Saturday, June 28, 2008

Diving Deep in the Mysteries, and Coming Up Worshipful

Melinda at "Stand to Reason" captures something critical for Bible teachers: we explore the depths of the Bible on doctrines like the Trinity, with great humility about our ability to truly comprehend, and come away with greater awe and worship.

"The Bible teaches us truths we can apprehend, but these truth are also facts we'll never master because they are so deep and profound. We don't abandon trying to understand the revelation; we work hard at it as a way to honor God's revelation of Himself to us. And the more we learn, the more we are moved to worship as His greatness becomes more apparent in the details rather than leaving things in blurry vagueness."

Help your students experience this truth as you teach. Give them the opportunities to be drawn into the Word and into experiencing God. Model it for them.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Quote the Text

If you are studying and preparing material for a while, you tend to forget that your students haven't immersed themselves in the text and know it as well as you do. So you need to need to make sure you quote the biblical text.

Say it out loud!

John Piper does something consistently in his sermons that every teacher should do: he quotes the biblical text specifically. He repeats the specific part of the verse that he is referring to. He does not say, "As Jesus said in John…" but says, "Look at John 17:7." Then he quotes the text. "Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you." Then he explains his points. Sometimes he quotes the text again.

Quote the text directly, and out loud. Do your learners a tremendous favor and quote specifically. Don't leave them scratching their heads wondering which verse you got that
idea from. You want to them to be able to put their fingers right on the text.

It's ok and appropriate to repeat key texts two or three times. The Word is meant to be heard.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pew Forum Results Don't Surprise Me -- Here's Why

The Pew Forum recently released a study of religious views in the United States -- and it's getting a fair amount of media exposure. Don't depend on this blog post or sound bites in the media if you're really interested. Check out the actual report for yourself.

The analysis is based on a survey of 35,000 people. This sounds like a big number, but given the breadth of religious groups identified, some of the groups might have 50-200 people, and are those numbers representative? Maybe. I'm not a statistician, but it's likely they've done some reasonable analysis.

Survey results are often skewed by the way questions are asked. When 21% of self-categorized athiests say they believe in God (yes, it's in the report), you have to wonder if it's the questions, or is that genuinely true for the group? Also, respondents are grouped as politically liberal, moderate, or conservative -- how was that determined?

Having written a few surveys over the years, and looked at the results, I know how difficult it is to do them well. And this makes me very suspicious, by experience, of political polls and politicians who would steer by them!

Let's assume that all the results are accurate, all the labels are legitimate, and large numbers of Christians believe there is more than one way to heaven, that God is an impersonal force, or that the Bible is not the authoritative Word of God.

I'm not surprised by this. It shows up in the way American Christians live. The biblical knowledge of many -- including those who have been in church services regularly for many years -- is shallow, and they have a weak doctrinal foundation. There is an incredible syncretism between secular and non-Christian religious ideas and orthodox Christian teaching. These things are evident to Bible teachers and pastors everywhere.

But rather than being discouraged, I am encouraged. Our Lord has granted us a wonderul ministry opportunity, a MASSIVE opportunity! Let us keep teaching the Bible to change lives!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Place of Bible Commentaries

I'm regularly asked for advice and recommendations onBible commentaries. Here is an article explaining my convictions about the place of commentaries in your Bible study toolkit:


If you teach frequently, you may find that you are in a rut, teaching the same way, using the same kinds of devices, even relating stories again after only a short while.

Your students will likely notice it sooner than you do.

Pray about this, and try using a different approach. It might not feel comfortable. It might not feel as effective. Set aside your self-judgment on this, and push out. You'll grow in your abilities as a teacher.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Attention! Attention!

One of the most significant challenges teachers face is capturing -- and then holding -- the attention of the people in your class or study group.

(A nice article documenting the extent of the problem today is here.)

Better results come from a combination of improving the skills of the teacher, and from practice and discipline on the part of the listeners.

You can encourage and foster the latter, dear teacher, through prayer and by working on your teaching craft. Sharpen your hooks to open the lesson and get them engaged. Try using even more questions and discussion to keep their attention on the content. Recommit yourself today that you are in a ministry to teach to change lives!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Message from Pastor Laurence

I wanted to share this message from Pastor Laurence in Belfast, Ireland, to encourage all of us to remain true to our calling from the Lord.

Hi Glenn.
Pastor Laurence here. Yes I am enjoying your course, and I always look forward to your readings. Your reading plan for going through the Psalms and Proverbs is very good. I intend to bring it into my church. I pastor a little church is East Belfast. I'M sure you heard of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Well The Upper Room Church is situated in the middle of the most troublesome area. We have had bullets shot through our windows, paint graffiti sprayed all over the walls, car windscreens broken, foul language painted on the doors, and much more. If the church was filled to capacity it would hold 90 people, our congregation is between 15-25. It is a very hard location, but God has me there. It is not a rich church, I don't get a wage from it, but God meets my needs somehow. Thank you for what you are doing on behalf of our most gracious Lord. May you continue to do what you are doing for Him. Thank You and May the Lord bless all your loved ones and bring to pass all your visions
and dreams you have for Him.
Pastor Laurence Belfast

May our Lord continue to bless your teaching ministry! Be a stalwart teacher.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sharpen Tools, Sharpen You

Here's an insightful quote:

"We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us." -- John M. Culkin

Mr. Culkin was speaking about technology advances like the plow, water wheels, steam engines, electicity, automobiles, and computers.

But you can shape better tools for Bible study and teaching, too, and they will improve your ability to bring the meaning and application of the Word of God to the people God puts in your life.

I strongly recommend you mark up your Bible and make it yours. (I like a wide-margin Bible for this purpose -- more space for notes.) Capture key sermon points next to the text as you listen. Capture the insights God gives you from devotion and study time in His Word. These quickly become the basis for devotions and lessons in the future. You can work directly from your Bible without any other notes.

Add photocopied paragraphs or lists that you find useful. For example, I have a list of recommended Bible passages to use during hospital visits taped in the back pages of my Bible. I've also tucked in a compact Bible timeline booklet that is a great reference guide. And I have a photo-reduced copy of my 52 Model Questions tucked in there, too, when I need some quick help. A friend of mine keeps copies of his favorite hymns with his Bible.

All these efforts add up over time to make your Bible more and more valuable to you as a tool for teaching, encouraging, and correcting. And you'll find that when you interact with your Bible this way, marking it up, you actually remember more as well. Plus you're developing a tremendous gift to leave behind for another generation -- they will see your record of our Lord's faithfulness to you over years and years.

Teach to change lives!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Teacher Training Materials

Daryl Wilson points us to a large collection of free teacher training materials. Check it out!

If you're involved with church Sunday School programs (children or adult), make sure you monitor Daryl's great blog, the Sunday School Revolutionary.

Growing Big People

Good insights from Mark Batterson:

“I think we focus too much energy on church growth. I think it's all about personal growth. It's not about growing a big church. It's about growing big people--people who serve sacrificially, give generously, dream ridiculously, and love gracefully."The fundamental task is to achieve smallness within a large organization."The way to grow larger is to grow smaller via small groups. I honestly don't think God will grow us beyond our ability to disciple people. And if small groups are our primary context for discipleship, then the number of small groups we have will determine our growth potential as a church.”

Make sure your teaching ministry focuses on the needs of the individuals in your groups and classes. Some needs you will learn, as you work hard to shepherd the flock in your charge. Others you likely only understand as you pray, pray, pray for them! The Lord knows exactly what you should bring to your next teaching opportunity, in order to bless His people through you.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Which Study Bible?

I'm periodically asked, "What study Bible should I use?" There certainly are many available!

My recommendation is the Thompson's Chain Reference Bible. I wrote a special report on this study Bible to explain why I prefer it over study Bibles, and I posted a short
audio message about study Bibles.

You can check out my other Bible study tools recommendations .

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

50 Years and Going Strong

I received this wonderful email yesterday:

I have been teaching Sunday School for 50 years since 1958 and I truly wish I
had access to these materials back then, however I am thankful to have them now.
These materials and guides are wonderful. Thank you so much for letting us take
a peek.
I am 74 and will be teaching a series in a Bible group of
primetimers. I am used to the Sunday School setting but this will be a far
larger group. More comments for more intense learning. I am so
looking forward to it.
Please pray that the Lord will continue to prepare me
as well as the group.
In His Service,
Diana Cofield

(Diana gave me permission to share her email.)

Way to go, Diana! It's encouraging to see how God's faithful servants are engaged in teaching ministries around the world, loving people and encouraging them. May the Lord bless Diana's teaching ministry and yours, for years and years, for His glory!