Saturday, December 31, 2005

Friday, December 30, 2005

Take An Inventory

This is the time of the year to reflect on the past, and look forward to the future. Let's talk about reflecting on the past.

I have a specific recommendation for Bible teachers: review your notes and catalog the main things you taught, and the main things you learned about your teaching craft.

This doesn't have to be complicated. Use bullet points. Go through your notes and list out the classes you taught. Review your Bible to remind yourself of key ideas God impressed upon you. Think through how you're doing teaching, and make notes about how you are sharpening your craft.

This exercise seems to cement truth in us, and builds us up. It reinforces our view of a faithful, promise-keeping God!

P.S. This is also a good time to get your files in order. Go through that pile of paper and organize the lesson outlines, handouts, scribbled notes, and printed articles into folders to make it easier to get to the good stuff later on!
Between Abounding and Abiding

John Ortberg has an excellent article on navigating the holy tension between abounding and abiding. Recommended for Bible teachers and anyone with ministry passion.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cool Word Origin

I love to see Great Bible Teachers with enthusiasm! I recently did a word study on enthusiasm, and was delighted to find that it is derived from the Greek "entheos" -- literally, "God within." Isn't that amazing!

Get fired up, dear teachers, you have the most incredible source of enthusiasm in the universe!
Maybe I Gave My Book the Wrong Title?

Howard Hendricks is such a gem! I just ran across this quote from him:

"God never called us to teach the Bible. He called us to teach people the Bible. So study your Bible, but before you teach it, make sure you also study your people."

Great insight! Let's be teachers of the God's people, using the Word as a vehicle for growing in the knowledge and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Way-Cool Easton's Bible Dictionary is Online!

What does "propitiation" mean in 1 John 2:2? How can Ihelp new believers understand what is meant when we sayGod's grace?

To answer questions like these you need a solid Bible dictionary. The Easton's Bible Dictionary has been a standard for many years, and now it's easier to use than ever. Plus, it's available for free!

Go to the main web site at ==>
and enter in words you want to learn about in the search box on the right.

There are more than 3000 words available, so jump rightin.

There are two things that make this tool superior to the book:
1. Every word is hyperlinked to related words. So from"propitiation" you can go to "atonement" and then to"expiation" with mouse clicks.
2. You can easily copy the definition and paste it intoanother document (like your handout!)
Tip: If your search comes up empty, check the index ofwords (available from the main page) to make sure you spelled it right. I was initially disappointed in my search for propitiation, but then realized I'd spelled it wrong!

Put this one on your favorites list because you'll be using it again and again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Engage Your Students!

I liked this top 10 list from Pastor Tony Morgan. There is a lot here that applies to your teaching. I've reproduced the whole list below.

10 Easy Ways to Keep Tony Morgan Awake and Engaged During Your Entire 30-Minute Message

When people ask me why Granger has experienced continued growth through the years, the one area that probably rises to the top of the list has to be the quality teaching that happens week after week. It's filled with biblical truth. It's engaging. It's relevant. I'm biased, but I think I get to listen to and learn from one of the best teaching teams in the country.

I took the time recently to figure out what it is, in my mind, that makes our guys so effective in their communications. This might not apply to anyone else, but I listed what really works for me. With that in mind, here are the:

10 Easy Ways to Keep Tony Morgan Awake and Engaged During Your Entire 30-Minute Message

Be real. Let people see the actual human inside you. Most times that will occur through your personal stories.

Talk like normal people talk. I didn’t grow up in the church, so I don’t understand when you talk with a Christian accent.

Use humor. If you don’t make me laugh, I’m probably going to tune you out. By the way, the best humor is revealed through your everyday life.

Don’t tell me what to think. Lead me on the journey toward truth, but let me reach my own conclusions. In other words, don’t try to sell it.

Be honest. If I think you’re credible, there’s a better chance I’ll think your message is credible.

Avoid being too polished. In fact, I love it when you leave your prepared statements and share anything off the cuff.

Reveal your weaknesses. As silly as it may seem, it makes me smile when I hear about your mistakes. It helps me to respect the areas where you are gifted.

Be brief. Shorter is better. I’m probably only going to remember one or, at the most, two things that you say.

Make me smart. I don’t care how smart you are, but I like it when you make me feel smart. That’s easier when you use small words and make it easy for me to apply what you’re teaching.

Tell me why I should care. Help me understand why I should listen. If you don’t help me understand why it’s relevant to my life, I’ll to be thinking about my next blog post or my next tee time or my favorite 80s slow dance songs.

I've never had a seminary course on preaching, so I really don't know anything about what it takes to prepare a good sermon. This list probably only works for me, but at least you'll know how to keep me awake if I ever visit your church.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Every teacher I know struggles

Sometimes you find out surprising ways people get encouraged.

I was in a meeting with a group of Bible teachers at our church yesterday morning, and made an off-hand comment about how hard it is for me to pull lesson material together, and how often I don’t get the last pieces in place until right before I teach.

One teacher, who I know puts in a lot of hard work to prepare lessons, expressed relief that I struggled, too. Perhaps he thought he was the only one who God “strung out” and whose prayers for guidance weren’t answered immediately. Perhaps he thought “experts*” don’t struggle with the details of blocking out lessons, figuring out strong introductions, decided which questions to use, or what application to emphasize.

Well, I do struggle. If it encourages you, I can remember only a few lessons that just “fell together” smoothly and well ahead of time. I’m often still churning things in my head and heart in the middle of delivering a lesson, because I still have time left and can choose to go one way or another. I get the sweats thinking about some topics and how to get after them. It’s work. It’s joyous overall, and I know God is using me, but it’s work.

My conviction now is that God knows I couldn’t really handle it any other way. I’d be proud, puffed up, and think I was something special. I know that God wants to use weak vessels so all the glory goes back to Him.

My reason to write this here is to encourage you if/when you struggle with study and preparation and delivery. God is sometimes early, but never late. Lean on Him, dear teachers, and count on His faithfulness. After all, He loves your students much, much more than you do, and will see that His sheep are fed.

*"Expert" has been described as "ex" (meaning former) and "spert" (meaning drip under pressure).

Saturday, December 10, 2005

To Get to Wisdom, Turn Right Past Facts, and Head On Towards God

Print this article, "What Makes a Sermon Deep?" and put it in your files. Pull it out and re-read it periodically. Great Bible Teachers should use these ideas to get past mechanical, functional, superficial lessons.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Meaning of Christmas in Four Short Sentences

"Jesus left his place. He came to our place. He took our place. And He invites us back to His place."

Why You Need to Keep Studying the Bible

"Howard Hendricks tells a story that vividly illustrates the necessity of personal Bible study for spiritual leaders. During his college years, Hendricks passed one of his professor’s homes on his way to work early in the morning as well as on his way home from library late in the evening. After only a few days, he noticed the light was continually on in his professor’s study. When Hendricks asked what kept him studying, poring over his books, his professor replied, “Son, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.” "

Amen! You and I know that we can go for a while on "momentum" from previous study, but we feel it quickly, and others will know soon enough. The branch stripped from the tree stay green and fresh for only a short while!

Why You Have to Engage Them

I like this cartoon from Christianity Today. It's a good reminder about the importance of engaging people in your classes.

Use good questions to make it fun, challenging. (See if you need some help with this.)

Use illustrations creatively.

Pull from the whole range of human emotional experience -- the Bible does.

Don't be a talking head, droning on. Move! Vary your voice and intonation! Get other people talking at least 20% of the time.

Remember that it's not about entertaining people and tickling their ears. You're doing these things to engage their minds and hearts, and teach so that God will change their lives.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


"When John MacArthur was asked what a young man needs to do to learn how to teach the Bible properly, he replied, "Stay in your chair." Too many people keep popping up to watch TV, read a book, or a wash down some Fig Newtons with a glass of buttermilk. MacArthur says young preachers have to learn to stay in the chair until the work is done. And if you stay long enough, you'll realize when the work is done. Then you get up. Staying power isn't a glitzy attribute, but it's absolutely essential for success in any field of endeavor."

Monday, December 05, 2005

Why a Flat World is Great News for Christians

I'm concerned that many Christians today are going defensive, pulling in, creating tight little communities of like-minded people so they don't have to worry about the culture influencing their families.

The simple truth is that God wants us on the offensive. It's very likely that you, as a believer, are going to be the minority person in most of your life situations (where God wants you!), not the majority. Hunkering down and going defensive is not effective military strategy when you're outnumbered! Get moving, even go on the offensive.

Today lots of people are concerned about the political and economic changes made likely, almost inevitable, by the the "flat" world we live in. Technology and better management systems mean that work can be done almost anywhere. People are asking what part of their jobs could be outsourced or done in other parts of the world. It causes a lot of anxiety in many, many people.

Teachers, I challenge you to get your head on straight, and think clearly about what God is doing. A "flat" world is good news for Christians and the work of making disciples to fulfill the Great Commission. Let us be bold, and not fearful, for we are serving the Lord Almighty!

And remember that what our generation is experiencing is not completely unprecedented. In the first century the Roman Empire had 'flattened' the known world, also. Pax Romana created an unprecedented environment for the Gospel to spread rapidly because of
  • common languages and standards
  • excellent roads, and well-defended sea shipping lanes and ports
  • previously unheard-of speed of information and news
  • urbanization
  • people from many nations working together on projects and in commerce
  • the government model encouraged business and trade
The 21st century looks very similar to the 1st century. (Actually it looks better! The communication and travel technologies available today to individuals -- and at low prices -- were only available to the very wealthy even 40 years ago, if at all.)

Let us be teachers who are equipping and training good students of the Word, so they can be used by God more and more!
"Knowing What to Teach, and How"

There is a nice excerpt from Roberta Hestenes book Mastering Teaching available online at I recommend this article for a number of reasons:

She's focused on working hard to tailor lesson material and presentation to her classes, so that people learn and grow and experience God in their lives. She's answering these questions to give balance to her lessons:

What do I want them to know?
What do I want them to feel?
What do I want them to do?

(Though it's not "I" but God who is directing this work.)

She has some helpful advice about how to block lessons across classes, using the biblical text itself as a guide.

Also, she lists some useful guidelines about questions.

So get the article for your files.