Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Teaching is a Craft

I occasionally hear from people who say they don't need to learn any more about teaching, because they've been doing it for a long time and have it down.

Teachers who think they've "arrived" are not Great Bible teachers.

Great Bible teaching is a craft. We must always be working at our craft. As we mature in our craft we begin to coach others about Bible teaching -- this becomes a new means of learning for us.

I have friends who hold black belts in karate and tae kwon do. They tell me they've learned a lot more about their martial art after they got their black belt than all the time leading up that certification. I had a similar experience after getting my Eagle Scout award at age 13. I'm learning more about Bible teaching now (after I've written a book on it!) than ever. I'm still in the foothills, heading up in the real mountains.

We are called to be artisans. Bible teaching and disciple-making are not a repetitive, assembly-line, high-throughput mass manufacturing operations. You cannot automate this work. Bible teachers must work at managing themselves and sharpening their skills all the time, in order to co-labor with God to produce individual masterpieces of changed lives.

And this is work. It doesn't just happen. Working at your craft is a "long obedience in the same direction." Developing your skills takes patient, persevering endurance. It's not a sprint event, but a marathon ministry.

The journey of a great Bible teacher is worth it.

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Teach to change lives!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Matching vocabulary and audience

A key to successful teaching is understanding your audience and matching your vocabulary and illustrations to meet their needs. This is fundamental communication.

John Stott talks about "quadruple thinking" in his excellent book on preaching, Between Two Worlds. This looks like this:

1. the speaker thinks about what he/shewant to say
2. the speaker thinks about how the other persons will hear it
3. the speaker re-thinks what he/she wants to say
4. the speakers re-shapes what he/she says so that the others will understand it and receive it.

This takes some work. One of the most deadly things to communication is assuming that we understand the other person's perspective.

The book is very good, I recommend it if you do a lot of teaching to different audiences.

Monday, June 27, 2005

On Civil Authority

One question that may come up with your students is how Christians are to honor civil authority -- even ungodly civil authority. John Piper has an excellent sermon based on Romans 13:1-7 that is worth keeping in your files. It's titled "There is No Authority Except from God."

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Praying the Word

Renew your prayer life by praying the Word of God back to the Father. Take His promises and use them as the basis for prayers.

Using the Bible as the foundation for your prayer life keeps you from mumbling and stumbling.

Could you teach this prayer strategy to others? If not, how could you get ready to teach it?

Better yet, incorporate this kind of praying in your regular Bible teaching lessons. Demonstrate how to pray effectively to your students.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Why I Recommend the Thompson's Chain-Reference Bible

One question I get asked -- a lot! -- is what study Bible I recommend. I decided to write up my answer in detail. Check out why I recommend the Thompson's Chain-Reference Bible.
More answers to questions from Teachers

Periodically I survey hundreds of Bible teachers, asking for their most burning questions. I picked seven recent questions and wrote up my answers.

* How to understand the Bible better
* The most effective way to teach teens and pre-teens
* How to know if you're being "pushy"
* Great resources for teaching from the New Testament

Check out my free report at
Truth for Teachers

True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade,
but our God's Word stands firm and forever."
Climb a high mountain, Zion.
You're the preacher of good news.
Raise your voice. Make it good and loud, Jerusalem.
You're the preacher of good news.
Speak loud and clear. Don't be timid!
Tell the cities of Judah,
"Look! Your God!"
Look at him! GOD, the Master, comes in power,
ready to go into action.
He is going to pay back his enemies
and reward those who have loved him.
Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock,
gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them,
leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.

Isaiah 40:8-12, The Message

Monday, June 20, 2005

Making Eye Contact

Great Bible teachers make eye contact. It's a necessary connection if you are going to see changed lives.

This isn't too difficult in smaller groups. (Usually teachers who struggle to make eye contact in smaller groups are struggling with a fear. See my special report on overcoming fear at for the help you need.)

In larger groups you need a strategy to make eye contact effectively.

You don't want to just pick three people. You don't want to go from person-to-person-to-person in a sequential pattern. You don't want to spend all your time on one side of the room and ignore the other areas.

Try out this strategy, which works well in groups up to about 120: Pick three or four people in different areas as your anchors. (Be sure to pick people who are making frequent eye contact with you.) Rotate your eye contact to these people every 45 seconds. But as you rotate to the next person, shift to somone who is sitting near them. What happens is you gradually are making eye contact with more and more people who are around your anchor persons.

(By the way, you really can't do this eye contact strategy if you're reading from a prepared script. You need to be very familiar with the text and you main ideas that you want to get across. That kind of preparation is at the heart of great Bible teaching!)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Moral vs. Holiness

Dennis Prager has some good insights in his column, "We are not just animals" about the distinction between moral and holy. This will sharpen your thinking about holiness.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Straight Talk for Teachers

"I can't impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don't ever quit. Just keep it simple.
You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food--catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you--keep your eye on what you're doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God's servant." -- 2 Tim 4:1-5, The Message
Quote of the week

"There is no once-a-week Bible vitamin." -- Kelly Gifford

That will preach! (Or as my Southern friends say, "That dog will hunt.")
What's Stopping You?

If you're going to be a great Bible teacher, you need to saturate yourself in the Word of God. It takes time. You can fool yourself if you like and think if you read the notes in your study Bible that you've done all you're supposed to. But steep yourself in the text, meditate on it, pray through it, read it aloud, ask questions of it, write out your meditations. This is the path to becoming a disciple-making, Spirit-breathing, life-changing teacher.

So what is stopping you?

There may have been several thoughts that came to your mind as you read the first paragraph, all starting with "But..."

What is stopping you from carving out an extra 20 minutes today and reading the Bible? And doing this again tomorrow. And increasing the time?

Analyze what's stopping you, and decide to get moving again.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Writing and Teaching

Many times, but not always, God puts together writing and teaching skills in the same person. If you're in that group, you'll appreciate what Carl Henry taught to Bruce Johnson about being a writer:

"You see, the difference between an amateur writer and a professional is that an amateur writes something and says, 'Oh, that's good!'. But a professional always thinks, 'That could be better,' because the essence of good writing is rewriting." And then came the clincher, "Bruce, the only thing that stops a professional from continually rewriting a piece he's written is a deadline."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

What Would Jesus Ask?

Great Bible teaching is interactive. Notice how many times Jesus uses questions to teach people.

When you're getting ready to teach, one of your most important tasks is identifying the best questions you should ask. What questions will bring out the best learning for this class at this time?

Here's an idea that has really helped me: Ask yourself, "What would Jesus ask the people in this class?" The answers might not come quickly, but God will provide. You'll be amazed at the penetrating kinds of questions you are led to.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

What are your burning questions?

I have a passion to help build up teachers. What are your burning questions about teaching the Bible, working with students, preparing lessons? Write me at and let me know.
Overcome fear

I wrote a free special report about overcoming fear. Check it out at

No Bible teacher is immune to fear, but everyone can learn to overcome fear.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Reminder about free teaching tips

You can sign up to receive free weekly teaching tips by email from me at
Quote of the Week

"There is not one square inch of life of which Jesus Christ does not say, 'It is mine!' " -- Abraham Kuyper

How's Jesus doing with the square inches you occupy?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

John Piper Sermons

John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, is a deep thinker, prolific writer, and always worth your time. I praise God for Pastor Piper and his willingness to tackle tough topics biblically, and deeply.

The church has made his entire sermon collection available online, no charge. What a fabulous resource for teachers everywhere!

I know that not everyone reading this adheres to a Calvinist perspective on salvation, but I highly recommend this sermon: "For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death?" You may read this and say, "Amen" and praise the Lord even more deeply. Or it may cause you to scratch your head and ponder a while. But you can't read this honestly and not be affected.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Pray for hunger

One of the most pressing needs to take before the throne of all Grace is for hunger for His Word. Ask the Lord to create a passionate, unquenchable hunger for the Bible in the hearts of your students. May they move from Bible reading as just another task to be done to an attitude of desperation -- only the Word is life!

And let this begin with you, dear teacher.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Worship First

It's critically important to worship before you teach. Your heart needs this. Your mind needs to be aligned with God. You must do this to be a large and clean conduit of God's love, grace, and knowledge to others.

And this is true whether you are teaching a Sunday morning class, a weekly Bible study, leading a small group, working with youth on Wednesday nights, or any other teaching venue.

Worship before you teach-- this is a bedrock principle for those who would teach the Bible to change lives.

Worship means giving God what He is worth. So praise Him with some prayer and song. You can do this aloud in the car on the way to the meeting. Or pray and sing in your mind, quietly, if circumstances are limiting. Let verses about God's power and might come to mind. See Calvary's magnifence, and let your heart be humbled. Confess any sins. Be cleansed in the blood of the Lamb.

Worship opens the doors to life-changing power.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Analysis of Biblical Illiteracy

Here's a detailed analysis of Biblical illiteracy in the American church today. Sobering. Pray over what you read hear, dear teacher, and ask the Lord to show you what to do differently.

Most encouraging idea: "Americans will have a better chance of becoming theologically literate when we replace the paradigm of theological study as intellectual exercise, with that of the worshipping community in which students and mentors work together.”

Lord, raise up teachers for your flocks!
Preparing to Teach

Earl Palmer has a great 5-page article, "Preparing Yourself to Teach." He covers the key ideas of studying a Bible passage so that we have textual fluency, and considering ways to be more "people fluent" so we can reach our audience. I also liked his ideas about managing your schedule.

Even though he is a pastor, lay teachers will also get some good ideas here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

How do I find all this stuff, anyway?

One question I've been asked is how I find all these resources and references to Bible teaching. Several ways. I pay attention as I'm reading and hunting on the Internet. I do specific searches, and monitor especially rich web sites. And I use Google News alerts.

If you don't know about Google News alerts, check out this free report (PDF format). You can save yourself a lot of searching time, and the service is free.
Get Vines Expository Dictionary -- great bargain price

Quick plug for a great book at a terrific price.
Can Women Teach Men?

Here's a topic that generates considerable heat in some churches. Paul wrote to Timothy that women should not teach or have authority over a man. (2 Tim 2:11-12).

I think Jill Briscoe has some good things to say about this concern. Check it out.

Not everyone should be teaching, man or woman.
Getting back into the swing of updates!

I am so honored and delighted by the sales of Teach the Bible to Change Lives and the signups for my weekly teaching tips. God is good, and may His Word work powerfully through teacher everywhere!

But I've been so busy writing up new tips and working with customers that I've fallen behind updating this blog.