Saturday, December 31, 2005

Friday, December 30, 2005

Take An Inventory

This is the time of the year to reflect on the past, and look forward to the future. Let's talk about reflecting on the past.

I have a specific recommendation for Bible teachers: review your notes and catalog the main things you taught, and the main things you learned about your teaching craft.

This doesn't have to be complicated. Use bullet points. Go through your notes and list out the classes you taught. Review your Bible to remind yourself of key ideas God impressed upon you. Think through how you're doing teaching, and make notes about how you are sharpening your craft.

This exercise seems to cement truth in us, and builds us up. It reinforces our view of a faithful, promise-keeping God!

P.S. This is also a good time to get your files in order. Go through that pile of paper and organize the lesson outlines, handouts, scribbled notes, and printed articles into folders to make it easier to get to the good stuff later on!
Between Abounding and Abiding

John Ortberg has an excellent article on navigating the holy tension between abounding and abiding. Recommended for Bible teachers and anyone with ministry passion.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cool Word Origin

I love to see Great Bible Teachers with enthusiasm! I recently did a word study on enthusiasm, and was delighted to find that it is derived from the Greek "entheos" -- literally, "God within." Isn't that amazing!

Get fired up, dear teachers, you have the most incredible source of enthusiasm in the universe!
Maybe I Gave My Book the Wrong Title?

Howard Hendricks is such a gem! I just ran across this quote from him:

"God never called us to teach the Bible. He called us to teach people the Bible. So study your Bible, but before you teach it, make sure you also study your people."

Great insight! Let's be teachers of the God's people, using the Word as a vehicle for growing in the knowledge and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Way-Cool Easton's Bible Dictionary is Online!

What does "propitiation" mean in 1 John 2:2? How can Ihelp new believers understand what is meant when we sayGod's grace?

To answer questions like these you need a solid Bible dictionary. The Easton's Bible Dictionary has been a standard for many years, and now it's easier to use than ever. Plus, it's available for free!

Go to the main web site at ==>
and enter in words you want to learn about in the search box on the right.

There are more than 3000 words available, so jump rightin.

There are two things that make this tool superior to the book:
1. Every word is hyperlinked to related words. So from"propitiation" you can go to "atonement" and then to"expiation" with mouse clicks.
2. You can easily copy the definition and paste it intoanother document (like your handout!)
Tip: If your search comes up empty, check the index ofwords (available from the main page) to make sure you spelled it right. I was initially disappointed in my search for propitiation, but then realized I'd spelled it wrong!

Put this one on your favorites list because you'll be using it again and again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Engage Your Students!

I liked this top 10 list from Pastor Tony Morgan. There is a lot here that applies to your teaching. I've reproduced the whole list below.

10 Easy Ways to Keep Tony Morgan Awake and Engaged During Your Entire 30-Minute Message

When people ask me why Granger has experienced continued growth through the years, the one area that probably rises to the top of the list has to be the quality teaching that happens week after week. It's filled with biblical truth. It's engaging. It's relevant. I'm biased, but I think I get to listen to and learn from one of the best teaching teams in the country.

I took the time recently to figure out what it is, in my mind, that makes our guys so effective in their communications. This might not apply to anyone else, but I listed what really works for me. With that in mind, here are the:

10 Easy Ways to Keep Tony Morgan Awake and Engaged During Your Entire 30-Minute Message

Be real. Let people see the actual human inside you. Most times that will occur through your personal stories.

Talk like normal people talk. I didn’t grow up in the church, so I don’t understand when you talk with a Christian accent.

Use humor. If you don’t make me laugh, I’m probably going to tune you out. By the way, the best humor is revealed through your everyday life.

Don’t tell me what to think. Lead me on the journey toward truth, but let me reach my own conclusions. In other words, don’t try to sell it.

Be honest. If I think you’re credible, there’s a better chance I’ll think your message is credible.

Avoid being too polished. In fact, I love it when you leave your prepared statements and share anything off the cuff.

Reveal your weaknesses. As silly as it may seem, it makes me smile when I hear about your mistakes. It helps me to respect the areas where you are gifted.

Be brief. Shorter is better. I’m probably only going to remember one or, at the most, two things that you say.

Make me smart. I don’t care how smart you are, but I like it when you make me feel smart. That’s easier when you use small words and make it easy for me to apply what you’re teaching.

Tell me why I should care. Help me understand why I should listen. If you don’t help me understand why it’s relevant to my life, I’ll to be thinking about my next blog post or my next tee time or my favorite 80s slow dance songs.

I've never had a seminary course on preaching, so I really don't know anything about what it takes to prepare a good sermon. This list probably only works for me, but at least you'll know how to keep me awake if I ever visit your church.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Every teacher I know struggles

Sometimes you find out surprising ways people get encouraged.

I was in a meeting with a group of Bible teachers at our church yesterday morning, and made an off-hand comment about how hard it is for me to pull lesson material together, and how often I don’t get the last pieces in place until right before I teach.

One teacher, who I know puts in a lot of hard work to prepare lessons, expressed relief that I struggled, too. Perhaps he thought he was the only one who God “strung out” and whose prayers for guidance weren’t answered immediately. Perhaps he thought “experts*” don’t struggle with the details of blocking out lessons, figuring out strong introductions, decided which questions to use, or what application to emphasize.

Well, I do struggle. If it encourages you, I can remember only a few lessons that just “fell together” smoothly and well ahead of time. I’m often still churning things in my head and heart in the middle of delivering a lesson, because I still have time left and can choose to go one way or another. I get the sweats thinking about some topics and how to get after them. It’s work. It’s joyous overall, and I know God is using me, but it’s work.

My conviction now is that God knows I couldn’t really handle it any other way. I’d be proud, puffed up, and think I was something special. I know that God wants to use weak vessels so all the glory goes back to Him.

My reason to write this here is to encourage you if/when you struggle with study and preparation and delivery. God is sometimes early, but never late. Lean on Him, dear teachers, and count on His faithfulness. After all, He loves your students much, much more than you do, and will see that His sheep are fed.

*"Expert" has been described as "ex" (meaning former) and "spert" (meaning drip under pressure).

Saturday, December 10, 2005

To Get to Wisdom, Turn Right Past Facts, and Head On Towards God

Print this article, "What Makes a Sermon Deep?" and put it in your files. Pull it out and re-read it periodically. Great Bible Teachers should use these ideas to get past mechanical, functional, superficial lessons.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Meaning of Christmas in Four Short Sentences

"Jesus left his place. He came to our place. He took our place. And He invites us back to His place."

Why You Need to Keep Studying the Bible

"Howard Hendricks tells a story that vividly illustrates the necessity of personal Bible study for spiritual leaders. During his college years, Hendricks passed one of his professor’s homes on his way to work early in the morning as well as on his way home from library late in the evening. After only a few days, he noticed the light was continually on in his professor’s study. When Hendricks asked what kept him studying, poring over his books, his professor replied, “Son, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.” "

Amen! You and I know that we can go for a while on "momentum" from previous study, but we feel it quickly, and others will know soon enough. The branch stripped from the tree stay green and fresh for only a short while!

Why You Have to Engage Them

I like this cartoon from Christianity Today. It's a good reminder about the importance of engaging people in your classes.

Use good questions to make it fun, challenging. (See if you need some help with this.)

Use illustrations creatively.

Pull from the whole range of human emotional experience -- the Bible does.

Don't be a talking head, droning on. Move! Vary your voice and intonation! Get other people talking at least 20% of the time.

Remember that it's not about entertaining people and tickling their ears. You're doing these things to engage their minds and hearts, and teach so that God will change their lives.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


"When John MacArthur was asked what a young man needs to do to learn how to teach the Bible properly, he replied, "Stay in your chair." Too many people keep popping up to watch TV, read a book, or a wash down some Fig Newtons with a glass of buttermilk. MacArthur says young preachers have to learn to stay in the chair until the work is done. And if you stay long enough, you'll realize when the work is done. Then you get up. Staying power isn't a glitzy attribute, but it's absolutely essential for success in any field of endeavor."

Monday, December 05, 2005

Why a Flat World is Great News for Christians

I'm concerned that many Christians today are going defensive, pulling in, creating tight little communities of like-minded people so they don't have to worry about the culture influencing their families.

The simple truth is that God wants us on the offensive. It's very likely that you, as a believer, are going to be the minority person in most of your life situations (where God wants you!), not the majority. Hunkering down and going defensive is not effective military strategy when you're outnumbered! Get moving, even go on the offensive.

Today lots of people are concerned about the political and economic changes made likely, almost inevitable, by the the "flat" world we live in. Technology and better management systems mean that work can be done almost anywhere. People are asking what part of their jobs could be outsourced or done in other parts of the world. It causes a lot of anxiety in many, many people.

Teachers, I challenge you to get your head on straight, and think clearly about what God is doing. A "flat" world is good news for Christians and the work of making disciples to fulfill the Great Commission. Let us be bold, and not fearful, for we are serving the Lord Almighty!

And remember that what our generation is experiencing is not completely unprecedented. In the first century the Roman Empire had 'flattened' the known world, also. Pax Romana created an unprecedented environment for the Gospel to spread rapidly because of
  • common languages and standards
  • excellent roads, and well-defended sea shipping lanes and ports
  • previously unheard-of speed of information and news
  • urbanization
  • people from many nations working together on projects and in commerce
  • the government model encouraged business and trade
The 21st century looks very similar to the 1st century. (Actually it looks better! The communication and travel technologies available today to individuals -- and at low prices -- were only available to the very wealthy even 40 years ago, if at all.)

Let us be teachers who are equipping and training good students of the Word, so they can be used by God more and more!
"Knowing What to Teach, and How"

There is a nice excerpt from Roberta Hestenes book Mastering Teaching available online at I recommend this article for a number of reasons:

She's focused on working hard to tailor lesson material and presentation to her classes, so that people learn and grow and experience God in their lives. She's answering these questions to give balance to her lessons:

What do I want them to know?
What do I want them to feel?
What do I want them to do?

(Though it's not "I" but God who is directing this work.)

She has some helpful advice about how to block lessons across classes, using the biblical text itself as a guide.

Also, she lists some useful guidelines about questions.

So get the article for your files.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


A friend who studied under Howard Hendricks passed along this quote from him: "Do not ask for volunteers. Satan will raise his hand every time."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Free Reports

I've posted a number of free reports you can check out:

How to Overcome Fear
Bible Study Tools Checklist
The 7 1/2 Problems Bible Teachers Face
How to Set up Free Google News Alerts
Recommendations of Bible Commentaries
The Best Fiction for Bible Teachers

and several collections of my answers to questions from Bible teachers.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Josh Hunt blog

I've been recommending Josh Hunt material on doubling groups for several years now. He has terrific ideas, and they work. They will work for you. I'm glad to see Josh has started a blog now -- check it out at

"Let's see how we can get 20 million people studying the Word each week."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Well…it’s certainly shorter

Open question: What do you think about “The 100 Minute Bible” (an edited-down version of the Bible, only 2.5% original length)?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Check this at the door...

Someone has suggested that ego, if it was an acronym, would stand for "Edges God Out."

I like that functional definition.

Great Bible Teachers know that this ministry is not about you. God got along just fine before you were created, He gets along fine in spite of you, and He'll do just dandy when you're history. He is I AM, and you and I are i am not.

So check your ego at the door on the way into your teaching opportunities...and don't pick it up again when you leave.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Strong Ending

You want to preserve the impact of a lesson. I've seen some great lessons get smothered because at the end of the lesson came the class announcements, the lead-in for next week, and miscellaneous stuff. The burning impact fizzles out -- all the oxygen just got sucked out of the room and people are distracted.

Put announcements up front; they'll be less distracting to the lesson.

It's good to give a "preview" of the next lesson to build anticipation. But sometimes you have to say too much, and it will detract from the zing of the current lesson.

So here's one strategy you might try: "Watch for my email by that tells you what to expect next time, and what you should do in advance."

Simple, easy. Build anticipation for the message, but don't give the message itself.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Using Email Between Classes

One of the most powerful things you can do is to use email between class times to connect with your students. Done well, this really helps you move from "event" teaching to teaching as a ministry. (Note: If email is not a technology option, think about short phone calls or postcards.)

What do you put in the messages? Here are some ideas:

* Encouragement
* Additional information you could not cover in classtime that is related to a lesson
* Links to reference materials that cover a topic in more detail, for those who want to go deeper
* Testimony about how God is working in your life or the life of someone in the class
* "Forecasts" about what is coming -- builds anticipation, which will improve learning
* Preparatory information for a future class

Another benefit of this approach is that people will reply to your emails, and you'll pick up additional feedback, questions, and ideas that will sharpen your teaching in the future.

I cover this strategy is some detail in my book, Teach the Bible to Change Lives.

How are you using email to improve your teaching ministry?

Friday, November 18, 2005

News from Barna Surveys

Christianity Today reports on Barna surveys regularly. While I have respect for the Barna polling organization, surveys are not the best way to discern where God is working. Still, there is much to learn.

Two facts caught my attention in this latest survey report:

1. The number of American churches offering Sunday School classes continues to decline.
Children under 5 -- down to 88%
Adolescents -- down to 80%
Adults -- down to 91%

While those are still "high" percentages, the data shows that there are about 20,000 fewer churches offering Sunday School classes now than in 1997.

I'm sure there are many reasons behind these declines, but I continue to believe that well-organized, well-taught Sunday School classes can be a fabulous tool to build up the believers and equip them for ministry. For many, many people, that is the only systematic training opportunity they have!

So my passion to be used by God to help build up this and the next generation of Great Bible Teachers is stoked, ladies and gentlemen!

2. The "what are pastors reading?" lists are focused on Rick Warren books and contemporary church dynamics. These aren't bad in themselves. But I'd like to see a book about building up praying churches be on the list!
Cultivating the Soul

A big piece of my philosophy about Great Bible Teaching is that YOU are the tool God will use. There are teaching practices and mechanics and tips that can help sharpen your teaching. But the metal is a work of the Lord in you, and through you.

Many of us need to invest more into practices that put us before the Lord, submitting to Him, being in relationship with Him. Gordon MacDonald has some useful advice about this in "Cultivating the Soul."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

For Fathers and Husbands

I encourage fathers and husbands to check out my other blog, Be Bold, Be Gentle. Sharpen your serve, gentlemen.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


I find two things are true about keeping a spiritual journal:

1. Almost everyone thinks this is an excellent idea.
2. Almost no one has done it consistently.

I, too, have gone in fits and starts at journaling. Gordon MacDonald's recent article in Leadership magazine gives me some reasons to get back into the rhythm of this discipline.

What about you?
Teaching Children? Check this out!

I readily admit that I focus on teaching adults and youth, not younger children. I was very intrigued by this short article, "Contemplative Kids." It outlines a different approach than the standard approach of !energy !intensity !movement.
Insightful Quote from a Master Teacher

"All true learning takes place only after you're thoroughly confused." -- Howard Hendricks

Friday, November 11, 2005

What Version or Translation?

There are many debates about which Bible translation is best. We're wonderfully privileged to have so many choices in English!

For Bible teachers, I recommend you use the version that your students are using. This gives you the best opportunities to teach in congruence with what they're reading. This is not about you -- it's about what's best for your group.

In my home church, where I do most of my teaching, that's the New International Version. I also use other translations occasionally when I believe the translation
a) helps people get past the "oh I've heard this a jillion times" dullness, or
b) helps me communicate additional meaning or depth of a word or passage

In other churches, teaching from the NASB or NKJV might be more appropriate. Work from the translation that will help your students the most.

Keep your focus and energy on the teaching process, and refuse to get sucked into debates about the "best" translation. If you want to put energy into translation work, support Wycliffe!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What About the Change?

Great Bible Teachers teach to change lives. That's the goal. We're not teaching to deliver information alone, but information that God will use to change the lives of our students.

That's why I love the lyrics to "The Change," by Steven Curtis Chapman. Great song for us!

2 Cor. 5:17, 3:18
Well I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe
I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my ID
I got the necklace and the key chain
And almost everything a good Christian needs,
yeah I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door
And a welcome mat to bless you before you walk across my floor
I got a Jesus bumper sticker
And the outline of a fish stuck on my car
And even though this stuff's all well and good,
yeah I cannot help but ask myself ...

What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
What about a life that's showing I'm undergoing the change,
yeah I'm undergoing the change

Well I've got this way of thinking that comes so naturally
Where I believe the whole world is revolving around me
And I got this way of living that Ihave to die to every single day
'Cause if God's Spirit lives inside of me,
yeah I'm gonna live life differently

I'm gonna have the change
I'm gonna have the difference
I'm gonna have the grace
I'm gonna have forgiveness
I'm gonna live a life that's showing
I'm undergoing the change

What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
I want to live a life that's showing
I'm undergoing the change
Blue Letter Bible

This is awesome. The Blue Letter Bible tools work very well.

I'm not a huge fan of computer Bible software, except as a reference tool. For devotion and intense study, it just works better for me to be sitting with my wide-margin Bible in my lap.

There is so much in this tool collection that I'll have to do more posts on it. For starters, just browse around.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Man Connected to the Source

Billy Graham is a wonderful contemporary example of a man committed to prayer, to intentionally humbling himself to be a conduit of God's power and grace. Read this nice piece on his example, "Continuous Voltage" and commit yourself to this way. Prayer and the Word are the path to great teaching ministry!
Should You Be Concerned about New Study Notes?

There is an updated version of the popular NIV Study Bible available now.

In the description, it says, "The world's best-selling study Bible now raises the standard even higher! That's because its celebrated study notes have been thoroughly revised. Turn to any page and discover the difference: over 20,000 of the Zondervan NIV Study Bible's Gold Medallion Award-winning study notes -- now meticulously updated and expanded to reflect the most current conservative Bible scholarship. Unmatched in any other study Bible, these notes place at your fingertips a treasury of instant commentary from today's top evangelical scholars."

Umm… I find this more disturbing than exciting. Should someone stop believing what was in the original edition study notes? Weren't they created the "top evangelical scholars" at the time?

This is why the only study bible I recommend for Great Bible Teachers is The Thompson Chain Reference Bible. There is a decades-tested system of cross-referencing and topical referencing -- Scripture is used to help you understand Scripture.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Know the Scriptures, and Know the Power of God

I know this is a familiar passage from Matthew 22, but read it again. Read it slowly, or out loud.

23That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24"Teacher," they said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. 25Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27Finally, the woman died. 28Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"
29Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

These scholarly Sadducees get quite the comeback. Jesus -- and keep in view that Jesus is always acting in love -- tells them first that there fancy degrees aren't helping them. "You are in error."

Here's the key point I want every Bible teacher to take to heart: Error comes because we do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. If you want to avoid error, then humbly work at knowing the Scriptures (a life-long obligation) and experiencing the power of God (an eternity-long opportunity).

Let us encourage one another to be students of the Word, and mindful of God's power.
What BIBLE stands for

Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Teach Meat!

"This is the age of the sermonette, and sermonettes make Christianettes."
-- Michael Green

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Becoming a Praying Teacher, not a Teacher who Prays

I highly recommend this 2 page article, "Becoming a Praying Pastor." You can apply everything Steve Loopstra writes about to great Bible teaching. Get this , print it off, reread it occasionally.

Teaching to change lives demands that we become praying teachers.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Answers to 17 Questions

I just published another free report, in which I answer 17 questions from Bible teachers like you.

Get your copy now at

I answer questions about

* motivating your group
* engaging people in discussion
* finding out about the original meaning of words
* memorizing Bible verses
* why I won't point you to reviews of Bible studiesand more.

Let's help each other teach to change lives!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Get some laughter going!

Church bulletin blooper lists have been around a long time. Maybe there's a blooper here, or a few, that would be a humorous start for one of your Bible lessons. If nothing else, have a good belly laugh yourself!

Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
The outreach committee has enlisted 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.
Evening massage - 6 p.m.
The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.
The audience is asked to remain seated until the end of the recession.
Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 p.m. Please use the back door.
Ushers will eat latecomers.
The third verse of Blessed Assurance will be sung without musical accomplishment.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
The Rev. Merriwether spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.
The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, "Break Forth Into Joy."
During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when J.F. Stubbs supplied our pulpit.
Next Sunday Mrs. Vinson will be soloist for the morning service. The pastor will then speak on "It's a Terrible Experience."
Due to the Rector's illness, Wednesday's healing services will be discontinued until further notice.
Stewardship Offertory: "Jesus Paid It All"
The music for today's service was all composed by George Friedrich Handel in celebration of the 300th anniversary of his birth.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the church basement on Friday at 7 p.m. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
The concert held in Fellowship Hall was a great success. Special thanks are due to the minister's daughter, who labored the whole evening at the piano, which as usual fell upon her.
22 members were present at the church meeting held at the home of Mrs. Marsha Crutchfield last evening. Mrs. Crutchfield and Mrs. Rankin sang a duet, The Lord Knows Why.
A song fest was hell at the Methodist church Wednesday.
Today's Sermon: HOW MUCH CAN A MAN DRINK? with hymns from a full choir.
Hymn 43: "Great God, what do I see here?"
Preacher: The Rev. Horace Blodgett
Hymn 47: "Hark! an awful voice is sounding"
On a church bulletin during the minister's illness: GOD IS GOOD Dr. Hargreaves is better.
Potluck supper: prayer and medication to follow.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the church help.
The 1997 Spring Council Retreat will be hell May 10 and 11.
Pastor is on vacation. Massages can be given to church secretary.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Do you like them?

There's this funny thing about people: They're much more willing to listen to people who they believe like them, as a person.

In other words, if your students think you're looking down at them, or you just don't like them, they aren't going to listen to you.

It's important that you enjoy the people that God has called you to teach. If that joy isn't there, pray! If it is there, then pray it would grow.
Going for Uniqueness

The church deserves its bad rap for standardization. But each of us was created as a unique carrier of the image of God. There are things which are true for all of us, all the time. We have much in common. But the cookie-cutter Sunday School programs and canned Bible studies almost always seem to be perfect for someone's idea of the typical Christian.

I really don't see Jesus teaching this way -- either to his disciples, or to the crowds, or even to the Pharisees. Jesus taught to their specific needs, as individuals and groups.

I don't think Jesus died so that we could all be cloned disciples.

This is why I believe so passionately that we need to raise up thousands of Great Bible Teachers who know how the Word, listen to the Lord, and create Bible lessons and studies that are tailored to this group at this time. Can the Holy Spirit convict people in spite of a pre-made Bible lesson that doesn't match their needs this week? Absolutely. But it doesn't have to be this way! Let's cooperate with the living Lord and the living Word and teach to change lives.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Great Feedback on "52 Model Questions"

Have you picked up your copy of 52 Model Questions yet?

Here is my favorite response from a customer so far: "The only hard part is deciding what question to try first."

I give the Lord all the credit for these questions. May He continue to build up a new and larger generation of Great Bible Teachers, for the glory of His Name! What aprivilege to part of Bible teaching ministry!

See what's going on at

Put these questions to the test in your own teachingministry.
New, new, new!

A co-worker, not a believer, suggested that "the reason Christianity is failing is because it's so old. People are looking for new stuff, not old boring stuff."

Hmm... it's certainly true that good marketing works hard to promote "new and improved." There's abundant psychological evidence that our brains are wired to see only new things or things in motion. We're focused on what's different, what's changing.

The fabulous news of the Gospel is ever-fresh. "His mercies are new every morning." If we're not finding new things in the Bible all the time, and see it fresh and life-giving -- it's our fault.

So as we work at our teaching ministry, let's help others find freshness. Get excited about God's Word, so that your students will also. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Christian Maturity

Bible teachers must be concerned about developing informed, mature Christian disciples. We are cooperating with the Lord in this process, serving others.

Rick Warren wrote a short article for The Christian Post that I recommend you read, titled "Maturity Requires a Variety of Spiritual Experience." Give his comments some thought. Work to ensure your Bible teaching ministry fits into a larger set of discipling experiences for the people that God has called you to teach.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Lesson

(This has been attributed to at least three people on the Internet, so I'm not sure whom to give credit to. It's hilarious, and has a great point.)

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and gathering them around him, he taught them saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are the meek...
Blessed are they who mourn...
Blessed are the merciful...
Blessed are they who thirst for justice...
Blessed are you when persecuted...
Blessed are you when you suffer...
Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven...

Then Simon Peter said, 'Do we have to write this down?'
And Andrew said, 'Are we supposed to know this?'
And James said, 'Will we have a test on it?'
And Philip said, 'What if we don't know it?'
And Bartholomew said, 'Do we have to turn this in?'
And John said, 'The other disciples didn't have to learn this.'
And Matthew said, 'When do we get out of here?'
And Judas said, 'What does this have to do with real life?'
Then one of the Pharisees present asked to see Jesus' lesson plans and inquired of Jesus his terminal objectives in the cognitive domain.

And Jesus wept...
Education is an Inefficient Process

We need to be patient teachers. You've heard about Moore's Law of Training, right? Well, there isn't one. Learning just takes time.

Patience is about trusting God to work. Have faith in the One who loves your students much, much more than you do. Pray for their learning and growth and transformation.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Speed Read the Bible?

I'm curious about your thoughts on this approach to helping people read and understand the whole Bible:

It's the entire Bible, but has been marked up with key points and subject headings. And then the reader is given a skimming/scanning plan to get the big picture in place (speed reading) before getting all the content (devotional speed).

I'm interested in approaches to help people grasp the whole of Scripture. Do you think this would be effective? Comment here, or send your thoughts to

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Need Some Motivation?

Articles like this one about biblical illiteracy in the church really fire me up! This was originally published in 2003, but I doubt the statistics are much better today.

"Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments. "No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don't know what they are," said George Barna, president of the firm. The bottom line? "Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate." [see Barna Group's web site]

Multiple surveys reveal the problem in stark terms. According to 82 percent of Americans, "God helps those who help themselves," is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better--by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one's family.

Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble."

Friday, October 14, 2005

Be Transparent, So Others Can Learn

Bible teachers are leaders in the Church, so we're called to be examples to others.

If you teach for life application (and not just fact- stuffed heads), then there will be plenty of opportunities to talk about mistakes people have made. The Bible is brimming with mistakes and mis-steps and can-you-believe-the-Israelites-did-that-AGAIN! stories -- which help us understand God's amazing Grace.

And I believe Bible teachers are called to be transparent about mistakes we've made, too.

Sharing our mistakes, large and small, helps other avoid them. My children and my friends do not have to repeat the same mistakes that I've made. Really! Jesus did not have to sin in order to know sin is wrong. Every generation must learn some of the same lessons, but they do not need to make the same mistakes to learn those lessons.

As you share about mistakes, don't forget to tell the important part of the story -- God's power in correcting you, transforming situations, His abundant mercy and love. It's not surprising that we goof up. The beautiful part of your story is God's faithfulness. That's always fresh new!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Teaching for life change

Josh Hunt interviewed Josh Jones of Athens Church about their small group designs. (I don't have a web link, this was in an email message from Josh Hunt, dated 10/12/05.) Interesting quote:

"Josh Jones: I would probably say that the biggest mistake a small group leader should avoid is the knowledge acquisition trap. A lot of times, we have fallen for the lie that if we just learn more theology and more about the Bible that life change will follow. Most of the time, this is not true. I know in my life, that has not been true. It’s great when I learn more, but it rarely produces change. That doesn't mean we shouldn’t be increasing in our knowledge of Scripture; I’m just saying that the focus should not be on that. Most Christians know plenty of theology and Bible- we just don’t apply it. I believe a major role of a small group leader is to help the group build a community that can be honest about life and can help each other apply the principles of Scripture. The focus should be on life change- not knowledge acquisition."

Bible teachers need to focus on life application opportunities, and not be satisfied with head-knowledge only. I would argue that many Christians actually know their Bible rather poorly, and this is in part why their lives look little different from not-yet believers. But application teaching is the best kind of hook to get people engaged with the Word so that they are excited about learning. And at least in American culture, seems to be a strong avenue for the Holy Spirit to work -- and without Him, without the Father drawing us on to Christ, there is no life change at all.

Jesus never condemned the Pharisees for their devotion and study of the Scriptures. He worked very hard to help them see accurately that they were studying words, not the ways of God, and few of them seemed to understand His message.
Blogging for God

Interesting news article about religious bloggers. I do believe this is an important tool for people learning how to express themselves and create dialogue opportunities. But many blogs (like this one) are mostly one-way communication; there are not many comments, and few emails. Some blogs get substantial reply communication.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

52 Model Questions book

My new ebook, "52 Model Questions," will be available on Tuesday, October 18th. I'm very excited about it, and know you will be also. Stay tuned for more details!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Get 10% Discount at CBD

Christian Book Distributors is offering a 10% discount through Oct 31st on their already-excellent prices. Your total purchase must exceed $35. Here's a search box to get you started. You'll still need to enter this promotion code when you check out and provide payment information : 219525.

What a perfect way to start Christmas shopping or pick up that book you heard about!


Friday, October 07, 2005

Using Other People's Lessons with Integrity

By some estimates, there aren't very many original Sunday School lessons being created today. I've heard estimates as high as 85% of lessons are done from a pre-made lesson someone else crafted.

And perhaps a third of sermons, on any particular Sunday, are not original to the pastor who is preaching. Sermon tapes and outlines are big sellers. The Bible study lesson market is large and profitable.

I'm not opposed to re-using good sermons or Bible study lessons if they are a good fit for your congregation at this time. But we need to use them with integrity. Check out the good advice in this article for suggestions. Key points:

1. Borrow for the right reasons.
2, You still need to invest yourself in the material.
3. Give credit for the source. (The article has excellent examples on how to do this.)
Using Great Language

One of the problems with the emphasis on the practical, "put your cookies on the lowest shelf, use simple words" approach to Bible teaching is the missed opportunities to zing their imagination with beautiful, uplifting, inspiring language.

It's wonderful to hear the hymn writer describe God as a "shoreless ocean."

I recommend you read this helpful article about using inspiring language in sermons. Think about how to h

By the way, a good way to develop your ability to speak in language that fires the imagination is to study good Christian fiction. Check out my recommendations on the best fiction for Bible teachers.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Read the New Testament in Less than a Month

Here's a special free report I put together describing a you-can-really-do-it plan to read through the New Testament in less than a month. Try this. You'll be amazed at what the Lord teaches you!

Get the plan, pick a day soon, and start.
What Happens When We Don't Teach Well

There are a lot of practical habits that new believers need to learn in order to be strong disciples. It takes time, and it takes someone who is willing to teach and encourage them.

Chuck Lawless talks about this in an excellent, short article titled "Discipleship : 2 Guidelines for Growth."

"Tim’s problem was that he really did not know how to initiate and maintain these spiritual disciplines . . . because no one in his church had ever taught him. His church told him to read the Word, but no one showed him how. They told him to "pray without ceasing" but did not teach him what that phrase meant. Nobody taught him how to face and overcome temptation. Leaders encouraged him to "keep up the good work" with witnessing, but they failed to help him overcome discouragement when others did not respond. Yet the same leaders put Tim in a position of spiritual leadership, teaching others the Word of God."

Are you doing enough work in your teaching ministry to build good habits and practical spiritual disciplines?
Free teaching tips by email

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Fun exercise with mature believers

One challenge with mature believers is that all the texts are "familiar" to them. But Scripture must never become too comfortable. We must push ourselves, and those in our classes, to see things a-fresh. Try different translations occasionally -- that can be effective.

Here's an exercise you might consider.

When you're teaching on a familiar passage, don't let your students open the Bible at first. Ask them to take a sheet of paper and write down everything they remember about the story. (Or do this as a group conversation.) Don't react if anyone gets a fact wrong, just write it all down. Give them time to do a thorough job, at least 10 minutes.

Then turn to the passage and read it out loud. Ask the people what they missed.

By doing this, you're taking advantage of what we know about how our brains work. We are particularly good at spotting the things that are different, or unexpected.

Even the 'toughest' person in class is not going to get it all right, and everyone is much more likely to remember the passage more clearly in the future. Especially the parts they didn't get right the first time you asked!

Tip: make sure everyone (or almost everyone) is familiar with the story. This strategy only frustrates people who don't have a clue about the passage you selected.

What are your students thinking about?

Keep in mind that your students will have many unexpressed needs. You can't know them all, but the Lord does. That's why I promote preparation methods that are heavy on prayer and study, so the Lord will direct you to teach precisely what these people need at this time.
Remember Who is Doing the Real Work

Teaching ministry can be very hard work. We need to pour ourselves out in prayer, study, and preparation. That's what we're called to do. But spiritual transformation is work done only by the Lord. We must not think too much of ourselves!

I like this story, because it's a good illustration of how God uses even weak preaching/teaching to grip a heart:

Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, creator and host of television's "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," recently gave an address describing the time he was a student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and attended a different church each Sunday in order to hear a variety of preachers.
One Sunday he was treated to "the most poorly crafted sermon (he) had ever heard." But when he turned to the friend who had accompanied him, he found her in tears.
"It was exactly what I needed to hear," she told Rogers.
"That's when I realized," he told his audience, "that the space between someone doing the best he or she can and someone in need is holy ground. The Holy Spirit had transformed that feeble sermon for her—and as it turned out, for me too."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Teachers as Leaders

Not all Bible teachers are leaders, but many are. Tony Morgan has a useful checklist you should review:

"10 Easy Ways to Know You're NOT a Leader

You're waiting on a bigger staff and more money to accomplish your vision.
You think you need to be in charge to have influence.
You're content.
You tend to foster division instead of generating a helpful dialogue.
You think you need to say something to be heard.
You find it easier to blame others for your circumstances than to take responsibility for solutions.
It's been some time since you said, "I messed up."
You're driven by the task instead of the relationships and the vision.
Your dreams are so small, people think they can be achieved.
No one is following you."

Great Bible Teachers do a lot of these things well:
They're not content, and always learning.
They generate helpful dialogue so people can learn.
They know when to listen, rather than speak.
They have big dreams for thousands and thousands of disciples, beginning with those God has given them to teach right now.
Useful word

Christians are people called into community. I like what Bill Kinnon writes about volunteerism in the Church:

"The word 'volunteer' works well in a culture that celebrates the individual. 'I' decide of my own 'free will' that I will help. But in a culture that celebrates community and communion, we are really called to be 'conspirators.' People who breathe together. (Conspire -- Latin root, to breathe together.)"

Useful word, that -- conspirators!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


In most teaching situations, not everyone in your group or class is a believer. Charles Spurgeon exhorting with great passion because he was convinced that half of his congregation was not yet saved! Therefore, teach with conviction and boldness, but understand that some of God's message will not yet be understood:

"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (2 Cor 2:14)

But even if spiritual things are not yet accepted or understood, spiritual truth has power that does work on the souls of men. Do not be put off by what your eyes see, but continue in faith and confidence. If the Lord can save you, dear teacher, He is able to save anyone. Sow, sow, sow!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sunday School information

Interesting facts in this artilce about the Assembly of God denomination declaring Sept 25 as "National Sunday School Day" :

"A Barna Group study taken earlier this year found that churches continue to rely on Sunday school. It reported that 96 percent of Protestant churches offer a Sunday school where people receive some form of Bible instruction in a class setting."

My limited research across denominations suggests that while many churches create Sunday School environments for all the children, adult class participation is much lower.

"According to the Assemblies of God, 66 million people across the nation study Scripture in Sunday school. In the Assemblies of God alone, over 120,000 people volunteer to teach Bible study lessons to over one million people every week."

Way to go!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Recruiting and Supporting Teachers

Roberta Hestenes wrote an excellent article for Christianity Today about recruiting teachers.

Check out her excellent comments on:
  • recruiting people to find their ministry, not just fill a job opening
  • making the recruiting process a relationship building process
  • how to help people work through excuses -- especially the "I'm inadequate" excuse
  • giving teachers the kind of support system they need
Print this on off for your files.
Great Quote from a Master Teacher

"Successful teaching not only opens the mind but also stirs the emotions, fires the imagination, galvanizes the will."—Howard Hendricks

I love the visual image of a "galvanized will."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

TurboCharge Discussion with the Best Teaching Questions

My new book, 52 Model Questions, will be available soon. It's a set of questions that have been field-tested and proven effective with

Any type of class or group
Any size group (from 1-on-1 to 1-on-500)
Any church
Any Christian denomination
Any level of spiritual maturity
Across cultures

These are the best questions I've found for generating good discussion and real learning in a Bible study situation.

I'll let you know when it's ready.
Where do they need to go?

Terry Storch writes "Take people where they need to go, not necessarily where they want to go!" That's good counsel for Bible teachers!

And how do you know where they need to go? You pray. Let the Lord lead you. He's trustworthy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Make Your Teaching Spectacular

I get teased periodically about my delight in using a large vocabulary. So I liked what Bruce Johnson wrote about Shakespeare's writing -- he calls it "spectacular." And then he gives an excellent charge for Great Bible Teachers:

"So my question for you (and for me) is, how can you take what you're currently doing and make it spectacular? How can you turn it from ordinary to extraordinary? It doesn't have to be a book or play that you're working on, it could be a making a meal or designing a room. It could be coaching a sports team or preparing a lesson for a Sunday School class. It could be putting together a party or designing an accounting package. It could be developing a sales team theme for the year or planning a karate tournament. It really doesn't matter what you're doing, it's a mindset that I'm after—a mindset that says, "I don't want to go through life doing ordinary things in ordinary ways, I want to leave whatever I'm doing with a touch of the spectacular." If you'll do that, you'll have a lived a life worth living."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Interactive Google Map of the Holy Land

Check out this interactive Bible map on the ESV Bible Blog. You can jump from Bible-time cities to Scripture passages to satellite images (of contemporary Israel and surround). Neat!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Helping People Think Biblically Through Terror & Suffering

John Piper's September 11th sermon is a wonderful outline on the Biblical perspective of suffering. It's studded with Scripture. This would be great to adapt to a short set of Sunday School lessons or small group Bible study.
Discipleship, Spiritual Formation

Check out this short interview with Richard Foster and Dallas Willard for insights about spiritual formation. Is your church teaching you how to love your enemies, and bless those who curse you?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Best Answers and Insights

If you've been involved in brainstorming sessions with a group, you know that it's very rare for the best ideas to surface immediately. And you might have to go through some "kinda weird" ideas to get to the best ones. It seems we have to generate a significant quantity of ideas before we can figure out which ones are the best.

Pay attention to this phenomenon when you are teaching group lessons or leading group discussions. When you ask a question that does not have a single right answer (e.g., "What might have this character been thinking about?"), don't be satisifed with the first answer that comes. Be a patient teacher, and get several answers.

Don't worry if some seem "weird" or outlandish -- if you as the teacher/leader make any criticism of the person who answered you can forget about future participation from that person! It's appropriate to test answers against what's in the text. But do this gently, and with respect.

If you are willing to work at this, you'll see some amazing progress in people's ability to learn from Scripture. Encourage them to be disatisfied with only one answer, even when they're studying on their own.

Note: you may need to plan to cover less material in a lesson. That's fine -- your objective is not to blast through X volume of material to make you look good, but to develop people and see God work to change their lives!

Also, pay attention to this phenomenon when you're doing in depth personal Bible study. You want to meditate on passages for some time. New insights will surface (and some won't be right when you test them against the rest of Scripture). It's rare that your best insights surface immediately.

My book outlines a number of strategies for in-depth Bible study that will help you. For example, take a short book like Ephesians and read it every day for a month. You'll hit some dry days, but you'll also be amazed at what you begin to understand that you would miss if you only read through it once or twice a year.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Good "Oxymorons" for Teachers

Wayne Cordiero is credited with these "oxymorons." I think there is a lot of wisdom here for those whom God has called to be teachers:

To stay current, stay ancient.
To move forward, remain anchored.
To serve more people, get alone more.
To accomplish more, do less.
To make a statement, be quiet and listen.
To be more fruitful, prune.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Keep Them In the Word

My senior pastor addressed the adult Sunday School teachers for our church yesterday to teach and encourage us. Here are some important points I captured on the theme of keeping the Scriptures central in our teaching:

"Your methodology should be to constantly ask, 'Where stands it written?'"
"Keep your finger on the text."
"If someone doesn't have a Bible with them, they ought to feel left out because you're going back to the Word so frequently."
"The Word of God will do it."

If you want to teach to change lives, then keep them in the Word. The people in your small group, Bible study, or Sunday School class are not there to hear from you. They need to hear from God.
What about a Bible Commentary?

I'm regularly asked for advice and recommendations onBible commentaries.

I posted an article with my views for your benefit:

In this article I outline where I believe commentaries fit in your Bible study toolkit, and tell you what one Bible commentary I do recommend.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Coming Up

I'm working on several writing projects, small and large.

There are two larger projects.One is a new book giving details on 52 model questions that Bible teachers can use in almost any teaching situation. I also want to write a minibook on creating and using biblical frameworks for thinking through complex issues (e.g., bioethics).

One small project I hope to complete soon is a full answer to the question I hear from Bible students: what Bible commentary do you recommend?

Please pray for me to discern God's best as I work on these. Thanks!

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Our objective must be to teach to change lives. A HUGE stumbling block to this level of teaching is "faking it" to impress others. I believe there is a strong correlation between authenticity of the person teaching and God's willingness to use that person to change lives.

I'm pleading with you to take the only course the Lord laid out: seek His face, and repent. Ask Him to make you into an authentic teacher and leader and lover of souls.

It may help to meditate on these lyrics from Casting Crown's song "Stained Glass Masquerade":

Stained Glass Masquerade Lyrics
Is there anyone that failsIs there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small
Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strongI know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the heart again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain

But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade
Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise

Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage
The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be
Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay
For PDA fans

I know a few of you are really interested in using your PDAs rather than a Bible and notes while teaching. Check out this article, and the link to a guide to "the paperless pulpit" for some ideas that may help you.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Got Your Prayer Team Going?

Great Bible Teachers must have a prayer team. You need a few people who will support and encourage you, and be committed to pray for you.

Where do you stand? What's it going to take to get 2 or 3 people (not just your spouse or your mom, though you need them, too!) lined up with the right information to pray specifically for your teaching ministry?

If this sounds complicated, it doesn't have to be. Contact people whom you trust and whom love you, and give them prayer requests on a regular basis. Let me them what you're learning about, the lessons you're preparing, and information about the people you are teaching. Tell them about your concerns, your fears, and testify to God's power and grace working through you when you see lives being changed!

Looking for more help? Check out for some recommendations.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

How I Use My Thompson's Chain Reference Bible

I've written before about why I think the Thompson's Chain Reference Bible is the superior study Bible tool for great Bible teachers.

I suspect it's not as popular as it should be because people get overwhelmed with the numbering system and helps. Also, frankly, I think people don't want to have to dig into related passages, they would just rather have some "expert" tell them what it means. The power of the Thompson's method is that it does not interject an author's bias, however well-meaning. Scripture is used to interpret Scripture.

(Side note: my favorite definition of the word 'expert': ex, meaning 'former' and spurt, meaning drip under pressure.)

Here are three ways I use my Thompson's.

First, when I'm studying a passage closely, I will look up the related Scriptures referenced as chain topics in the margin. You simply turn to the index, find the number, and the Bible verses are listed there. Those verses in turn let me move to other related chain topics and verses. Sometimes I feel that I'm working outward in a spiral of related information. My understanding of the passage always increases, but in the context of the Bible itself, not opinions of others.

Second, I like the book outlines. Each of the 66 books of the Bible has a nice outline -- brief information about author and dates, the overall structure of the book, and key verses. These are very helpful to get the broad strokes of a book in my head as I'm studying the details.

Third, I use Thompson's to prepare for topical lessons. I look up a topic in the general index of chain references to get the key ideas and Bible passages. Thompson's already has those structured into categories. For example, if I want to prepare a lesson about forgiveness, I will immediately have this nice outline, with supporting Scripture :

Divine forgiveness promised
Human forgiveness commanded
Examples of divine forgiveness
Examples of human forgiveness

I also have notes linking me to the topics and verses for pardon, restoration, repentance, God's promises, mercy, duty to enemies, retaliation, good for evil, and sin forgiven.

Note: I also use Nave's Topical Bible. Thompson's has more chain reference topics than Nave's Topical Bible, but Nave's tends to include more verses under key topics. Both are valuable. I rely on Thompson's to give me the seminal verses for a topic, and Nave's for a more complete study. Nave's does not link topics together as well as the Thompson's Chain Reference Bible.

I also love the many helps available in the Thompson's -- character biographies, maps, archeological information, harmonies of the Gospels, and lots more.

I urge you to get a Thompson's and use it. I've written a free special report about this essential tool that you may want to read. It's at

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Godliness and Holiness

Godliness means that the image of God shines in us; some of the attributes of God are evident in our lives. These include love, faithfulness, truth-telling, compassion, patience, gentleness, generosity, courage, and righteous anger.

[Are you surprised I listed 'righteous anger'? Check the Bible. God gets angry about sin. Jesus was not melba toast bland -- He was very angry about sin, and not just at the Temple. Righteous anger over the horror of sin is part of godliness.]

One thing to remember is that the appearance of godliness can be powered by something sinful. Many greedy investors are patient people. Child molesters can be generous. But their motives are driven by something other than the power of the Lord. See 2 Tim 3:5.

Holiness is to be set apart for God. There is no source for holiness except the Lord. It cannot be faked, and is not motivated by anything other than the Lord. God is intrinsically Holy, and his holiness confers holiness on others and other things.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina and Intelligent Design

John Piper has an excellent short reponse to Daniel Schorr's demand that the "Bush's intelligent designer answer for Katrina." Read this. Let's strengthen our understanding of the sovereignty of God, of sin, of grace and mercy.
Good quote

"Education has to be related to life; it cannot be an abstraction."
—Sister Joel Read, President, Alverno College

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Word for teachers

"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.'
-- Colossians 2:1-4

Note that Paul's purpose is to encourage their hearts and see them experience unity in Christ's love. Then the Colossians could get complete understanding.

He's not teaching to their heads first.

Great Bible teaching is wholistic teaching to hearts, heads, and hands.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Terrific Resource

If you like to listen to sermons and presentations, be sure to check out

If you use it more than a little, please consider making a donation to cover their expenses.

Finally, if you want to adapt material in your own teaching, be sure to give credit appropriately. Your students will not think less of you. Really.

Contest Winner

Thanks for all the entries to my illustration contest! Matthew Miller is the winner and will get a free copy of Teach the Bible to Change Lives! I also sent a special report on praying continually to all the other people who entered.

Here is Matthew's illustration:

"This picture is a box isn't it? But it is a box without sides allowing us to peer straight through it. It is also a box that appears to be confused, with one normally farther edge oddly overlapping a normally closer edge. Look closely! Isn't that weird?

Sides would prevent us from seeing this anomally wouldn't it? But because it is an open box we see everything inside, whether good or weird.

Have you ever tried to cover up something on the inside: confusion, frustration or even sin?
Often times we are like boxes, we keep our sides up and closed to protect ourselves, to keep others from seeing the real us, the anomalies, the frustrations, the questions, the sins.

Unfortunately many people base their love for others on what that exterior looks like. If our sides, our appearance looks fine, then everything is cool, but too much information about reality scares them away.

But here the wonder and beauty and goodness of God comes in. God sees us completely and He still loves us. We all have contorted insides, broken and bent motivations and thoughts that we want to hide. But Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus came to die for us while we were still sinners. So we don't have to be ashamed to pull away our exteriors and let God work through us and in us. That is what He longs to do, He longs for us to open ourselves completely to Him so He can lavish His forgiveness and grace upon us and through us."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

There is Always an Exam Coming

If God has called you to be a teacher, then He has preparation work to do in you. Even if there is no class or lesson in your immediate future.

I plead with you to be steady in His Word, open to His instruction, and mindful. We spend far too much of our lives in mental dullness and miss out on much that is useful for building others up. If you know the exam is coming, then you pay more attention, right? Let's simply settle it as fact that new exams are perpetually upon us, and be alert.

The book of Daniel is instructive in this regard. We see only a few episodes over 80+ years. Daniel and his friends were prepared for those big events because of daily choices they made when no "exam" loomed over them.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Managing the Ending

Peter Davidson has some tips for ending a presentation with power. Though this was written about secular presentations, I think a lot of this applies to a good solid Bible lesson or sermon.

"Don’t step back. If anything, take a half-step toward your listeners at the end. Don’t step back verbally, either, by softening your request to “I surely hope something…” or worse, “There seems to be a need…” Keep saying “we” and “you” to the end.

Don’t look away. Some people harken back to the last visual-aid, as if for reinforcement. Some people look aside, unwilling to confront listeners head-on at the last words, the murmured “thank you,” or the instant of silence that follows. Stay with them. Don’t move on the last word. Hold still for a half-beat after the “you” in “thank you.” You don’t want to look anxious to get out of there. If anything, you want to let people know you’ve enjoyed being with them and are sorry you have to go. Don’t rush off.

Don't raise your hands. In our seminars, we recommend “clean and firm endings” to actually show people you’re finished. You must “let them go” visually. If you keep you hands up at waist level, you look as if you have something more to say. You’re still “holding them.” (You can see this same phenomenon in one-on-one seated conversations: the person whose hands are up still “holds the floor” and the listener will not begin talking until the hands themselves are finished.) In speaking, think of yourself as the gracious host or hostess as you drop your hands with an appreciative “thank you.” That image prompts you to be warm and natural.

Don’t rush to collect your papers. Or visual aids, or displays. Stop and chat with people if the meeting is breaking up, then begin to tidy up in a calm, unhurried manner. Otherwise you might be contradicting your calm, confident demeanor as a presenter.

Never blackball yourself with a critical grimace, a shake of the head, eyes rolled upward, a disgusted little sigh. So what if you’re displeased with yourself? Don’t insult your audience by letting them know you were awful; they probably thought you were pretty good. One lip curl in those last three seconds can wreck 30 minutes of credibility."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Finding Leaders

A fairly common challenge in churches is finding leaders for ministry work. Most teachers are also leaders in their church fellowship or local ministries. Check out Sue Mallory's advice in "What Do You Do When No One Signs Up?"

Monday, August 22, 2005

Good Article Resource

Josh Hunt has a wonderful collection of articles about adult Sunday Schools, Bible teaching, and church growth. Worth checking out.

Josh writes that "the number one predictor of the growth of any class is the teaching ability of the teacher."
Spiritual Formation

I encourage you to read this excellent interview with Dallas Willard and Dieter Zander. They address the question, "Why don't Christians look more like Christ?"

Here's a terrific quote from Willard: "Instead of counting Christians, we need to weigh them. We weigh them by focusing focusing on the most important kind of growth -- love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, kindness, and so on -- fruit in keeping with the gospel and the kingdom."

That's teaching to change lives!

If you are interested in spiritual formation, also check out Bruce MacLaren. He writes clearly about "learning Christ," vs. "learning about Christ." Too many educated Christians have gotten lots of information but are the least Christ-like.

Dallas Willard's book, Renovation of the Heart, belongs on your bookshelf.

32968: Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of ChristRenovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ

By Dallas Willard / Nav Press

We aren't born to stay the way we are. But how many times have we looked around us in dismay at the lack of spiritual maturity in fellow believers? It is evident in the rising rate of divorces among Christian couples. We find it in the high percentages of Christians, even pastors, who regularly view pornography. And we face it each time a well-known leader in the Christian community is found in sexual sin or handling finances dishonestly. Perhaps you have struggled with your own character issues for years, even decades, to little avail. There is good news. In Renovation of the Heart best-selling author Dallas Willard calls it "the transformation of the spirit" - a divine process that "brings every element in our being, working from inside out, into harmony with the will of God or the kingdom of God." In the transformation of our spirits, we become apprentices of Jesus Christ.
Reminder about Contest

Send in your entry for the contest (see posting below) by August 30th. I've already received several creative responses. I'll give the winner a free copy of Teach the Bible to Change Lives.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

“Let me be a man of one book.”

John Piper’s marvelous book, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, is good reading for any Bible teacher. I highly recommend it.

Let me give you an example passage, so you get a good lesson:

“I urge you to be like John Wesley in this matter of relying on the Spirit in His Word, the Bible. He said, “O give me that book! At any price give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book!”

It is not that reading other books or knowing the contemporary world is unimportant, but the greater danger is to neglect the study of the Bible. When you finish seminary and are in the church ministry, there are no courses, no assignments, no teachers to make you study. Just you and your Bible and your books. And the vast majority of preachers fall far short of the resolution that Jonathan Edwards made when he was in his twenties: “Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”

The really effective preachers have been ever-growing in the Word of God. Their delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law they meditate day and night (Psalm 1:1). Spurgeon said of John Bunyan, “Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.” And ours should be, too. That’s what it means to rely on the gift of the Spirit’s Word.”

This slim volume is loaded with this kind of writing. Get a copy, read it, and plan to reread it periodically.
Quote the text

John Piper does something consistently in his sermons that every teacher should do: he quote the biblical text. He repeats the specific part of the verse that he is referring to. He does not say, “As Jesus said in John…” but says, “Look at John 17:7.” “Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.” Then he explains his points.

Quote the text directly, and out loud. Do your learners a tremendous favor and quote specifically. Don’t leave them scratching their heads wondering which verse you got that idea from. You want to them to be able to put their fingers right on the text.

It’s ok and appropriate to repeat key texts two or three times. The Word is meant to be heard.
Guides for Interpreting Scripture

Great Bible Teachers need to be careful students of the Word, and are often in the role of interpreting Scripture. Here are two short articles worth reading that speak this important issue.

Bruce Johnson writes that we must be responsible interpreters, not certain knowers.

Eric Evers does a terrific job debunking the “contemporary” interpretation of Jesus’ response to the Canaanite women in Matthew 15:21-28. Here’s the best quote:

“Any reading of a Bible text that allows the interpreter to sit back comfortably and watch their own assumptions be reaffirmed is immediately suspect. If you’re reading the Bible in a way that doesn’t cut you, the reader, to the core, then you’re probably mis-reading it.”
The danger of trying to make everyone happy

Inside I secretly wish I could avoid all conflict and make everyone happy. I intellectually know this is run-off from the chicken coop, but it’s a wish that haunts me now and then.

That’s probably why I really liked this comment from Tony Morgan, pastor of Granger Church in Indiana: “We learned long ago that to try to make everyone happy, you have to be comfortable with this ‘zone of mediocrity.’ It’s a place where there are few critics but it’s also a place where few people become really passionate about ministry and their relationship with Christ.”

Oh, Lord, help me to be Hot for you in all the right ways, not cold or lukewarm. (Revelation 3:15-16)
Great Word Picture

“The Word of God is like cool water from a canteen. During the most difficult times, it brings relief and a feeling of renewal that allows us…to accomplish any mission set before us.” -- retired Marine Corps Commandant Charles C. Krulak
The All-Important Hook

Bruce Johnson, a pastor, has written two related articles about introductions and hooks. Read these:

The Number One Mistake Most Preachers and Communicators Make

How to Fix the Most Common Preaching/Communication Problem

This second article outlines a step-by-step process to analyze an audience and identify their felt needs – the key to creating a great hook.

Great stuff! I recommend you print these and put them in your files. Plan to reread them again a few months.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Choosing Your Lesson Material

The reason why this cartoon is funny is because there's more than a grain of truth in it.

How many times have you had a good story or joke or "hook" line, and then wondered how you could use it?

My advice -- put that in your journal or notebook, and let it simmer. Don't force material to come together. Let the Holy Spirit remind you of things at the right time.

Start with the Biblical text. Many, many theological errors and false teaching result from a well-intentioned teacher starting with a joke or story and scrambling to find even the flimsiest connection with a verse.

P.S. The picture came from a weekly Church Laughs list from Christianity Today. You can sign up to get these for free -- another good source of ideas and illustrations for your classes!

Copyright 2005 Robertson and Christianity Today International/ Used with permission.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Contest -- Win a free copy of Teach the Bible to Change Lives

How would you use this picture as an illustration for a class or small group?

Send your idea to by August 30th. I'll give away a free copy of my book to the best entry.
Ask, Don't Tell

I worked through the Gospels again recently, as part of my effort to read the whole Bible in 30-40 days (See my book if you want an action plan on how to do this -- it will change forever the way you look at the Bible!)

This time through I paid specific attention to how Jesus interacted with people.

Jesus, the very Image of God, did not insult anyone's intelligence, but expected them to THINK. Even His enemies. How do I know this? Because he almost never gives people an answer, but instead asks them questions or tells them parables so they discover the answers.
We should do likewise as Bible teachers and witnesses for Christ.

Let's be great askers -- of the Lord in prayer, and of men and women by questions that help them to think.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Short hiatus

I will be taking a week or so off from posting, while I turn my attention to other things. Teach to change lives!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Catalyst for Change

Good teachers are catalysts -- they promote positive change.

In chemistry, catalysts are substances that speed up a reaction, or make it happen with less energy input. The reaction or change can happen at a slow rate, or at a low frequency.

God uses Bible teachers to catalyze life change in the people He loves. He uses teachers to help people understand more, put things together faster, get practical ideas that will help them grow into spiritual maturity.

You are a powerful catalyst in the hands of the living God! Let him use you to change lives. Get excited about what the Holy Spirit is doing to honor Jesus and the Father!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Great Bible teaching is hampered by 7 deadly problems

Every teacher has to face off and overcome 7 deadly problems in order to teach the Bible to change lives. I put together a free six page report that outlines the problems and tells you how to overcome them.

There is a "half" problem that you should also recognize!

Check it out at

If you think you're immune, think again. My teaching ministry has been hit by more than one of these!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Great Armstrong quote

I remember watching Neil Armstrong step out on to the moon. We were crowded around the B&W family TV in 1969, transfixed by what we saw. You probably remember what he said: "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind."

But I learned only recently what Neil Armstrong said to a joint session of Congress later that year.

"To those of you who have advocated looking high we owe our sincere gratitude, for you have granted us the opportunity to see some of the grandest views of the Creator."

Could you use that as a teaching illustration or in an opener?

How do you find quotes and stories like this? You can find out one free way (let Google do the heavy lifting for you!) at