Thursday, December 20, 2007

GodTube Virtual Bible

The folks at www.GodTube.com (a Christian YouTube alternative) have put out an interesting and useful Virtual Bible.

What's new about this is that for every Bible passage you look up, they display related videos. Sometimes it's a video of a Bible teacher, sometimes it's humorous. It's a pretty slick way to find video content that might complement your teaching.

By the way, I wouldn't recommend this to dialup users. If you need a fast online Bible for low bandwidth environments, try www.biblegateway.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas 2007 To Do List

Christmas 2007 To Do List

Adore Believe Celebrate Desire Enjoy
Forgive Grow Help Inspire JESUS
Kiss Love Minister Need Obey Pray
Quest Rejoice Sing Thank Understand
Endea
Vor Worship X-alt Yearn Zzzzzz

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Review Yourself

One of the hardest -- and most helpful -- things you can do is to record your lessons and listen to yourself.

There are some wonderful, inexpensive digital voice recorders available now. I use an Olympus unit with an external mic. Easy to use and completely unobtrusive; I just turn it on and slip it into my pocket, with the mic position on my shirt for good audio pick-up. I transfer the audio file to my PC via the built-in USB connection.

I recommend you wait at least a day, to improve your objectivity. Also, prepare to be surprised that it sounds different occasionally than what you thought you said!

(Note that you'll need to arrange a different means to assess how you came across visually.)

Realistically assess your hook, questions, interaction, application, and lauch phases. It's been said that "feedback is the breakfast of champions." Dig into your Wheaties!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How Much Time Should You Spend Preparing a Lesson?

I'm occasionally asked how much time should be spent preparing a lesson.

The answer: It depends.

I know, that's a cop-out. The reality is that some lessons do take longer to prepare than others. Short lessons often take as long or longer to prepare than lengthier lessons; it takes work to winnow out the non-essentials. Is the material something that you've mastered in the past, or is it new? Do you already know the audience well, and have a sense of their needs? Is this lesson a bridge to or from other materials, that helps to shape the content? Many questions!

My recommendation is not to procrastinate, because then it's much more difficult to hear from the Lord. (He's still speaking, but we're not in position to listen well.)

So I hesitate to give you a specific number of hours or minutes as a guideline, because the real issue is to seek the Lord's direction, and start working on it. God honors our part when we act faithfully, and put our best into it. Once we begin working on it, we trust that the Lord steers and directs us in the way He wants us to go.

Now, if you're thinking, "Great, I only need to spend 10 minutes on it!" then you missed the message here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We Don't Get a Map

People want to know the future. We want to know all the next steps. We want clarity on all the optional routes to multiple possible destinations. We want to know all the risks. We want to plan.

What God provides is a compass, and a heading, but not a map.

In truth, this is wonderful Grace to us. In truth, we are not constitutionally able to handle what we want -- the map. It would tear us apart to have it.

The compass and heading instructions are what we need, and what we can handle. Our task is obedience to stay on that heading until given further orders.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Make Time to Read Scripture for You

Many of the Bible teachers I work with (well, all of them!) are BUSY!

Make time to be with the Lord in the Word, with no agenda other than to listen and learn and soak it up. This is not about developing a new lesson, finding the answer to that question someone asked, or preparing for class.

This calls for Quiet. "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)

This is like being still in meadow and letting a deer come and graze near you. The deer will come and graze, but you must be still.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Comparing Mormon and Christian Views

I've had several requests for explanations comparing Mormon and Christian theology. Here's a good starter.

There are certainly others available online. A key issue in my conversations with LDS members is that they use the same theological terms, but with a different meaning.

I applaud the sincerity and convictions of the Mormons I know. But I believe their sincerity is based on false teaching.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

You ARE a Leader

Bible teachers are leaders. It's a responsibility. It's a fact.

We can certainly have a conversation about what kind of leader you are, or how effective you are.

Take this to heart, take it before the Lord, and let it energize you into great ministry. The days of recreational Bible teaching are over. The people God put into your sphere of influence need helpful, life-changing insights and understanding, direct from the Word of God.

Get 'Em to Lean With You!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Keep Their Attention!

Peter Mead has an excellent description of the responsibility of the preacher/teacher to keep his listeners' attention. Recommended:

http://biblicalpreaching.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/eyes-may-be-looking-but-are-ears-listening/#comments

This is crucial stuff, teachers! I'm not asking that you only entertain, because we're not about tickling ears. But you must keep people engaged (Yes, they have a responsibility, too, but you're wrong to throw all responsibility on them!) if you're going to truly teach to change lives for Christ.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Word Lit Up

I may have posted about this before, but it's a fascinating image composite of the earth viewed at night -- you can very readily make out major cities, interstate road systems, and country borders in many cases.

http://veimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/1438/land_ocean_ice_lights_2048.tif

This is a fun way to pray for the world. Not everthing that is lit up here is living in THE LIGHT!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clear Thinking and Reasoning on Challenging Subjects

Stand to Reason posted a wonderful collection of short videos (44 at this writing) on YouTube. Most are less than 4 minutes. Greg Koukl is terrific at explaining things like the nature of faith, whether all religions are the same, how to think about the problem of evil -- the kinds of things you and I should be able to intelligently, charitably, reasonably discuss with our families, our friends, our neighbors.

Recommended. Check out the collection here:
http://youtube.com/user/STRvideos

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Following HARD After Jesus

"Once you let anybody other than Jesus tell you what to do, you begin to die.”

Read this strong post from Perry Noble about staying on course, preaching the Gospel and obeying Jesus. Every ministry leader needs this message.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gift of Teaching?

Occasionally I'm asking if you need the spiritual gift of teaching to be an effective teacher.

Certainly teaching is among the spiritual gifts Paul mentions in Romans 12:4-8.

Here's my personal view: I do not think it is required, but I observe that it is unusual to find an excellent teacher who enjoys teaching who does not have the gift of teaching.

Let me explain. Consider this statement about mastery of a craft (and teaching is a craft, a practice that requires discipline over time):

"What creates someone who is a master of their craft? It's the combination of gifting, learning, and practice. The gifted person who is well practiced in their art makes it look easy." -- Terry Dean

So mastery requires gifting, how-to knowledge (or awareness), and practice over time.

The simple fact is that no one loves doing something that they aren't good at. And it's very difficult to excel at teaching if you haven't put in time and disciplined practice. You can get the job done, but you are doing just that -- without a love for the process and experience.

Many teachers feel drawn to teaching, but have not invested themselves to acquire knowledge about how to teach well. Or they lack practice. Those can be learned, acquired.

But the gift of teaching? It's not something that humanly speaking we can seek out and acquire. (That's why it's called a gift!)
Quote to Ponder

"The Scriptures are God's voice; The Church is His echo." -- John Donne

Make sure you saturate your teaching with Scripture.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Looking for a Thanksgiving Devotion?

If you're looking for a Thanksgiving-related devotion, here's a good starting point.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturated with Prayer

We cannot emphasize enough the work of prayer in selecting Biblical material to teach, studying the texts, developing useful lessons that encourage life application, delivering/presenting the material, and follow-up to make sure our students are learning.

Prayers are not bookends to tack on the front and back of work. Prayer is the work. We ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance as we select and study Biblical passsages. We ask God to help us tailor material for our particular class or group at this particular time (whom else will truly know their needs?). We uphold students before the throne of all Grace so that they would be open to receive what the Lord wants them to know, and take it to heart. We saturate our teaching time with prayer, and ask others to pray as well. And we continue to pray for our students as we go forward, that God's work would take root and grow in their lives.

May we never be teachers who say, "Yes, I have prayed enough, time to move on."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Teach the Jesus Way" Now Available



My newest product for Bible teachers is now available -- "Teach the Jesus Way." You can read my letter describing all the contents.
Praying Through Scripture

Outstanding article recommending teachers coach others to pray through Scripture. Recommended.

If you aren't practicing this, then begin today.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Listening Skills

Looking for a significant opportunity for improvement in your teaching? Work to improve listening. Try these helpful ideas.

People are much more likely to listen to you if they know they have been heard. And you will have a much better presentation if you know their needs. Above all, let's be good listeners of our Lord.

"This is my son, whom I love. Listen to Him!" (Mark 9:7)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

How Could You Leverage National Bible Week?

The US Congress declared that Nov 19-26 is National Bible Week. How could you use this as a platform to encourage Bible study in your local church or small group? Christianity Today has an excellent jumping-off point with lots of resources that may be helpful.

"The Bible is the rope God throws us in order to ensure that we stay connected while the rescue is in progress." -- J.I. Packer

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Teach Prayer by Praying

Check out this post on "The Sunday School Revolutionary" about teaching people to pray by praying.

I believe prayer is more caught than taught. So we need to be prayer mentors and "coaches" by fostering environments where we pray together.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Teach the Jesus Way

I've been working hard on new material, a package of text, audio, and video coaching titled "Teach the Jesus Way." Learn more at www.teachthejesusway.com

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Theology of Using Video

Mark Driscoll gives a terrific presentation on the theology of using technological means to promote the Gospel. He exegetes 1 Cor 9. Great church history in here, too -- you'll learn about pews, concert hall acoustics, the printing press, speakers, radio, TV, as well as video.

This is not focused on how to use video effectively, but on addressing the question of why using video is consistent with our mandate to make disciples of all nations, beginning locally and working out regionally and worldwide. It might help you with the answer to "we've never done it that way before," and "if it was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for me."
Do's and Don'ts for Teaching Adults

Daryl Wilson has a nice article for teachers leading adult groups. I'm think most of these recommendations apply for teaching any age -- including a mixed-age group (like home devotions with your family).
Great Bible Teaching Flows from Life in Christ

Are study and teaching tactics important? Yes.

Is good content organization important. Yes.

But the most important thing is to be connected with Jesus. (John 15:5)

Consider this post from the Biblical Preaching blog:

“We shall never have great preachers until we have great divines.” That was
C.H.Spurgeon’s opinion. In the busy world we now inhabit, a world of phone
calls, emergencies, emails, travel, financial complexities, family
responsibilities and ministerial intricacies, we need to freshly recommit
ourselves to the core vision of the preacher. Our core vision is not a
philosophy of ministry, a theological stance or sense of calling. Our core
vision is God Himself.

We have the privilege of being so captivated by
the greatness and grace of our Lord that every moment of our lives is lived in
the shadow, no the glory, of that vision. A deep awareness of who God is will
continue to drive us back to His Word, diligently pursuing more of Him so that
we might respond further. This is not about discipline and effort, this is about
delight and response. We dive into His Word so that we might see Him more
clearly, be captured more fully, and be stirred more deeply. Then we will preach
more effectively.

Our preaching should flow from a personal intimacy
with God and a personal commitment to His Word. That is what our people need.

This is true for great Bible teachers like you, too! Create the time and space today in your life to reconnect with Jesus.

Friday, October 26, 2007

For My Reform Theology Friends

You have to know some Reform Theology and Reformation history to appreciate these cartoons.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Point is Learning... and Action!

Daryl Wilson has a nice article titled "Crafting a Sunday School Lesson to Lead to Learning AND Action" on his Sunday School Revolutionary blog. Good stuff.

"Our Lord did not command us to make disciples by teaching people to "know" his commands. He commanded us make disciples by teaching them to obey his commands (Matthew 28:19-20). Unfortunately, I have attended many Sunday School sessions that failed to deliver here. Frequently, the teacher simply did not prepare well. Often the teacher attempted to teach too much. You see, application takes time. Many lessons rush or ignore completely responding to God or any leadership to do something about the lesson (obedience)."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Want Balance? Strive for Rhythm.

There's plenty of advice out there about getting balanced in your life. Usually it comes up in articles titled "7 Easy Steps to Balancing Work and Family." (As if we need seven more things to do!)
It's a common prayer request.

But balance is not a concept you find in the Bible.

Really, how much balance is there in these commands?

"Love the Lord your God will all your heart, mind, soul, and strength."
"Love your wife as Christ loved the Church."
"Pray without ceasing."

Let me suggest to you that balance is the outcome of rhythm of action and rest. Balance comes from obeying the Lord, not satisfying selfish desires.

What we do see modeled in the Bible is rhythm. There are periods of work, and rest. Periods of being with people, and periods of solitude. Walking and sitting. Travel and staying. Prayer saturating all of it.

Pay attention to rhythm, and God will work balance into your life. If we aim for balance, we make that a higher goal than obedience to Christ. That leads to frustration, longings, and [too often!] sin.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Outliving Nature

" Nature is mortal; we shall outlive
her. When all the suns and nebulae have
passed away, each one of you will still be
alive."

C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
2 Cor 5:16-22

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bible Explorer Software

You can download (free!) a very powerful Bible study package called Bible Explorer. Gets great reviews. I have not tried this one myself, but a teacher on my mailing list recommended it. It looks like you can upgrade to get more translations and features for modest prices -- but you'll know whether you like the interface using the free version.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Teaching Young Adults

My teenagers can't remember not having the Internet. Their cell phones are just for making and receiving phone calls. They interact with information and people very differently than I did at their age.

Here's an interesting video that helps you understand how today's college students are learning and interacting. (Would be similar for many older teens.)

I recommend you watch this and consider how our teaching presentation should be most effective to help people learn.

I think the answer is teaching the Jesus way -- with questions, story, and dialogue. I've started a new blog focused on this if you want to check it out (free audio available there).

I'll keep this blog going too. :-)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Encouragement!

There are seasons in life (see Psalm 1), and you do not need to be Susie Sunshine and Gilmore Glow all the time. It is not a lack of faith if you experience hard times. God takes us right through difficult times rather around them, knowing that we will be closer to him. We weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. We put our confidence in Jesus, knowing that He love us, leads us, cares for us, provides for us, shapes us, and will reward us.

Stand firm in your faith. Tears are ok.

Keep on teaching to change lives!

Friday, October 12, 2007

600 Thanks and Hint About What's Coming Up

I recently raised $600 for a ministry need through a special sale on my ebook, Teach the Bible to Change Lives. Here's a picture of me holding the check.

The other thing I have on that page is the first hint about my next project -- which will result in a megalesson for teachers. More next week about that, but here's a hint :-)
Hooks

The Sunday School Revolutionary writes about my Hooks report.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

5 Dimensions of Growing Adult Sunday Schools

I like Daryl Wilson's adapations of Rick Warren's material for growing churches:

1. CLASSES GROW WARMER THROUGH FELLOWSHIP.
2. CLASSES GROW DEEPER THROUGH DISCIPLESHIP.
3. CLASSES GROW STRONGER THROUGH WORSHIP.
4. CLASSES GROW BROADER THROUGH MINISTRY.
5. CLASSES GROW LARGER THROUGH EVANGELISM.

Check out his recommendations here.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Two Dangerous Prayers

Mark Batterson suggests these two dangerous prayers:

Use Me
Disturb Me


Let's roll...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Devotion for Godly Men

Check out my other blog, "Be Bold, Be Gentle" for a devotion on 1 Cor 16:13-14 that I gave to some godly men.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Just a Quick Note of Encouragement

I've heard from six teachers this week, all struggling with discouragement and set-backs.

It's tough. Jesus didn't promise that it would be easy, only that He would be with us.

Here's a thought to cling to: Jesus himself is praying for me. (see Romans 8:34) There is nobody better you could have interceding for you before the throne of grace!

Keep on teaching to change lives. Don't listen to whispered voices in your mind that discourage you and siphon off your passion. Read the Word, hear God, put your feet on the Rock.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Applications Come From Your Personal Study

I was coaching a young Bible teacher by email recently. He asked this question:

"I know I should have an application for my lesson, but I don't see one. This happens a lot."

Here was my response:

"The application will become clear as you invest time studying the Bible passages, pray for your students, and watch what God is teaching you. Our Lord nearly always works lessons in us before He teaches through us. So keep careful watch and pray."

A few days later I received this in an email from this teacher:

"Isn't there a study Bible I can get with applications already written out? I don't have a lot of time."

My response:

"You have the same amount of time as anyone, but we all have different responsibilities. There are many study Bibles claiming to make things easy for you. (It's good marketing.) And these no doubt can be helpful. But if you insist on sticking with baby food -- nothing to chew, just swallow it -- then you are missing out on nourishing meals the Lord prepares for you. Some meals require a lot of chewing. Follow as the Lord leads. I believe you will learn more if you work at a lesson, and your students will learn much more, also."

I would add this, too: the key is lead time. Start working on lessons well in advance, so you give yourself and the Lord time. Reviewing a short passage every day for a week in advance will (usually) generate more insights and understanding than 2 hours cramming it in the night before you teach.
Skype Videoconferencing with Missionaries

Our church has a missions team in Craiova, Romania right now. During our worship services Sunday we held a skype videoconference with them, projecting it onto the big screen. How wonderful to be able to hear and see them despite the distance! The performance was excellent, and since the video feed and sound are both coming on the channel, they stay in synch. (When you have video over the Internet, and a teleconference phone call, you usually hear their words before you see their lips move :-).

And the cost? Free, if you have the inexpensive equipment (webcam, simple mic) at both ends of an Internet connection.

We've also done teleconferences with missionaries we support in Brazil during the worship time. These really help the congregation feel our connection to the larger body of Christ worldwide. They're tremendously encouraging to the missionaries, too!

If you'd like to learn more about Skype, check out http://www.skype.com/ . There are many video tutorials available on Youtube and elsewhere -- just search Google for "how to use skype video."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Heart/Dead

New AO Post from John Stanford. (I encourage you to subscribe to get his M/W/F notes of insight and encouragement.)

Recently I noticed that the Chinese character for "busy" combines two
ideas: HEART / DEAD In ancient China it was recognized that a
busy person could not give proper attention to issues of the heart, the inner
self.I experience two kinds of "busy." One is when I'm concentrating on
something I enjoy. Even if I'm later tired, it's a good kind of
feeling.The other "busy" happens when I'm preoccupied and unconsciously tense. My mind and emotions are not at ease. I'm anxious about the outcome.This
second kind of "busy" isn't healthy for me -- physically, emotionally or
spiritually. My heart, my inner being, is in danger ofdying. I'm
forgetting or dismissing my heavenly Father who _longs_ to care for me.Coffee
thought: "So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing.
Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your
heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need
from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary
concern." -- Jesus, Matt. 6.31-33 NLT (1st ed.) -- John
Helping Those Searching for God's Comfort

In your teaching ministry you will come into community with people are suffering, hurting, and searching for God's comfort. I wrote a short blog post about this on my other blog, Be Bold, Be Gentle.

Get some insights about how to help, not to hinder, in these tender situations.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hooks

One of the most important part of your Bible lesson is the "hook." From the start you want your class or group to understand why this is important to them. Check out this free report on hooks, and leave weak, word-wasting introductions behind.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Praying DURING Your Lesson

You probably pray before and after your teaching time. That's important, because Great Bible Teaching must be saturated with prayer. Unless God is at work, your teaching is in vain.

How much do you pray *during* your teaching time? Paul commanded us to pray continually (1 Thess 5:17), right?

The reality is that you may be really pumped as you teach.Your brain is going 400 mph. Your adrenals are zooming,the sweat is going. "Pray now, are you kidding me?"

Or perhaps you're really enjoying the discussion, and happy people are getting involved, almost tripping over one another in their excitement to add to the conversation.

Honestly, most teachers don't think about praying very much during the lesson time, because we're thinking about a lot of other things.

What I recommend you do is create reminders to pray silent, short, "arrow" prayers at multiple times as you teach. You can do this (really, you can) even while youare speaking or listening to someone else speak. Our Lord engineered us to be able to operate on multiple levels simultaneously.

Here are some example "arrow" prayers you might use:

"Make me a great conduit of your truth and grace, Lord."
"Help everyone hear clearly."
"Steady me, Father, so I won't get ahead of the lesson."
"Change lives, Jesus!"
"Be their real Teacher, Lord, just use me."
"Save their souls, Lord! Rescue them!"
"May the glory be yours alone."
"Glorify yourself, Lord."
"Open their minds, open their hearts."
"Come, Holy Spirit, come."
"Let your Words come through me now."
"Nothing is too hard for you, Lord."
"Feed your people, and draw them to Yourself."
"Don't let Satan blind or deafen them, Lord."

Easy, quick --and wonderfully effective!

Now, how do you remember to do this *during" the lessontime? I've got an easy solution for you to try:

Take a copy of the handout or your lesson outline, and put a special symbol by at least two or three parts. You can use a checkmark, or a little smiley, or an asterisk. Space these out through the lesson.

Each mark will be your reminder to pray. When you get to that part of the lesson, pray an arrow prayer! (If you're new to this, just pick one arrow prayer for the lesson, and pray that same prayer each time.)

Simple, easy, effective. And you're building a foundational habit.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Planning An Adult Sunday School Experience

Daryl Wilson continues to publish great material on his Sunday School Revolutionary blog.

Check out his new post, "Planning An Adult Sunday School Experience."

Let's honor our Lord with well-prepared teaching.

Monday, September 17, 2007

WordWide Bible Studies

Recommended resource for you, from Robert Cottrill in Canada. Robert is a prolific writer on hymns and has an active ministry responding to Bible questions.

Wordwise-Bible Studies.com offers a clear, conservative understanding of the Bible, relating it to many practical subjects. The Scriptures are treated as the trustworthy Word of God. The site also provides a free monthly newsletter, free Bible studies, and helpful background on the hymns we sing.

Check it out!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Reading Scripture Aloud

Let's talk about who reads the Scripture text out loud during your lesson or study. I wish more teachers paid attention to this!

Let's review the advantages of asking someone else to read the Bible passage:

1. They'll probably be more engaged in the lesson
2. Other people in the class might be more engaged, too

Here are the potential disadvantages:

1. They read from a different translation than you (the teacher) are using, potentially confusing people.
2. They're a poor speaker, and mumble or read the Word dully.

My recommendation for most situations (and I'll talk about two important exceptions below) is this: you (the teacher) read the main passage you are studying together. Read it well, with lots of expression. (In my book, Teach the Bible to Change Lives, I give you specific coaching on how to prepare yourself to read out loud so that your class or group gets the most from the Word.)

Then you can ask others to read single verses that are related to the text you're studying. For example, if I'm teaching Daniel, I could ask someone to read John 17:3 out loud because it isn't the main text.

This strategy ensures that the best possible reading comes for the main text, and still lets you engage people by asking them to read other verses or passages.

First exception case: when you're teaching in a small (less than 10 person) group of people that you know well, probably mostly mature believers.

A great way to handle the reading in this situation is to "read around." Ask each person in turn to read 2 verses. Or call upon people to read a short section or key verse. Because the group is small, and you can more reasonably predict what's going to happen, the method does not detract from the learning environment.

Second exception case: when you've asked a larger class to subdivide into groups for part of the time to work on different passages. (This is a great class-management strategy, which I describe in detail in my book.) Then it's ok to have one or more people in each group read aloud.

One more thing: Always makes sure Scripture is being read out loud in your classes. Don't give into any suggestions to skip this. The Word, heard, has great power.

P.S. It's a very good thing to encourage not-yet believers and seekers to read verses aloud. Our brains are engineered so that we respond powerfully to what we say, often more powerfully than to what we hear.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Benefits of the Word

Jess reminds us of the benefits of the Word in this list from Psalm 119. My heart was strengthened by reading through this aloud. Recommended.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thoughts from Jude

I've been enjoying reading the New Testament in The Message translation. Here is part of Jude, with some thoughts.

" 17-19But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: "In the last days there will be people who don't take these things seriously anymore. They'll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts." These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There's nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!"

I usually think of unchurched people when I heard "don't take these things seriously...treat them like a joke...make a religion of their own whims and lusts." But this description is also about those in our churches! "These are the ones who split churches" because of selfishness.

It would be awful to have written on your tombstone, "There was nothing to him, no sign of the Spirit."

"20-21But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God's love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!"

It's worship-work to keep my arms outstretched. I always need God's continuing mercy.

" 22-23Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven."

We are so often guilty of crushing tender shoots "hesitant in the faith." And how often do I "go after" someone on the wrong path, vs. cluck my tongue and say to myself, "too bad he's on the wrong path" ?

Being tender with sinners but not soft on sin -- this is the Jesus way (I think of John 8, the woman caught in adultery and hauled before Jesus). This is not the world's way. Apart from the Holy Spirit working in our Jesus-transformed minds and hearts, we oscillate wildly between celebrating sin and condemning it (mostly in others).

"24-25And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes."

For some reason my mind goes to a running back in football, getting slammed with tacklers, yet somehow keeping his feet and pushing ahead. Jesus can keep me on my feet! And I can be fresh and celebrating in His bright presence, not quaking in fear or despondent.

Note to teachers -- try capturing your meditation thoughts on passages like this, and then sharing with your students. It helps them learn how to interact with Scripture themselves, and not be completely dependent on others.

Friday, September 07, 2007

How To Teach The Same Thing Over And Over -- With Power

My son was quite startled at our Christmas Eve service when he was five.As the pastor began with the familiar words "In those days CaesarAugustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entireRoman world..." from Luke 2, my son leaned over to me, cupped his handaround my ear and whispered, "That's the same story they told last year!Don't they have a new story this year?"

As Christians we have the same wonderful story to tell. And the Lord, out of His mercy, has made us part of His story!

But if you are teaching the same things repeatedly -- say you teach a "Christian basics" class at your church several times a year -- how can you keep your enthusiasm high?

Few things can kill a Bible teacher's effectiveness faster than being bored while you teach. You must have high energy and enthusiasm as you teach. It's simply critical for Bible teaching that changes lives. Howard Hendricks told his students in seminary, "Don't you dare bore people with the Gospel. You can bore them with Calculus or Economics, but don't bore them with the Gospel."

I was not surprised to read the recent study of the best college teachers - who are consistently great teachers year after year - found that they kept their teaching fresh and inspiring, no matter how many times they taught the same topics. Here was something the researchers heard consistently in interview after interview with theseteachers:

Great teachers are excited about their subject, and convey that energy and enthusiasm to their students. They're passionate, and their students learn better because of it.

Let me give you the simple secret to teaching the same material with continued passion.

Think back to your awe and excitement the first time someone explained the story to you, the first time you "got it." Can you remember how you felt about it? How it hit you logically, emotionally, spiritually, and something powerful inside of you said "YES!" Think back to those moments of joy and insight, and re-experience it.

Now ask the Lord to help you help your students experience the same thing. (This is a prayer God loves to answer quickly!)

That's the secret to regaining joy, enthusiasm, and passion. Return to your memory, reconnect with that first joy and excitement, and then pray for God to help you convey the same excitement to others.

When we're joyful, and our students see passion, they're much more likely to learn. It's contagious.

In fact, you can even tell them about this. Tell them something like, "This is the 19th time I've taught this, and I'm still excited to share it."

By the way, my son is pretty grown up now. And he loves to tell the Christmas story!
Four Keys to Receiving Criticism About Your Teaching -- Without Hurting The Messenger Or Yourself

Maybe you're not like me. Your first reaction when someone criticizes your teaching is an immediate, thankful, gentle response. You don't suffer inner turmoil replaying their criticism over and over. You never doubt yourself.

Or maybe you're like every Bible teacher and -- at least sometimes -- struggle with criticism.

All Bible teachers are criticized, at some point. There are two (completely) natural reactions which aren't helpful:

1. Become so defensive that we don't have the opportunity to learn from it.

2. Take it so closely that we are discouraged and disheartened and never want to teach again.

Here are some tips to avoid these unhelpful reactions.

First, recognize that criticism is feedback, and feedback is a gift. Most criticism (I do not say all) is based in part on some truth. My grandparents used to talk about the popcorn principle -- there's a little bit of kernel in all that fluff.

Feedback helps us understand our effectiveness, and gives us information about how to improve our teaching. This is true even for negative feedback that we'd rather not hear.

So be thankful for the feedback, and you are much less likely to respond in a bad way, and more prepared to learn from it.

Second, don't take all the criticism personally. It helps to recognize that we're happy with positive feedback. So mature teachers need to put value on criticism. Hold your personal identify apart from a specific teaching event that provoked criticism.

Third, focus on how you respond. This is where most of us fail!

Don't respond to the tone of criticism, just the content -- even if you don't think it's correct or justified. "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself." (Proverbs 26:4) If there's a kernel of truth in the popcorn, focus your response on this, not the fluff.

It may help to begin your response by testing your understanding of the criticism. Ask a question, like "So, what I heard was that you think I tell too many personal stories and this takes time away from studying the text. Is that correct?" By asking a question, you initiate a conversation. This helps immensely in guarding against a "war of words."

Always say "Thank you" in your response. Make it specific. For example, "Thanks for the comments and feedback, Jill. I'm working at improving my teaching. You've given me something helpful to think about."

Delay your response -- especially if you feel any surge of anger or pride. Words spoken in anger or pride "feel good" at the moment, but are nearly always regretted later. Patience lets us respond in godly ways.

Smile as you respond. The physical act of smiling will help you relax more. I'm not suggesting a fake, smarmy smile that's forced. Ask the Lord to help you smile, and you will find it influences not only your attitude but the attitudes of others.

Fourth, learn handle false criticism appropriately. If you evaluate criticism, and after prayer find it is without basis, then you need to choose not to let it affect you. This will need to be a conscious choice! If you keep reviewing the criticism, then you give it weight and strength to attack you all over again. You can respond gently to our critics, but understand that you stand or fall only to your Master in Heaven. Resist any urge to counter-criticize. Silence is better than fighting back at someone.

These tips should help you get the most value out of critical feedback, without damaging relationships.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rosenkrans Book & Bible Outlet Store

My wife and I were nosing about in little Eldora, Iowa recently. We found a Bible bookstore just opposite the county courthouse. What seemed to be a tiny storefront was in fact just the entrance to a series of rooms and hallways packed floor to ceiling with books -- and most at 70% off retail price!

Mr. Rosenkrans gave us a tour of room after room. He and his wife run it all. Their goal is to get good Christian materials into hands of people.

We left with some Christmas presents and a few gems. Their prices make CBD look like a profit machine!

Here is their website:
http://www.showcase.netins.net/web/fdrosen/index.shtml

Frankly, you need to know what you're looking for. They don't have everything on the website, but most things are. If you are looking for a specific Bible or Christian book, check them out. Note that you need to order by phone or email, and they don't take credit cards.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Godly Perspective on Cancer

Cancer is common, and as a teacher you are likely to be teaching someone who has cancer, or loves a person fighting cancer.

Review this commentary by Tony Snow, "Cancer's Unexpected Blessings," and keep it in your files. Great, helpful insights here.

The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter—and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time."

Friday, August 31, 2007

How to Do a Gut Check

I like Perry Noble's gut check questions:

Am I listening to the voice of God?
Am I taking risks?
Am I understanding how big God is?
Am I surrounding myself with the right people?
Am I giving it my best?

Good for all of us to ask these questions!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

John Piper on Romans 5

Check this helpful, passionate video excerpt of John Piper talking about the gospel -- clear without cross-cultural addition.
Three Tuesdays Lesson Recap

I wanted to recap our "Three Tuesdays in August" series designed to help you prepare to teach. You can go back anytime to get these free lessons:

How to Prepare in the Next 30 Days (audio)http://www.teachtochangelives.com/30daysout.htm

Keys to Fabulous Short Devotions (audio)http://www.teachtochangelives.com/devotionkeys.htm

Overview of the Four Elements of Great Bible Teaching (video)http://www.teachtochangelives.com/4elementvideos.htm

How to Create and Use Biblical Frameworks (video)http://www.teachtochangelives.com/bfoverview

If you found these lessons helpful, let me know!
Have You Looked At Acts Like This?

Gregory Koukl has published a detailed outline of Divine Direction and Decision Making in the Book of Acts (free).

It's different than the biblical framework approach that I encourage, but a terrific model to study. It's detailed. It's structured so that you can make sense of it. It points out how God operates differently than we expect. It's studded with Scripture.

Can you dissect a book of the Bible like this? Or work through a theme, and organize material for lessons and Bible studies? If not, what do you need to start doing so you can do this?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Four Elements of Great Bible Teaching -- Video Overview


video

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Interactive Bible Map Mashup

Very cool: a Google maps mashup with a Bible atlas, linking place names and Scripture. You can zoom in and out, toggle between satellite (very good for getting a sense of geography), line maps, or a hybrid. Slick stuff.

http://www.biblemap.org/

Try looking at

Genesis 28 to learn about Bethel
Joshua 12 -- listing all the kings Israel defeated
Micah 1 -- Jerusalem, Samaria, and a host of smaller cities
Luke 10 -- Sodom, Bethsaida, etc.

Click on either the city name in the text, or the colored "popsicles" on the map display to get details about the locations, and where they are referenced in the Bible.

This free tool is in beta, and they continue to add features. May the Lord bless their ministry to all of us!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'd Like More Than $3 Worth

This cut me deeply. It's a quote from D.A. Carson's book, Basics for Believers.

* * * *
I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please.

Not too much – just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted.

I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture.

I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation.

I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races – especially if they smell.

I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged.

I would like about three dollars worth of the gospel, please.
Planning a Sunday School Lesson Experience

Daryl Wilson from The Sunday School Revolutionary talks about planning an experience (rather than a lesson), taking into account different adult learning styles.

Good teaching is about creating an environment where learning is more likely to happen. That's teaching to change lives -- not just tickle ears or entertain.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Three Tuesdays in August

For three Tuesdays in August I've been releasing free training materials for Bible teachers:

Keys to Fabulous Short Devotions (audio)
Overview of the Four Elements of Great Bible Teaching (video)
Why and How to Create Biblical Frameworks for Wise Thinking (video)

These will help you get ready to teach. Enjoy!
Can We Trust the Gospels?

Good interview recording with Dr. Mark Roberts on the reliability of the Gospel accounts.

"When the question is asked "\'Can we trust the Gospels?' we usually ask that question from our 21st century perspective. But Roberts points out that we must understand that standards and practice of historians at the time the Gospels were written. They are different standards than ours to some extent, but still yield a reliable record, especially when you factor in the importance of what the writers believed they were conveying." -- from Stand to Reason blog

I still vividly remembering reading the whole NT in 3 days as a desperately seeking adult. I was amazed! This Jesus was not like what I remember from Sunday School. No Breck girl in a beauty pageant sash! The Jesus of the Gospels is tough and tender, bold and gentle. I also remember thinking, "If the disciples made this up, it would read differently. They wouldn't make themselves look like idiots." These insights -- that the NT does have the feel of fiction --were convincing to me.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Using Words Appropriately
Eschatology is a perfectly useful word -- but you have to explain what it is (and isn't).
I hope that you are often teaching not-yet believers and new believers. Be extra cautious about your fancy words, so you don't lose or confuse your students.
Name of God is Precious

So a Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands suggests that Christians and Jews use the name Allah when we refer to God, to promote interfaith understanding and acceptance.

I think the bishop's name is Pol Pot. Oh wait, his name is actually Tiny Muskens, but I'm sure he's ok if we call him other names so we can all feel better together.

The Name of God is precious. It's hard to read the Bible and miss that.

In Christ we will love others, even those who (now) curse our Lord and curse us. God continues to grant them opportunity to repent. But let us not for one microsecond think that God's name isn't precious and holy, because He is generous to good and evil and desires to see everyone come to Him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Establishing the Canon of Scripture

Useful insight into a pattern of church history here -- accepted authority exists, then there's a challenge, and it becomes formalized:

"The canon of Scripture wasn't a real point of ambiguity even though it was not formally fixed for a few centuries, and then only because what was commonly held was challenged by some. The general agreement prior to that made a formal statement unnecessary. That's been the pattern throughout church history. Some things just aren't officially stated until it's under challenge. That's not to be mistaken for lack of a clear position prior to the formal statement. ...

F.F. Bruce explains well in his book The Canon of Scripture that the books of the New Testament were accepted quite early based on apostolic authority. The practices of the early church, how they used these books in church services and to get authoritative teaching, demonstrate that there was an early consensus about the canon. Other writings were sometimes used as sources of devotional teaching or encouragement, but the practice of the church elevated the books later formalized as the canon very early. It wasn't a decision that was left for centuries; it was only left to make official what was practiced. The sorting out of canonical Scripture from other writings was done very early and these books were used by the church as Scripture on par with the Old Testament books as God's Word."

I think the same thing was true for the challenges that led to the 1st council of Nicea.
Chew on One Book

For some years I have recommended people study a book of the Bible in breadth/depth by reading it repeatedly. So it' s nice to see this post from Stand to Reason, "Mastering the Bible."

How much can our Lord do in and through you when you've mastered a small number of key books of the Bible? Pick just Mark and Colossians to start!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Get a Look INSIDE "Lasting Student Ministry"


I highly recommend Scott Aughtmon's book, Lasting Student Ministry. I got his permission to make a video that explains why I recommend it, and gives you a peek INSIDE the book. Go here to check out.

If you're not focused on student ministry, this book is still valuable for you - the principles and suggestions apply to all kinds of effective ministry, and it's an excellent gift for a youth pastor in your church.
Gmail

I've been using Google's free email service (gmail) since 2005. It's so much superior to Yahoo or Hotmail! If you are in the US, you can simply go here to set up an account (free): www.gmail.com , click on the signup link there.

If you live outside the US, and would like an account, you might need an invitation. Contact me and I will send you one. Send an email message to

info teachtochangelives.com with your request.
Read the NT in a Month

May I recommend something fresh for you? Get a different translation than you usually use, and read the whole New Testament in a month. You can do that easily by reading 10 chapters a day (there are 270 chapters altogether).

I'm doing this now with The Message translation, and it's refreshing. I'm not drilling down and trying to get everything possible out of each passage. Rather, my aim is simply to saturate myself in the story again. (It's easier to do this if you use a different translation than you are accustomed to in your regular study.) I'm finding it fun, and frequently smiling or crying with amazement and joy.

It's a terrific way to reconnect with the freshness of God's Word. In fact, you'll probably find 10 chapters goes by so quickly that you read more!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Discussion-based Teaching

I'm a proponent of teaching styles that promote interaction between the teacher and the students. Engaged people learn better, and learn more.

I'm not advocating an opinion-fest where someone is just facilitating a dialogue. Teaching still needs to happen. The teacher is responsible for structuring the overall lesson, understand the objectives, and using interaction tools (like discussion around a point or issue) to move people in the right direction.

Kenneth O. Gangel has a nice article, "Teaching by Discussion" that's worth reading, especially the section on Principles.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Recording Your Lessons

I actually record most of the lessons I teach. In many cases I will make the recording available to people who missed it or would like to listen again. And it's amazing how much you can learn about improving your teaching if you listen to yourself. [Frankly, it's humbling! For a guy who is coaching so many other people to teach, I have lots of room for improvement!]

If you'd like to do this, invest in an inexpensive digital recorder, like this one. I use the external mike, and slip it into my pocket.

I get questions like this one periodically:

"Hi Glenn, I'm listening to your [audio lesson on getting ready in the next 30 days] and had a thought. Are you teaching aBible study now? If so, would you be able to record the lesson? Don't do anything unusual or for the 'show' just record a regular class. This would be an excellent model for others. We could see you put into actionwhat you teach."

Now if you record your lessons, you need to be cautious about how you use them. Be sensitive to the fact that people in the classes make comments -- and don't publish the recording without their permission. If you get permission in advance, then understand that it might inhibit the free flow of Q&A, because people become self-conscious.

You see, recording something like a sermon doesn't usually concern as many people -- it's more like a speech with just one person talking. Interactive lessons are different.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

How to Be Ready in 30 Days

I wanted to let you know about upcoming free training audios and videos in August -- and a free audio lesson for today.

Many of you will be teaching again starting with the school year(which is about a month away here in the US). So you have about 30 days to get ready.

The first thing: think through your opportunity, and plan how you will invest your preparation time.

To help you with that I have a free audio lesson for you -- butthere's some exciting news I want to share first.

We're launching a special instructional series called "Three Tuesdays in August."

This what's coming:
August 7: your keys to a fabulous short devotion
August 14: a video overview of the 4 Elements of Great Bible Teaching
August 21: how to think biblically, about any topic

To start all this off TODAY, here's a free 22 minute audio recording of a conversation with my friend and co-teacher Barry Brown, outlining how to get ready in the next 30 days.

(If you're thinking, "yeah, I know this," I still encourageyou to check it out. Do you know about your reticular activating system and how to make it work for you?)

http://www.teachtochangelives.com/30daysout.htm

PLUS there is a special opportunity on that page to get another audio lesson, "Converting Sermons to Interactive Bible Studies,"at no charge. This is a recording of an exclusive teleseminar we held earlier this summer.

So look forward to the first three Tuesdays in August, but listen to this today so you can be prepared for a great start toyour next teaching opportunities:

http://www.teachtochangelives.com/30daysout.htm

Teach to change lives,
Glenn

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Commentaries

People ask me regularly for my recommendations on Bible commentaries. There are so many to choose from now, so discernment is required. Mike Turner, for example, likes John Stott. (You can certainly do much worse!)

I recommend the Expositors Bible Commentary series edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. See my special report on how to select and use a commentary.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Do You Experience This Problem with Communication?

"The problem with communication is the illusion that it has already occurred." -- George Bernard Shaw.

Just because people smiled aftewards and said, "Good job!" or "thank you" doesn't mean that learning happened.

It's important to solicit feedback as you teach, so that you can appraise whether people are learning and understanding. (If they aren't, their lives aren't going to be changed.)

Here's a tip: Be prepared to say important things in more than one way. This strategy ensures that a great percentage of your audience hears it in a way that they respond to.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Prayer of Adoration

"The greatest thing about us is You, Lord."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Channel of Blessing

I've written before about visualizing yourself as a large, clean conduit of God's love and truth to the people in your class or group.

It's very important that you understand your place in this process. YOU are the tool God is using to help people understand and obey His Word.

Ask the Lord to make you a channel of blessing.

If you take this before the Lord consistently in prayer, you will be amazed at how well your students learn, and how much patient endurance you have in yourself. You are not serving in your own strength.

Make time to do this today!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Problem with "Relevance"

Here's an excellent (not short) article, "Preaching Without Reaching." The author outlines problems with much preaching and Bible teaching today -- it starts with human problems, tosses in a little Scripture here and there, and doesn't put the Word of God at the center.

Overall I agree. If you look at sermons recorded and preserved for us, up through about 1960 or so they were nearly all Scripture-centric. They were topic or expostional, but generally it started with Scripture and kept the Word at the center. In the 1960's and 1970's you see a lot of sermons more in the "I'm Ok, You're Ok" mold.

The challenge (and opportunity!) of relevance is not to dilute Scripture or put it in the background. The issue is in the "hook" -- the opening part of a sermon or Bible lesson that engages people so you have their attention. You do not need to be man-centered to do this!

See my free report on creating good hooks if you'd like to learn more.

Surely, This Isn't You!



You really want to work at simplifying your teaching points. Teach less content better, and your listeners will actually learn more!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The "New" Athiesm

I'm not really that old, but have already lived through a couple of cycles of popularity (notoriety?) for athiests. In the last year books and seminars by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, and Victor J. Stenger have attracted the attentions of millions.

If you'd like some guidance in sorting this out, I recommend Peter Berkowtiz's fine column. Since it's written from a "secular" perspective, you'll get some insights into the logic problems these authors are falling into, big time.

P.S. Looking at these author's name you see an ironic pattern:

Richard -- strong heart [of God]
Christopher -- Christ-bearer
Sam[uel] -- heard of God
Daniel -- God is my judge
Victor -- latin for conqueror
Improving Retention

Unless you're goal is to tickle their ears, you should care deeply about helping people learn and improving their retention of that knowledge (which includes applying it in obedience to God to change lives!).

Darryl Wilson gives some tips here.

The key is always to increase the interactivity with the content, and engage more of the brain in the process. That's why I'm an advocate of dialogue and conversation, using questions effectively, and helping people learn more between group meetings (see my book).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"What's the Opportunity?"

It's pretty easy for our focus as teachers to be on us -- how we organize the information, how we present, how we are coming across, how we look.

Some of this is necessary, but you and I both know it's a subtle trap.

Here's one way you can stay out of the mire and muck. Ask yourself this question: "What's the opportunity?"

What is the opportunity for these students to ...
see how God has operated in the past (see Romans 15:4)?
understand how the Bible is organized, or the timeline/geography of events?
hear God speaking commands, assurances, rebukes -- to them?
go deeper on familiar passages?
fall in love with Christ [all over again]?
learn how to study the Word themselves?
see something which they can share with their family, coworkers, neighbors and friends?

See how this question lifts our vision to them? And the answers will help shape what YOU need to work at -- organizing content, how it is presented, the questions to ask to promote dialogue, hooks and stories and illustrations, what applications to push for, etc.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thinking in Whole Words

Check out this setence:

"Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe."

Pretty amazing, isn't it? These kinds of efforts help us understand how the brain works as a sophisticated pattern-matching system, coupled to a powerful linking system so that one idea leaps to another (and usually many others).

Now why I am writing about this to Bible teachers?

Because you want to encourage learning, and that means encouraging pattern recognition, and encouraging people to jump to related thoughts. Don't work too hard to control the flow of thoughts in a discussion, because you're working against the way the mind operates.

Ask questions, tell stories, and don't surprised (or frustrated) when it leads someplace you didn't expect. What counts is learning. That's teaching to change lives!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Memorization Strategy

Memorization is hard work, but good work. Here's an interesting strategy, called the "stacking method," which is helpful for memorizing passages.

1. Write out what you want to memorize. Writing it helps to begin to form it in your mind.
2. Take your notes into a quiet room, shut the door, and eliminate all distractions.
3. Look at the first sentence in your notes and read it out loud. Then, close your eyes and say the sentence without looking at it.
4. Repeat the step above, this time with the first 2 sentences.
5. Next, try it with 3 sentences. Then 4. Repeat until you have memorized every sentence in your notes.

I used something like this to memorize Matthew 5-7. Try it out yourself, and with your students.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Teachers Need Different Kinds of Friends

Friends who bring out the best in you -- developing your strengths, helping you guard against slipping back.

Friends who mentor us, because they're farther along the discipleship curve than we are. (These friends may be authors of books, too.)

Friends who ask us hard questions, challenge our comfortable assumptions, and don't let us settle for status quo. (Quick story -- a good friend recently asked about the key visions and strategies for our church. I told him that we wanted to focus on making disciples. He quickly broke through my 'comfort' by pointing out a key idea: "Glenn, you're making disciples. It's just a question of what kind of disciples you're making." Zing!)

Friends who are with us in the deep things of the Spirit.

Now sometimes you will find all these types of friends in one person, but it's more likely that you need to cultivate multiple friendships, at different levels of intimacy, for this. We are meant to live in community, after all, though it is hard because of sin.

( based these thoughts on an article by Ike Reighard. He's writing about pastors, but I believe the same is true for all Bible teachers. )

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Obey God -- and Don't Burn Out

Lynne Baab gives us some terrific ideas for what to do differently on a Sabbath rest day -- to recognize that God is the creator (Ex 20:11) and He is our Redeemer (Deut 5:15).

I've noticed that some teachers are burning out. Follow God's prescription (meaning, obey God's command!), get the Sabbath rest you need. Read the whole article for some creative ideas.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Good Feedback on Hebrew and Greek Videos

I'm grateful to hear that people are learning a lot through the Hebrew and Greek word study videos I published last week. Pastor Thomas Carter writes:

"It's a huge Blessings is the best way I can put it. Thank You immensely."

I encourage you to check them out now and learn this critical skill by watching over my shoulder, in less than an hour.
Thinking Big, Daring Dreams

Darryl Wilson encourages us to set big growth goals for Sunday School.

I challenge you to set two kinds of growth goals for your teaching environment:

1. Reach more people. How many more will you ask God to send to join your Bible study, Sunday School class, or small group?

2. Develop maturity. What's the next step look like for individuals and for the whole group to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Remember, you and I are serving a Lord who can do "more than we ask or imagine" (Eph 3:20).

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Sharing" Online Bible Notes

I encourage people to mark up their Bibles with personal notes, in order to interact with God. Make it your ambition to wear out your Bible!

Now there are at least two online Bibles that let you tag verses, make personal notes, and share that with a community.

Ebible.com has been running for a while.

YouVersion is in alpha stage, but getting more buzz.

I doubt that these will be universally popular, but there will be communities of believers and seekers who will benefit from the tools.

I'm not personally going to use these (at least not now), just priority-setting. But I would be curious to know your experiences.
Useful Perspective on Change

"When it comes to change, there are three seasons of timing: Peoplechange when they hurt enough that they have to, when they learn enoughthat they want to, and when they receive enough that they are able to."- John Maxwell

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hebrew & Greek Word Study Videos Now Available

Knowing how to look up original words and their meaning is a crucial skill for Bible teachers, but far too few know how -- and far too many don't use what they learn correctly. Learn more here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Recovering Some of the Original Form of the Bible

There's some buzz out there about the Aug. 1 release of a new Bible from the International Bible Society. It's called Books of the Bible. It's really designed to be a no-additives Bible, something closer to the original. So there are no chapter and verse numbers, headings, extra columns, cross-references, etc.

Why? Because in some ways these have been helpful, and in some ways they have distractions.

Also they have recombined 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings into one unified book, as it was in very old manuscripts. Luke and Acts are placed together as a two volume history by Luke. Paul's letters are arranged chronologically. (You can see a complete book list here.)

So what do I think about this?

First, I respect the effort. They aren't rewriting Scripture, but restoring it's original forms. I think this will be a valuable Bible for personal study and devotions.

Second, I think it will be difficult to teach from, unless everyone in your class or group also has a copy. If you want people to follow-along and participate, you need to steer them to be in the same place. Saying "Page 256, second paragraph" isn't going to work as well as "Chapter X, beginning in verse 4."

And what do you think?
Answering Your Questions about the New Hebrew & Greek Word Study Videos

Here are my answers to a few questions that have come in about the Hebrew & Greek word study videos.

"Will these videos run on Macs? I don't have a PC."
These videos will work on any Mac or PC with the Flash viewer installed - and most PCs purchased in the past 4 years have that. If you don't, it's a free download to get it.

"I can only get a dialup connection to the Internet. Will these videos work for me?"
They will run, but you will need to be patient. We have tried to set things up so that dialup users can still benefit from the videos. The instruction is broken up into a series of shorter videos to make it faster to load each one. You can begin watching before it's completely downloaded. If you'd like to test it out, go here for a 4 minute sample:

http://www.teachtochangelives.com/SampleHG/

Those should give you a good feel for how well it will work for you.

Also, a number of people have told me that they don't have a high-speed connection at home, but they go to their local library or coffee shop to get fast Internet connections.

"Will these training videos be available on CD or DVD?"
I hope to make them available on CD later on, but for right now they will only available online.

"What software will you use?"
The videos demonstrate how to use The Blue Letter Bible online software to do basic Hebrew & Greek word studies. This is wonderful software, with loads of features. And it's free to use.

You'll get a very fast start with these videos, because I'm going to steer you through the complicated interface and show you exactly what you need to do. (I used to just tell people that they should go to the software and use it - but most of them floundered around because they needed someone to take them by the hand.)

If you prefer other software, the principles of what I'm teaching will readily apply to other computer software. In fact, in one of the videos I give you my recommendations on other software that you might want to check out - both free and not-free.

"What's the price going to be?"
The initial price will be $20. You'll get immediate access to the Hebrew & Greek word study videos, plus about a half-hour of bonus videos on more ways to get value from The Blue Letter Bible, plus some surprise videos to come (I don't want to spoil the fun now.)

"Will you be offering a more advanced course? I'd be interested in that, since I already feel comfortable with basic word study."
I hope to in the future. It's my desire to team up with someone with extensive and specific Hebrew and Greek expertise in order to bring that to teachers.

Thanks for the questions! Let me know if you have others.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Watch Over My Shoulder and Learn!

Yesterday I wrote about how you can learn basic original language word study skills with the "hardware store" model. Get help from a trusted guide who knows what to do, what not to do, and what tools and materials work best.

In my experience the best way to teach someone how to look up Hebrew and Greek word meanings is to show them. It doesn't work to say"Just use XYZ reference book." Or "the SuperDuper Computer Bible makes it easy." But if I show it to them, they'll get it quickly.
And then we can talk about how (and how not!) to use this information in their Bible lessons.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are thousands of Bible teachers who don't know this critical skill. They're missing a lot. ManyBible teachers "sort-of" do this, but don't get it right.

I really, really would like to change this! But I can't work one-on-one with everyone.
So I made over 40 minutes of video that you can watch. It's like looking over my shoulder as I work.

This is the fastest and best way to get started in Hebrew and Greek word studies. Period.

You can watch a 4 minute sample of the instruction here:

http://www.teachtochangelives.com/SampleHG/

More good news: all the software you need to do original language word studies is free.

So all you need is the knowledge and skill to use the software. And that's *precisely* what you'll get from these videos, quickly andeasily.

You can get the videos starting Tuesday, June 26th.
Multiple Lessons

PreachingToday.com has a nice article about strategies for when you need to prepare more than one sermon for a given day or weekend. This translates well for teaching situations, also.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Do Hardware and Hebrew Have In Common?

Some guys seem born knowing how to do home repairs. Not me. I'm a "measure-twice, cut-three-times, abandon-the-project" guy.

But since the home repair stuff needs to get done, I have tokeep trying. I look at books and listen to other people talkabout it, but it still doesn't make a lot of sense what I'msupposed to do. Sometimes the French and Spanish instructionsfor the tools make about as much sense as the English!

That's why I go to my local hardware store and get their advice.They've done this stuff, they've used the tools and materials, they know what works and what doesn't, and they can show me whatto do. (I should also mention that they are VERY patient with me,because I'm a pretty slow learner. Sometimes they've explained things several times to me!)

It's the same with studying the Hebrew and Greek words in Bible passages. Great Bible Teachers like you should know how to do this.

But if you know how, you're in the minority, Glenntest5.

I surveyed almost 4000 Bible teachers in late 2006 and learned that less than 15% felt comfortable looking up original word meanings and using them in their teaching.

Here are three common situations -- are you in one of them?

"I just rely upon my commentaries and study notes for this." If this is you, then you're missing wonderful opportunities tolearn more from Scripture, and give more in teaching.

"I know I should be looking up Hebrew and Greek words, but Idon't know where to start." It's actually pretty easy, once you get some coaching. But I agree, it's intimidating at the start, until you get some help.

"I've tried computer Bible study software but it's complicated to use, and I don't know what to do with what it gives me."Computers can make things faster and easier, but you might need some hand-holding, and you still need to know how to use what the software tells you.

You can learn how to do basic word studies in Hebrew and Greek. I know this because I've taught other teachers how to do it.

But I could hand you the tools, or give you a tiny-print instruction sheet in 4 languages, and it probably won't be enough. Just like my home repair hardware situation, you're going to need some understandable instructions and patient coaching. You need to know what tools to use, and how to use them.

What you really need is the opportunity to watch over someone's shoulder while they do it. And that's *exactly* what you can do!

Learning how to do word studies in Hebrew will be like a visit to your friendly hardware store. And you'll never have to say, "It's Greek to me" again.

How is this going to be possible?

Video. And it's going to be available for you Tuesday, June 26th.

Stay tuned for more...
Working on Something New

Sorry I haven't been posting as often. I'm working on something new for teachers that I believe will be a big help...should be ready to talk about it (and give you a preview) within a few days.

Hint: You won't need to say "It's Greek to me!" anymore.

Friday, June 15, 2007

You Need To Prepare

Occasionally I hear teachers and preachers say something like "The Holy Spirit is going to talk through me. So I don't need to prepare."

This is a twisted lie from the pit of hell, my friends. Satan has strengthened the lie by mixing in some truth --the Holy Spirit may speak through you, for the glory ofChrist.

Great Bible Teachers prepare.

They invest time and effort into their teaching ministry.

Often they're able to teachwith little immediate preparation, but that's because they've diligently been studying the Word and practicing their teaching craft. What looks "spontaneous" to you is actually fruit from a long discipleship process, and the spiritual gift of teaching shines through marvelously.

Why should anyone do this? Not because they'll look impressive, and people will think better of them. Not because they get paid more. Because God loves people, gaveus His Word, and wants people to be changed. He calls some to be teachers to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians4:11-12)

"Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."(1 Corinthians 10:31)

If you want to learn exactly how to prepare for any Bible teaching situation, check out the course at www.teachtochangelives.com .

Never skimp on preparation, dear teacher. People are too important, and the Lord has called you to serve Him with all your strength.
Developing Leaders

Bible teachers are disciplers. Disciplers are in the leadership development business. So consider these useful insights from Tony Morgan on leadership development:

"Leaders can't be recruited from the platform. We have to challenge them one-on-one. Leaders won't be fulfilled performing tasks. We need to give them responsibility. Leaders don't follow doers. We need to make sure they're connected to another strong leader. Leaders don't want to be micromanaged. We have to eliminate the tendency to control the process and, instead, hold people accountable for the outcomes. Leaders won't commit to ambiguity. We need to offer a clear vision. (And, it better be big.) Leaders don't just show up. We have to be intentional about leadership development. "
"When there is no quiet, there can be no loud."

Everyone teaching, preaching, or presenting should ponder that statement.

All of us need to practice speaking through a dynamic range of louder and softer. Need to make a key statement? Speak louder. Need to engage the group with a personal question? Drop your voice a little, and watch how they lean in.

See this article for a little more about volume and dynamic range.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Improve Yourself, Improve Your Teaching

Darryl Wilson captures some key ideas for sharpening yourself -- "the leader is the lesson."

A core principle of our Teach the Bible to Change Lives coaching is that YOU are the tool that God will use to reach people. He is going to work IN you and THROUGH you.

This is summer break for many teachers. This is precisely when you need to invest in your skills and preparation. Study and pray in ways that are not directly connected with a specific lesson that you need to deliver next week. Push yourself in a new direction. Ask the Lord to do mighty things in your heart and mind.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Using Secular News in Your Bible Study

The Bible needs to be at the centerpiece of our study and teaching. You can certainly use compelling secular news and information to engage people and draw them into studying the Word.

Here's one example that might work for a small group Bible study discussion, especially if you have enough mature believers:

Watch this six minute video, "Shift Happens," together and discuss it.

Rather than being discouraged in any way, I suggest you watch it prayerfully, and see how God is at work in this. What other times in the Bible and in history have we seen major shifts in power, influence, commerce, etc.? How does God operate with nations and peoples?

One specific comment:

When they speak of "information," keep in mind that it is not all high-value signal. Much is noise. We simply are more challenged to hear God's voice in the midst of it. Information overload is a convenient myth. You don't explode if you walk into a library or open the phone book, or fire up Google.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Loving Wayward Children

John Piper's son has written an outstanding article on "12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child." This is filled with tenderness, hope, and good counsel. Recommended even if you don't have a wayward son or daughter!
Managing Class Time

Here's a nice article with good suggestions about managing class time.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Record Yourself...and Improve

If you are serious about getting better as a teacher, then I have a serious recommendation for you:

Get an inexpensive digital recorder and record your lesson times. Then listen to yourself. (It's even more powerful to use videotaping, but that's not as feasible in all situations. A small digital recorder will slip into your pocket and won't distract anyone. )

Two things will happen.

First, you'll be amazed and disappointed at your goofs, ums, mistakes, and where it didn't come out right. Think about how to do it better next time. Say it aloud, too, to reinforce it. This kind of feedback really sharpens your presentation.

Second, you'll be amazed and delighted at how God's grace worked in and through you.

The whole effort is sobering, because it puts everything into perspective. You see how God is working in spite of you!