Friday, September 28, 2007


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


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 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:

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."