Friday, July 31, 2009

Purses with a Purpose

I wanted to highlight an amazing ministry outreach business by one of my subscribers, Diana Cofield. She runs Purses with a Purpose for the glory of God, and uses it to support missions teams and also provides a lot of loving outreach to cancer patients. (Did I mention she's 76 years old?)

Many, many of our Bible teaching subscribers are actively serving the Lord in creative ways, all around His world.

Below is part of her letter to me, so you have more details and can come alongside those of who are praying for this ministry business.

Dear Glenn.

I have been strongly led of the Lord to embark on a new ministry. I have been compelled by His direction to do the following.

I have a website and I sell handmade totes and bags etc. My grand-daughter asked prior to the website if she could sell some of my bags because everyone like them and were willing to buy them.

I agreed and this helped her to fund her mission Trip to Brazil, her fourth. The website was born.

The local paper did a story about this and a TV segment.

Because of this a lady bought one of my totes. ( many did)

This lady emailed me to thank me and we got to emailing back and forth and she asked me to pray for her nephews daughter who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. It is a very serious cancer and when they diagnosed Morgan she was at stage 4.

Since I made these totes I asked her if I could make one for Morgan. she said she would be thrilled and her favorite character was Miley Cyrus so I made her a quilted tote and she loved it.

Her sister Ally said she liked a pink camouflage print for hers. I made it for her and she loved hers too.

I prayed Lord what can I do to help these children. At 76 there is something I can do I am still fairly healthy.

I was directed in my spirit to make the pink totes for the families of the children who are such brave warriors. hence the pink camouflage.I make the totes and deliver them to St. Josephs Children's Hospital Oncology Unit in Tampa, Florida.

Today I had the privilege of delivering the very first tote to a patient who was diagnosed July 9th. She is 4 years old and her face is the face of an angel. Her name is Isabella. She is also stage four.

Her grand-mother was with her and she already knew we were coming because the other family who at the moment are at Sloan Kettering in New York told them about me. She told the little girl, "Bella, God sent two Angels to come and see you and they brought gifts". A pink camouflage Aware Bear and the tote.

I have had manufacturer's donate 30 yards of fabric in colorful prints. I bought all the pink camouflage I could find on the internet. some discounted some would not. I have enough to make at least 100 totes and my friend makes the bears.

Please be much in prayer for this. When I deliver the totes I make it a point to say this Tote has been stitched with much love and every stitch is a prayer for a cure.


Diana Cofield

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How a Single Lesson Can Help Many Different Individuals

Remember that you're teaching to individuals, not a group of clones, where everyone is exactly the same. So when you're creating a lesson, you need to accommodate a range of perceptions, questions, backgrounds, capabilities to process references, prior experiences, etc.

You'd have to be a genius to figure it how to craft a single lesson that would bless everyone.

Your only hope in this is prayer! Only the Holy Spirit can meet each individual where he or she IS, and take them to where God wants them to BE, using the same material.

And this is exactly what He does. The Word becomes alive for people.

So God receives the glory, not you.

Are you going to be used by God for His purposes? Absolutely. It's good to be humble. It's good to dependent upon the work of the Lord. And we give thanks for this privilege!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Great Hooks to Start Great Lessons

You have seconds, perhaps 90 seconds, to capture your listener's attention. People can look remarkably attentive and not be listening to you at all. I encourage you to work hard to develop strong openings -- I call them hooks.

Check out this free report I wrote about creating powerful hooks for your lessons.

Also, watch how others start lessons, sermons, speeches -- what's effective, what's not? Learn, and sharpen your ability to teach to change lives.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 -- free resource

VideoTeaching.Com is a tremendous free resource that you should check out. Skilled presenters (mostly pastors and teachers) have provided high quality video recordings of their sermons or lessons.

Why and When to Use These Videos

I generally feel a local teacher is going to be the strongest teacher for a particular group of people. God works through them!

I'm not, therefore, advocating that you abandon efforts to create your own lessons, nor give up on interactive style of teaching. These videos are excellent content, very well produced, that you can incorporate into your lessons or play when you need a change of pace. You should still work hard to give people context at the beginning, and then provide some interaction time at the end of the video. Or just use relevant excerpts if the content matches.

These videos would be useful for small groups, or as a backup option for a situation where a teacher might not be available.
How-to details are available at their tech help page. If you don’t have a high speed Internet connection and an ability to play back video from a PC (or know how to move the video to a DVD), this just isn’t going to be for you. If you're daunted at the thought of the technical steps, check with some teenagers or young adults in your sphere of influence. They're using industry standard formats, and free software on most newer PCs or Macs will be adequate to use these videos.

You must have lead time to prepare! This is not really for a last-minute situation. You can only download the videos, they will not send you DVDs.
Speakers and topics available
There is an outstanding list of presenters. You can browse topics or do a keyword search to find relevant content. They will continue to add videos over time.

Another important way teachers should use these videos

You can learn a lot just from watching these videos, and dissecting how the speakers do their presentation. These men have developed their presentation craft to a high level. Watch a couple different speakers, and take notes about their introductions (hooks), illustrations, structure of the content, points of application.

You need to become the teacher God wants you to be, but there are always things to learn and skills to improve.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What Color is Your Awareness?

The Navy Seals have a color code system to describe states of awareness.

White means you're in zombie mode. You're on autopilot, not even sure what you're thinking about. You might be walking on the street, but at the moment you don't know where you're walking and you're completely unaware of cars and people around you.

Yellow is somewhat alert. You know you're on a street and you're aware that there are cars going by you. You know you're on the sidewalk.

Red is hyper-alert state. You know the position and direction of every person around you. You're aware of the man who stopped by the streetlight and turned back to look at you. You know the color and model of the three cars that just passed you. You smell the barbecue joint half a block away. You feel the wind shift in your face.

Black? You kill anything that moves.

We agree, I'm sure, that you don't want to be in white or black state of awareness.

We tend to go through much of our daily lives with minimal awareness of what's going on around us.

The sad truth is that we go through much of our daily lives with minimal awareness of what God is doing in us, and around us.

We serve the Lord God who rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves (Colossians 1:13). We have been given life (John 5:21), a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), a renewed mind (Romans 12:2), the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7), and the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Matthew 28:19-20).

These are tremendous truths! And yet, we're on autopilot much of the time, unaware of the Father who is always at work (John 5:17), our spiritual kinship with the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us (Hebrews 12:1), and perhaps missing good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

What should we do?

First, repent.

Second, ask the Lord for awareness of His presence, and to see people and situations the way He sees them.

Third, make efforts to be more aware - practice noticing details around you. When you catch yourself in a low state of awareness, take a moment and re-connect with Christ.

Fourth, let us help one another recognize and discern the ways of the Lord.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has called you to much, much more than zombie living! Open your eyes, dear saint, and see the evidence of your Loving Father's hand, all around you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reducing Distractions in Your Presentation

Your teaching time is not a performance. You are not trying to draw attention to yourself, but to God through His Word. Therefore you have an obligation to reduce things in your presentation which would be a distraction to those listening to you.

Here are seven recommendations:

1. Memorize the first 2 or 3 sentences you will say, and practice saying them. This will give you a strong opening "presence" instead of mumbling and "Uhm"-ing. (It also helps you push through any immediate fear that might grip you.)

2. Organize all your stuff before you start speaking. If you're pulling our papers, trying to balance your drink by your Bible, futzing with a microphone -- you are giving people a busy visual image that distracts from your words. Organize the stuff you need, then look at their faces while you begin.

3. Work to eliminate "filler" words which do not carry much meaning: just, like, uhm, you know, etc. (Peter Mead has a nice blog post about filler words.) These cheapen your statements and questions.

4. If you have an itch, please don't scratch it. If you need a drink, take one without making a lot of noise. Your hair is how it is, you don't need to be making frequent adjustments during lesson time.

5. Look at people when you are responding to them. If your eyes wander all over the room, they may be distracted by looking where you are looking, and then they aren't going to be hearing what you say.

6. Take things out of your pockets that would tempt your hands to play with them -- pens, keys, coins.

7. If you know you're going to look at multiple Bible passages, mark them ahead of time. We don't need to see you fumbling around in the minor prophets. If you're not fumbling, you can patiently help people find the passage.

By reducing these distractions in your presentation, people will be less likely to miss the message God wants them to understand through the teaching time. Remember, we're teaching to change lives!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Encouraging with Twitter

I have published 642 updates on Twitter now, and wanted to share a few thoughts about this microblogging phenomenon.

Packing your statement or question into 140 characters is a craft. Reminds me of the joy and effort of writing poetry. (I did that seriously in college, even edited a literary review.)

Twitter has connected me to people whom I otherwise doubt I would have encountered, in many countries. Almost every day I'm reminded that God is working in the lives of all kinds of people, in all kinds of places -- He's much bigger than my provincial thinking.

You can use Twitter to the glory of God. You can write tweets (that's what individual posts are called) that speak to people about His power and majesty and faithfulness. You can remind people of truth from Scripture. It's a powerful tool for encouragement! Unexpected side-benefit: you'll be cheered and encouraged, too.

Like other publishing tools, Twitter can amplify your pride, your discouragement, your strengths, your weaknesses. And it can amplify the value or the waste of your time.

I haven't been comfortable putting enough information in tweets that would let people with poor intentions know things about my family or schedule that would put them at risk. People write freely about their travel and kids activities and leaving their wife at home alone. Yikes!

In odd ways Twitter makes me self-conscious. I notice that I get concerned about the image I'm projecting. If I'm feeling down and discouraged, I don't tweet about it, but turn it around and focus on encouraging others. So it's good to remember that looking at others' tweets does not necessarily tell me the truth about them. In fact, I've become aware that some people run multiple Twitter accounts and express themselves through different personas. Twitter, blogs, emails -- all are limited means of expressions for relational understanding of one another.

I do plan to continue using Twitter, humbling hoping to use it always for the glory of our Lord and Master.

You can follow me at

Friday, July 10, 2009

OpenBible.Info Tools has a handful of terrific (free) tools that you might find helpful:
  • GeoCoding -- a mapped location for every place mentioned in the Bible
  • Topical Bible -- an amazing effort like Nave's Topical Bible, to answer the question "What does the Bible say about ______ "
  • A Bible book browser interface that lets you jump quickly into any book
And a few more. Give them a try.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

How the Brain Takes in Visual Information

Information designer Tom Wujec talks through three areas of the brain that help us understand words, images, feelings, connections. 6.5 minutes, very cool. This is focused on visual input, rather than hearing.

I think Bible teachers benefit from understanding how the mind works -- because it helps us engage students so they have greater opportunities to actually learn and retain information in useful ways.

(I have a whole course on this topic, actually -- Teach the Jesus Way.)

By the way, TED talks cover a large range of topics, and are always well done presentations. You can learn a great deal about how to get ideas across quickly and well by studying TED presenters.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The 7 Problems Every Bible Teacher Faces -- Part 1

In 2005 I surveyed over a thousand Bible teachers around the world and asked them about the problems they faced. I boiled their answers down to seven key problems.

The first two (and the most universal) problems are pride and discouragement.

Pride is the number one problem limiting the effectiveness of Bible teachers -- it always has been, and always will be.

"God opposes the proud, but exalts the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)
"Pride goes before destruction." (Proverbs 16:18)

Pride is never described in Scripture as a positive thing. God won't use a teacher puffed up with pride.

Teaching ministry is not about you. It's about exalting Jesus Christ.

Repentance and brokeness are the path away from the destruction of pride (see Psalm 51). Reading about pride problems without taking action (repentance) will leave your teaching ministry ineffective.

If Satan can't push you over by stoking the fires of pride, he'll try to pull you over by draping you with discouragement.

Discouragement pulls many teachers down into the mire, and saps their strength. Many Bible teachers rock back and forth between soul-killing ruts of pride and discouragement.

Use the truth of Scripture to get the proper perspective. You are ministering the Word of God -- which is powerful and effective (Hebrews 4:12), upheld by His right hand (Psalm 63:8). His Word is like a fire and a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29). You are a servant of the Most High God! He will never leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:20). He will cause all things to work together for good for you (Romans 8:28). He is able to do more than you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 4:20). Hallelujah!

Great Bible teachers also ask people to pray for them and encourage them. This is important ministry that needs to be birthed and bathed and delivered in prayer. This is not work you can do along, because Bible teaching is meant to occur in community.

In a future post I'll cover the next pair of problems.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Question

I’m sure my friend and mentor didn’t understand the explosive power of the bomb he dropped on me.

His simple question transformed the way I have thought about sin, temptation, and the Christian life.

I met weekly with my friend for encouragement and mutual accountability in agreed-upon areas of weakness. For three weeks running I had to confess failings in one particular area. “I hate that I’m saying it,” I said quietly, “but… I did it again.”

“Here comes the lecture,” I thought, knowing I deserved it.

My friend paused, then asked me this simple, profound, and powerful question:
“That’s not consistent with Christ in you, is it?”

In that moment God catalyzed something wonderful in my mind. Following Jesus is not about making my heart and mind better through external “righteousness.” Following Jesus means my thinking, acting, and living should flow out of the glorious reality that I am a new creature in Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The reality of this new creation is the primary source of all wisdom, godliness, and righteous living (see Galatians 6:15).

Use this question to help frame your decisions. When you’re faced with a choice, you can ask “Lord, what’s most consistent with Christ in me?”

Use this question to resist besetting sins. When you are tempted, it helps enormously to ask “Is this consistent with Christ in me?”

Use this question when you are fearful, or weak, to remind yourself of the character of Christ in you. “Is this consistent with Christ in me?”

Let us be grateful people, confident in “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

Friday, July 03, 2009

What was good in 1911 -- and Still Is Today

Check out this delightful 1991 book on how to plan a Sunday School lesson. (Free scanned copy via Google)

Though focused on lessons for children, I think the core ideas are applicable for teaching anyone:
  • Our aim is spiritual
  • One central thought in the lesson
  • Title the lesson to hook their attention
  • Connect the truths from the Bible to their lives
  • Tell the story well, so they're engaged
  • Followup with them outside of class time
It's good to be reminded that new things are not necessarily better, and we're part of a community of teachers stretching back more than 2000 years.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Growth is God's Work

Many of you reading this will experience great frustrations as you work and work and work, teaching as best you're able, and still do not see much maturing or growth in your students. This is as true if you're teaching little children as it is for teaching adults, not-yet-believers or aged saints.

"When will they grow?!"
"When will they learn?!"
"How long do I have to keep teaching them without any evidence they're growing?!"

The answer to your dilemma is to remember your place in the order of things.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Cor 3:5-7)

Did you catch that -- it is God who causes the growth. Not you. By God's grace you, dear Bible teacher, are called to plant seeds and water!

Whatever your frustrations and impatience, pour them into prayer. It may help to remember what J. Vernon McGhee said years ago: "It's God universe and he runs it the way he wants to. You might have a better idea of how to do things...but you don't have a universe."

All these things can be frustrations and disappointments, even hurts. But when we hold on to the key fact that God causes the growth, it's easier for us to persevere in doing our parts faithfully.

Keep on teaching to change lives!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Back from Hiatus, and New Commitments

Thanks for your patience while I took a blogging hiatus!

While taking this break I finished a few projects and made big progress on some others:

Completed my systematic theology study (Grudem's book, Systematic Theology)
Launched 400,000 Bible teacher initiative and lined up more promoters and helpers
Set up "Inner Bible Teacher" coaching curriculum for Bible teachers for July/August
Made plans for teaching this fall (1/2 Corinthians)
Got started on new version of Teach the Bible to Change Lives
Making more progress with Twitter (follow me at glenn_brooke)
Outlined curriculum for leadership development

I've also been thinking and praying about how I have done blogging, and plan to make some changes.

I will work harder to produce more original content posts, even if that means I'm posting less frequently. I'm still going to point you towards interesting content as I find it, adding my comments -- but will probably collect these up rather than posting individually.

My prayer remains that our Lord will continue to direct people to this blog in order to encourage and build them up.