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?
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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!