Saturday, October 31, 2009

Charging for Training Materials ... And How We Handle Money

In this video I explain our intentional strategy for handling money associated with our ministry of providing training materials for Bible teachers, pastors, and missionaries around the world.

We do charge for some materials, and that income covers our web hosting and other direct costs. All the profits are used to support missionary work or are used to expand this online ministry. And we have a strategy for helping those who cannot pay at all.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Great Bible lessons Must Have These 4 Components

I heartily recommend Scott Aughtmon's blog post, "4 Components That Make Up A Powerful Talk." Scott's an excellent teacher in his own right, and knows how to get information across to diverse and challenging audiences.

I also recommend you sign up for his free eclass coming up soon, so you can learn even more.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Resources: Biblical Geography and History

Check out the resources available for Bible teachers at Biblical Geography and History

They feature a broad range of Books as well as access to 3000 unique maps - from ancient times to modern Middle East. They recently started compiling a free resource called People and Places featuring summaries of important people and places of the Bible, the Holy Land and ancient times.

There's good information here for Bible teachers in all situations.

BibleGlo: The Ultimate Bible Experience?

This looks amazing! Has anyone had experience with it yet that they can share? The software retails for $90US, and is only available for Windows PCs.

I still treasure my time with the printed Bible as the written Word, and will continue to use this for my devotions. (It's portable, I can mark it up, it's battery-free, and feels right in my hands.) I'm a big fan of technology, but find it's too distracting for when I need to focus on God speaking. But for study time, this looks like it could be a good tool.

The website says there is an online version coming in 2010.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Two Most Effective Weapons to Take Down a Bible Teacher

Don't give God's crummy enemy bullets with which to shoot you. The most effective weapons against you teaching the Bible to change lives are discouragement and pride.

Exchanging emails with many Bible teachers over these past few months, I'm seeing a consistent problem that's just deadly: teachers comparing themselves to other teachers and other ministry workers.

Don't compare yourself with others in ministry. Don't do it!

First, nowhere in Scripture are we instructed to compare ourselves to others this way.

Second, the practical consequences of comparing yourself to others are inevitable and sickening. You end up in one of two bad places:

a) You're discouraged because you think you're not as good as someone else

b) You're proud because you think you're better than someone else

So don't compare yourself to others. It's not helpful at all. If you have been, then take some time (now!) to repent.

The truth is that the Lord made you to be you. If He needed another ______ (fill in your favorite hero here) He wouldn't have made you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who Affirms You?

There's an issue with Bible teachers that can drive you to distraction.

It's the need for the kind of feedback that tells you "I did a good job." It's basically the personal need (which we all share) for affirmation and validation.

Sometimes I don't get any feedback about a class or a series of classes, or at least feel I should get more. So I will ask leading questions like "Was that helpful?" [Go ahead, I dare you to say "No" to my face!]

Intellectually we know that in ministry the only true and lasting affirmation comes from the Lord. And we definitely look forward to that great day when we hear Him tell us, "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Luke 19:17)

Take a giant step toward spiritual maturity. Let's make our hearts congruent with our minds.

Let me challenge you to deal with yourself plainly and simply on this matter, and as often as needed: "It's not about you. Not even a little bit. It's about the part God designed for me and empowered me to fulfill to build His Kingdom for His glory. I am teaching His people according to His great purpose. Amen? Amen!"

Let us grow up in maturity and seek the Lord for affirmation and validation. If we hear affirmation from men, keep it in its place.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Two Kinds of Brokenness Before God

As a Bible teacher you'll need to help people recognize there are two kinds of brokenness before God, and distinguish between them.

Scott Rodgers gives very helpful counsel:

"First, brokenness can be the result of sin. We’ve messed everything up and now, life is just broken. Second, brokenness can be the result of surrender. We’ve submitted ourselves to the purposes of God so much that we are experiencing pain; the pain of selflessness, submission, being misunderstood, etc.

It’s critical we don’t confuse the two. We need to stop saying, “God is breaking me,” when we’re really just breaking ourselves by repeating destructive, sinful behavior. And, if you’re experiencing brokenness as the result of surrender, lean into it; you’re going through a process of transformation.

Help. I’m broken and I can’t get up. I’m flat on my back. My sin is great. Lord, please forgive me and restore me.

Help. I’m broken and I can’t get up. I’m on my knees. My surrender is great. Lord, please give me the strength to stay the course."

To some degree the people you minister to will experience both, though not at the same time. It's important to help people see which is the proper response to their situation -- and in neither situation do we have the right to blame God for anything.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Training the Next Generation of Bible Teachers

I strongly encourage you to be prayerfully watching for signs of interest in the people you are teaching -- there are people who God will bring into your sphere of influence who are part of the next generation of Bible teachers.

Don't just look for volunteers -- God doesn't.

Instead, as the Holy Spirit leads you, approach the men and women and youth in whom you see potential. Give them the challenge to teach, and help them grow into that challenge. Speak into their chests! Give them encouragement, and guidance, and feedback as they develop. You are God's ambassador, developing apprentices in the craft of Bible teaching.

You should mentor new and developing Bible teachers for two main reasons.

First, we have a responsibility to shepherd the next generation of teachers.

Second, there are things you will not learn yourself until you mentor others in this craft. Your own development will tend to plateau until you take steps to bring others along.

Check out this free ebook I created to train and mentor new Bible teachers. Share it with others. If you already know whom you should approach, get going! If not, get praying!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Devotion: Set It Before Them

We’re familiar with Jesus feeding the 5000 (see Mark 6) and the 4000 (see Mark 8), but God has been miraculously feeding people throughout history. He provided manna to sustain the children of Israel in the wilderness, and water from rocks. There are multiple accounts in the Old Testament where God provides food for people in need. Here we have the record of God providing bread for a hundred men in the midst of a famine:

A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God [Elisha] twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha said.
"How can I set this before a hundred men?" his servant asked.
But Elisha answered, "Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: 'They will eat and have some left over.' " Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.
2 Kings 4:42-44

Today I’d like to draw your attention to the phrase “set it before them.” This is obedience in action, passing along God’s provision for their needs. God gets the glory, and we get to participate in the miracle. No boasting allowed! (see 1 Corinthians 3:21 about boasting) Note that God could have caused barley loaves to appear on everyone’s plate – but He chose to use someone to serve. He still operates this way today.

Our Lord orchestrates many situations – both everyday and extraordinary – so that you and I are given something in order to serve others.

We are blessed with food and clothing and shelter. Our families, friends, and even enemies need these things. Our task? Set it before them.

We have the fullness of God’s peace, and experience grace upon grace from the Lord, encouraged daily by fresh mercies. Our task? Set it before them.

In Christ we have power to rejoice and laugh, and mourn with those in pain. Our task? Set it before them.

We have the Gospel message itself. Our task? Set it before them.

In all these things we see the pattern: God provides, and we set it before others.

The result? Our giving allows other people to experience God’s provision, and disciplines us more and more into Christ-likeness. Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of giving in order to save people and glorify God.

So I encourage you today to look for opportunities to give from what God has provided you and set it before others. The world rarely understands how much you have to share, but they will recognize God’s love and power when you do.

Friday, October 16, 2009

About the Kingdom of God

One of the important concepts in Scripture is the Kingdom of God. But what is it exactly? How does it relate to the Church? What is God's part in creating His kingdom, and what is our responsibility?

I believe that you as a Bible teacher should have some basic understanding of what Scripture says about God's kingdom. There are many articles available, and almost every study Bible will have some commentary. Not everyone is in agreement!

Here is a helpful article by Kevin de Young if you'd like a starting point:

Thinking About the Kingdom

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Launch, Not Close

Here's a straightforward change of "mind" that I wish I
had discovered years ago. In fact, I didn't come around to
this until after I wrote Teach the Bible to Change Lives!
But it's one of the most important new things God has been
teaching me about how to teach, and I want to share it with

Best of all it's EASY to do, and doesn't take any money or

Here it is: At the end of your teaching time, think
"launch" instead of "close."

Most of you are probably closing a lesson with a wrapup
sentence of two, maybe a summary of the key points, and a
prayer. The problem with this is that you're training
people to shut down their brains and shift to the next
activity. I'm sure you've noticed people putting away
their handout and pen, zipping up their Bible cover, etc.

By thinking "close" you are pulling down the energy level,
dear teacher! You're missing a critical opportunity to
transform the way lessons operate.

What do I mean by "launch"?

The idea goes back to Ephesians 4:11-13 -- the function of
teaching is to equip believers for works of service. We're
not just filling heads and warming hearts and tickling ears
-- your teaching must be about helping people understand
God's ways, hear God's voice, and obey.

So you've just had a terrific lesson, and they're all
engaged. Now don't close them down, but SEND them! Launch
them into the ministry work that God has already prepared
for them to walk in.

How do you launch them?

Make sure your closing statements lead them to think about
what they'll do this week. Encourage them to take the key
ideas from this lesson and share with others (perhaps their
children, or someone else a school or work, or a neighbor,
or a relative). Remind them that the Lord saved us out of
the pit to serve Him by serving others -- and they can use
what they've learned in that service.

And make sure your prayer is oriented towards this launch,
too. Don't just say, "Uh, thanks for this time, Lord, and
bless us as we go on to the next thing." (You probably
don't say those words, but is that what our Lord hears?)
Make your prayer a benediction and blessing and a sending
step. As you prepare for this class, think about
commissioning them to ministry service, and that will give
you ideas about how to pray specifically for each of them.

This won't take much effort to put into place. If it
helps, talk about this change with your class, so they
understand what you are doing and why -- I'm sure they'll
respond well.

Think "launch" and prepare to be amazed at how much of a
difference this will make.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Teachers? Or More Students?

You know I'm passionate about developing Bible teachers, and have even started the 400kteachers initiative to develop 400,000 new Bible teachers by 2021. We certainly need more teachers!

But fundamentally we need to develop more students. By this I mean that there are limits to what a teacher can do -- all education is fundamentally self-education, because education is what happens in our heads and our hearts. We do rely upon the Holy Spirit to open people's eyes and minds and hearts, and we also strive to be good teachers worthy of the Message we convey.

Who are these students? Potentially everyone, including yourself.

If you see yourself as a student, in continuous learning mode, then there are teachers galore all around you. Every person, every situation presents learning opportunities.

Here are four specific suggestions for developing more true students in your classes and groups:

1. Model continuous learning yourself, and share excitedly about what you're learning. The love of learning is as much caught as taught.

2. Encourage the people you teach to do self-discovery. Give them before-class and between-class assignments to investigate more deeply.

3. If people raise interesting side-issues that aren't "on topic" with your lesson, then don't discourage them. Gently put it aside during class or group time, then encourage them to follow their interests. Work with them and learn together.

4. When you see evidence that someone has been learning, call attention to it. Commend them and praise them publicly.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bible? Cell phone?

What would happen if we treated our Bibles like we treat our Cell Phones?

What if we carried it around in our pockets and purses?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to kids as gifts?

What if we used it as we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergencies?

What if we upgraded it to get the latest version?

At least we’d never have to worry about our Bible being disconnected. Jesus has already paid the bill for eternity.

HT: Barry Brown

Friday, October 09, 2009

Video as Teaching Medium

The technology of video is becoming ubiquitous in the developed world, and increasingly accessible worldwide.

Factoids: YouTube now streams more than 1 billions videos daily. People upload more than 20 hours of new video content every minute.

I encourage you to think about video as a medium to extend and enhance your Bible teaching. It's not a panacea, any more than radio or TV have been. But it's enough a part of the world that most of you reading this are teaching to an audience that is acculturated to video.

Some ideas:
  • Judiciously incorporate video clips into your teaching/discussion time when it's the most effective way to get information across. Make sure it adds value, and doesn't detract.
  • Record your teaching so that others can benefit in different time and space.
  • Use video content or introduce or reinforce information between lessons.
  • Use video as a reference medium when you're preparing to teach. There is an increasing amount of Bible teaching and commentary and devotions on
  • Live-stream your teaching time to class participants who can't be there in person. See for some ideas.
Technically challenged on finding/using/creating/distributing video? This is an ideal opportunity to develop ministry across generations -- usually your young adults will be ahead of you on the learning curve and willing to help you out.

John Newton on Controversy

Bible teachers are always called to stand for truth, and help people grow in their understanding of complex subjects. That means you will be embroiled in conflicts and disagreements over theological views on occasion.

I believe God uses controversies to draw His people to Himself, because they cannot be resolved or properly dealt with apart from God's power and grace. We allow Satan far too much when we do not turn to God for help!

John Newton wrote much, much more than the hymn "Amazing Grace." I recently came across this short letter he wrote to a friend, which people have titled "On Controversy."

In this letter Newton counsels a minister friend who wants to publish an article criticizing another man for his theological positions.

I recommend you read "On Controversy" for two reasons:

1. It's well written, sound, and timeless advice on handling disagreements.
2. It taps into a useful approach for thinking through our actions -- how will this affect your 'opponent,' the public, and ourselves? It's good to see the public included as second, ahead of ourselves, since we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

Note: though written from a Calvinist perspective, there is wise counsel here for any Christian.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Segmentation vs. Intergenerational Church

I was impressed with this interview with Kara Powell, "Is the Era of Age Segmentation Over?" and recommend it to you teachers and church leaders.

You're aware of the distressing statistics about teenagers and young adults falling away from active church participation.

Rather than wringing you hands I suggest you (a) pray for kids and teenagers and young adults! and (b) implement some of the intergenerational ideas in this interview.

Key ideas:
  • The concept of segregating youth is actually quite modern. (I like to point out that the word "teenager" is, too!)
  • There is a strong link between kids staying in church after they graduate and their involvement in intergenerational relationships and worship.
  • Teenagers are up to the challenge of full engagement and meaningful relationships with adults of all ages.
  • Strive for have 5 adults who build into one kid. (I suggest a good metric is to have 5 people building into every person in your church, irrespective of age!) Serving together is the key approach.
  • Parents and adults should share about their own spiritual journeys with younger people.
  • The generation gap is widest today on communications technology -- an area with kids can be leaders in our churches!
Highly recommended.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Master a Gospel

Let me give you a strong teaching challenge today.

Think about your favorite movie or TV show. How hard is it for you to give someone the general picture of the characters and events, your favorite scenes, even "replay" the dialogue from multiple characters and be able to quote them accurately? You can even imagine what it would be like to be a participant in the events.

That's a good description for mastery of one of the books of the Bible. You're very familiar with its structure, the flow of the events and ideas, the scenes described in it. You can give people a 10 minute overview without real prep time. You can convey excitement and enthusiasm about the remarkable story that has impacted your life. You can "replay" in your mind and everyday events or things people say will remind you of something from the Word.

So here's my challenge: Master *one* of the four Gospel books.

Why just one? You've heard the phrase "Jack of all trades, and master of none" ? Focus + intensity + time lead to spiritual depth, dear teachers!

Plan to spend a few weeks of daily study in that gospel. Get a feel for the organization and sequence of the events. Get a usable framework or outline in your head. Be able to tie major events or verses that are significant to you to chapters. (I'm all for Scripture memory, but this is different. This is studying to know that Jesus is washing the disciple's feet is in John 13, and the conversation with Pilate is in John 18.)

Some of you are thinking "that's too difficult" or "I have my study Bible notes for that." Yes, this challenge will take some time and effort. But the growth curve is phenomenal if you are willing to submit to this kind of study discipline. I would have a difficult time explaining to you how much this will turbocharge your ability to bring the Gospel message into all your teaching.

So which gospel book should you pick? Pray and see how you are led. The typical reponse might be John or Luke -- at least, that's what I hear most teachers doing.

Can I recommend the gospel of Mark to you? It's shorter, very action-oriented, and excellent for teaching to young people and not-yet believers. But give this some prayer and see what the Lord might have you to do.

After you master one of the gospels, then what? Go on to the next one, of course :-)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

What are Your Biggest Challenges in Teaching?

I'd like to get your input.

What are your biggest challenges in Bible teaching?
What's hard?
What gets you down?
What do you wish was different?

Please comment below (you can do it anonymously). If you prefer, send me an email.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thompson's Chain Reference Bible

I'm often asked which study Bible I recommend. There are a bunch of good study Bibles.

I recommend every serious Bible teacher get (and use!) a Thompson's Chain Reference Bible. This video gives a short introduction.

See also my detailed report about the Thompson's Chain Reference Bible, which tells the story of how I first came to use one. Nothing else is as useful or has stood the test of time so well.

(The ESV Study Bible is my second recommendation. It's very good, quite up to date. I have described it in detail here and here.)