Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saying What We Believe, and What We Don't

"In this postmodern world, we must not only say what we believe, but also must deny what we don't believe." -- attributed to Francis Schaeffer

Good point! This is a key element in dialogue about truth propositions.

Josh Hunt Lessons

I'm asked about 3 times a week "Do you have a lesson on that I can use?"

And my answer is usually no. My calling is to develop teachers, but not by publishing lessons I've created and encouraging others to use them.

If you are looking for a reliable, tested source of lessons, I will recommend Josh Hunt's materials. His Lesson Vault continues to expand and improve. I'm not a member, but have heard good reviews from others who are. His free example lessons certainly have good outline and great questions to help people be engaged.

Check them ou
Publish Post

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bruce Wilkinson on Unction

Though Bruce Wilkinson writes here about unction for preaching, I believe the Holy Spirit works through Bible teachers as well. Recommended.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Advice to a Stressed Minister of Education

A Minister of Education recently contacted me for help with his situation: 

"We recently abandoned [WELL KNOWN BRAND OF SUNDAY SCHOOL CURRICULUM]  in favor of something far more expositional- my own stuff.  Though the change has been well received, it is a labor to produce my own lessons each week for 22 adult classes.   I am 1 week ahead right now as we go through 2 Samuel.  I plan to go through  Luke next, then Isaiah.  With Christian Life University in full swing and a host of other chores, I need some good bible curriculum or a lot of serious help. Any thoughts?"

Here is the substance of my response, which I hope will be helpful to others as well:

"I commend you for taking this big leap and pursing home-grown studies that will be effective for your congregation. What an opportunity you've created!  You never find out how much you need God's help until you're in over your head.

A few thoughts.
  • I suggest scheduling some "review" weeks, where you don't go over new material, but recap key points and allow for group discussion.  This gives you several breathers in the middle of a series, which will help you stay fresh as you're preparing material.  You certainly should schedule some kind of break between series, too. 
  • I assume from your note that you're writing the curriculum for the 22 classes, which are led by others.  If that's correct, then I would recruit some of your teachers/leaders to help you shape up the curriculum.  Let them help you, for example, think up key questions which will guide participants to your key points and applications.
  • In general, teach less material per session, and teach it well.  Leave your class hungry for a little more!  This actually improves learning and retention, but also means you're not so overwhelmed as you develop lessons.  Focus on the key take-home messages.
  • Do you have some good seminary class notes or do you have a sermon series you've heard on Luke or Isaiah?  You could leverage those to help you build out a lesson series.  It's all about tailoring material to meet the needs of your class at this particular time.
  • Here's a fun "change of pace" to try one week: Have the class read the passage, then work together to produce a short devotional that would be appropriate for some people they know.  You'll be surprised at how much they can learn as they study in order to teach!
  • Plan for a mini-sabbatical break from preparing lesson series.  Don't let yourself get burned out and frustrated with it.
  • Assemble a prayer partner team to pray for you.  You need this. 
I hope these ideas help.  Write back and let me know what you think.  Again, I'm impressed that you're pushing yourself in this direction -- and confident the results will show your time was well invested!"

He later asked me about suggestions for coaching youth teachers.  I gave him this response:

"Youth teachers need a lot of encouragement!  In my experience, many adults underestimate how much of what they're teaching gets across.  Again, the principle of teaching less well is very important with children and youth.  You may also want to give them some coaching on class discipline -- it works differently at different churches and with different ages."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Two Questions to Ask When Preparing a Lesson

There are two questions you should be asking -- prayerfully! -- when you are preparing a lesson:

1. What do my students need to know/understand/believe?

It's not about what you want to teach, or what you think is the latest and greatest. As a teacher you must be focused on the people our Lord gives you to teach.

2. What should my students do with this? Or, how should they live?

This gets to life application. We are not about stuffing heads with information (though learning information is important). We are about the process of cooperating with God to teach the Bible to change lives.

If you will prayerfully ponder these two questions, you'll have the organizing information you need to create powerful lessons. No matter how experienced you are, or how advanced your students are, you ask these same two questions.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Good Prayer for Leaders

We are commanded to pray for "rulers and all who have authority" and to be interceding for leaders "so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God" [1 Timothy 2:2].

Al Mohler has a good prayer for President Obama, studded with Scripture. I encourage you to look through this prayer. You may want to model prayer like this for your students.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blessing Your Class or Group

I've written in the past about the importance of launching your class or group at the end as you pray for them and end your teaching time. We've been equipping them, so we need to send them off to serve in love.

I was very interested in Lee Eclov's article about the benediction. I recommend you read this article and think about how you can use Scriptural texts to bless your class. (It doesn't have to be at the end of class, right?)

This is something that I will be working on in my teaching practice. I want to be a large and clean conduit of God's love, knowledge, and grace to them. I want them to experience the blessing of God's provision in their lives.

Read the article, let me know what you think.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Add a Bible Search box to Firefox

Firefox (you need version 3) lets you add a Bible search box in the browser! This means that no matter what web page you're looking at, you can immediately search for a Bible passage without first navigating to a special page.

You can get Firefox (free) here. Firefox has many nice features, and feels faster than Internet Explorer. You can have more than one web browser on your PC or Mac at once.

Here is how to set up for searching (takes 1 minute):
1. Open Firefox 3

2. Navigate to a Bible search tool. Both of these work, there may be others you like:
ESV Bible

3. Find the search bar, which will be on the upper right side of the brower. Click on the small down arrow at the left side of the search bar. Use your mouse to select BibleGateway or ESV. It will look like this:

Another handy site to add to Search is (Just be cautious about trusting Wikipedia articles; most are very good, but cross-check the information you find there against other sources.)

Here is how to use it:

Let's say you are working on something and want to use that reference to "the unfolding of your Word brings light," -- you know it's in Psalms or Proverbs, but don't have that memorized. Or you know it well but prefer to copy/paste it rather than typing it!

Click the down arrow on the search bar and select your Bible search page. Then fill in keywords or a reference (like James 3) in the search box. Press or click on the magnifying glass icon to start the search.

Voila! In a few seconds you have it:

"The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:30)"

This is very slick!

HT: Between Two Worlds

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Leaving Behind and Going Forward

Mark Batterson provides some good counsel on transitioning as you discern the will of God for you:

"I thought I'd share one of my litmus tests when it comes to discerning the will of God. I think the will of God is like a double-lock. You need to feel called to something. That's the first lock. But you also need to feel released from where you are or what you're doing. That is the second lock.

Here's where it gets complicated. Feeling called to and released from don't always happen simultaneously. In fact, they rarely do! If you feel called to something, but don't feel released from where you are, then you need to stay put. And God will honor your faithfulness! Where it gets even tougher, emotionally and spiritually, is when you feel released from something, but you don't know what God wants you to do next. It's like spiritual no-man's land. And that is when you need the courage to take a step of faith."

A Simple Way to Keep Up With Blogs

You're busy, and want to maximize the value of your time while staying informed, right? Then stop surfing through your list of favorite blogs and websites to see if there is something new. Subscribe to blogs in feed readers -- and then you'll be notified when there is new content. You'll save a TON of time and be a more efficient reader.

Surprisingly to me, only about 6% of blog readers do this. Let's increase that number!

If you use a feed reader, you can easily subscribe to this blog's content by clicking on the orange RSS icon in the address bar or on the side bar.

If you don’t use a reader, there is still a very easy way for you to keep up with this blog. You can subscribe by email. There is a form on the right side of this blog. Then, each morning the posts from the previous day will be delivered right to your inbox.

And if you don’t use an RSS reader but want to get started with one, Abraham Piper has a very helpful post on how to do that called What is RSS? A Step-by-Step Guide to Google Reader. He provides step by step instructions to seeting up this free tool. Recommended!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Faith by Proxy? Check the Context

Matt Capps tackles the question about faith by proxy -- the idea that if the head of a household is saved, the whole family would be saved. He looks closely at Acts 11:14; 16:31 and other passages. There's a very nice description of how households actually worked in NT times. Plus you'll pick up some useful tips on interpreting Scripture.


Survey Results!

Here are some interesting graphs from the analysis of the responders to our survey. Does anything here surprise you? How does your teaching situation compare?

Four Key Questions

There are four key questions to ask and answer:

Who am I?
Why am I here?
What is wrong with the world?
How can what is wrong be made right?

Secular post-modern thinking says, in summary:

You are a product of accidental forces with no meaning.
You have no particular reason to exist.
Other people and situations are wrong, based on culturally-negotiated standards.
Righting wrongs requires more education and more governance.

Christian responses are:
You were made by Jesus Christ, who created all things in heaven and earth.
You exist to glorify Jesus.
You are what's wrong, because of sin.
Jesus had made a way to be restored in right relationship with God, with yourself, with others, and with the physical world.

Survey Results Almost Ready

I'm compiling the survey results, they're almost ready to share. Very interesting!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

What Does the World of Bible Teachers Look Like?

Can you help me with a project?

I'm trying to understand more about Bible teachers and situations they face. (This helps me create better training materials for everyone!)

Could you take 90 seconds and fill out a quick survey form for me?

I simply want to know how many people you're teaching, the kinds of people you teach, your years of teaching experience, and your role.

The survey does ask for your name, but all the information will be kept confidential except in group summary form.

Go here to fill it out, it's very fast:

I will share the results I collect next week -- that way you can compare your situation to the whole group's.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Good Bible Study Tactics

It's imperative that Bible teachers be good students of the Word.


There are proven ways to study the Bible that you should know. Reading the text is a first step. Then you need to interact with it!

Go to the page of helps for Donald Whitney's classes at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Check out the resources under the section titled "Files related to meditation on Scripture" -- terrific stuff here for you:
* Questions to ask as you study a verse or passage -- based on Philippians 4:8 and from Joseph Hall
* Methods of Meditation
* Meditation mapping
* How to organize times of silence and solitude
* Praying through Scripture (alone, or with a group)

I've been experimenting with mind mapping as a way of organizing my thoughts and notes -- very helpful! (If you'd like free software to do this, I recommend FreeMind.)

And here's a free bookmark with the questions to dive into Scripture based on Philippians 4:8 and Joseph Hall.


The study you did yesterday or last year was good. What Bible study will you do today? And how can you teach your students to study the Word?

HT: Between Two Worlds

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Do You Have a Kingdom Mindset?

Robby Butler's 4 page article on the Three Eras of Mission History is worth printing off, reading twice, and marking up with your notes.

Certainly the brief accounting of missions history is useful information. But I'm recommending it to you, dear teachers, because the author so clearly and succinctly maps out common ditches to avoid:
* Tranforming individuals alone
* Personal salvation alone
* Social activism without God's power and direction
* Busyness in doing Good things

He advocates a Kingdom Mission which "abolishes the false dichotomies between secular/sacred, clergy/laity, and evangelism/social action, and seeks to actively engage the full resources of all disciples in multifaceted large-scale efforts to proclaim and demonstrate God's kingdom."

As you teach and minister to your students, and model Christian faith in action through your whole life, live for the Kingdom Mission.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Leadership Development in the Church

I'm thinking a lot these days about how to better develop leaders in the church. I find many weaknesses the typical leadership development programs used by business groups. The church needs leaders, and better leaders. We need a holistic framework for developing people, rooted in theology, and anchored in the purpose of glorifying God through serving others.

Peter Drucker pointed out that "We need far too many leaders to depend upon natural talent." So there must be efforts put into developing leaders.

Can you help me out? In the comments below, could you let us know what you see as the need for developing leaders -- at all levels and for all areas -- for ministry? What's working well, what's not? What has helped you develop as a leader (for many of you reading this are indeed leaders now)? What would help you develop more?

If you prefer to email your response to me, send a message to


Not Grim Strength but Glory-Strength

"Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us."
(Colossians 1:9-12, The Message)