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.