Tuesday, June 4, 2013



            Would it be safe to say that the average church member does not give any thought to the amount of preparation that goes into the materials that are studied each week? The safest answer is yes; because when there is no needed level of involvement the old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” tends to ring true. There are numerous things that should be at the front of my mind before I plan on teaching again, but there are several that will carry just a little more weight.  One of the most important things to keep in mind is keeping the cross central in all that we do as teachers. Michael Mitchell tells us, “As we develop curricular plans that are truly Christian, we must constantly remind ourselves of the need for koinonia fellowship, mutual ministry, and the value of the group dynamic in education, merging the individual dimension with the corporate.”[1]
The Four Sources of the Message
            The sources of the messages we choose to communicate are rooted in tradition, observation, participation, and inspiration.[2] The word tradition can bring to mind many different things, but what the author has in mind here is sticking primarily to the Bible. Mitchell says of tradition that “It was patent to me that I was to extract messages for my ministry to the church from the Bible as my first source of teaching. I was to give attention to the “codified text: that had been handed down from the prophets to the apostles and is still profitable for instruction and correction.”[3] No matter what may be going on in the lives of our people the Bible should always be the fulcrum of their education with us. There are some Bible study materials that are great, and then there are others that are not so faithful. According to Yount, “Some Bible study series today provide relevant subject matter but quote just one text to support the topic chosen…Does the material lend itself to leading the learners to study and interact with the Scripture passage?”[4]
            The next major thing that should help a teacher determine what is being taught is being a part of the students lives what Mitchell refers to as observation. The best way for anyone to truly walk away with a better understanding is if there is real grasp of the material. Yount insists that, “Christian learning takes place when an eternal truth of the gospel coincides or intersects with a persistent life need of the learner.”[5]  However, if the teacher is cognitive of what is taking place in the lives of those he/she is instructing, than how can they know what type of material will be beneficial for the learner?
The next source of the message is participation. For some of us as teachers it is much easier to create a lesson that is strictly a lecture and involves no class interaction. Personally every time I have been a part of a small group, and the material we covered recently interacted with my life in some way, I tended to own the material a bit more. Piper agrees that, “Belief is a whole body, whole life experience. No one believes anything important with the intellect alone.”[6] 
The last source of our message is far from the least, it is inspiration. The type of inspiration we need to leave room for in every message that we may ever craft, is a space that the Holy Spirit himself can come into and do a work that would be impossible without him. Mitchell offers this encouragement in regards to inspiration, “It was very encouraging to be guided not only to teach the Bible regularly and frequently, but also to be given specific and divine direction as to the next content to present.”[7]
The Forms of a Communicators Message
            Mitchell asserts that, “In establishing a curricular plan, the instructor must also acknowledge and address the fact that a selected message may manifest itself in as many as four different forms.”[8] Those four forms commonly take place in subject matter (or content), the environment, life (experiences), and the teacher (model).
            These four forms actually can play a greater role in the way a student learns then most teachers ever realize. While for most of us we spend hours working on the subject matter of a lesson but never realizing that we do not have our students’ full attention.  The reason we lack their attention could be due to a number of things, but one of the greatest deterrents is the environmental setting; have we made the class room, living room, or where ever we may be teaching conducive with the lesson we hope to teach?
 One very important thing to remember no matter how well we think we have things structured there is no guarantee that the student is going to learn the material.  According to Mitchell, “While the teacher may control the methods and materials to be utilized, the student determines whether or not learning will actually take place.”[9] Hopefully, by choosing topics that are biblically faithful, yet culturally relevant to the audience there is a greater chance of learning taking place. One of the best ways to teach anyone is through being the model for what you are trying to impress upon them. Do not be like the parent who says, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Because we all know that model fails!
In taking into consideration all of the different aspects that have been discussed in this essay, when taking on the task to teach there is more at hand than a mere lesson. When I next take up the mantle to teach I want to make sure that I am biblically faithful to the Scriptures and their proper interoperation that covers a subject my audience can relate with. I often work with men, and we struggle with a number of different things so I will have to widdle down my talk to something specific like a man’s role in his marriage. By picking a subject that most of the men can relate to it will give them something to leave whatever environment we have established our learning in, to take home and improve an area of importance in their lives.

[1] Michael R. Mitchell, Leading, Teaching, and Making Disciples. (Bloomngton: Crossbooks, 2010)273.
[2] Ibid., 281.
[3] Ibid., 282.
[4] William R. Yount, (ed.). The Teaching Ministry of the Church 2nd edition. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008)366.
[5] Ibid., 370.
[6] John Piper, and and Justin Taylor (eds.). The Power of Words and the Wonder of God. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009)109.

[7] Mitchell, Leading., 283.
[8] Ibid., 286.
[9] Ibid., 277.

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