Friday, April 18, 2008

Myths about Teaching the Bible

I’m thankful for the men and women committed to teaching God’s Word in my church. They are fellow soldiers who proclaim the truth to equip people to do ministry and to battle false doctrines in the world. However, there are some myths about teaching that need to be debunked and removed from our thinking for a healthy Bible teaching ministry to thrive.

1. All it requires to be a teacher in the church is willingness and/or passion. NO! Yes those things are important and essential but there must be a knowledge of the Word produced by diligent study on the teacher's part (2 Timothy 2:15) and a giftedness from the Holy Spirit.

2. Teaching positions in the church look like a corporate ladder (Ex. start out with a children's class and over time work your way up to teaching adults). NO! Really the best teachers should be teaching the children and youth. Why? For one thing, they are still in very impressionable learning stages- bad teaching or weak teaching could be crippling. For another thing, statistically, most of the children in an average Sunday School class are going to be pre-conversion (i.e. they aren’t saved yet)... doesn't it make sense that the best teaching is for those who need it the most? If you are currently serving in those areas- do it with all your heart. Don't look for a "promotion" and if you are looking to exercise your spiritual gift of teaching consider an area that always needs reinforcements... children and youth.

3. Older people can't teach younger people because they can't relate. NO!
Bobby Bowden (Florida State) and Joe Paterno (Penn State) are senior citizens yet still lead college young men and boys to be successful football players year in and year out. Don't waste your wisdom. You don't need to know MTV or read Teen People to relate to kids. Just study God's Word and be genuine. After all we don’t want the kids following a “cool teacher”, we want them following Christ.

4. Called Bible teachers retire. NO! There is nothing in the Bible that says after you help out in the youth department of your church for the six years your kid is there you can spend your Sundays at the lake or in the bed after they graduate! Paul tells Timothy (2 Tim 4:2) to, "be ready in season and out of season." I can honestly say that teaching and preaching is not a labor but a joy because I get to spend hours in the richness of God's Word and share that with people... Wow! Why would I want to retire from that? Remember, if you didn't call yourself into this ministry, you can't call yourself out of it.

5. It is more important in teaching to appeal to felt-needs than imparting doctrine (doctrine is boring). NO! Staring deeply at an awesome God should be exciting, not boring… especially if we say we love God. If studying the attributes and aspects of God and His sovereign will come across boring then the teacher is boring not the material.

6. Teaching begins when the class starts and ends when the class dismisses. NO! Teachers are not more privileged than any other Christians but they are more accountable. James (3:1) says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethern, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." Teaching is a calling, it is a discipline, it is a ministry (you are investing time and relationship in people), and it is a commitment to a lifestyle of integrity.

Let us have integrity in life and in teaching. If the Word is not at the center of our teaching then what lasting effect can we hope to have? In John 17:17 Jesus prays to the Father, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth." It is the Word that transforms and not for a better self but for the glory of God. I hope you will join me in commitment to sound teaching and sound living, and also praying for God to raise up more men and women in our church to follow the call to teach His Word.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why expositional preaching and what is it?

In days to come I want to revisit the "teaching without compromise" topic but I mentioned on Sunday one reason why I am committed to an expositional preaching ministry at Memorial. Feeding people the Word of God through Biblical exposition enables us to stand firm in adversity and carry out the mission for which we've been called. I developed that reason from 2 Timothy 2:1-2. To better define expositional preaching I'll turn you over to one of my preaching heroes, John Piper. Here is a link to a message (you can read or listen to it) on the subject which Piper gave at the 2006 "Together for the Gospel" conference in Louisville, KY. I greatly benefited from being at that conference and I hope his message informs and blesses you. There is also a clip of the panel discussion after the message (Piper is in the middle doing most of the speaking) that provides more explanation of Biblical expositional preaching. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Teaching without Compromise

Currently at Memorial we are evaluating and discerning the needs and standards for children’s ministry workers and teachers. This has really forced me to think about the expectations for any teacher in the church- be it for a Sunday School class, in the pulpit, or for a Backyard Bible Club. Of course I have always been deeply burdened over the issue of teaching in the Church. There is a growing rash of poor or watered-down Biblical teaching and preaching that has spread in our North American churches. The epidemic is an approach to Bible teaching (sometimes even well-intentioned) that is potentially devastating. This approach either uses the Bible as a secondary source or misuses the Bible altogether. The Bible is living and life-transforming truth not fairy tales that simply teach good moral lessons to improve behavior. The Bible is God’s infallible Word that is meant to shape us for the praise of His glory not to be a how-to book at getting materially richer or more socially satisfied.

I heard a message a couple years back by Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Seminary. He said the culture we live in is a culture obsessed with the "project of the self". In other words, there is the cultural view that our lives are about building up and producing the best 'self' that there can be and this of course is an on-going work. It is accomplished through material success and riches, through physical appearance (which has been proliferated by tanning beds, plastic surgery, eating disorders, etc), and I see it especially in how parents can live vicariously and oft obsessively through the successes (athletically, musically, academically etc) of their kids. This view says that my life is all about produces a better 'self'. Pause for a moment and you will see this new dogma in the television shows and commercials, on magazine covers, in music, in schools, and most startling in some (maybe many) of the Bible study groups in the local churches. Jesus speaks counter to this worldview (Mark 8:34/ Luke 9:23), "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." Sadly, the Bible is often relegated to nothing more than the equivalent of Aesop's fables or a good quote that a 'moral of the story' can be drawn from to help in this project of the self. The problem of bad doctrine or bad theology is out there in and around churches but the greater problem seems to be simply the lack of doctrine or theology at all. As a former youth minister I was told on more than one occasion that kids "can't grasp doctrine and theological stuff" and that I needed to just teach what will "encourage them or challenge them in their daily lives". Well let me unpack that erroneous statement. First of all if kids can grasp Biology, Algebra, and Shakespeare in High School then they certainly have the capacity for understanding Biblical truths. Second, if anything should encourage or challenge children and youth it is knowing God more deeply and fully. This will transform and direct their daily lives. 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 2 are just a couple examples of the urgency to make sure our Bible classrooms are indeed instructing people and rooting people in the Word of God and not just feel-good moral lessons. Of course this should be happening in the home first but that's another issue altogether.

I’m thrilled that my church is hungry for the Word and comes every Sunday expecting to know God more from the study of the Bible. I pray that we would continue in that fervor, demand it from all our teachers- not matter what age-level they teach, and that we would pray this attitude would be infectious to other congregations. In the teaching ministry of the church we need to be diligent to ensure that we don’t just reference the Bible or belittle its content, but we unleash its powerful and penetrating truths.