Signs of the Teaching Calling
Chapter 01 – Bad Presentations
Ephesians 4:11 says,
And He gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:28 says,
And God has placed some in the church; firstly apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers; after that miracles and gifts of healings, supports, directives, various different tongues.
In this section I want to look at the signs of the teaching calling. How do we identify a teacher?
Bad Army Food
Many years ago when I was much younger, I was in a country that had a national draft or call up.
This was where every young person had to go and serve their country for a specific period of time. So at the tender age of 18, I was called up to go and spend time serving my country.
I was still at home at that time because I had not left home. I was still living with my parents and was still used to eating my mother’s cooking. My mother cooked pretty well. As a matter of fact, I had learned to cook and I liked doing it.
I liked food and I liked making fancy foods. But as I came to take up my place of residence in the military, I found out that meals took on a new dimension. You had to stand in line and wait for ages with an ugly, big metal thing with indents in it to put your food in.
Then after standing in line for ages to get served, you eventually wondered why you bothered. What they slopped onto this metal thing was not worth eating, but you were so hungry you were forced to eat it.
Army food has to be the worst food in this world. It was terrible. I came to the conclusion that the army must have special deals with people to buy all the junk that nobody else wants; food that they are ready to throw away and that they can get cheap.
Then they had the cheek to charge you for it. If you were in the military and you had a normal job they gave you then what was called Make Up Pay.
They made up the difference between what the army paid you and what your normal salary was, and they had the cheek to add the cost of meals to your Make Up Pay.
I could not believe that they had the audacity to charge people for that stuff. I just could not believe that they would serve human beings stuff that was fit for pigs.
Then I got to chat with one of the guys who was an army cook. He was just an ordinary guy like me. When he arrived in the military, I guess he could not do very much of anything else, so they said,
“Okay, we’ll make you a cook.”
If you were too useless to do anything else they made you a cook. That was standard military procedure. So this guy, who had never cooked anything in his life, was thrown into the kitchen and they said,
“There you go. You’re a cook.”
He said to me, “Les, don’t think that the army buys junk. The food that we get to cook is top grade. It is high quality stuff. We just don’t know how to cook it.
When you are cooking for hundreds and thousands of guys you just slap it together in a pot and boil it up. You don’t have the time or the facilities to cook it properly.”
So here we had this slop that we had to eat to try and survive. But actually it was very good food. There was nothing wrong with it. It was the way it was made and the way it was presented that was bad. It smelt, tasted and looked terrible.
If I had a choice I would just as well have thrown it in the trash can rather than eat it. But it was good food. That good food had been taken, and it had been prepared, made and presented in a way that was unpalatable.
Bad School Teachers
That was my experience with the army and with cooking. Then as I cast my mind back further I think back on my days in school.
School teachers are a special breed aren’t they? They are specially selected by the devil and pulled out of the pit of hell – preferably with as little training as possible, and preferably somebody who does not have a clue how to teach.
That is the guy who is qualified to become a teacher. At least that was the impression I had.
I could not stay awake for half an hour listening to some of those guys. They would drone on and on, talking about things they knew nothing about. They would read out of a text book and pour screeds of uninteresting knowledge into my head – or at least they tried to do it.
I would be sitting there chewing the end of my pencil and thinking about something far more interesting. Anything would do, just as long as I did not have to sit and listen to this boring person trying to teach me things I did not want to learn.
Did you have that impression in school? I need to cast my mind back now and think that there must have been one or two good teachers there. I really have to think hard to see who they were though, because my general impression of school teachers is that it was just a job they were doing.
Their job was simply to try and pour a certain amount of knowledge into your head, get you to write exams and go through. It seemed none of them had any interest in doing it.
You wondered what kind of training colleges these people were put through, because certainly whoever taught them did not know how to teach either.
Interesting Topics Made Boring
I found that school teachers could take knowledge that could have been wonderful and exciting, and make it so boring that you did not want to know about it. They were some of the most complicated speakers I had ever heard.
They would take simple things and over-complicate them. They would use big words and language to describe things in such a way that the average person did not have a clue what they were talking about.
You would look at this guy and think,
“Wow, he must really be intelligent. He probably got some big doctorate out there at university. The guy is an absolute genius, but he’s the only one who knows what he’s talking about.”
Have you had that experience with teachers? They are one of the most inconsiderate speakers you have ever heard. They do not consider the pupil.
And if you dare to have the audacity to stop the teacher in the middle to ask a question, well he is supposed to allow that, but the chances are he will look at you skew. And everyone in the class looks at you as though to say,
“You stupid idiot, don’t you know what he’s talking about?”
Have you been there? I have been there and I was pretty intelligent. I was always top of the class and always in the academic stream. But even I had this problem trying to keep my attention and getting something from these teachers.
Then come the experiences with being in church. Did you know that it would seem that most preachers have been to a Bible Seminary where they do not teach you how to preach; where whoever taught them did not know how to preach?
Someone said once,
“The Bible has to be the Word of God to have suffered such poor preaching through the years.”
You have been there haven’t you? Some preachers are so boring. Okay I could be one of them. I stand to be examined.
They are long-winded, and they drone on and on, always telling you what you are supposed to do and what you are not supposed to do.
Very seldom do they tell you how to do it. They drone on and on, boring you, waffling on and giving you a whole load of all sorts of nonsense, and you walk out of there with your head in a daze.
I love having a Bible that you can write in. I always had a wide margin Bible, and when I sat in church I would open my Bible and take out my pen. I think many a preacher looked at me and thought,
“What a wonderful person. He’s taking down notes from my sermon.”
No I was not. I was trying to study the Bible for myself and get something out of it, because he was not giving me anything.
I thought, “If I’m going to sit here for an hour, I might as well use the time wisely and get into the Word a bit.”
I would start studying the Scriptures, and I would get some of my own notes and start making up my own sermon. I would sit and listen to what he was preaching and say,
“I know I can do better than this. Let’s see if I can improve on it.”
Have you never done that? Well you are going to be doing that if you can learn to become a teacher, because you are going to find that most preachers out there have never been taught how to teach. They do not know how to do it and that is why they are so boring.
The Word is Badly Presented
What am I talking about? I am talking about the Word of God, which is pure, high quality food that has the ability to feed the soul.
But there are those who take it and slop it up, denature it and throw it together in such a way that it is unpalatable and you do not want to eat it. It is not the food that is at fault. It is the cook that is at fault.
There is knowledge that can feed the soul and the spirit. But if it is taught in a way that is boring and uninteresting, nobody wants to hear it.
People are falling asleep while you waffle on and on. Nobody is getting any of it. It is going in one ear and out the other. Maybe it does not even get to the middle before it disappears.
That is not the Teaching Ministry. The Teaching Ministry has the ability to take the food and make it wonderful, so that you want to eat it. That is what I want to look at in this section.
I want you to see exactly what the Teaching Ministry is. So we are going to start looking at a couple of different aspects of the Teaching Ministry.
I would like to look at some of the functions of the Teaching Ministry and what it is supposed to do. I would also like to look at what the Teaching Ministry is not and the misconceptions that people have about it. Then I want to look at what the Teaching Ministry does.
By the end of it you will be able to make a list of signs of the teaching calling. You will be able to examine preachers. You will be able to take the list with you next time you go to church, and you will be able to tick them off and say,
“No, he’s not a teacher.”
Or, “Yes, he is a teacher.”
You will be able to look at yourself and at others that you know and quickly identify what a teacher looks like. You will also be able to identify very quickly when somebody is not a teacher at all.
Chapter 02 – Functions of the Teaching Ministry
Let’s have a look at what the functions of the Teaching Ministry are.
To Present New Facts
Firstly the Teaching Ministry needs to present new facts. Well the fact of the matter is there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon told us that. Someone coined a phrase once and said,
“If it’s new it’s not true; if it’s true it’s not new.”
Yes that is correct up to a point. So how then can the Teaching Ministry present new facts?
The Word is not another kind of textbook. The Word is a very special book that is written in such a way that we will never ever fully grasp everything that is in it.
You will never fully exhaust the truths and the wonderful principles that God can reveal to you out of His Word. You will be reading the Word for the rest of your life, and you will still be seeing new things in it that you never saw before.
However most people do not get to those new truths. This is because they do not know how to receive them out of the Word.
God has given the Teaching Ministry to be able to take that Word and to bring new truths out of it. The teacher can discover things that people have never seen before and present them to the Body of Christ.
To Equip the Saints
The Teaching Ministry is meant to equip the saints. We saw it there in Ephesians where it said,
For the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry.
The whole purpose of the Teaching Ministry is to give believers ammunition and ability. It is to give them the weapons and the tools that they need, in order to to be what God wants them to be in their spiritual lives.
Teaching is training. It is not just instructing the mind and filling it with facts.
Teaching goes far beyond imparting facts. It is taking the Word, applying it to people and building it into them. It is making it come to life for them so that it becomes a part of them. The teacher has to carry out that function, otherwise he is not a teacher.
To Feed People
The Word of God is our spiritual food. The teacher must be able to take that food and make it presentable and delicious, so that you want second and third helpings. He must make it so that you come back with your metal tray and say,
“I didn’t get enough the first time. Give me some more.”
I have never seen them do that in the army yet. I have also never seen them do it in some churches yet. How many people will say to the pastor when he is about to finish,
“Oh no, are you finished already? Why don’t you preach for another hour?”
Have you ever seen that? No, he has gone 30 minutes and they are pulling out their watches already and saying,
“I wonder when this guy is going to finish. He’s going on and on for ages.”
You see the teacher equips the saints and feeds them. He takes the Word and makes it into something palatable that people want to feed on.
To Bring About Action
The teacher must inspire people to action. The Bible is the Lord’s love letter to His creation. When you read a love letter it is meant to have an effect on you. It is meant to cause emotions to stir in you and to cause feelings to rise up within you.
Do you get that when you read His love letter; when you read the Word? A lot of the time you don’t, because you have never learned to read the Word the right way.
God has given the Teaching Ministry to show people how to take the Word and to read it in such a way that it will inspire them, encourage them and lift them up.
The teacher gives people a reason to serve the Lord because he makes the Word come to life. Teachers are meant to bring about a practical application of the Word, and the teacher has the ability to take the Word and apply it to a real life situation.
Teaching means taking the Bible and turning it into a User’s Manual. When you have a problem with a product, or when you want to get the best out of a product, you just turn to the User’s Manual.
If you want to find out all the functions of this new product that you never tried before, and all the fancy features that are there that you have never experienced before, go to the User’s Manual.
People need to be taught how to use the Bible that way. It does not come naturally. The Bible tends to be a closed book that people do not understand.
God has given the Teaching Ministry to unlock the code, to help people see the truth that is in the Word. They can bring it to life and make it into something that people will have by their side. Then every time something goes wrong they will say,
“Let’s turn to the User’s Manual.”
Well if you do not know where to look in the User’s Manual and you do not know how to interpret it, then it is no use to you at all.
When we lived in Mexico, when we bought stuff it came with a manual in Spanish. I could not understand Spanish. It was no use to me. I needed to be able to interpret it.
For a lot of people the Bible is just like that. It is as though it is written in a foreign language and people do not understand it. The Teaching Ministry is meant to make the Word practical in your life.
Chapter 03 – What the Teaching Ministry is Not
I want to look firstly at what the Teaching Ministry is not.
Not a List of Scriptures
The Teaching Ministry is not giving a whole list of Scripture references. People tend to think that the teacher is someone who sits there, takes a subject and gives you a whole pile of references.
He says, “Turn with me in the Word to this Scripture.”
You have just read that one, then he says a few things and tells you,
“Now, turn with me in the Word to this Scripture.”
By the end of the Bible Study you have looked up everything from Genesis to Revelation. The guy has covered the whole Bible, and you still do not know what he taught you except hundreds of Scriptures.
You are sitting there making tons of notes and you say,
“Wow he’s deep.”
He is not a teacher. You see you need to learn the unknown from the known. It is a basic teaching principle that we will look at shortly.
You cannot learn the meaning of words just from words. The Scriptures are just words. You need to take something that is alive and that is real to the person.
No Need to Prove the Word
The Word interprets itself. It does not have to prove itself. A lot of people seem to think that in order to teach something you have to prove it with a Bible Scripture.
They say, “We must have a precedent from Scripture, brother. We can’t teach anything here without giving you at least three or four Scripture references to prove that I’m not a liar; that I’m telling the truth.”
The Teaching Ministry does not need to do that because the Word speaks for itself. You do not have to give hundreds of Scripture references. You just need to speak the Word, teach the Word and feed it to the people.
When you come to have a meal at a restaurant, they do not bring you all the tin cans that they took it out of and say,
“There is the proof that we gave you genuine burger meat.”
No, they just give you the food and you eat it. You trust that they did not feed you pets mince or some other rubbish.
The Bible teacher has trust. He gives the Word forth in such a way that people trust him because he is feeding them.
A lot of people seem to think that to be a teacher means you pull out your Concordance and you look up hundreds of Scriptures on a subject. You put them all down on a page and then quote all the Scriptures.
You say, “Well that’s the teacher. I have a Teaching Ministry. I have looked up every single Scripture on my subject. There it is. I can show you all the Scriptures on the subject throughout the whole Bible.”
It really does not take any revelation to use a concordance and a dictionary. You do not even need to be a Christian to do that. That is not a teaching gift from the Lord.
No Use of Pictures
People remember pictures, not hundreds of Scripture references. Maybe that is why I hated history at school.
All I was ever told to learn was hundreds of dates of when this happened and when that happened, instead of just painting beautiful word pictures for me and making history come to life. Then it is exciting and you can imagine you are there reliving it.
Perhaps if some teacher had presented it to me that way I would have liked history. But all I ever knew about history is that I had to sit and wrack my brain and learn all those stupid dates.
I do not care what date it happened. Who cares? Tell me what happened, tell me why it happened, and paint some pictures for me. Show me how it affects my life right now, then it is worth learning.
Bible teachers are guilty of the same thing. They want to present a whole lot of facts to people to feed their heads, but it never gets down into their spirits.
Gets Fresh Revelation
Teaching is not pouring out facts from a text book or a commentary. The teacher has to teach his own perception and revelation from the Word. He doesn’t stand up and say,
“Okay, I would like to teach you about this subject. I’ve just read So-and-so’s book on the subject and I’d like to tell you what he teaches.”
Have you seen so-called Bible teachers who quote everybody under the sun? They are always quoting someone else.
You may have heard me tell the story before about some teacher that was standing up and he was quoting and spouting off. There was an old man sitting in the front row, and every time the preacher went off he said,
The preacher glared at him. He went off again and the old man said,
The preacher glared at him again and then carried on. Then the old man said,
“That’s Billy Graham.”
Eventually the preacher became so fed up with him he said,
“Shut up you old goat!”
The old man looked at him and said,
“Now that’s original.”
He Must Be Original
A teacher must teach something that is original. It must be something that God has shown him; a quickening of the Word that he has seen himself. He should not always be quoting other people.
We like to name-drop and quote other people. We like to climb on their shoulders and pretend that we are of the same status as them.
A teacher does not need to do that. He has just got something fresh. He is not feeding people old, canned dried up food. He is feeding them food that is fresh out of the Word; something fresh that God has revealed to him and quickened by the Spirit.
It is something that is relevant to you right now – in your situation, in your culture, in your race, in your problems or in your marriage.
Wherever you are, whatever the Word needs to reach, the teacher is going to have fresh revelation on that for the here and now, and for you specifically.
Do not go quoting other people. When you do that you start using all that person’s big language. Someone who always has to quote other people does not have a Teaching Ministry.
It is like taking food that is a day old, reheating it and giving it to the people. It is like taking fries and warming them up in the microwave.
It is vile; it is horrible and you wonder why people do not want seconds. You wonder why they could not finish their first courses. You might then say to the preacher,
“What were you trying to teach, brother?”
I mean this was pretty good food. It was great, but it came out 10 years ago, and you cannot understand why people do not want to eat it now. People are always using old clichés and sayings that have been quoted from way back.
It is not original and it is not a Teaching Ministry. A Teaching Ministry is fresh and relevant and the teacher has had revelation of his own.
No Big Education
A teacher is not someone who has swallowed a theological dictionary – or an ordinary dictionary for that matter. Preachers love to show their education. They say to you,
“You know you can’t be a teacher unless you are well educated. If you want to be a teacher and go into the Teaching Ministry, you had better go and get a Degree, a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate.
You will have to put PhD after your name if you think you’re going to go out there and proclaim that you have a Teaching Ministry. How can you teach if you don’t have an education? You don’t have any knowledge.”
That is a big mistake. People stand up and start spouting theological terms, and you can pull some lovely, big words out of theological books. You stand up there and spout them at the people and they look at you and say,
“Wow he’s deep. This man is brilliant and so highly educated.”
Nobody has a clue what he is talking about but they are impressed. You have not fed the people. You have not taught them a thing.
You are not a teacher. Teaching has to feed the spirit, not the mind. Jesus pulled out a bunch of fishermen and taught them how to become teachers.
I am not knocking education. God used the Apostle Paul who was a well educated man and well trained in the Scriptures. God took his abilities and used them, and made him into one of the mightiest teachers who wrote most of the New Testament.
There is a place for Bible knowledge. I will be teaching that as we go through the new material on teaching, as we look at principles of teaching and some of the tools that we can use for it.
A lot of people are so educated that they are educated beyond their intellect. They think that because they have such great education and knowledge, that they must now impart that knowledge to others.
And because they have no spirituality, no revelation, and no anything that is of God, they start calling themselves Bible teachers.
They write big theological teaching books, pouring out the knowledge that they learned from someone else. You pick up these books, and very likely at the end of every chapter you will have a bibliography; a list of all the books that he got it from.
Have you seen that? They usually give you a long list of books at the end. The idea behind this is,
“If you wanted to write a chapter like this, you would have to go and read these 20 books that I read, so that you can pull bits and pieces from each of them.”
The guy sounds like he is really brilliant and he has really learned a lot. Meanwhile he pulled each of these paragraphs from a different book.
There is nothing original there at all, but it sounds impressive and the language is high. People start studying these books in order to learn how to do the work of the ministry. Then they begin to think,
“God has called me to a Teaching Ministry, therefore how do I teach? Well I need to teach like the people that I’ve been learning from.”
He picks up the theological book and thinks,
“Well that must be an example of how a person must teach.”
Then he tries to present his Teaching Ministry. He opens his mouth and out come the big words. Nobody has a clue what he is talking about, history repeats itself and the teaching profession gets the reputation of being boring.
The Teaching Ministry becomes just like the teaching profession. A lot of people see it as no different.
They see the Teaching Ministry as simply being someone in the teaching profession. The only difference is he happens to be teaching Bible instead of ordinary school subjects. That is not what the Teaching Ministry is.
Chapter 04 – What the Teaching Ministry is
What is the Teaching Ministry? How does the teacher operate? We are going to cover this in a lot of detail in a chapter all on its own and in various other ones.
We are going to cover these subjects. We will show you how to develop your teaching gift and calling and to use it effectively. So I am just going to skim through a couple of basic principles in teaching very quickly.
Identify With the Hearer
The very first thing that is important for a teacher is that he must identify with his hearers. He must identify with the people that he is teaching.
When you are teaching you firstly cannot teach what you have not learned. So you have to learn to put yourself right there in the seat of the person who is listening to you and say,
“Let me look at myself. Let me identify with this person, and let me look at him and see myself as I was before God taught me these things. How was my thinking and my understanding?”
Assume that the person that is sitting there is in the position that you were before God showed you these things. In this way you can identify with a person, and you can start to think through his or her thoughts.
You can begin to identify how God showed you these things. And you can begin to pour it into that person and get them to learn it in the same way that God taught it to you.
Identify Their Level
You must identify who you are teaching and the level of their maturity. Are you speaking to children? Are you speaking to young people? Or are you speaking to middle aged people or old folks?
Each of them has different needs. Each of them has different intellectual capabilities, and each of them absorb information in a different way.
Also if you are going to be able to reach people, you need to look at those that you are teaching and say,
“Who am I ministering to? And what is the best way for me to communicate to them what God has put in my heart and what He has taught me?”
You need to look at their needs. If you have a bunch of single people in front of you, you are not going to be preaching on marriage, except perhaps how to get a partner. You need to look at your audience.
If you are preaching to a bunch of old people, you will not be speaking about dating, unless they are single old people and looking to get remarried. They should have learned about dating by then.
Examine who you are teaching. Identify with your hearers and be sensitive to their needs.
You are not standing up there to impress people. You are standing up there to meet the needs of the people with the Word of God. That is what the Teaching Ministry is meant to do.
Encourage Them to Listen
You must make the people want to listen. You may assume,
“Well I’m the preacher. They have come to church and I assume they want to listen to me.”
No, they are probably coming out of guilt. They probably think that they have to go to church otherwise they are sinning. A lot of them are likely saying,
“Let’s get this over with. We will let him waffle on for an hour or so and then go home. At least I did my duty. I went to church on Sunday.”
No, you must make people want to listen to you. A teacher has the ability to have people eating out of his hand. You are going to have to get the attention of the people, and you are going to have to keep their attention.
Do you know how you can do this? You will keep their attention by painting pictures.
Use of Stories and Humor
Everybody remembers a story. If you have no other stories or examples, share with them and teach them some of your own experiences.
Look at nature. There are all sorts of places that you can take pictures from. I will look at that further as we go on.
You must keep their attention. Try and use a little bit of humor. Did you know that it is all right to laugh in church? You are allowed to have fun in church.
You did not know that did you? Well then you just learned something new. You are allowed to have fun in church. You are allowed to laugh and even tell jokes.
My Opening Story
When I first went into ministry, at one time it was standard procedure that I would start every message with a joke. I would do this especially if I went to a new church for the first time.
There was a time when I was given a chance to travel round to all the different branches of our denomination in the country. I would have a turn to go and preach while their pastor was away. I was a kind of a fill-in or a substitute.
I had a lovely story that I always used to tell. I would stand there and see these people looking at me and thinking,
“I wonder what we have here today; probably one of these long, boring preachers.”
I would stand up there in all seriousness and look at them. I could see they were sizing me out and saying,
“Oh boy, I wonder what we have here today. I wonder what we are going to have to suffer through.”
Then I would tell this wonderful story that broke the ice every time.
There was once a preacher who was asked to fill in for a friend of his who was away. So as he stood up that morning in the church to preach he said,
“Folks, I just want you to know that I am filling in for your regular pastor this morning. I’m a substitute this morning.
Now just so that you can understand what a substitute is, let me explain it to you. You know sometimes you break a pane of glass in a window and you don’t have another pane to put in its place.
So what you do is you put a piece of cardboard in there as a temporary measure, to stop all the wind coming through. The piece of cardboard acts as a substitute for the real glass.”
He said, “Today I am like that. I am a substitute. I’m not the real thing, but I’m filling in for the guy who is regularly here.”
So he preached and shared his message. Afterwards as he was standing at the door and people came to shake his hand, a little old sister came up to him and shook his hand.
She said, “Brother, you were no substitute today. You were a real pane.”
I used to tell that same joke, and people would always laugh at it and it would break the ice. I would look at them and say,
“You don’t have to be scared of me. We are going to have some fun in the presence of the Lord. I want to teach you the Word and show you something real today. Hey, I’m just an ordinary guy. Don’t worry, I just preach for two hours at a time.”
You see I would break the ice. I could have preached for two hours, and they would have sat there and listened because I had them eating out of my hand. I identified with them and came down to where they were.
I began to speak some of the thoughts they had and say,
“I know what you guys are thinking. I know you’re looking at me and sizing me up and thinking, ‘Oh yeah?’ “
I would see their faces begin to break out in smiles and the ice would be broken. Identify with those that you are ministering to. That is what a good teacher will always do.
Use Simple Language
A teacher uses language that everybody understands. What happens if you have a mixed congregation?
What happens if you have people there who are from a high strata in society? Or perhaps you have doctors and lawyers there and people who are well educated.
Well let me tell you that ordinary folks cannot understand the language that doctors and lawyers use. But doctors and lawyers are not that dumb that they cannot understand the language of the ordinary person.
So what you do is you aim for the lowest person. You make your message and present your teaching in such a way that the youngest child there will be able to understand it.
You know our kids often listened to the teachings that we were giving to teachers, prophets and apostles. At the time of writing this we had little 3, 4 and 8 year old kids who heard us preaching.
They listened to us making copies of the tapes, and we played them over and over again. Then they came and asked us questions like,
“Hey Dad, what were you talking about there? What did you mean about that? I remember you talking about this. Can you explain it to me?”
The language was simple enough that they began to think and their minds began to turn. And even though they may not have fully understood it, things were being bred and built into them, because we were not using big, theological words that nobody else could understand.
We were speaking the language of the ordinary person. We were using vocabulary that an ordinary person, even a child, could understand.
If you cannot do that then you are not a teacher. You are just standing up trying to impress everyone with your intellect. That is not the teaching function.
No Slang and Bad Grammar
You do not need to go to the opposite extreme either. You do not have to use slang and low-level colloquial language or cliche communication in order to communicate with people. All you need to use is good grammar.
There is nothing wrong with that. You can use good grammar with simple vocabulary and simple words. You do not need to use great big words that nobody understands.
I can use big words. I love it when I get a letter sometimes from someone who thinks he is going to impress me with his intellect. He puts all his PhD’s and doctorates behind his name and he wants to impress me.
Then I write him back a letter in his kind of language with all the big words. And very often I do not hear from him again. I wonder why? People think they will come with their great intellect and look down on this little preacher here.
They think, “Reading the articles on his site, the poor guy doesn’t seem to be well educated. His English is so plain and simple. I think I need to impress this guy with my superior education.”
Chapter 05 – Ministry to Every Area
I can compete with people at any level of education. I do not need to, because that does not minister the Word of God. It does not teach.
Jesus taught the ordinary people. Men, women and children all flocked to Him. He could take the kids on His lap, speak the Word to them and teach them. He could minister to any level. He could minister to the poor people as well as those in high places.
Paul could do the same. He could stand before the Governor Felix, and he spoke before the king and queen.
He stood up on Mars Hill, where the highest intellect of the day gathered to hear this speaker. Paul stood up there and he competed with them on their own level and got nowhere. I think when he left there Paul said to himself,
“I don’t think I’m going to do that again.”
I think he thought that, because he wrote to the Corinthians that he went to afterwards and he said,
“When I came to you, I determined to know nothing amongst you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I’m tired of trying to speak to these intellectuals.”
You cannot reach them with their heads. You have to reach them with their spirits. It does not come by head knowledge and natural capability. You do not need to use slang. You can use good grammar and simple English.
Use expressions that people understand. This is so important. We came from Africa where there were certain expressions that meant something very different in America.
When we were in that end of the world, it took us a while to realize that if we used common expressions in our language that we were used to, people started looking at us and saying,
“What is he talking about?”
We had to change. We could have said,
“These stupid Americans have it all wrong. They don’t know how to spell. They have the wrong expressions and the wrong terms for everything. I’ll just have to educate them my way.”
No, you are spitting against the wind. Do not even bother trying that one. You just identify with the people you are speaking to.
Identify With the Culture
I became all things to all men. To the rich I became as a rich person; to the poor I became as a poor person; to the Jews I became as a Jew; to the Gentiles I became as a Gentile.
You must identify with the people that you are speaking to and identify with their culture.
If you are speaking to a different racial group, you do not promote things that are contrary to what they believe. You do not promote things that cause racial discord. That is foolish.
You are there to minister the Word. You are there to communicate with people, to understand them, and to get them to be able to take the Word and feed it in their current situation.
The missionaries in the past made that mistake so often. They went all the way over to Africa and tried and teach the African people to become like them and to fit into their culture. This is wrong.
You will find that those who were the most successful were the ones who walked in to a place like China. They started to wear Chinese clothes and started to eat rice. They began to mix in with the people and be just like them.
They started to learn their language and their culture. Eventually you looked at the person, and unless you looked closely, you thought he was another Chinaman.
That is how you get to minister to people. You bring yourself down to their level. You become one with them and you identify with them.
Start With the Known
The last and most important point is the teacher teaches the known from the unknown. The teacher must use pictures. How do you to teach the known from the unknown? You have to start with the known.
Supposing I had both my hands closed. I had something hidden in each hand, and I was trying to show you what was in the one hand. I might say to you,
“What I have in the one hand is the same as what I have in the other hand.”
What have I taught you? Absolutely nothing, because you cannot see what is in either hand. I must first open the one hand and show you what is in it. Then I can say,
“Do you see what’s in this hand? It is the same thing that is in that one.”
You must use similes and metaphors, illustrations and pictures. What did the Master Teacher of all time do? He stood up and said,
The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto…
Then He told them a story. He said,
“The Kingdom of God is like this. It is like a sower that went forth to sow seed.”
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like this. It is like 10 virgins who went out to trim their lamps.”
He told so many stories, parables and illustrations, so that He could get deep truths down to the ordinary, simple people. Well where are you going to get the pictures from? You might say,
“If I am to use illustrations, I will have to get a whole list of them.”
So you go out and buy a book of illustrations; a book of preachers’ stories and anecdotes. Have you seen them? You can buy them.
You go and buy this book of illustrations that you can use in your teaching. And now you have a thousand preachers out there who are all using the same stories and the same illustrations. Eventually it becomes stale food.
Share Personal Experiences
Why do you have to go and get stories and illustrations from somebody else? Haven’t you lived yet? Have you not had experiences in life yet?
I began this section by telling you about my experiences in the army. I did not have to pick up a book and read about someone who was in the army and the kind of food that they ate.
I could describe it to you from my very own experience. It became real, it became relevant, and you could see I knew what I was talking about.
That is what teaching is about. It is about taking your very own experience and imparting it to others. If you want illustrations though you do not have to look far. Look around you and pick anything.
There is a light bulb in my room. I can use a light bulb as an illustration. There is a curtain on the window. I can use that. There are drums here in the room. I can use that, and I can talk about a fan that is blowing on me. There is a clock on the wall.
I could pull about 20 illustrations just from where I am right now. You can take those illustrations and you can allegorize them and use them to illustrate spiritual truths.
When someone comes and asks you a question, do you have to sit and think,
“I remember reading up on this somewhere. Now how did the teacher describe this one?”
Tough Questions From a Kid
When my little son was growing up, he would come to me at times and ask me questions like,
“Dad, where’s heaven, and how do I know Jesus is in my heart?”
He asked difficult questions. How do you explain to a little child something that you studied in theological books? You take what he knows; something simple. He came to me once and he said,
“Dad, if I’m naughty will the Lord stop loving me?”
I looked at him and said,
“John, when you are naughty do I stop loving you?”
He said, “No dad, you still love me.”
I said, “Do you think the Lord Jesus loves you worse than what I do? He has far more love than I will ever have. Of course He still loves you when you’re naughty. His love does not depend on the things that you do.”
You see you do not have to look far for pictures and illustrations. You have to start with something that a person knows. Then taking that known, you take it and you transfer it into a spiritual truth. That is the ability of the teacher. He can use all different categories.
No Bible Commentaries
There is a saying that says,
A picture is worth a thousand words.
You can use a lot of illustrations. And if you want to go and teach people at a higher level, there is no better commentary of the Scriptures than the Scripture itself.
You do not have to pull out the commentaries. There are some huge ones. You have Matthew Henry’s commentary, and you have the New Bible Dictionary. You have Jamison Faucet and Brown and you have Strongs. There are all sorts of different Bible helps out there.
Somebody may come to you and say,
“I have a problem. My wife wants to leave me.”
What are you going to say?
“Just hold it a moment. Let me just pull out my commentaries and my concordances. Just give me a half an hour or so, so that I can pull together all the Scriptures and I’ll be able to help you.”
Forget it; his wife has packed her bags and she has gone. You need an answer right now.
How are you going to do it? You have to identify with this person. You have to take the Word, feed it to them and get it to meet their need right now.