The first time I had the opportunity to “teach” Bible in a public setting was at the age of fourteen. I had ten minutes in a children’s Sunday School class to talk about David & Goliath. As a lifelong church attendee, I drew on a wealth of pulpit rhetoric to deliver a passionate talk with little or no attention to the text (and I probably went over time as well).
Do you remember the first time you had the opportunity to teach the Bible in a public setting? Preparing for your first teaching opportunity introduces a strange mixture of fear and anxiety. Beyond public speaking itself, you might be nervous about your content or who will be listening (for example, the pastor in the back of the church). Chances are that you will write down exactly what you want to say and spend far too long saying it.
Unfortunately, there can be an inverse relationship between your personal comfort with the teaching opportunity and your preparation for the opportunity. Imagine that you are a Sunday School teacher looking at a ten week opportunity. For weeks one to three, you imbibe the message of the text through careful study, mediation, and prayer. Week four is a review week. Week five and following comes in on a wing and a prayer. Why is it that we always have time to watch Masterchef and no time to spend thirty minutes preparing for the bi-weekly group Bible study?
I’ve had all of these opportunities and experienced all of these pitfalls. Here are some suggestions for making the most of your teaching opportunity:
1) Start with the big picture
If you don’t know where to start, try reading the five chapters before and after your text. Understanding the context is crucial to good exegesis. Prayer for illumination and meditation is very valuable at this point as well. Well-defined context goes a long way to answering the “why is this applicable to me?” question. Don’t rush to the commentaries on Logos; breath the word.
2) Think carefully about your audience
Have you ever delivered an inspiring quote only to be met with blank stares? It is very possible that your audience wasn’t reading Spurgeon, Guinness, or Dever in the week leading up to this teaching opportunity. Make sure you think specifically about the appropriateness of your message.
3) Break up your prep time into manageable chunks
Saturday night is a tough time to prepare for a teaching opportunity. It’s a great time to review what you have prepared. Fifteen minutes per weekday with prayer and mediation will lead to thoughtful, efficient preparation.
4) Don’t apologise for your lack of preparation
It’s actually quite insulting to apologise and then take up an hour of someone’s time with teaching that you yourself have labeled as suspect. It’s like offering someone the mango seed after eating the cheeks. The best thing you can do is to tell people honestly and then facilitate an inductive Bible study that is focused on the actual text itself. Break down the sentence structure and marvel together at the power of the word spoken.
5) Watch out for these teaching pitfalls
Don’t spend too much time repeating what you said last week. Don’t spend too much time talking about your own life and/or soliciting examples from other people’s lives (keep it closely tied to the text). Don’t be a sluice gate by spending all of your time on the early text without addressing the whole text.