Sunday, January 28, 2007

John Stott Interview

I recommend this intriguing interview with John Stott. He has some excellent insights into the evangelical church today, biblical preaching, and pride. Stott's book "Basic Christianity" was very helpful for me as a new adult believer.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Great Bible Teachers are Great Pray-ers

You've heard all the stuff about how you need to pray. You know it's true, too. So it's important that I remind you to be praying.

The question is: "Do you actually pray?"

I suspect that most of us are better at talking about prayer than we are praying. Years ago a friend and mentor of mine told me that when the urge came over him to read about prayer, he just went down to his knees and started praying.

Yes, I know you're busy and your time is limited. You have many responsibilities, after all!

I wish I had more fully learned this truth years ago: The more you have to do, the more you have to pray. Martin Luther wrote a letter to a pastor friend and said, "I have so much to do that I cannot get on without three hours of prayer daily."

So purpose today to take just a little more time for prayer. And tomorrow add to it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Looking for helps for a Bible lesson?

Here's a great resource (and free):

They have a nice search engine. Just select the name of the book you want to study, and the type of study you have, and go! Very slick.

Now if you want to know how to tailor these lessons for your specific group, I encourage you to check out --and you can sign up there to get a free Bible teachers package (three PDF reports, an audio message about using questions effectively, and an online video about structuring a life-changing lesson).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"The Only to Change the World"

Nick Morgan points out that the only reason to give a speech is to change the world. The measure of a good presentation is the change of behavior that it creates.

Let's translate that to Bible teaching. Yes, we must inform people, give them basic knowledge. But the measure of effective Bible teaching is changed behavior, changed lives.

Here's your "change the world" acid test (credits to Nick Morgan):

1. Did I give them motivation to do something?
2. Did I give them clear action items?
3. Did I make their new behavior easy to adopt?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Wicked Witch...A Sunday School Teacher?

I was curious about the history of Sunday School, so I looked it up in wikipedia. They have a nice short history outlining the work of Robert Raikes in the early 1800's in Britain. And curiously, they list some famous people who were Sunday School teachers -- including two presidents, a Supreme court justice, and Margaret Hamiton (better known to us as "The Wicked Witch of the West").

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Harmony of the Gospels

If you're looking for a resource to help understand (and teach) the timeline of the four gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry, check out this free resource.

Note: Many study Bible also give you some of this information.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Great Bible Teaching Requires Great Bible Students

Can a teacher be great if he/she has poor students, uninterested students, disengaged students? Isn't the measure of greatness the amount of transformation that occurs in the students?

Does a tree falling in the woods make a sound if there is no one to hear it?

It's critical to pray for your students and participants in your Bible study groups, so that God will open their hearts and minds to the life-changing message He wants them to receive. "Apart from me, " said Jesus, "you can do nothing."

It's also useful to use tactics to warm up a group and incite curiosity and anticipation -- you can give them a teaser preview in advance, or by email ahead of the class time.

Don't ignore this critical aspect to great Bible teaching.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How to Practice a Strong Start

Many of us have weak starts to lessons. Saying "Ok, well, I guess we should start, then, yeah" is not the way to begin.

You're much more likely to deliver a strong start if you practice it ahead of time. But there are some specific steps you should take as you practice.

You must be intentional with your words at the start. This is the hook to grab their attention. I'm not going to go into this in detail in this post, but the content of your opening sentences and questions is critical. Sharpen it!

In addition to specific content of the opening, practice how you will deliver it.

If you teach standing up, practice standing up. Likewise for sitting in a chair. Make the practice physically close to real. Hold your Bible and papers like you will in the real situation.

Sit or stand tall. Posture gives your lungs room and projects strength. 99% of us have to think "tall" posture because it is not ingrained in us.

Quiet practice in your head is ok to start, but be sure to practice out loud. Actually say the words. Don't mumble 'em, say them like you plan to say them. Listen to yourself, and smooth out rough parts. Is the tone and pacing the best possible?

I recommend you memorize the first 2 or 3 sentences you will say. Especially if you are nervous. Go over it enough times that you can speak powerfully, confidently, and not nervous-fast.

Use your imagination to go through it -- make a movie in your mind. See yourself actually doing this opening hook with power, with confidence, with joy! Watch yourself make eye contact with people. See yourself smoothly handling your Bible and papers. Feel the connection that you will make with people who are eager to learn.

(Note: This isn't psychocyberkinetic mumbo-jumbo. I'm not asking you to imagine piles of money landing on your fancy sportcars. But use your God-granted imagination to help you do your best teaching!)

When you play this movie, you'll get new ideas about how to do it better.

Hone the specific words you will say, and practice how you will say them. That's the secret to a great lesson start.

One final point -- if you hear a voice in that committee conversation in your brain that whines about how much work this is, tell him to be quiet. You're teaching to change lives, and you are serving the Best King Ever. Lives are at stake.

Monday, January 08, 2007

What's Your Stretch?

Once you develop a certain level of competency as a teacher, it's easy to plateau there. You can get comfortable with the status quo.

If you're going to grow as a teacher, then you need to keep pushing yourself to improve.

Or God will. He loves you too much to let you stagnate. He loves your students too much to let you get comfortable, because they need fresh bread, not stale leftovers.

What's an area that you can get better at? Is it hooks, illustrations, managing questions for effective dialogue, application, in-between study work? Maybe you need to develop some additional skill and practice in word study or topic study. Perhaps you need to tackle a study yourself on a tough topic. Perhaps you need to teach in a different setting.

If your thought is, "All of that," then pick one -- any one -- and get started.

If your thought is more specific, go with it.

Stretch. Grow. Experience more of God and His Word.

Friday, January 05, 2007

"Expert" vs. Learner

I believe God puts all sorts of information and situations in front of us, a steady stream learning environment, so we can mature and grow.

It's work, but you'll learn a lot more if you take the attitude of "I can learn something from this," rather than "I'm an expert and will pass judgment on this."

I systematically read about teaching, the psychology of learning, how to communicate information effectively (meaning, so it changes behavior), etc. After a while it's pretty easy to become jaded. "Yup, seen that before. Actually, I've seen much better than that. I already know that. I'm beyond that. Oops, there's a grammar error."

Do you think my mind and heart are open to learning, to growth, when I'm passing judgment on a book or article like this? Nope.

There's an informative breakdown for the word 'expert.' Ex means former, and a spurt is a drip under pressure.

The same thing can happen in our Bible reading. "Ok, let's see what the plan says to read today. Ok, Psalm 139. Yes. Ok, that's familiar. Yup, I see I already underlined that verse. No news here, what's next on the reading plan. Psalm 140. Ok..."

Purpose to come at material with fresh eyes, open hearts, and desire to learn.

If it's important material, even if you've read it before, remember Richard Halverson's statement: "It is as important to be reminded as it to be informed." Consider how many times God tells His people to "remember."

Even if it's not the best quality information (e.g., some magazine article), be open to what you can learn. Don't pass judgment quickly, or you will cheat yourself out of something worthwhile. And you put your mind in a warped state that makes it very difficult to learn from outstanding information when it does come before you!

Finally, model this behavior for others. Especially the people God wants you to teach!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Free Reports and Audio Messages

Just a quick reminder -- I've posted many free reports and audio messages for you at this site:

Monday, January 01, 2007

Teaching Adults

Check out this very good article about teaching adults in church.

"...many people in churches today have never brought their adult minds to bear on an understanding of the Bible. They tend to assume that Scripture has nothing specific or helpful to say to them about the real world in which they live. For them, the Bible seems like a relic from childhood rather than a living statement of hard-edged truths that demand to be studied and interacted with on a daily basis.
But the Bible was written primarily for adults, to answer adult questions, to deal with adult problems. Finally, then, adult education is vital to the church because it is our opportunity to open the Word of God, the textbook of the church, for people to whom it is ultimately addressed."

Read the whole article here.