For years, I’ve made a study of some of the most effective ways to teach the Bible and a biblical worldview. I’m still a student myself but I’ve come to this conclusion: My job isn’t really to teach. It’s to help others understand. So these “teaching tips” are really practical ideas for making what you teach, understood and memorable.
To begin with, I have these criteria for my teaching:
• Be true to the Bible Teach the Bible. Don’t try to make it say something it doesn’t clearly teach, or soften it’s teaching when God seems hard or uncompromising. Let the Bible speak for itself.
• Be intellectually honest Be honest about when the Bible or God “appears” to make no sense to you. Don’t try to put the best spin on hard truths and admit it when you don’t know the answer to every Bible question.
• Be gracious Admit that there are Christians who love God deeply and have a high view of scripture who disagree with you. But, be kind in your critique of them and their ideas. Also, be gracious with non-Christians. They simply don’t know better.
1. Give those you teach a simple, memorable framework for remembering the most important ideas. Remember the three-point sermon? Do the same with your teaching. Recently, I taught on “Why bad things happen to good people” I gave the group, in writing, the five reasons I’ve found, then challenged the group to think of a sixth. When they couldn’t, we went back over all five in detail with illustrations for each. My list and the illustrations became a visual template for remembering and framing the discussion. 2. Urge those you teach to memorize their talking points. When I was in business, I’d practice my “pitch” for the products we manufactured while driving the car, in the shower, and in front of the mirror until I felt confident. My guess is that many of you have done the same.
In the illustration above, I urged them to practice, on their own, out loud, their own presentation. If they don’t, they will forget it.
So, if you desire to be a good teacher, memorize the major talking points and practice them out loud. As you do, and if you do, you’ll find your confidence rise as you honor the Holy Spirit by absorbing spiritual truths into your heart and mind.
3. Reinforce every main idea with a story, or illustration. Jesus rarely taught without telling a story. Stories are a powerful tool to help give our teaching context and make them memorable. I not only tell a lot of stories, I urge those I teach to personalize their teaching by thinking of their own stories to illustrate the various points I’ve given them. That way they “own” the teaching for themselves.
“All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables.” Matthew 13:34
4. Pass it on Almost every time before I teach, I encourage those I’m teaching to learn as if they’re going to pass it on to someone else. It’s been my experience that when you’re a student it can go in one ear and out the next. But if you have the mindset from the very beginning that you’re going to be teaching this to someone else, you’ll pay a whole lot more attention.
“And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” 2 Timothy 2:2
5. Before you teach, ask and answer the hard questions, yourself Whenever I teach, I try to think of the questions my listeners will probably ask and make sure I answer them in my teaching. So, when I taught on the topic, “why do bad things happen to good people?” I could anticipate one of the questions would be, “why does God allow Satan to continue causing misery?” So, I asked and answered that question with the group. (The honest answer? I don’t know.)
6. Help people develop a “working theology.” How does what I just taught work in real life? How then should you and I live? A “working theology” gives flesh to your teaching.
My definition of wisdom is this: the practical application of biblical truth to real life. That’s why older Christians are generally wiser. They have more biblical knowledge and experience with life that enables them to generally make better decisions.
Younger Christians have little interest in the accumulation of biblical knowledge. They want to know if and how biblical wisdom “works” – so what? Tell them. And pass it on!
How following Jesus works in real life.
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