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.