Whether your venue for communication is the pulpit, a classroom, or a small group meeting in a home, effectiveness requires application of five characteristics. Use these guidelines to evaluate your teaching and group leadership.
Are my words ambiguous or fuzzy, resulting in frowns of confusion on the faces of learners? Do I reserve adequate time for preparation so the biblical concepts are crystal-clear in my own mind?
Perhaps more than any other trait, clarity is what describes a person with the spiritual gift of teaching.
It’s the capacity to explain truth in clear, systematic, learnable form. When a person exercises this gift, you don’t leave his or her session wondering what the timeless principles are in the biblical text.
When it comes to communicating God’s Word, what learners conclude about a passage should match its God-intended meaning. Excavating that meaning often takes hard work. After my own spade work in the text, do I consult respected authors or scholars who can help me determine if I’m handling the text with integrity? (The person who learns only from himself has a fool for a teacher.)
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Remember the “iceberg principle.” Just as a majority of an iceberg is beneath the surface of the sea, the majority of time and energy that goes into a Bible lesson or message is unseen by others: the private, not-so-glamorous mental perspiration that study entails.
Do I work hard to put the bread of life on the lower shelves so anyone in my group can reach it? Do I explain doctrinal or religious terms rather than assume all learners know their meaning? C. S. Lewis’ advice to writers applies to preachers and teachers: “If it is possible to be misunderstood, you will be.”
Someone else put it this way: “Little men use big words. Big men use little words.” If middle schoolers are in an audience consisting mostly of adults, I want the young teens to grasp and be able to repeat in their own words the truths I convey. I can achieve simplicity without superficiality.
To what extent do I emphasize the practical implications of truths I cover? Is the application phase of a lesson or sermon the first thing I cut when there’s a time squeeze? Do learners leave sessions with lifestyle applications percolating in their minds? Do I heed Bruce Wilkerson’s advice to Bible teachers?
Help your students “see” themselves doing the principle. Picture the principle in action in
different settings and circumstances. Grip them with the overpowering benefits bestowed on
those who embrace the principle. Shock your students with the tragic consequence of those
who reject it.
No matter how gifted we are or how much we prepare, communicating God’s Word is never merely a human endeavor. We can only reach the ears of learners or listeners. The Holy Spirit must shuttle what we say from the ears, through the mind for understanding, and to the heart for lasting effect. Only He can open a heart to the gospel, comfort a hurting learner, or convict a person of sin.
What happened with Lydia’s conversion in Acts 16:14 applies to the Spirit’s required work in believers as well as unbelievers. “The Lord opened her heart to the things spoken by Paul.”
The Lord opened Lydia’s heart, Paul didn’t.
The Lord must work within your learners, you can’t.
And the logical application is to pray for Him to do what you cannot.
Through grace-motivated effort, which trait will you strive to incorporate more in your teaching?
Who can you ask to evaluate your teaching on the basis of these traits?
What trait integral to effective Bible teaching would you add?