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!