EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING
Necessary Ingredients in Spiritual Teaching (part 2)
Except for the ingredient of the spiritual gift of teaching, you have control over the other ingredients necessary to construct a wonderful Bible study. You can choose whether or not to follow Jesus and live a spiritual life, and you can choose whether or not you are going to devote yourself to a serious study of God's Word. The same applies to the three ingredients we will be looking at today. It is all up to you whether or not these ingredients are going to go into the Bible study you prepare for your Bible study unit.
I don't want people to start downing themselves if they are not doing as well as they should be in using these different ingredients. The truth is that many people are actually doing a pretty good job preparing for their lesson and teaching that lesson. The question though is not whether or not you are going to be a good teacher; the question is whether or not you are going to be the best teacher you can be. Great Bible studies don't just occur. They result from incorporating these ingredients in your preparation to teach God's Word. Yes, it does take effort; however, both God's Word and the people you minister to are worth it. In fact, when it is all said and done, you are the one who gets the biggest blessing.
THE INGREDIENT OF ILLUSTRATION
The next ingredient which goes into making a dynamic Bible study is that of illustration. Yes, you do need to set forth the context of the Bible passage you are studying. Yes, you do need to help people understand how the passage you're teaching relates to the rest of the book and to the rest of the Bible; you need to explain the meanings of certain words which shed light upon the overall meaning of the passage. Yet if this is all your Bible study is composed of, most likely you are presently a pretty dry Bible study. You may be getting excited about your lesson; however, few others are going to be excited about it. Many come to SS because they feel it is their duty. We want them to come because they are excited about meeting Jesus in His Word.
One way to make the Bible study more exciting is by using stories to illustrate a point. Now I'm not the one who came up with this ingredient. Jesus did. If you read the teachings of Jesus, you are going to see that many times Jesus just simply put forth a truth, maxim, saying, etc.; yet look at the number of times Jesus incorporates stories into His teachings. Jesus is a master story- teller.
Why did Jesus use stories, and why do we need to use stories? Because people remember stories better than they do simple truths or maxims. Moreover, most effective stories involve people, and people respond well to other people, or, as Milton puts it: "Personality responds to personality."
I personally try to use stories in every Bible study I construct. This past Sunday I was illustrating the difference between males and females. I said that one of the biggest problems we have is that too many boys are being raised almost exclusively by females who really don't understand males. For example, most of our educational institutions have been feminized, even institutions which have "men" running them. For example, I find it hysterical whenever a school says that it has a zero tolerance policy regarding fighting. No it doesn't. It only has a zero tolerance policy regarding physical fighting. The same institution which has been feminized allows verbal fighting because women or girly men are running the institution--and they fight with their tongues. I don't have a problem with a zero tolerance policy regarding fighting just as long as it covers both physical AND verbal fighting.
I went on to tell the class that males are basically aggressive and that they are going to fight. Moreover, we should let them. We should not allow them to kill each other or do serious bodily harm to each other; however, a scuffle every now and then is not necessarily bad. My goodness, there were several times we would drive up to the school and see my brother in the ditch fighting with another guy. That was just the maleness in him.
I had 2 young men in my youth group in Lancaster, TX, one the son of the pastor and the other a big ol' boy. The first was in the 8th grade, while the second was in 7th grade. The pastor's son was brutal with his tongue, while the 7th grader was just a big ol' boy. The pastor's son Justin would verbally torment poor Paul. When we were on a mission trip to Maine, Justin kept on attacking Paul verbally, making fun of him. At one point he even started kicking Paul. Paul did everything he could to keep from hitting Justin. Finally, I told the pastor's wife that one day Paul was going to haul off and clobber Justin.
Well, that day came on the trip. The boys were taking showers in the YMCA, and Paul, being a shy 7th grader, took a shower with his swimming trunks on. Justin started humiliating Paul. Finally, Paul couldn't take it any longer. He reared back with his fist and slammed Justin into the lockers. Although it scared Justin, Paul wasn't finished. He started chasing Justin all over the locker room area, Justin screaming for somebody to save him. Later that day the pastor's wife came and told me what had happened. I told her I didn't want to hear anything about it and that I was not going to discipline Paul. Justin wanted to fight but only with words; Paul knew how to fight only with his fists. Justin had it coming. Several neat things happened as a result of this. Justin not only quit humiliating Paul, the 2 actually became best friends. Moreover, they are both some of the finest young people. Justin actually heads a band that opens for Jon Randles Thursday night Bible studies in Lubbock, TX which draws over 1000 students. Sometimes you've just got to let boys be boys.
When I told that story to my class, they died laughing. They knew it to be a valid principle as illustrated by the story. Moreover, the point about males being males stuck with them because of the story. You don't always want to be telling stories; however, you do want to use good stories effectively to make your point.
THE INGREDIENT OF DRAMA
The next ingredient is that of drama. A better way to enunciate this principle is that we need to convey the teachings of the Bible by using the emotion which is in the story. The bottom line is that: the Bible is an emotional book, a dramatic book. Some OT scholars believe that books such as Esther were written for the express purpose of being performed, not simply read. The stories of the Bible cover the full gamut of emotions, all the way from anger to sadness to great joy. If you are going to communicate the story properly, then you need to convey it by using the same emotion found in the story.
Think about the following stories. David commits adultery and then murder. After David thinks he has gotten away with these dual sins, he receives a visit from Nathan the prophet. Nathan tells the story of a man who had vast flocks and yet who coveted the one little ewe of a poor man. This man ends up taking the little ewe from the poor man. David is incensed and wants to know who the culprit is. Nathan wheels around and turns on David: "YOU are the man!" Nathan then recites a litany of all the things that God has done for David, and what has God gotten in return? A king who sluts around and commits murder! GOD IS TICKED! Any telling of the story which does not express anger is failing to provide real punch to the story. (The same applies to the story of the wicked servant who was forgiven millions of dollars by his master but who refused to forgive a fellow servant of just a few thousand dollars.)
As you tell the story of the Prodigal Son and others like it, you need to express great joy as you tell it. The scene in which the father sees his prodigal son approaching in the distance is one of the most touching scenes in all literature. The father rushes down from the house and falls upon his son's neck, weeping with joy! As the son declares out loud that he is no longer worthy to be called his father's son, the dad clothes him with the finest clothes and prepares the best feast in honor of his son's return. God is preparing a fabulous feast for his sons and daughters who have returned home! This is pure unadulterated joy, and it needs to be told with great joy!
How can you tell the story of Gethsemane and Calvary without weeping? It is a story of great love and great sacrifice. A cold reading and/or teaching of the story is not going to do the story justice. We are emotional beings. God commands us to love Him with all our HEARTS as well as our souls and minds. We should love God emotionally. Failing to love God emotionally was the primary sin of the church at Ephesus: "You have left your first love." When you love somebody, you love them emotionally. You may not be a gusher; however, you are emotional towards that person. A day is coming in the near future when Nathan is going to be moving off to college. I want him and Molly to know that their being in my life has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. Yes, I love them with my mind and soul, but as a dad, I also love them with my heart. That element needs to be in our teaching.
If you just simply tell the stories unemotionally, then your lesson is going to miss the punch it would have had if you had told it emotionally.
THE INGREDIENT OF APPLICATION
This ingredient is essential if you are going to have an effective Bible study. I do stress the importance of knowing the Scripture itself; otherwise, how do you know you are applying the Bible correctly. Only the right interpretation of the Bible can produce the right application of the Bible. For example, I have some Christian friends who are seriously flirting with a legalistic form of Christianity. They really are intrigued by worshiping the Lord on Saturdays instead of on Sundays. This application of the Scripture is based upon a shallow study of the Scripture. Throughout the NT we see that the early church worshiped the Lord on the first day of the week in honor of the resurrection in place of the last day of the week which honored creation.
Many times we as teachers we handed a rather lengthy passage to teach, for example, Isaiah 1-3. How do I know which passage to teach? Or rather, which passage is it necessary for my class to hear out of those 3 chapters? Whereas all the Bible is God's Word, it is not necessarily the word God wants me to hear on that day. As a result, I need to be sensitive to the Spirit to discover what and how He wants me to apply the Scripture passage for that day.
This is one ingredient in constructing the Bible study I feel comfortable with bringing the class in on. For example, I don't do much asking the class what a certain passage means unless they have studied the passage. Yet I do feel comfortable asking them how to apply certain biblical passages and principles to our lives.
The practical aspect of the Bible study is hugely important in the study. Although we are to love God with all our minds, Jesus never says that He came to make us smarter. Rather He says that He came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). The cognitive is important only as it leads to a transformed life. Any other use of the cognitive is going to lead to arrogance (1 Cor. 8:1).
Of course all this presupposes that you are growing in your relationship with the Lord. The person who is not growing in his relationship with the Lord is not going to understand the Bible, much less apply it. Of all the ingredients listed, spiritual growth is the most necessary. It is incredible how a spiritual person who doesn't teach "right" can make a powerful impact on the lives of others. Yes, mix in the different ingredients; however, never lose sight on growing spiritually.