Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Teach the Bible to Change Lives is available!

I'm thrilled to report that my new ebook, Teach the Bible to Change Lives, is now available. Check out this terrific resource at http://www.teachtochangelives.com.

You won't want to pass up this opportunity for the ebook and three exclusive bonuses during this introductory price period.

If you would like to get a free 4-part minicourse on The Four Elements of Great Bible Teaching, sign up at http://www.teachtochangelives.com/4minisignup.htm

Also, you can sign up for a free weekly teaching tip at http://www.teachtochangelives/optin.htm

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Effectual Ministry

I recently heard a men's speaker use a great phrase: "speak into their chests." Great Bible teachers should be speaking into the chests of people, not tickling their ears!

Here's an old joke with a serious point:
A minister died and went to heaven and ahead of him at the Pearly Gate was a guy
in sunglasses and a leather jacket and the guy said to St. Peter. "I'm Joe
Nestorenko, cabdriver of Las Vegas." Saint Peter gave him a golden robe and
golden staff and then it was the minister's turn. "I am Elmer Lundberg, pastor
of Zion Lutheran for forty five years." Saint Peter gave him a cotton robe and
wooden staff." "But that man was a taxi driver? and he gets a golden robe? and
golden staff?" And St. Peter said, "Up here, we go by results. While you
preached, people slept; while he drove, people prayed."

The issue is whether your ministry was effectual. Does your ministry change lives?

If it doesn't, then you need to seek the Lord and His ways.
1. Repent and be right with God. "Apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
2. Seek God's power in you, through you, and in your students. "Apart from me you can do nothing."

With God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

Friday, March 25, 2005

Leading Dynamic Discussion

One of your responsibilities when teaching is to lead good discussion. You're not doing a sermon. You aren't doing a lecture.

Here are 10 tips for leading a dynamic discussion. (These were sent to me by an acquaintance, but I haven't found the original source.)

Serve as a facilitator, not a lecturer. Your goal is to encourage personal interaction and self-discovery. Avoid being overly directive or too passive.

Focus on what Scripture has to say, not your own ideas and opinions. Point group members to Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to make application according to each members need.

Maintain an atmosphere of love and acceptance. This can lead to open discussion. Never put down a person’s comments or contributions.

Ask simple, clear, open-ended questions. Questions should have several possible answers and simply answerable by a “yes” or “no."

Don’t force anyone to talk. Do encourage involvement by calling on reluctant participants by name. (This also helps control the overly talkative.)

Acknowledge responses when appropriate.

Ask follow-up questions. This may help clarify a general or vague answer.

Deal with incorrect responses and comments . You may try asking, “What do others think?” or “Does everyone agree?” Avoid telling the member that he or she is wrong.

Keep the discussion on track. If new issues are raised, suggest that they be tabled and returned to after the current discussion is completed.

Summarize main points periodically. This will help keep the group focused.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Application to Date My Daughter

Todd Wilson has posted a hilarious application for prospective dates for his daughter.

There's a difficult path to negotiate that simultaneously covers
* protecting our children
* helping them mature and become independent
* rightly understanding our changing relationship with them

If there were universal rules and timetables that covered all this, we wouldn't need the Holy Spirit.
Be Wary of Reductionism

As a trained scientist I tend towards reductionism -- break things down, bit by bit, and see how to relate and work. Find the critical elements. Reduce the whole into parts that can be individually understood, with (unjustified?) confidence that we can comprehend the whole by adding up our knowledge of the components and how they relate to one another.

The Bible and God's story do not submit to this kind of analysis well.

Eric Evers challenges my thinking in a recent post. He calls reductionism "modernism" and expertly connects this to the way we operate in the Church today:

"Modernism breaks things to find out what they are. And so it misses the whole; it fails to see the interaction, the interdependence of the parts. It does not see interlocking webs of systems, but reduces things to atomistic bits and linear chains. And in so doing, it leaves the path of wisdom.
Think of how we do this in churches. We focus on the individual apart from family and community. We analyze conflicts in terms of scapegoats and "problem people" rather than discern the deep, underlying issues. We set up clear, simple 1-2-3-home linear discipleship processes, instead of seeing faith development as complex, multi-vectored, and multi-layered. We abstract people's "spiritual lives" from the rest of their lives, rather than seeing the "spiritual life" as the sum total of all of one's being and doing. We break the white light into its component parts, but don't know how to reassemble it."

Evers also describes the alternative:

"Biblical faith sees reality as whole fabric, though twisted and torn by sin. Scripture witnesses to a complex, interdependent cosmos and a God who is intimately, freely, and self-givingly involved in it. The Bible gives truth in narratives because reality cannot be broken down into component parts. "

So as Bible teachers let us be wary of reductionism. We can coach people on how to "rightly divide Scripture" in order to understand how we should live lives worthy of the Gospel. But our teaching needs to emphasize the whole of the Gospel, not only little bits.

Monday, March 21, 2005

About Those Fabulous Names!

Ever wondered how to pronounce a Biblical name? Check out this great resource:

Click on a name and you'll hear it pronounced, and get a phonetic guide. Very slick.

Basic teaching tip -- practice saying names and places aloud. You want to be able to read through Scripture without stumbling, uh-ing, and apologizing.

And what do those Hebrew names mean? Here's are two sources to check:

Thursday, March 17, 2005

How's Your Jesus Nut?

I learned yesterday that the key nut that holds a helicopter rotor blades on the shaft is called the "Jesus Nut." Seems like an apt description of something that keeps the whole thing together and running safely. See Hebrews 1:1-9.

So how is your Jesus Nut doing?

If you're a teacher, then you need to be making decisions that keep you close to Christ. Invest time (more than you think you have) in prayer and the Word. Read deeply, and read widely in the Bible. Remember that you are the tool that the Lord will use. He is going to give you the right words at the right time in the right way for the right people -- and they will bear fruit for the kingdom, fruit that will last.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Life in Three Dimensions

Eric Evers has a nice devotional on "Life in Three Dimensions" that would make a nice short study for you to use. Walking in faith is lived in the midst of the real world. The three dimensions are

Life lived with others : generosity
Life lived with God: worship
Life lived with the self: self-denial

Living in all three dimensions makes a full life.
Using Picture and Diagrams

When it comes to communicating information, pictures save time -- they can communicate a lot of information quickly, and they can create clarity. You should use word pictures and images and simple diagrams to move information from your head into your someone else's.

I won't dwell on word pictures here. Many of you have lots of experience with this.

But let me encourage you to use simple diagrams more. Use a whiteboard or overhead transparency as you teach. Put words in boxes, and draw connecting arrows. Draw simple graphs. Use wavy and straight lines. Use multiple colors. It doesn't have to be elegant -- think "back of the napkin."

Before you use words, ask yourself "What could I do with a visual to make this point?"

Why do I emphasize this? Because research in the last few years has confirmed that our brains are wired to understand effectively through pictures. Also, we're in a visual age. While I may have some opinions about the loss of appreciation for poetry, the fact is that very few people learn effectively only through listening in American culture. This is particularly true for people under 45, who have grown up in rich audiovisual environments most of their life.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Work for Illumination

"In your light we see light." Psalm 36:9

A lot of marketing is about titillation, not illumination. Let's look at the word definitions.

The word titillate means "to excite another, especially in a superficial, pleasurable manner. " The root word actually means "to tickle." Titillation presumes the audience is not very deep or valuable -- they'll move on when they find a better tickler.

In contrast, the word illuminate means "to provide intellectual or spiritual enlightment and understanding." The root word means "to light up." Illumination presumes the audience is one of mutual respect.

Great Bible teaching is about cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit so that the Word of God lights up others.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Paint a compelling picture

Josh Hunt's latest newsletter inspires teachers to paint a compelling picture of John 10:10: "I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full."

Here's an excerpt:

"If you are a teacher, this truth informs your job. Your job is to incite desire. Your job is to paint a picture of the John 10.10 life that is so compelling people want it in spades. They want it so badly that it takes their breath away. They can’t quit thinking about it and they are willing to give up everything to have it. Only those who want John 10.10 like that will have it. Your job is to incite that kind of desire.
Too much teaching is about what you ought to do, or should do. It is about what God wants you to do. Or, in some cases, it is not about us at all. It is about the history or Israel, or kings and prophets and poets. Many lessons don’t touch life.
But, if they do, they are all about “ought” and “should”. That is not the kingdom. The kingdom is about desire. It is about want. As you teach, make them want. Make them want John 10.10 more than anything. Make them want John10.10 enough to give up everything. Paint a picture so compelling, so captivating, so intriguing that it takes their breath away. Make them want it. "
Interpreting Scripture

Letters from Babylon has a useful tidbit on the value of context in interpreting Scripture.