How I Realized I Needed To Grow As A Teacher
My first several years in ministry, my training as a teacher/preacher included many books on the topic. It also included the teaching/preaching classes that I took as part of my seminary education. All of these resources were great at helping me perform better as a public speaker and my ability to formulate my thoughts while expositing the Scriptures. It was 4 years later when I was deeply convicted of an important aspect of teaching and preaching. I had neglected this in my sermons: Directing every passage back to the Gospel.
I have come to realize that the vast majority of teaching/preaching resources that I had used all had a basic assumption that I (the preacher/teacher) was already doing well at articulating and communicating the gospel. Furthermore, a dangerous commonality I began to notice in the church-growth and preaching materials is that they are based upon the assumption that everyone who reads them are effectively preaching the Gospel.
I started to listen more closely to many sermons by many different preachers, some local and some nationally/internationally known, and I noticed that many sermons I considered “good” did not communicate the Gospel to their audience. This makes it impossible for unbelievers to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. What these sermons ultimately communicated to their audiences was either instructions for living, that only Christians could understand, or a message of false hope for unbelievers by promoting a moralistic gospel. A gospel that teaches a lifestyle of conventional wisdom apart from total reliance upon Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
I then assessed that my sermons were no different than the ones I was criticizing. Here are some questions I was confronted with:
- How will teenagers know how to be saved based on my sermons?
- Am I assuming that the teenagers in the youth ministry have a proper understanding of the Gospel and what it means to be saved?
- Am I reminding the students of what the Gospel is, especially for those who are dealing with critical questions about their faith (or their parent’s faith?)
As a result of answering these questions, I started to give more special attention to my teaching/preaching. Here is how I did that (For the sake of space in this blog entry, I will keep them short and sweet, even though I would love to give fuller explanations for each one):
I stopped using resources that essentially had already done the “hard work” of preparing a sermon/lesson.
The Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy says in 5:17-18, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’”
I’m a full-time youth pastor and elder with a seminary education. I have no excuse NOT to write all of my own material. In youth ministry, it is easy to justify delegating teaching responsibilities for the sake of “training up future leaders.” However, I see much more Biblical evidence about the weighty responsibility of teaching God’s Word. I do not feel comfortable delegating that weight to those who are not in the same position of leadership as me.
I started preaching verse-by-verse through books of the Bible.
I want to set a precedent for the students in our ministry. One that supports the idea that part of being a Christian is loving and relying on the Word of God. Christians should understand that proper Bible study is much more than jumping around the Bible between the most popular memory verses. They should learn how much depth there is in just a few verses of Scripture and how important lifelong Bible study is to the Christian. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I try to preach the Gospel from every passage.
Whether kids have grown up going to church or not, I never want to assume they have a right understanding of salvation through faith in Christ. If students are living in sin, I don’t want to assume they are saved and just going through a rough time. It is very possible, if they seem hardened towards God and spiritual things, that they still have not truly believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Never assume a person’s salvation simply by their confession or attendance. Jesus says to look for fruit, so I want to do that. (Matthew 7:15-23)
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