opinion.  When you formulate your own study questions—or adapt those from curriculum—here’s how to prevent discussion from degenerating into a pooling of ignorance.  Keep your participants focused on the Bible text, not their preconceived notions, by qualifying the wording of your questions. The verb “qualify” means “to reduce from a general to a particular or restricted form.”  Applied to questioning, it means to narrow the scope of possible answers by wording probes in a way that directs learners’ attention to God’s wording in the text.  The following examples allow the text, not subjective opinion, to sit on the throne of authority.  The questions come from an adult Bible study on King Uzziah from 2 Chronicles 26.  Notice how the wording shown in italics keeps the spotlight on what is said in the passage. *From verses 1-15, what words/phrases in the text show that King Uzziah was a success? *What reasons for his success can you find in the text? *What verse shows …

Rescuing “rabbits” – 2 ways to deal with tangents in a Bible study group

 “Chasing rabbits” is an analogy describing the activity of participants who steer a discussion off course. They chase down a thread of discussion like it is a nose-twitching, rascally varmint that doesn’t run in a straight line. They zig and zag, bolt right, then left, making it difficult for even a sportsman the caliber of Elmer Fudd of Bugs Bunny cartoon fame to hit them with buckshot. When a member of your group darts after rabbits, the direction of the discussion gets derailed. The word for this problem is “tangent,” defined as a deviation from the intended course. Any remark that digresses from the study slant or is irrelevant to the topic or Bible passage is a tangent. Here are two strategies for keeping your Bible study on track: 1.      Search for a Slant – From a single Bible lesson your group may glean numerous truths. But as you prepare, and while leading the discussion, don’t examine various points in isolation from the larger picture provided by the passage. Your observation and analysis of the text should help you identify an overarching, unifying theme. Clearly communicate the broad theme that governs the passage, and participants will be less likely to …

5 Ways to handle difficult or controversial subject matter

  Essential Strategies for Bible Study Leaders When it comes to certain doctrines or controversial verses, Christians don’t always see eye to eye. Employ these strategies for keeping disputes from demolishing your Bible discussions. 1.      Anticipate participants’ questions. In advance, identify lesson concepts or passage elements that may arouse or confuse them. This principle of anticipation amounts to a “head-them-off-at-the-pass” approach to preparation. Trying to figure out in advance what verses or points are likely to trip them spurs you to do extra spade work on the subject matter. In a session on Mark 3, expecting the inevitable question on verses 28-29 – the unpardonable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit – ensured my readiness to handle it. 2.      Employ lecture to set the stage for discussion. Even in a highly interactive, informal setting, several minutes of historical or background information may be necessary. For instance, in First Corinthians 5:5 Paul “delivers over to Satan” a church member involved in sexual immorality. Don’t ask, “What do you think this means?” Instead, delve into a commentary and be ready to tell them what it probably means. Such an approach protects your group from the snare of speculation and fruitless verbal exchanges. …

5 TIPS FOR MANAGING MONOPOLIZERS

Essential Strategies for Bible Study Leaders                                                                              Every now and then you encounter a group member who’s harder to turn off than Niagara Falls.  Though most monopolizers are motivated learners who are passionately involved with the subject matter, their verbal initiatives often cause passivity among others in the group.  Here are a few ways to increase the percentage of group members who participate.  Introduce a study question with a qualifying remark. I’ve received lots of mileage out of this one: “The next questions should be answered by someone who hasn’t contributed yet today.” (Except I wouldn’t use it if the group consisted of only two or three persons!)  Set specific conditions for learner response. Examples: “I appreciate the responsiveness of ladies in the group.  Men, now it’s your turn to answer the next couple questions.” “The next question must be answered by someone to my right (or someone in the last four rows, whose birthday falls in the spring, etc.)”  Give a couple of group members who don’t monopolize conversations a question or assignment a week in advance. At the appropriate time during the next Bible lesson, ask them to report on their research. Select individuals whom you can count …

WHat is the key to CONFIDENce WHEN I TEACH OR PREACH?

Sometimes I compare myself unfavorably with other speakers.  Their oratorical polish dwarfs mine.  Their magnetic personality appeals to people more than my melancholy temperament.  Or their formal theological training exceeds mine. On other occasions, before I walk to the pulpit to launch the sermon, Satan taunts me.  There are flashbacks to sins from the past week, despite having confessed them.  Or he reminds me of the grown son who isn’t following the Lord.  “Who are you to tell others how to live!?” he whispers. How do I handle these threats to my confidence?  What sustains motivation and passion as a communicator? I preach to myself this message: the primary reason for confidence as a speaker is not my giftedness, nor my years of experience, nor my formal education, nor my personality, nor my spiritual performance during the week.  What keeps me from losing heart is reminding myself of the power inherent in God’s Word.  I’m feeble, but the truth I communicate isn’t! I store verses in my memory bank and review them when demotivating thoughts surface.  When contrasting His words with those of false prophets, God proclaimed, “Is not my word like fire…and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” …

7 GUIDELINES FOR TRANSPARENCY IN TEACHING AND PREACHING

Something is transparent when you can see through it.  A person is transparent when he isn’t pretentious, when he discloses setbacks as well as victories.  He’s called real because he doesn’t mask everything that is going on inside.  His prayer requests are specific and honest (at least among a few trusted persons).  He’s secure enough to tell others when he’s hurting or in need.  He isn’t hampered by excessive fear of what others think of him. As a teacher or Bible study leader, she shares anecdotes from her pilgrimage as a Christ-follower.  She explains how Bible truths she’s covering sustain or challenge her. Yes, teachers and preachers must exercise discretion.  They shouldn’t convey publicly every single failure or area of struggle.  Sermons and Bible studies must keep the spotlight on the text, not the communicator.  But when utilized carefully and intentionally, there is power in the personal. Before choosing what personal things to weave into my lesson or message, I mull over these seven guidelines:1.       Will my personal anecdote accelerate Bible learning by clarifying a truth? 2.       Will sharing the truth’s impact on me increase the likelihood that others will see the relevance of the text to their lives? 3.       …

 6 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT BIBLE LESSON AND SERMON PREPARATION 

1.       Prepare my heart, not just my head.  I ask God’s Spirit to encourage, convict, or move me to action as needed.  I use the text to inform a time of prayer before I start thinking about how to teach it.  When something in the text moves me to tears, prompts confession of sin, evokes gratitude to God, or buoys my spirit, then I am almost ready to teach it. “No tears in the teacher, no tears in the learner.”  I don’t want to peddle the gospel without enjoying or experiencing it. 2.       Pray for learners/hearers, not just for myself as I prepare and present material.  I can only reach a person’s ears.  God’s Spirit must shuttle truth from the ears, through the head, to the heart.  Teaching or preaching or evangelism is never merely a human endeavor.  Paul delivered the gospel, but it was the Lord who opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:14). 3.       Write timeless truths or principles in sentence form.  If I cannot write or type a precise, clear sentence for every truth in the text, how can I possibly verbalize  those truths simply and clearly?  The gift of teaching is seen primarily in the ability to simplify …