To increase your sensitivity to application during your message or group Bible study, ponder the following questions during your preparation for teaching. No doubt there is some overlap among these questions.
1. What is the relationship between the truths in this passage, and my learners?
A good communicator keeps one eye on the biblical text, and the other eye on the target group. The truths in a passage are objective. Truths don’t change no matter who we’re teaching. But which truths we emphasize or how we illustrate them may vary with the audience.
2. What roles, relationships, and responsibilities serve as contexts for their application of this Bible passage?
Application scenarios we discuss, illustrations we offer, or life-related questions we pose will differ depending on whether the audience consists primarily of teens, businessmen, housewives, or retirees. When push comes to shove, we don’t teach lessons, classes, courses, or subjects. We teach people.
3. In view of my learners’ typical life situations, what hindrances to application are they likely to face?
Posing this question increases our sensitivity to the difficulties they face in following Christ. We can take a “head-them-off-at-the-pass” approach and give realistic suggestions for overcoming the obstacles.
4. What kind of assistance or support system could help them apply this truth or lesson?
Think of resource people in your church, and print or online resources that give more information for a person willing to pursue a topic or weave it into the fabric of his or her life. Is there a staff member or key volunteer in your church who can offer practical help in an area of application?
Examples: if your message or lesson includes the biblical emphasis on social justice, who in your church is involved in some form of mercy ministry? What local ministries to the needy provide an opportunity for such involvement? If the passage includes the topic of financial stewardship, can you refer listeners to a godly financial counselor in your church or community?
5. If people ignore the text’s implications for their lives, what negative consequences will they likely experience?
Using either real or hypothetical situations, let’s illustrate the painful effects of ignoring application.
6. When I teach or preach, how can I illustrate the benefits of obeying this passage and its truths?
This is the flip side of number five. Let’s think of stories featuring persons who have profited spiritually from obedience to a truth we intend to convey.
No matter what you and I do to encourage application, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to comfort, convict, or nudge to action those who hear us. That’s why we pray not only for ourselves as communicators, but for our learners as well. Communicating God’s Word is never merely a human endeavor.
Teaching for application doesn’t mean we can guarantee their responsiveness. It is taking the time and effort to show pertinence of the truth to the relationships and circumstances our learners experience. We want them to see the truth’s implications, and let the Holy Spirit take it from there.
During preparation, what is another question we can ask to increase our sensitivity to learner application?