Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Teaching Or Talking

Teaching Or Talking Pt 1.

One of the passions of my life is teaching.  I simply love it.  I have taught in churches, seminary, Bible colleges and High School.  I really love teaching.  I try to do it well.  I invest a lot of time in my teaching.

This little quick blog is for the teachers.  Teaching is wonderful.  Boring teaching is HORRIBLE.  Teaching the Bible in a boring manner is a sin.  How can we take the living Word of God and make it dull, lifeless, and something to be endured for thirty minutes?  

I was thinking about this, and wanted to share some insights that I have gained over the last 25 years of professional teaching.  These are points that I cover in various seminars, workshops and conferences…but just highlighted here for your thinking…

 Improve yourself.  Do not think that you have arrived.  I believe that I am a good teacher (don’t we all?).  However, every month I read a book, listen to podcasts, attend conferences, read blogs, anything that I can do in order to improve.  I am better than I was last year, but worse than I will be next year.  Here is the kicker.  If you do not schedule time to improve, then you will never have time to improve and you will be stuck in the rut that you have been in since the last time you actually tried to improve.  Remember, a rut is nothing more than a grave with both ends knocked out.  If you are in a rut, you are dead. If you are not trying to improve, then you are stagnating.

Believe in your topic.  This is especially true for Bible teachers.  One of my pet peeves is the dry, boring communication of information in a sermon.  You need to truly believe that what you have to say is really worth hearing.  If it is not worth hearing, then SHUT UP.  Life is too short for me to listen to your worthless, valueless junk.  Go find something that is worth communicating and then communicate it in such a way that conveys its value.

Be passionate. This comes from #2.  I think that the listener will be about 50% as passionate about the subject as the speaker.  So, if on a scale of 1-10 you are a 5, then your listener is a 2.5.  Passion communicates.  I believe that passion comes from application.  When I have personally experienced the value of what I am saying, then I can speak from experience and not theory.  This is one of the problems I have with expositional preaching (I am an expositional preacher).  We take the Bible and make it into a history lesson that incorporates a view Greek or Hebrew word studies and then give a dry lecture about how things used to be in a far away land and a distant time. Who cares what happened in another culture in another time to another group of people?  How does this change my life today? The Bible wasn’t written “for them”, it was written FOR US by them.  If we can’t be passionate about what this text is saying to us in the here and now, then  I say the same thing as in #2.  If I am not passionate about what I am saying, then SHUT UP.  

Think about the listener.  I have taken many courses on communication.  I have read probably 100 books on it.  One thing that surprises me is how little we think about the listener.  The listener should guide what we say and how we say it.  For example, I do not preach the gospel and call sinners to repentance at a pastors conference.  My listeners are already saved.  The listeners should determine our style.  When I preach to a jungle river village in the Amazon basin I say different things, use different illustrations, tell different stories and usually emphasize different truths that I would use if I were teaching a Men’s Retreat in Tyson’s Corner VA.   We should think about our listener so that we can customize what we are saying to their lives.  Teaching is not vomiting up truth or data and expecting the learning dogs to lap it up.  It is presenting truth in such a way that the listener understands and is touched by it.  I love this illustration.  In the Hebrew language, the word “To Teach” is the same word as “To Learn”.  It was context that determined whether you were teaching or learning.  However, in the mindset of the Hebraic teacher, if the student did not learn, then the teacher did not teach.  I agree with that.  Teaching is not disseminating information and walking away.  It is communication in the language (and culture) of the listener so that they actually get what you are saying.  

Part 2 tomorrow....