Friday, December 31, 2010

Teach Less Material, and Teach it Well

Can I encourage you with a 2011 resolution for your teaching?

Teach less material in a lesson, and teach it well. Leave them hungry for more.

Your students will learn more and retain it.
Your efforts at focus and life application will result in more transformed lives.
You'll stand out from the usual "I pour it on them until they can't take any more and then I keep pouring" style of teachers and preachers who don't really care for people.

Teach less material in a lesson, and teach it well. Leave them hungry for more.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Try This Fun Teaching Approach

Here's a fun teaching approach for youth and adults:

Watch clips from movies based on the Bible stories, and have them cross-check with Scripture. Talk about what they observe.

There are quite a few clips available for free on YouTube (e.g., The Nativity), or you can use a DVD or VCR recording.

This works well in smaller groups. If you have a large group, have them break into smaller groups for discussion. It's important that you've seen the clip before and checked out the Scripture yourself.

This strategy makes for a great change-of-pace time. It's not enough to just watch the movie clip(s) -- that's too passive. Make the learning happen by getting into the Word.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Studying Slow

I'm a fast reader. I get through two or three book a week, plus many blog posts and articles.

I like to listen to mp3 recordings of talks and presentations at 1.5 to 2.0x speed.

I advocate a strategy of reading through the whole Bible in 30-40 days, in order to see the big picture and study themes.

But I advocate s-l-0-w study of the Bible for most days. Because the Bible is God's living Word to us, we interact with it deeply. Take one verse (or part of a verse) and dwell with it for 20 minutes. Let it wash over you and resonate in your mind the whole day. Make it the basis of your prayers for that day. Feel it in your chest!

That will do more good for you as a disciple and a teacher than reading twenty commentaries. Oh, you might not sound as smart because you can't quote a bunch of other people's thoughts. But your teaching will have more power, because you've been transformed by the living Word.

Slow down. God has work to do on you. Be still.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Outstanding Resource of Presentations

I'm sure this recommendation will be controversial.

If you're serious about teaching the Bible to change lives, study this book: The Naked Presenter (by Garr Reynolds)

Don't be put off by the title. This is one of the best resources I've ever seen on how to make effective presentations. They keys are simplicity, focus, and engaging people's minds and hearts.

The typical Bible teacher is far too boring and unengaging. Don't you dare bore people with the Gospel! We

Here's a talk he gave at Google a few years ago, which is excellent.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting Started on New Years' Resolution Early

Here's a way to help your students: get them thinking about their New Year's resolutions a little early. They're likely to make some. They might even follow-through!

What can you encourage them to include?

Read through the whole Bible systematically in 2011?
Increase the time they pray with spouse and family?
Study a new (to them) book of the Bible in depth?

Now, as a teacher, here's the kicker: what can you help them accomplish in 2011?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Words Belong to God

Paul David Tripp makes an outstanding point: Words belong to God.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

3 Steps Forward -- Fit in Hard Thinking in Your Busy Schedule

I know you're scrambling, busy with MANY things going simultaneously. It's difficult to write, create, think clearly about complex problems, and complete projects.

Here's a three-step process towards being more fruitful (meaning, creating value for yourself and others):

1. Print off this article:
"Getting Creative Things Done: How to Fit Hard Thinking Into a Busy Schedule"

2. Read it, study it.

3. Get your calendar out and start implementing this strategy.

Start on step 1 now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reading Scripture Effectively

Teachers, learn from this pastor's example. He is reciting the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) expressively, with body language. Notice how he pauses, how he uses emphasis, variation in tone and volume. Watch his facial expression. Notice how engaged you become, even though the verses may be quite familiar to you.

Take this seriously -- Scripture well-read aloud will teach powerfully.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Don't Apologize For What You Are Doing

I've done it, and I've seen many others do it: apologize at the front or end of a lesson.

Hear me on this: Don't apologize.

First off, it's not a biblical concept. The word apologize isn't a biblical word at all. What you "sort of" mean is "forgive me," but you aren't actually seeking forgiveness, and there's likely nothing to forgive!

Second, it doesn't help.

Sure, you're nervous. You feel inadequate. You might realize you aren't as prepared as you should be. You goofed up the hook and forgot half your best questions.

If those things are true, people don't need that pointed out to them. If they notice, they'll likely be gracious. Or they might not have noticed at all. In the sovereignty of God, you're supposed to be there teaching (no matter how you might feel at the moment)! Don't ding that beautiful truth.

And don't apologize.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Good Source for a Lesson on Prayer

Print off this article "What to Pray For" as a resource. Here are some ideas on how to use it in your teaching ministry:

1. Let this stimulate your private prayer life. Great Bible teachers must be men and women of prayer.

2. Select a few of these suggestions to guide your prayers when you are teaching (typically we open and close in prayer, right?). Make these prayers good models for your students. Remember, prayer is at much caught as taught.

3. This would be an excellent resource for a lesson on example prayers from the New Testament.

Teach to change lives!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Teaching That Sticks has made over 300 resources available at no charge. Excellent information here!

I particularly recommend you check out Teaching That Sticks from the Heath brothers (based on the material in their great book, Made To Stick). You do need to subscribe to their email newsletter, but it's got lots of good material and is free. There is a link to unsubscribe at any time.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Engaging Students for Effective Learning

Teachers, work to engage your students, get them involved and participating -- it will turbocharge their learning potential! (And frankly, it's more fun for you when it's done well.)

I heartily recommend you read through this Presentation Zen article "The Need for Connection and Engagement in Education." Then come back here and comment with your thoughts about how to apply this in the church and in the home.

Remember, the word origin of education is "to draw out." It's not about pouring in, but engagement with your content -- that's teaching to change lives.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

How Jesus Dealt with Legalists Outside the Kingdom

One of the great persistent dangers for the Church is legalism. In several letters, Paul dealt with legalism inside the churches. Here let's look at a time when Jesus dealt with rabbinical legalism.

1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother' and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt 15:1-13, emphasis added)

This quote from Isaiah 19:13 is an excellent summary of legalism, isn't it?

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.”

God wants our words to be authentic expression of love from our hearts, which are (through His power) close to Him. And we are not to teach "merely human rules," but the commandments of God.

Jesus commandment to the disciples is simple: "Leave them" (the ESV has it "Let them alone"). Don't seek them out for confrontation. Don't follow them. Don't participate with them, but leave them behind as we follow Jesus.

Please note that Jesus didn't go after the Pharisees unless they came to him first and confronted Him. He didn't campaign against them or seek them out. And I believe the disciples got the instruction clearly because we never see the disciples going after the rabbinical leaders to confront them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Practice the Same Way You Teach

Your body remembers how you practice. If you regularly teach standing up in front of a group, then practice speaking and asking questions standing up. If you regularly teach sitting with a small group, then practice as you sit.

This may sound silly, or too subtle, but it works.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Keeping Up with Blogs

I'm occasionally asked how I keep up with so many blogs and authors. RSS feeds are wonderful things! Instead of me clicking through to a long list of websites, I set up the feed so that every time something new is available, it's provided to me at one place.

To do this you need an RSS feed reader tool. Google Reader works very well. Michael Hyatt wrote up a nice how-to article explaining how to set it up. Easy, free, effective!

Teachers, take advantage of these tools! You'll have a rich stream of information and insights, which makes teaching easier.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

For my brothers and sisters in the US, Happy Thanksgiving! If you're not in the US, I hope that you, too, will take some time to express your gratitude to God today.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Students Learn What You're Most Passionate About

D. A. Carson has a terrific insight we teachers need to understand:

"If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasize again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel."

Meditation thought: what am I passionate about? What would my students say I'm passionate about?

The Most Important Thing in Teaching

What's the most important thing in Bible teaching? Prayer.

Prayer in preparation.
Prayer during teaching.
Prayer after teaching.

I can't say this any better than David Murray has as exhorts preachers to pray.

In most cases, when I feel it has not been my best effort, I know the real issue is that I didn't pray enough before or during my teaching.

If you want to teach to change lives, Pray!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Essential Study Tools

I'm frequently asked what Bible study tools I recommend.

#1: a wide margin Bible where I can make lots of notes and annotations

#2: Thompson's Chain Reference Bible -- the only study Bible that has stood the test of time.

If you had only those you can do well.

I also like topical reference tools (Nave's is the classic), a computer verse look up tool online (like, an atlas (the new ESV Atlas is terrific -- watch for more from me on this), and a good basic commentary set.

Avoid the trap of being constantly in pursuit of new Bible study tools, and not using what you have. It's like the problem I have of wanting more books on prayer when what I really need to do is simply to pray!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why You Must Be a Great Student of God's Word

Experts must be students first. Great teachers must be students first.

There is no substitute for personal study of the Word.


I challenge you, today, to increase the amount of focused time that you spend studying and learning and meditating on the Bible. Notice I said "focused time." Bring focus and enthusiasm and energy to your study time, and it's value greatly increases! Passion fuels understanding and life transformation. You can't take your students to places you have not gone yourself.

If you increase your focused study time, then you'll find that your mind and the Spirit continue to work in you as you go through your regular activities. New insights will come when you aren't expecting them. (Side note: write 'em down so you don't lose them! They tend to evaporate quickly.)

Push yourself to be a better student of God's word. Don't settle. Don't coast. You and your students need much, much more!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Blogging Break

Taking a short break on this blog -- will see you after Thanksgiving!

In the meantime, check out free reports for teachers and join the network at

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Why You Should Follow Parchment and Pen

C. Michael Patton is becoming one of my favorite bloggers, at Parchment and Pen|Making Theology Accessible. I recommend you get his RSS feed and be blessed.

For teachers, two recent posts were really valuable:

Dealing with Doubt. Here is an honest, candid, helpful framework on a very real issue that will affect you at times and your students.

Doctrine of the Trinity. Excellent explanation of a critical topic.

It's good to feed our minds with quality teaching, because it helps us become better teachers ourselves!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Feedback for Your Improvement -- Style Factors

It's been said that feedback is the breakfast of champions (and beer-over-wheaties is the cereal of ex-champions).

If you want to improve your teaching presentation style, recruit someone you trust to give you honest assessment. But you need to give them a specific list of things to monitor, or else you're likely to get back a nice-but-nonspecific "Good job!"

Here are seven aspects they can monitor for you:
  1. Volume -- loud enough?
  2. Talking speed -- not too fast, and some variation for engagement?
  3. Tone -- positive and upbeat, or dreary?
  4. Move around, move hands?
  5. Uhms, Oohs, You-Know, and other filler words? Level of distraction?
  6. Making eye contact regularly without uncomfortable staring? Making eye contact with people in all areas of the room?
  7. Overall energy level at start, mid-point, and end?
None of those are really about content and organization. (We'll take that up in another blog post :-) But these are all critical factor in your presentation style, which makes it easier or harder for people to engage with the content. Jonathan Edwards preached in a monotone, but you're not likely to be successful if you do that.

You'll probably be surprised at gaps between the feedback you receive and what you thought was going on. The better you understand how you are perceived, the better you can improve.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What Does the Bible Tell Us About Demons?

I'm occasionally asked about reliable information about demons. I usually point out to students that the Bible speaks of them as real, but with limited powers. I really liked C. Michael Patton's recent article Demonology 101, because he works through the Scriptural examples to identify what is known and what is not about demons.

(As an aside, this is the same kind of approach you should take when studying an issue. See my Biblical Frameworks ebook if you need help.)

The classic text for Christian living, understanding how Satan works, is Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, by Thomas Brooks. (Only $0.99 for Kindle users!) Wonderful! Should be required reading for Christians.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Going Deeper Yields These Results

I want you to push those whom you are teaching. You're not there to entertain or tickle their ears. You're not there to always make them feel better. The mission is to help them understand the Word and apply it as disciples of Christ.

Over time, they should be going deeper into the Word, which (as the Holy Spirit transforms them) leads to
  • increased commitment towards surrendered-to-Christ discipleship
  • increased commitment to the local church
  • increased commitment to reach the world with the Gospel
If you don't observe these things, check your teaching. It may be partially effective at filling their heads, but it's not affecting their lives. Pray!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Debt We Owe Hebrew Scribes

You will encounter people who are concerned about the authenticity of the Bible. There are many articles explaining why today's Bible accurately reflects the original texts. But this information from Parchment and Pen was new to me:

Tradition tells us the Hebrew people were meticulous copyists of Scripture. Scribes were so aware of their task they would go to great lengths to make sure their hand-written copy of Scripture was free from error. Hebrew scribes were bound to the following rules:

1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
4. They must verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies every time before writing God’s name.
6. There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc.).


Wow! He goes on to tell the story of some famous manuscripts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. Recommended! Let this information add to your confidence level!

One more thought to ponder: the scribes carefully copied everything over the centuries --even those things which probably made no sense to them at all.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I'm can't recall any teaching situation where I would have said afterwards, "I wish the teacher had brought a little less energy."

Fact: Listeners aren't engaged in the material to a greater extent than you are.

Amp up your energy, especially as the group size gets bigger. You can dial up and dial down your volume for emphasis, and you should. Move around. Move your arms! Make serious eye contact. Let them see your heart!

Yes, we have historical examples of people like Jonathan Edwards who preached in a monotone, and saw changed lives. That's not likely for you.

Give the Lord your best, not what you're comfortable with.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Do You Tell Them Their Loved One is in Hell?

As a Bible teacher, you may well be asked for your advice on how to minister to someone who has a loved one who died and they don't think he/she was saved in Christ.

I greatly respect the wisdom in Randy Alcorn's answer to this question :

"...we do not have an obligation to try to convince people that their loved one was not saved. I think what that would do is lay a responsibility on us to impose an opinion we have, and although that opinion may very well be accurate, it will just cause unnecessary distress to that person in the midst of their loss.
What might help you personally on this—and I have reassured myself about this many times—is to realize that we do not know what happens inside a person before they die. We don’t know whether the Holy Spirit of God has done a work of grace in someone’s heart and life at the last moment. They may have been aware of the hours, minutes, even just seconds leading up to their death and cried out to God for deliverance."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marking Up Your Bible

I met a woman yesterday carrying a really, really well-used Bible. She had layers of tape holding the binding together, scribbles and cross-references and notes all through it. Terrific! Make it your ambition to wear out Bibles.

Here are my thoughts from an earlier blog post about marking up your Bible and making it your own.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cramner's Prayer Structure Will Help You Pray Better

Most teachers pray before and/or after lessons and small group studies. This means that you are modeling prayer for your students. It's been well-said that prayer is more caught than taught -- so let's be good pray-ers that our students will catch good things from us.

I commend Tim Keller's article on how he uses the structure of prayers from Thomas Cramner. Here is an excerpt:

Cranmer’s collects consist of 5 parts:
1. The address - a name of God
2. The doctrine - a truth about God’s nature that is the basis for the prayer
3. The petition - what is being asked for
4. The aspiration - what good result will come if the request is granted
5. In Jesus’ name - this remembers the mediatorial role of Jesus

See this structure in Cranmer’s famous collect for the service of Holy Communion:
1.Almighty God
2.unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid,
3.cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit,
4.that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name,
5.through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

See how the prayer moves from a doctrinal basis (why we can ask for it) to the petition (what we want) to the aspiration (what we will do with it if we get it.) It is remarkable how this combines solid theology with deep aspirations of the heart and concrete goals for our daily life.

Read the whole article, it's excellent.

HT: Challies

Thursday, October 21, 2010

1,200 Posts

This is post #1,201 on this blog.

It's been a privilege and an adventure to use this blog to encourage teachers and share ideas and resources. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to serve His kingdom this way! I'll never meet most of you this side of heaven. Only God knows who has been helped, and in what ways, for His glory -- but I operate out of faith that He knows what He is doing.

It may well be that I have learned more than anyone!

Keep on teaching to change lives, brothers and sisters.


You know that wonderful promise in Luke 17 where Jesus says "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed"? This devotion isn't about that. It's about what Jesus told his disciples right after that. Listen closely:

7"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' " (Luke 17:7-10)

These verses aren't covered in many sermons, I suspect, because they're…well…uncomfortable.
"Unworthy servants" and "only doing our duty"- that's how Jesus says we should realistically view ourselves.

But wait, perhaps you're thinking of that phrase we love to quote, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" That's what we are, right? Good and faithful, not unworthy.

Let's look at that Luke 19 passage again, carefully:

15"He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 17" 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' (Luke 19:15-17)

The parallel passage is from Matthew 25:
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

Think carefully, now. There is no conflict between being unworthy and being a good servant. We are unworthy, because we don't deserve the grace that our Lord shows us by calling us to be servants. With His help (see John 15:5 - we don't do anything apart from Him), we accomplish amazing things, but they are simply our duty. We're following His commands.

There is a key message that we as individuals and we as a church need to hear in Luke 19:17: the reward for accomplishment for Christ is greater responsibility! "Take charge of ten cities" is a much larger responsibility than being a steward of a mina (which was about 3 months' wages).

As I have read and reread the New Testament I have noticed that there is something missing. No where does Jesus ever tell someone that their current level of service is fine and they can just coast, slide comfortably the rest of the way. Jesus recognizes good service and rewards it, but short of heaven we will continue to have increasing opportunities for service - which is the grand adventure of following Christ!

I believe God has already planned great things for us to accomplish in His strength and by His sovereign direction. (See Ephesians 2:10) God loves us far too much to let us sit on our past accomplishments, or wallow in our current state of sanctification. There are larger and greater steps that we will take to fulfill the Great Commission, our standing orders.

It's become popular today to challenge a person, saying "Man up!" My challenge to us is that we say - with joy, entering our Master's happiness, doing our duty - "Servant up!"

May God bless you, and bless us, for the glory of Jesus.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ask Yourself These Questions Before You Teach

We're not teaching to entertain or fill heads -- our goal is to teach to change lives. My heart leapt when I read these questions from Francis Chan, which you should ask before you teach:

1. Am I worried about what people think of my message or what God thinks? (Teach with fear)
2. Do I genuinely love these people? (Teach with love)
3. Am I accurately presenting this passage? (Teach with accuracy)
4. Am I depending on the Holy Spirit's power or my own cleverness? (Teach with power)
5. Have I applied this message to my own life? (Teach with integrity)
6. Will this message draw attention to me or to God? (Teach with humility)
7. Do the people really need this message? (Teach with urgency)

Wonderful! Print this off, trim it down, stick it in your Bible and review regularly.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Distinguishing Essentials and Non-Essentials

Great Bible teachers understand and work effectively with people who hold a range of views. You may find it challenging to teach and lead discussion with people who actually disagree with you on some point, or do not have the same strength conviction you do. But this is part of being a teacher.

Most people are comfortable with the old saying, "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

At least until there is a dispute about what's essential!

Hear my clearly: I strongly believe you need to study the Scriptures and develop convictions. I do not think you should strive for a wishy-washy, milquetoast, ambiguous, "whatever you think is ok" approach to teaching. And not every viewpoint that comes up in discussion is supported by Scripture -- and you need to call that out.

But how do you decide what is essential, vs. non-essential? I heartily recommend you print off this terrific article from C. Michael Patton, "Evangelicals: We can and we must distinguish between sssentials and non-essentials better." This article is worth some study, with pen in hand.

Back to your teaching approach: aim to be gracious with differing views on non-essentials, gently calling out error as you observe it, and challenge people to study and meditate on challenging issues - in order to form their own convictions as a fellow believer with you. It is certainly appropriate for you to share your views and explain why you believe this (with ample Scripture references).

There is one teaching situation where sharing your personal convictions may actually get in the way of good dialogue: where you are educating people on different views of issues, and are helping them think through it themselves. If you share your view, most people won't be open to learning about other views (even when they disagree with your view). For example, I taught a series of lessons some time past about the basics of Salvation. We looked at Reform (Calvinistic) and Arminian viewpoints. I have my convictions after years of consideration, but were I to share my convictions it would have weakened the lesson. (Note-- in my denomination we do not take an official stance on these perspectives; if your denomination does take a stance, you need to respect that as you teach.)

Again, print off this article and give it some study. Your teaching will improve!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How To Glorify God

Check out this list of ways we glorify God from Kevin DeYoung. This would make a very nice lesson, or a short series of lessons.

1. Give God verbal declarations of praise (Rev. 4:8-9).
2. Live a life of noticeable piety (Matt. 5:16; James 1:27; 1 Peter 2:12).
3. Ask God for things in Jesus’ name (John 14:13).
4. Bear fruit and show yourself to be a disciple of Jesus (John 15:8).
5. Declare the truth about Jesus (John 16:14).
6. Love your life less than God (John 21:19; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:16).
7. Worship God as God (Rom. 1:21).
8. Live a life of sexual purity (1 Cor. 6:20).
9. Live a life of generosity (2 Cor. 9:13).
10. Rejoice in God’s glory displayed in creation (Psalm 19:1).
11. Do the works of faith (2 Thess. 1:12).
12. Use your gifts in God’s strength (1 Peter 4:11).
13. Make sure everyone knows you’re not God (Acts 12:23).
14. Live a life of gratitude (Psalm 50:23; 2 Cor. 4:15).
15. In matters of liberty, seek the good of others (1 Cor 10:31).
16. Extend grace to sinners (2 Cor. 8:19).
17. Be a part of a local church (2 Cor. 8:23; Eph. 3:20-21).
18. Tell God you are wrong and he is right (Josh. 7:19; Jer. 13:16; Rev. 16:9).
19. Obey God (Lev. 10:3; Mal. 2:2).
20. Go from a Christ-despiser to a Christ-worshiper (Gal. 1:24).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Discipleship Library

Check out the Discipleship Library for a terrific collection of sermons and articles. Searchable index. Good resource for you!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Dealing with Opposition

I recently received a question from Joanna:

"How do you deal with opposition to the teaching of the word, be it from people in the cell group or people outside the church who I try to share the word with?"

This was my response:

Joanna, thanks for your question.

I actually have had little direct opposition from not-yet believers. But with those whom I know are not actively searching for God, I try to enter into dialogue and conversation about matters, rather than preach at them or try to teach something they aren't interested in learning. [Same approach you take with children and teenagers at times.]

I frequently pray the promises of Is 55:11 "[My word] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Opposition from inside the fellowship of Christ should be handled as dialogue, going back to Scripture to see what it says, praying together, learning from one another. There have been a number of times when I've been corrected over the years,'s not exactly fun, but appreciated. I'm a disciple, too. Disciple means "learner."

Sometimes people have opposed me because they have strong convictions on topics which differ from mine. I choose not to to break fellowship with others if our convictions differ on disputable matters, and are not essentials to Christian faith.

If you are running into challenges in your cell group that make it hard to teach, you might find this product useful:

Keep on faithfully teaching to change lives,


Any other thoughts you would share?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Two Charts Teachers Should Check Out

In grad school I had a professor who insisted that if you could diagram it, it proved you understood it. Charts and diagrams are very helpful for teaching your students. Here are two that you should check out and put in your files: the elect, and the intermediate state compared to the resurrected state.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Very cool, fast resource for looking up Bible verses/passages online: Swift

This might be an especially nifty tool from a smartphone.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Power of Story

Dan Taylor explains the power of stories. Teaching to change lives means using stories well!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Warning Signs for Bible Teachers

If you teach regularly, please pay attention to these warning signs of danger:

You only read the Bible to prepare lessons, not for yourself. "I know it really well, so it's all about teaching those poor souls who don't."

You dismiss criticism and negative feedback as personal dislike. "Who could possibly disagree with me? I'm always right in my interpretation and application."

You skip regular times of prayer because there is so much writing and counseling and lesson preparation to do. "I'm doing fine, it's just very busy right now."

You sermonize a lot, and leave little room for discussion. "What could they possibly say that is more important than what I have to say?"

You resent any direction-setting from authorities on who or what you should teach. "The only authority I need is whatever God conveniently lays on my heart, that's easy for me to teach without a lot of preparation."

Dear teachers, if/when you see yourself falling into these patterns, repent!

Note: I've adapted this from a similar list for pastors, published by David Murray.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's Your Biggest Praise Right Now?

Two days ago I asked about your biggest challenge in teaching. Today, a different question: What's your biggest praise right now? Comments are open!

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's Your Biggest Challenge in Teaching -- Right Now?

I'd love to hear about your situation -- what's your biggest challenge right now? Comment away.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Did Adam and Eve Go More Than 45 Minutes Without Sin?

Michael Patton gives us a good example of thinking through a non-essential issue: how long did Adam and Eve live in the garden before the events at the tree?

(PG-13 warning on this.)

For some this will be mostly humorous, and that's ok. But as teachers we're often asked questions that we can't really know the answer to -- and Patton's approach is worth emulating.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thinking About Christmas Yet?

Teachers are always working in the tension of getting ready for the next lesson, and thinking out over months and years to provide people with information that helps them on their discipleship journey with Christ. It's not either/or, it's both/and.

It's already late in September -- have you given any thought about teaching for Christmas yet?

"Glenn, that's months away!"

Yes, but I encourage you to take some time to think, if only to make a few notes for yourself, about incorporating the spirit of Advent into your teaching in the months leading up to Christmas. Can you help people understand more about anticipation of the coming of our Savior Jesus? Can you help them grasp what it was like for Israel to wait for the Messiah for years and decades and centuries?

This anticipation is good for our souls! So foster it in your teaching this season. Sprinkle in an occasional comment or devotion. Whet their appetite so it will be deeply satisfied when Christmas is celebrated this year.

(By the way, January is the time to do this same exercise with Easter!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Biblical Framework for...Politics?

Note: This is a cross post from my blog for men. I recommend this book for teachers because it's practical, speaks to many issues your students are struggling with, and will help you think more systematically about how to apply the Bible to contemporary and complex issues. -- Glenn

I've been working on a biblical framework for Christian views of government and political action on and off, for several months. This is the approach I use to systematically apply the principles and practices from the Bible to complex situations. (I wrote an ebook on how to create biblical frameworks if you're interested -- it's an important skill, especially for leaders and teachers.)

And then I heard that Wayne Grudem, a serious scholar whose work I've respected, especially his Systematic Theology, had a new book on this topic.

Wayne Grudem's Politics According to the Bible is subtitled "A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture." That's a huge claim, and after reading through this thick book (691 pages, including an excellent index), I think Grudem delivers on his promise.

I recommend this book to you. My thoughts on its strengths and and a few concerns, too:

The first three chapters in themselves are worth the price of the book (including the time to read it!). Grudem carefully describes "Five wrong views about Christians and government," "A better solution: significant Christian influence on government," and "Biblical principles concerning government." Like other books he's written, the arguments are cogent, firm but gentle-spirited, and begin with Scripture.

He fearlessly tackles specific issues, with contemporary events (this book was finished in Feb 2010): abortion, marriage, family, economics, environment, national defense, foreign policy, freedom of speech and religion. No fluff here. The subject index is excellent, by the way, and you're likely to use it. In some ways this book reminds me of Richard Baxter's A Christian Directory, a monumental effort to help families apply Scripture to every day situations large and small.

The writing style encourages you to think along and process information carefully. It's writing that fosters reflection, rather than being consistently preaching. (Don't misunderstand me, Grudem makes direct statements. He's not wishy-washy at all. But he writes in a way that won't shut off dialogue in your head, even if you're not completely agreeing with some part of his argument.)

The biblical principles are applied across many areas of political concern. Grudem pulls in multiple principles as a means of threading through complex situations. I didn't find an example where Grudem was inconsistent in how principles were applied.

Now, some concerns.

Many (probably most) of my Democrat or liberal-leaning friends are going to be infuriated if they read this book. With few exceptions, Grudem comes down towards conservative and libertarian perspectives. I suspect that my friends who are concerned about the environment will be disappointed in Grudem's heavy reliance on some work by Bjorn Lomborg, a respected but not universally-heralded scientist and statistician.

I hope that Grudem's approach (first, identify the biblical principles that apply, then apply them using logic and data) will keep these friends engaged. But if you consider the people who have written positive reviews, they're not the folks most respected by the political left. Still, I recommend the book for it's value and opportunity to promote careful thinking and dialogue.

The other concern that I have is for my conservative and libertarian brothers and sisters. It's a waste if they say, "See, the great Wayne Grudem has 'proven' our ideas are biblical," and don't understand his thought process working forward from Scripture. Grudem challenges a number of bad ideas about Christianity and the political right.

Am I going to finish my biblical framework? Probably not, though I won't throw out my notes. Politics According to the Bible does it better than I could have.

Note: The Amazon links above are not an affiliate link, I'm not going to earn a commission if you purchase the book.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Resources for Sunday School Leaders and Teachers

Our friends at The Sunday School Revolutionary have compiled a great list of online resources for Sunday School teachers and leaders -- including this blog. I'm honored, but check out the other great sites they mention.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Helpful Guide for Original Language Word Studies

I believe it's a critical skill for Bible teachers to be able to do basic word studies in the original languages of the Bible -- Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic. There are excellent free tools available now to help you with this.

But you need to understand there are ditches on both sides of the road, so learn how to steer correctly! Three things to check out:

Here’s an excellent resource explaining a 3 step process for doing word studies even if you don’t know Hebrew and Greek:

Here's a useful document giving coaching on word studies:

Watch me give you coaching on exactly how I use free tools for Word studies

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Teaching Those with Special Needs

My friend Marda shared this:

SPECIAL BEATITUDES for those who work with special people

BLESSED ARE YOU who take time to listen to difficult speech
FOR YOU help us know that if we persevere, we can be understood.

BLESSED ARE YOU who walk with us in public places and ignore the stares of
FOR in your companionship, we find havens of relaxation.

BLESSED ARE YOU who never bid us "hurry up" and more blessed, you who do not
snatch our tasks from our hands to do them for us
FOR often we need time rather than help.

BLESSED ARE YOU who stand beside us as we enter new and untried ventures,
FOR our failures will be outweighed by times when we surprise ourselves and

BLESSED ARE YOU who ask for our help
FOR our greatest need is to be needed.

BLESSED ARE YOU who help us with the graciousness of Christ.
FOR oftentimes we need the help we cannot ask for.

BLESSED ARE YOU when, by all these things you assure us that the thing that
makes us individuals is not in our peculiar muscles, not in our wounded
nervous systems, nor in our difficulties in learning
BUT in the God-given self which no infirmity can confine.

REJOICE AND BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD, and know that you give us reassurances that
could never be spoken in words,
FOR you deal with us as Christ dealt with all His children.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Remembering Names

I really struggle to remember other people's names. I marvel at some people who seem to effortlessly do this, and have terrific recall.

Teachers, this is an important skill in ministry. Period. A person's name is perhaps the most important word to them.

Here are some tips to help you remember names -- I'm working on these, and encourage you to do so, also.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Training Pastors in Africa

This short story about the work of the International Bible Conference training pastors in Africa really encourages me. I suggest you check it out. An excerpt:

"The Pastor’s Conference emphasized “family,” teaching mostly from Ephesians 5. Again, hundreds professed faith in Christ and thousands were encouraged and strengthened by sound doctrine and expository preaching. Over 8000 copies of the MacArthur Study Bible were received with indescribable joy and commitment. Two pictures describe it best: after running to receive the Bible, pastors lifted both hands toward heaven and knelt in an open field giving thanks!
Imagine 8000 voices resounding with upraised Bible in hand, “I will study the Word. I will obey the Word. I will preach the Word!” Alleluia! The shout of praise shook the earth! "

For my efforts towards equipping 400,000 more Bible teachers, check out

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Biblia resource online

Biblia is getting some well-deserved attention. This is an ambitious project to make the Bible itself and many other resources available across computers, handhelds of all types, and phones. It's still in beta, but promising.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Stopping Gossip

Not only is the advice in "7 Ways to Stop Gossip" helpful, it would make for a nice devotion or lesson for your class or group.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Genealogy of the Bible

Here is a terrific resource, free, that I encourage you to bookmark as an online reference: The Genealogy of the Bible.

You can look up every person mentioned in the Bible, by name, by verse, by family relationships. I had some problems loading the interactive viewer for family trees, but otherwise it's fast and easy. It's based on the KJV text.

They also have one of the best articles I've ever seen on explaining the differences between the genealogy of Jesus in the Matthew and Luke accounts.

Great stuff, what a blessing!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teach as a Shepherd

I'm not down on school teachers. There's a lot to learn from school teachers.

But teaching an adult sunday school class, or youth, or children, or a small group Bible study is very different than teaching in a school setting.

You're teaching as a shepherd.

Consider what Paul said, "we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7) and, "For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory." (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

Why do I bring this to your attention? Because how you see yourself and your role dramatically affects the way you teach!

If you see yourself as a spouter of facts and information and opinions, that's how you'll teach. If you see yourself as a the smart, knowledgeable one in the room, that's how you teach. If you see yourself as distant and elevated from your students, that's how you'll teach. Shepherds don't teach in any of these ways.

Meditate on how shepherds care for the flock. Then teach out of that spirit of boldness, fearlessness, and gentleness.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finding Your Voice

"I wish I could teach like _______."

I hear this fairly often (or see it in emails sent to me).

God has wired you to teach like you. You can imitate others if you want, but it will take that much longer to find your teaching style of voice.

This conversation between preachers covers this topic very well, and I encourage you to review it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Best Books Lately?

What books do you recommend to other Bible teachers? I'm curious and would love to see your suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Law, Life, and Death

It's critically important that your students understand the biblical truth about law, life in Christ, and death. And they will be more likely to understand these truths when you understand them.

So I heartily recommend you review this terrific "interview" with the Apostle Paul on the topics. This actually would make a very nice lesson.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Asking "How Would You Like to Be Taught?"

If you're struggling to figure out how to present some material, here's a useful tip:

Ask yourself, "How would I like be taught this information? What discussion points would I want to cover? What questions would I have?"

In short, teach others as you'd like to be taught. (Maybe that's a teacher's 'golden rule'?)

We always must strive to teach what's needful for our listeners and learners, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes that means teaching in a way that's not our comfort zone. But most often if you teach the way you'd like to be taught, you'll find that you have energy, enthusiasm, and joy that spills over and makes it easy for others to learn.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

BWCA experience

I generally don't share about my family. But you might be interested in a blog post for dads about our recent experience in the Boundary Waters.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Defeating Pride, One Comment at a Time

You may have heard the story about the ancient king of
Greece who had a servant follow him around and whisper to
him several times each day, "You are only a man, and

If you are teaching using the principles and practices
that I've given you in Teach the Bible to Change Lives and
all the additional writing, then you will be
successful enough that people are going to say positive
things to you, and about you.

This is dangerous territory, friend.

You're vulnerable to pride.

The word "pride" occurs 46 times in the Bible. The word
"proud" occurs 47 times. In *every* case it's negative.
(Also, it's telling that the Father says of His Son, "This
is my son, in whom I am well pleased." He does not say,
"I'm proud of you, Son!")

That should tell us something about how our heavenly
Father views pride, and how deadly it is to our teaching

So how can you respond when people say nice things to you
about your classes or lessons? How do you reply when
people commend and praise you?

It's important to learn how to handle this. In fact, I
recommend you *practice* saying these things aloud, so it
comes easier when the moment comes.

Try saying these things as replies:

"I'm glad that God used me to refresh you and build you up."
"Praise the Lord for His work!"
"I'm sure God is pleased to see that you are growing in
"God is good."

Let's keep a sober view of ourselves. Check off your sins
against the 10 Commandments. How are you doing loving God
with your whole life? Your neighbor as yourself? How are
you doing controlling your tongue?

Part of keeping a sober view of ourselves is to find great
joy that our passionate, loving Lord is choosing to use us -
- terribly weak things -- for His glory.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Don't Make This Mistake

Today I'd like to tell you about a mistake that I make far too often, so you can avoid it.

I often record my teaching and then listen to it the next day. (It's painful, but the best way I know to be in improvement mode.)

Here's the mistake I noticed I made several times in the past few months:

I asked one question right after another, and didn't leave any time to ponder and answer. I stacked up two, three, sometimes four question, bang, bang, bang, kapow! And these weren't rhetorical questions, either.

After you ask a question, give your class or group time to respond.

Let me say that again (to myself!).

After you ask a question, give your class or group time to respond.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Four Prayer Request for Teachers

Though writing about preaching, I think these four key prayer requests from Joe McKeever are ideal for Bible teachers who want to see changed lives:

1) I never want to stand up to preach again without a good grasp of the Scripture. I'm tired of not being clear about the text in front of me.

2) I want the message from God to have a firm grasp on me, to grip my heart. I want to preach with genuine passion.

3) I want a good rapport with the congregation. I'm tired of that " glazed-over " look on the people's faces. I want to make contact with them, to communicate effectively.

4) I want to see lives changed. If the point of preaching is for the Word of God to make a difference in people, then it must be in order to ask the Father to give me success in doing it.

May each of us strive for a solid grasp on Scripture, an irrepressible grip of God on our hearts, growing skill as communicators, and for God to unleash his power in changing the lives of men, women, boys, and girls. Amen!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Patient Instruction

I've received several notes recently from teachers struggling to remain patient with students who don't learn quickly, or seem interested in learning.

"1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."(Ephesians 4:1-6)

Did you catch the counsel there for teachers? "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

When this kind of frustration happens to us, our irritation and anger is surging because of some dimension of our pride. Yes, it may be true that your students are slow to learn. They may be resistant to incorporating the clear lessons from Scripture into their lives. They may seem dull of hearing, or bored, or desiring more entertainment rather than solid food. But the Lord may well have used these circumstances to expose your pride for what it is.

Our response must be the same as God's response to us: patient instruction, faithful perserverance, humility that we, too, need God's great mercy. We continue to love and bear with one another, acknowledging that living in community is hard at times. We wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts (and in our hearts!).

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Aging Populations Around the World

Church leaders (in my opinion) should understand demographic trends. This is an excellent interactive tool to look at the aging populations in different countries, forecasted over time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Praying Hard and Working Hard

Epaphras is an outstanding model of lay leadership. Listen as his mentor, Paul, describes him:

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” -- Colossians 4:12-13

Three things characterize Epaphras here:

1. He is one of you and a servant of Jesus
2. He is always wrestling in prayer
3. He is working hard

Epaphras is identified with the Colossians, and is a servant of Jesus. There is much to think about here, but I will save that for another time.

Epaphras prays hard. “Wrestling” in prayer is active, and aggressive. It’s not a milquetoast, wimpy attitude of prayer.

I encourage you to use this model prayer for the people around you:

That each would stand firm (not sit weakly) in all (not just some of) the will of God (nothing self-centered)
That each would be mature – solid in the faith, actively growing, using gifts well, discerning between good and evil
That each would be fully assured (in Christ and truth He has revealed, and in His wonderful promises of provision, care, protection, purpose)

Please consider the positive feedback loop: We grow in assurance, and then we become better able to stand firm in all the will of God as mature disciples -- which strengthens our assurance in Christ!

None of us are as yet mature as God means for us to be. And many among us are not yet standing firm, obedient, or fully assured. There is work to be done, progress to be made, and it begins with dedicated prayer for God to transform lives.

Epaphras is working hard (in addition to praying hard) for not only the Colossians, his local congregation, but for two churches in other cities in that region. Leaders must both pray hard and work hard. And the hard work should not only be directed to our immediate family, but should serve the larger work in the kingdom of God. I believe God intends for his people to have disproportionately large impacts for the world.

Let me ask you a few questions:

* How old is Epaphras?
* What was his theological training?
* What was his occupation? Did he get good grades in school?
* Did he have godly parents in a good home? Is he married? Does he have children?
* What did he look like, and sound like?
* How much free time did he have from other responsibilities?

We aren’t told any of these things, because they aren’t relevant. Prayer and hard work are not spiritual gifts – they are for all of us!

If Epaphras had a headstone or grave marker, did they write on it, “He wrestled in prayer and worked hard for us”? Let’s recommit to prayer and work, and leave a wonderful legacy.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Pray 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.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Applications Come From Your Personal Study

(Note: This was originally published in October 2007)

I was coaching a young Bible teacher by email recently. He asked this question:

"I know I should have an application for my lesson, but I don't see one. This happens a lot."

Here was my response:

"The application will become clear as you invest time studying the Bible passages, pray for your students, and watch what God is teaching you. Our Lord nearly always works lessons in us before He teaches through us. So keep careful watch and pray."

A few days later I received this in an email from this teacher:

"Isn't there a study Bible I can get with applications already written out? I don't have a lot of time."

My response:

"You have the same amount of time as anyone, but we all have different responsibilities. There are many study Bibles claiming to make things easy for you. (It's good marketing.) And these no doubt can be helpful. But if you insist on sticking with baby food -- nothing to chew, just swallow it -- then you are missing out on nourishing meals the Lord prepares for you. Some meals require a lot of chewing. Follow as the Lord leads. I believe you will learn more if you work at a lesson, and your students will learn much more, also."

I would add this, too: the key is lead time. Start working on lessons well in advance, so you give yourself and the Lord time. Reviewing a short passage every day for a week in advance will (usually) generate more insights and understanding than 2 hours cramming it in the night before you teach.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

We cannot emphasize enough the work of prayer in selecting Biblical material to teach, studying the texts, developing useful lessons that encourage life application, delivering/presenting the material, and follow-up to make sure our students are learning.

Prayers are not bookends to tack on the front and back of work. Prayer is the work. We ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance as we select and study Biblical passsages. We ask God to help us tailor material for our particular class or group at this particular time (whom else will truly know their needs?). We uphold students before the throne of all Grace so that they would be open to receive what the Lord wants them to know, and take it to heart. We saturate our teaching time with prayer, and ask others to pray as well. And we continue to pray for our students as we go forward, that God's work would take root and grow in their lives.

May we never be teachers who say, "Yes, I have prayed enough, time to move on."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gift of Teaching?

Occasionally I'm asking if you need the spiritual gift of teaching to be an effective teacher.

Certainly teaching is among the spiritual gifts Paul mentions in Romans 12:4-8.

Here's my personal view: I do not think it is required, but I observe that it is unusual to find an excellent teacher who enjoys teaching who does not have the gift of teaching.

Let me explain. Consider this statement about mastery of a craft (and teaching is a craft, a practice that requires discipline over time):

"What creates someone who is a master of their craft? It's the combination of gifting, learning, and practice. The gifted person who is well practiced in their art makes it look easy." -- Terry Dean

So mastery requires gifting, how-to knowledge (or awareness), and practice over time.

The simple fact is that no one loves doing something that they aren't good at. And it's very difficult to excel at teaching if you haven't put in time and disciplined practice. You can get the job done, but you are doing just that -- without a love for the process and experience.

Many teachers feel drawn to teaching, but have not invested themselves to acquire knowledge about how to teach well. Or they lack practice. Those can be learned, acquired.

But the gift of teaching? It's not something that humanly speaking we can seek out and acquire. (That's why it's called a gift!)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Republishing Some Blog Posts

Over the next two-three weeks, I'm going to republish some helpful blog posts from 2006, 2007, and 2008. Good stuff -- if it's not new to you, it's still worth a review!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

New blog for Adult Sunday School Leaders

This new blog launched recently:

You don't need to be from any particular denomination to get value here. Recommended.

The easiest way to stay up to date with their content is simply to subscribe by email. There's a box on the right-hand side to do this. It's free, it's fast, and it's what I did.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Advice on Reading Better

I suppose you could be a great Bible teacher without being a reader...but I don't know any myself. Reading well helps prepare you to be a strong teacher.

Of course there are more things to read today than you could ever get to. (I try to read 2 to 3 books each week, plus many articles and blogs online. Figuring out what's worth reading is always a critical issue, no matter how fast you can cover material.) So how do you discern what's best? Tim Challies takes guidance from Richard Baxter, the great Puritan preacher, in his short article "Read Better with Baxter." Recommended.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Teach to Shape and Help Teachers

Not everyone you teach will become a formal Bible teacher in a classroom or congregation or small group. That's a given.

But a large fraction of the people you're teaching will be in teaching roles and leading roles in the future. They're helping their children at home. They're leading devotions. They're contributing to good conversations with neighbors and co-workers. They're answering questions and testifying to the goodness of God. Many times they will be teaching and be completely unaware that they're teaching.

Therefore it's not enough to teach as though the information you're sharing will stop with them, or the methods you use only apply in this setting. Remember, these people will be imitating you.

Most of us need a mindset change: we're not teaching, we're teaching teachers!

Here's where to start: Prayer. "Lord, help me teach people who will teach. What do they need to know? What should I be modeling for them as we study Your Word together?"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Teach to the Text, Not the Section/Chapter Headings!

Please...Please...Please teach to the flow of the passage, and don't arbitarily begin/end your teaching with chapter headings or section headings.

Here is one section in Ephesians 5 in my Bible:

Wives and Husbands

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

But to teach this properly I suggest you teach starting from verse 21, rather than verse 22:

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Beginning there gives the proper context!

Watch for this as you teach.

Extra credit:
Learn more about the history of how chapter and verse designations were created.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't Disparage Comments

Occasionally people will make comments in your class or Bible study time that, well, aren't the best. They may be factually wrong. They may be lacking in tact or good taste. They may words that tear others down or emphasize "us vs. them" with pride.

But you as the teacher NEVER should disparage or belittle someone based on their comments.

First off, if you want people to comment or speak up, you can't throw cold water on them. Or leave Scott with an impression that you'll blast them like you did last week to Susie and Bob. Warm, loving responses -- even when correction is involved -- keep people engaged. Unengaged people aren't learning, or applying what they learn.

Second, you do need to responsibly correct factual errors. Sometimes it's helpful to ask "Can you support that from Scripture?" as a way of helping people back to biblical truth. You don't have to say "WRONG, Dunderhead!" to help people understand that their position isn't biblical.

The most difficult situations are when someone is factually correct but expresses it in an unhelpful way. One approach that works for me is to say, "May I challenge you a little on that? What I hear you saying is _______. Considering our responsibilities to build others up and love even the unlovely, in the power of the Holy Spirit, what if you were to say _________ instead?" See how I make that a question? That really helps minimize their tendency to become defensive and angry.

Lecturing is the easy route for teachers, but it rarely is effective at teaching to change lives. Engaging people in dialogue is more difficult, but exponentially more rewarding for everyone. Ask the Lord to grant you wisdom as you teach and interact with others.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Good reminders -- for AFTER you teach

There's often a let-down and low period after you teach. You're potentially more vulnerable then than at any other time if you teach regularly.

Perry Noble expressed 10 things to focus on
-- as only Perry can! Pay attention to #7 and #10.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Comparison vs. Command -- Only One is Commanded

(This is based on a devotion I did for our church business meeting recently. -- Glenn)

Let's fly through the whole story of Scripture. I'd like you to pay attention to the patterns of "one" and "many."

God created the universe, selected one planet, and planted one garden.
He put one man, Adam, into the garden, and gave him one helpmate.
After they sinned God began to unfold His plan of redemption.
People multiplied over the earth, all with one language.
They started to build the Tower of Babel and God caused them to have many languages. God is still the one God over all the ethne (or nations).
God chooses one man (Abram) and creates one nation (Israel) to bless all the nations.
They have one tabernacle, then one temple.
In the fullness of time one man comes, lives one sinless life, and dies one death for atonement of many. His name is Jesus, the one name under heaven by which men can be saved.
Jesus establishes the church through his disciples, His one Bride.
The Church is represented through many local churches in many nations. Jesus is the One Lord of all the local churches, all the denominations.
When the time is right Jesus will come again to complete the plan of redemption. He will gather His Bride from among the many nations.
There will be one city, the New Jerusalem, delivered from heaven.

Now it is fashionable today (and has been for, oh, 2000 years) to bash the Church. It's easy to look around at other churches and either be critical or feel inferior, just as it is with individuals. Jesus doesn't bash His Bride, and neither should we. Jesus doesn't abandon His Bride or somehow decide He doesn't love her anymore. Neither should we.

Pay attention when I say this:

Nowhere in Scripture does God command us to compare ourselves with others. Not as individuals, not as churches. Nowhere.

Satan is delighted when we get into comparison. Either he can encourage us into pride ("Hey, we're better than they are!"), or he can drape up with discouragement and despair ("We'll never be as good for the Kingdom as XYZ church").

What does Jesus command us to do? Very simply, we're commanded to follow him.

Let's look at Jesus' interaction with Peter in John 21. Jesus has just fed the disciples breakfast on the shore, given Peter clear instructions about feeding his sheep (the church), and explained that Peter wasn't going to die comfortably in his sleep. Then we see Peter's all-too human response:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." (John 21:20-22)

I can picture Peter pointing at John as he says "What about him?" It's fun to think about John's reaction, but Jesus is direct and plain: "You must follow me." In the Glenn's Contemporary Version this would read, "What part of 'Follow me?' don't you understand?"

You might want to write "You must follow me" on a sheet of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror, or above your desk at work, or in your car.

Let's help each other on this, ok? We don't need to compare ourselves to others, it's not helpful. It's not consistent with Christ in us! The issue -- today and every day, both as individuals and as a church -- is following Jesus. Let's not be surprised if Jesus calls us in different directions, as he did Peter and John. He's in charge of the whole Church, and directs each local church as He will.

"You must follow me." I pray that rings in our hearts!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Tour of the Temple

Justin Taylor provides a tour of the Temple during Jesus' day. This was a spectacular piece of architecture, and much larger than most people realize.

This is a nice resource for you as a teacher. Pay particular attention to the way Justin weaves in the devotion and life application, even on an architectural tour! That's worth emulating in your teaching approach.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How to Overcome Fear

One of the most common challenges for teachers is overcoming fear. I say "common" because it will grip every teacher at some time, no matter how experienced. Learn from this free report how to handle fear well.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Did Jesus Have Long Hair?

Do a Google search for images of Jesus, and just about every picture shows Jesus with long hair.

Probably not. Consider 1 Cor 11:14 and that fact that he was a laboring carpenter.

Was his hair golden? Were his eyes piercing blue?

A blue-eyed, blond-haired man in the land of Galilee would have could not have fulfilled Isaiah 53:2, since he would have been remarkable in a crowd. No, Jesus likely had dark hair and dark eyes.

Was his skin soft and pale?

Unlikely. Consider how much time spent outside.

I encourage you to use these questions sometime with you class, or for a devotion. Help people form biblically accurate pictures in their minds.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Facebook Fan Page

On Facebook? Check out additional information and join the community conversations at the Teach the Bible to Change Lives Fan Page.

I also have a personal wall on Facebook, but only "friend" people I know and interact with in person, with few exceptions. The Fan Page is open to everyone. I'm trying to put out updates there several times each week.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Time Sense

There are two reasons I think teachers should watch this presentation:

1. The content is excellent -- time sense is powerful and tremendously influences how people perceive information. Teachers need to understand this.

2. The presentation approach is extraordinary. We're not all artists like this, but WOW! what a punch! Imagine how much less enjoyable this presentation would be (and how much longer it would feel) if the visual presentation wasn't there.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Gratitude Celebration

We've recently passed a number of milestones which I can't imagine happening without God being at work:

* has been going for 6 years and 1 month now. I estimate that more than 1.4 million people have been taught by teachers influenced through this ministry.

* Recently the 20,000th person signed up for free email helps (e.g., teaching tips).

* 15,208 people have downloaded the free materials from, so we're on our way towards developing 400,000 new Bible teachers by 2021.

* I've made over 3000 blog posts on and

* We'll soon celebrate 23 years of marriage (I married WAY up!). Our youngest child is on the way to college, so we're about to be officially "empty nesters." Different stage of life!

In gratitude, I'm making two new training audio lessons available for free, and -- only until July 5th, a number of our products for Bible teachers are 50% off. Check it out at the Attitude of Gratitude Celebration page.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Communicate So They Pass It On

Picture here is the chain reaction of nuclear fission. One electron striking a U-235 atom yields to electrons coming out -- and it builds into a cascade. It's powerful!

What can you do this week as you prepare your lesson so that the communication is "cascade" strong -- it will affect not only the lives of those who heard you directly, but the lives of people around them, and so on, rippling out in life-transforming waves of Truth and Grace?

Teach to change lives!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

God Crafts Man-Fishers

18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20At once they left their nets and followed him.
21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-22

Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, James, and John to Himself, and they immediately come and begin following him.

Notice that "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" contains three action phrases:
Come = one time decision
Follow me = ongoing decision to continue, step after step, day after day
Make you = God's craftsmanship that forms us into man-fishers

The second and third are ongoing, not one-time events. And see the symmetry? We follow; God makes us. God is faithfully ("I will," he says) doing His part in this as we follow Jesus. He does not instantly create us into master man-fishers, but makes us into this over time.

It greatly encourages us to remember that God isn't done with us yet. We're not responsible for making ourselves into anything, that's what God does. (See also John 15:1-17 about abiding in Christ and bearing fruit.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If You Want to See Change...

Over and over again we want to see positive changes -- in our weight, fitness, relationships, godliness, bank account, abilities to teach well, etc.

There are just three things needed to see positive changes:

1. Vision for the future, improved state. You'll be thinner and able to run a 5 minute mile, out of debt, in the Word every morning, and perfectly in tune with your spouse and children and even that cranky co-worker.

2. Desire for change. You actually want to change. You actually want to be that person with the improvements over where you are now.

3. Follow-through on the means to make the change. You need to eat less, exercise more, change your spending and saving patterns, talk with your spouse on a regular basis, and open the Bible every morning and do more than skimming your eyeballs across the page. Thinking about these things and wishing things does not make them happen. Failing to act differently means failing to make positive changes.

You need all three for positive change.
No vision + Desire + Means = activity without directed purpose
Vision - Desire + Means = unwillingness to continue
Vision + Desire - Means = wishful thinking and fantasies

You can use this framework to help yourself diagnose where you're falling short, or when you're coaching someone else.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Using Twitter as a Means of Influence

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson and a real thought leader for using media effectively, talks about Twitter as a leadership tool.

How Can Christian Leaders Get Started with Social Media? from Michael Hyatt on Vimeo.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Deceptively Simple Tip With Spectacular Results

Here's my recommended practice: As you prepare for any teaching, write down what you want your audience to learn and apply. What will be important from this in the days following class time, and in 1 year? Be sure you actually write it down.

Don't fall into the snare that constantly threatens many of us: "Yup, I know that, so I don't need to write it down."

Something about writing it down gives it weight and meaning and power that's completely different than an unwritten thought.

I can't tell you the difference this makes in both your preparation and your delivery. You have to experience it for yourself. Everyone I know who has done this consistently tells me it creates a HUGE difference in the quality and effectiveness of their teaching.

Try it. Let me know what happens.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How I Respond to Discouraged Teachers

"Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 5:42)

I've been corresponding with several discouraged teachers in the past few weeks. "No one is learning," one wrote, "so I'm giving it up." Another said, "They don't want to hear anything challenging, just the rah-rah-Christians-are-great stuff. I won't teach that way, so I'm thinking I should go to XYZ church instead." A third wrote this week, "Our minister wants to me to teach the same intro class all the time, and I'm tired of it." Another woman wrote me candidly expressing her frustration this way: "If I don't hear someone say thank you they can just find someone else to do it!"

Just yesterday I talked with a man who seemed convinced that if ministry was hard then God wasn't in it and he should move on. (I suggested he check that perspective against Scripture - it's not a biblical perspective at all.)

Teaching is often tough, challenging, gut-twisting work. There are times and cirumstances where you don't see much fruit. You may not hear appreciation. You may feel forced into situations that aren't your chosen ideal.

Perhaps you need a season of rest. Perhaps you need to seek out a different teaching situation.


I won't judge you if you do, that's not my perogative.

But I will say, in most situations, you and I need to stand firm, confident in the power of the Lord, working hard and spending ourselves on behalf of others. It's a calling. It's a level of commitment that means we have to (as marathon runners say) "take the pain and tuck it away somewhere" until the race is done. We're part of God's work to beat back the darkness, did you think it will always be easy?

Read that Acts 5:42 passage again. This was how they behaved after they were beaten and abused by the authorities.

Keep on teaching to change lives! And encourge your fellow teachers to do likewise, for the glory of God.