Some Surprising Truths About Teaching
Every Christian has his/her favorite teacher; Tim Keller, the late Ravi Zacharias, Chip Ingram or perhaps your own pastor or BSF teaching leader. While I’m grateful for these amazing teachers, that’s just the problem. They set the mental bar for teaching so high and without any intention of doing so, the rest of us feel inadequate to teach.
While Paul was instructing Timothy in Titus, Chapter Two is applicable for any reasonably, spiritually mature Christian. Please take the time to read that chapter now, or when you’ve finished this blog. The following are some valuable observations my pastor, Jim Samra made recently on teaching.
1. True biblical teaching is less about information and more about wisdom.
“Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” Titus 2:2,3 Clearly, Paul is not telling Titus to teach facts or theology, but to teach various groups how to live a virtuous life. I’ve had the benefit of Christian schools and great teaching all my life. I know the Bible reasonably well. But if it hasn’t made me more wise, thoughtful and kind- more virtuous, how much you and I know really doesn’t matter much to God.
I’ve met a pastors sons who walked away from the faith because of their fathers horrible behavior. In this polarizing time in American politics, are your children or grandchildren being taught by your evenhanded and thoughtful commentary, or are you angrily repeating the talking points from your favorite news source? In a twist on Francis of Assisi, teach constantly and occasionally use words if necessary. Virtue trumps information.
2. We can and do teach by example. “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness” Titus 2:7 Not everyone is gifted to stand in front of a group and teach facts or articulate concepts in a compelling and interesting manner. But every true follower of Jesus ought to be able to teach by being an example virtuous living. Christianity is more caught, than taught. For better or worse, to live is to teach.
A wise teach once asked our group this question, “Do you want your children to be better followers of Jesus than you are?” “Of course!” we all answered. But his response caught us off guard. “Then what ever it is about your life that you want your kids to improve, God wants you to address that.” 3. To be a good teacher, you don’t have to be funny or exciting. The truth is often hard and unpopular, but it does not have to be delivered with fire and brimstone. I have three requirements for my own teaching: I want to be true to the Bible, intellectually honest and gracious in the way I treat those who disagree with me. The people who have taught me the most, didn’t even know they were doing it. As a kid, I watched my mother, my dad and my grandfather and I just knew intuitively, I wanted to be like them. Have your children, or grandchildren ever told you they want to be like you?
4. God is teaching us life lessons all the time to pass on to others. There’s hardly a week that goes by that I’m not sitting with our grandchildren at dinner or on the deck of our cottage and telling them stories. I share stories from my childhood, ministries I’ve been involved in and other people I admire and why. Specifically, I try to share stories with a purpose. Last week, I shared with them that I was caught shoplifting when I was 11 and again at 15 when I was not caught, but felt compelled by the Holy Spirit 20 years later to pay the store owner back with interest. I shared with them what I learned from both those shameful, sinful experiences. I didn’t have to remind them not to steal. My story was the teaching.
Sometimes these stories come spontaneously and others I have to plan ahead of time to tell them. For years I’ve actually kept notes about the stories and the lessons in those stories I want to pass on to my grandchildren someday. I share stories about the men I’ve met, without names of course, who’ve made both good decisions and bad. They’ve learned as much from my personal failures and the failure of others, as from my victories.
So, don’t be discouraged if you feel inadequate to stand in front of a group of people and “teach the Bible.” Around the dinner table, the break room at work, or while sitting with your children or grandchildren, you are communicating something about both God and yourself to them. But the one thing all good teachers have in common- they are intentional. Today, who will you be with, and is there something about the Christian life that they need to hear or better yet, see in you.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
How following Jesus works in real life.
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