Friday, June 30, 2006

Speak Boldly

If you're in teaching ministry, then I encourage you to read this passionate post from Perry Noble. Hit the issues, teaching with passion, and it's ok to hate cats. Don't worry about that one person who inevitably picks apart your lessons with fine-toothed criticisms.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What Do Not-Yet Believers Ask?

Figuring out what people ask questions about is part of cultural anthropology. Sales, Marketing, Advertisers, Copyrighters, media producers are all searching this out -- what do people ask about? Because it's the window to their emotions and will to buy.

We need to study what not-yet believers are asking about.

Here's my observation: Very few not-yet believers are asking the question, "What must I do to be saved?" But nearly everyone is asking "How do I make my life work better?"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Christianity and the American Revolution

Christianity Today has a wonderful collection of articles discussing the Christian influences during the colonial period and the American Revolution. Recommended!

Here's one interesting excerpt from an article about preaching in colonial times:

"Over the span of the colonial era, American ministers delivered approximately 8 million sermons, each lasting one to one-and-a-half hours. The average 70-year-old colonial churchgoer would have listened to some 7,000 sermons in his or her lifetime, totaling nearly 10,000 hours of concentrated listening. This is the number of classroom hours it would take to receive ten separate undergraduate degrees in a modern university, without ever repeating the same course! The pulpits were Congregational and Baptist in New England; Presbyterian, Lutheran, and German Reformed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and Anglican and Methodist in the South. But no matter the denomination, colonial congregations heard sermons more than any other form of oratory. The colonial sermon was prophet, newspaper, video, Internet, community college, and social therapist all wrapped in one. Such was the range of its influence on all aspects of life that even contemporary television and personal computers pale in comparison."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Benefits of Blogging

I agree with Mark Batterson about the benefits of blogging. I think the technology has real potential for teachers who want to carry on conversations that are not close in time or space.
Toothpick Duct-Taped to a Lead Pipe

I liked this Perry Noble post, reminding us of our position in Christ:

"Christ Jesus makes us unstoppable. Yes, I know that there is an enemy named satan…but folks–HE LOSES! Jesus defeated him on the cross and one day will ultimately kick his butt and send him to hell! WE WIN! We are empowered! And God has not called any of us to sit on the sideline–but rather to “go for it.” One of the things we need to STOP doing is imagining ourselves as weak, pathetic human beings that are not capable of accomplishing anything significant–well…if you are NOT in Christ then that is true–but in Christ you are like that lady in the truck–a powerful force. OR–like the great scholar Lee McDerment said once–that we are all like little toothpicks…and we are easily broken…but when you accept Christ then you become a toothpick that gets duct-taped to a lead pipe–and then NOTHING can shatter you because of WHO you are attached to!"
Holy Spirit Power

Here's an excellent article about unction in preaching and teaching. Recommended.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

An Abbreviation I Don't Like

Call me petty, but it bugs me when I see people abbreviating "Bible Study" as BS or B.S. That abbreviation immediately brings another word/phrase to mind, and then I'm not going to think about "Bible" next.

Write it out, please! B-i-b-l-e S-t-u-d-y is a good thing.
Why Email is Good

It's fashionable to complain about email. I think we need more genuine dialogue, including face-to-face conversations. All communication, to be effective, takes training -- and we are ever learning.

David Maister makes some excellent points about why email is good:

"[E]ven though it's traditional to bemoan the increasing use of email, let me (just for the heck of it) take the other side and try to make the case (my points are serious here) why using email is INCREASING our abilities to connect:

a) You can type, re-type and re-re-type an email until it says what you want, the way you want it. Done right, there are none of the ambiguities of human speech ( "What I meant to say was..") Email can promote clarity

b) You can ask a friend or a spouse or anyone else to help you say it right. Try doing THAT in the real world. Email can promote collaboration and friendship

c) You can keep five or six (or more) conversations going at once without anyone feeling slighted that you do not have all your focus on them alone. Email means you can make everyone feel special.

d) You can keep track of what people said and hold them to their promises. Email can promote honesty.

e) Email removes the visual, body-language, verbal-accent cues that we over-rely on when reacting to other people: email can promote the importance of reason and logic, and reduces bias due to gender, racial or national background or appearance. It is profoundly democratic and politically important.

f) Email allows us to think before we react, thereby promoting less stress, thoughtless comments and knee-jerk reactions. It allows people who are not naturally quick at interpreting other people's remarks to reflect and respond with greater emotional intelligence. Email can facilitate good relationship interactions and language."
Wounded Worship

I know many of you are very interested in worship issues. Read this tender interview with Michael Card about worship when we are wounded and hurting.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What Kind of Teaching Are You Doing?

Andy Stanley suggests there are three kinds of Bible teaching:

1. Teaching the Bible to people
2. Teaching People the Bible
3. Teaching People how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible

What kind are you doing? I'm recommending that you go with #3!

Read the whole article here -- worth your time.
Source for Bible Studies

I'm not a big fan of pre-made Bible studies. It's not that they're bad, but that people use them as substitutes for good preparation, prayer, and seeking after God.

But I'm frequently asked, "Where can I find Bible studies?"

Here's one answer:

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Writing "Today's Psuedochristian Version"

Sometimes the best way to get the real meaning of a Bible passage across to a group is to give them a made-up version that is ironic, satirical, or sarcastic. The made-up version has to sound like how some people really think -- the contrast effect is what helps people learn!

I'm teaching tomorrow on Hebrews 12:1-3. Here's the made-up version I've created to help this group recognize and grip the REAL instruction:

“Anyway, as long as you think people are watching, don’t be seen holding on to extra trinkets and gear, but leave them conveniently nearby so you can pick them up again. Since nobody really knows what’s around the bend, don’t push yourself beyond a sensible run-walk pace, and take breaks at every scenic turnout in the road. Look at Jesus occasionally, certainly on Sunday morning, and make sure others see you doing it. It’s his fault your in this mess, after all. Just because Jesus suffered doesn’t mean you have to, and besides, he died a long time ago in a country far, far away. If you get discouraged, well, other people sometimes feel that way. Buck up, plan to start again soon, and hopefully you’ll feel more like running later on.”

(I refer to this as "Today's Pseudochristian Version")

Here's the authentic text (NIV) so you can the comparison effect:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

This approach generates great discussion -- and changed lives.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Using Biblical Terms

Part of our responsibility as teachers is to help people think biblically, and counter-culturally. Let me give you two examples.

The first is aptly described in this quote from Cal Thomas: "Remember sin? Sinful is what we were before we became 'dysfunctional.' "

It's popular now to attribute all kinds of behaviors -- from alcoholism to homosexuality to road rage (or as it was recently documented by researchers as 'intermittant explosive disorder') -- to genetics. The real objective, I believe, is to give people an excuse from personal responsibility.

My second example is 'apology.' Search the Bible and you will not find this word used as we do. You've all witnessed the scene a child is commanded, "Say your sorry." Usually it's said with derision and scorn, and not meant. This is light-years from the biblical model of asking forgiveness.

Help your students see these things, using biblical language and examples.
There's More to Learn

"The best teachers drive themselves to be continuous learners." —Wendy Kopp

We are always sharpening our craft of teaching. There is no teacher who cannot improve, and does not have more to learn. And the Bible is inexhaustible! So great Bible teachers are always on the learning track.

What a privilege!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Do You Use This Speaker's Trick?

You may have learned this speaker's "trick" in school: "Webster's Dictionary defines ________ as...." It's supposed to give you extra credibility, educate your audience, and get their attention.

My opinion: this trick isn't effective on audiences, and is overused.

It's good to define words. Just don't reference Webster's Dictionary. Instead ask people in the group to give you a definition of a the word, or give you related words (even antonyms) -- that engages people. You follow-up their answers with any additional insights, and steer the conversation where you want to go.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Thoughts on Preparation

Here is how T.D. Jakes prepares to preach:

1. Study yourself full
2. Think yourself clear
3. Pray yourself hot
4. Let yourself go

This is good advice for Bible teachers, as well. I love the image of praying until we're hot, so we can clearly pour out what we've studied.

He points out that #2 is critical, often overlooked. If you know what to communicate -- what's the end result God wants to see in your class, in these individuals -- then it's so much easier to design a learning session that will change lives.
Doing Greater Things

Here's a useful discussion about what Jesus meant in John 14:12, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these."
Pray for Our Brothers and Sisters in China

The Church is flourishing in China, despite persecution. Please continue to pray for God's holy fire to sweep through millions of hearts in this country, and around the world.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Spiritual Beachheads

Remember today, the 62nd anniversary of D-Day, and remember that God is at work creating and using His Church and His people as spiritual beachheads. I write about this today on Be Bold, Be Gentle, my blog to encourage men.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hendricks on Teaching

Howard Hendricks has influenced thousands directly, and hundreds of thousands indirectly. I highly recommend his instruction for teachers. You can read a tip-packed excerpt from Mastering Teaching here.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

English Standard Version?

I'm looking for people who have been using the English Standard Version translation of the Bible. I continue to read positive press, but would like some personal testimonies. Please contact me at info@teachtochangelives or add a comment about your experience. Thanks!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hooking Your Audience

Bruce Johnson claims it's the number one mistake preachers make -- failing to "hook" the audience at the start of the sermon. I think this is critical for teachers also, because if you don't engage people's attention, there just flat-out won't be much learning or growing or thinking.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Loving God With Your Medial Ventral Prefrontal Cortex

That's the idea that Mark Batterson proposes in his blog. He's starting a sermon series on neurology and faith. He makes an excellent point:

"I have this conviction: every ology is a branch of theology. That is based on Romans 1:20. Every branch of science reveals a new dimension of the Creator."

Kevin Gets It! How About You?

My good friend Kevin Nelstead marks up his wide-margin Bible. He's creating a fabulous study and teaching tool, and interacting with the Word. This is what I do myself and recommend to all my students -- and to every serious Bible teachers.