This teaching is a highly personalized account—a small part of my complete life story—sharing with you about how Jesus and Holy Spirit graciously gave me a second birth and first “called” and “commissioned” me to be a teacher of the Bible and related subjects, and how throughout my lifetime Jesus has equipped me to teach. And, I will share with you some personal matters about my lifelong teaching experiences. I hope it proves to be an inspirational story. . . .
Okay, here we go. Let’s start almost at the very beginning. I grew up like most young boys in USAmerica around the time of WWII, not having a clue about what I wanted to do in my adult life—except maybe the usual . . . to be a soldier, fighter pilot, fireman, policeman, or cowboy. But really no clue whatsoever. I graduated high school at age 17, and a few months after that was given a choice to be sent either to the state “Reform School” for a few years or join the military for a few years. I won’t bother you with the details about why I faced those particular choices.
I was just smart enough to realize that Reform School didn’t seem like the best choice of the two. The Armed Forces recruiting office was a few doors down the street from the apartment where I lived, so I just walked in there one mild September day after my June high school graduation and signed up for a four-year tour in the military—still not having any clue about what I wanted to do with my life.
I’ll make a long story very short at this point. I had been raised in a fairly non-religious home where there wasn’t much ever said about God. Oh, I had been in church buildings a few times when I was a child, but had never really known anything about God, or if there really was a God; I had never seen a Bible up close or ever opened one, for example. Again, no clue about anything religious. I had simply led a very self-centered, self-absorbed God-less life. I was a “practical atheist” or a “modern pagan.” That’s just the way it was . . . I don’t want to fault my family that I had next to none religious upbringing; we were simply what I choose to call a “modern pagan” family—a fairly decent middle-class family with very little religion as part of our lives.
Many “mysterious” and uncanny happenings—”God moments”—occurred during about a six-month period leading up to my second birth event. As a result of those previous God moments, one day while standing in the shower of the barracks where I lived, I shouted out into thin air: “God, damn you, if you really are real, then make yourself real to me!” (Forgive the language, but those were my exact words.) Dear reader, that was my “conversion” experience; that was the nanosecond in time in which I was born again as a new creation in Jesus. At that precise moment in time, the Living Lord Jesus came to take up permanent residence inside me in his “unbodied form” of Holy Spirit, His “unbodied other Self,” and He has been living inside me ever since that moment! But, as usual with me at the time it happened, again I had no clue about what to do next or about what the future held for me.
All I knew was that somehow I had become a new creation in Jesus that moment in the shower. Somehow I knew in my “knower” that I was embarking upon a brand-new lifelong journey that was going to be unlike anything I had ever dreamed of or imagined. I immediately had this strange, inner urging to begin attending Church, so the very next Sunday I showed up bright and early at a little neighborhood Church I had spotted one day while I was driving around the city near the military base where I was stationed. I didn’t know what “brand” of Church it was or what people did in that building, but I just felt that was where I should be the next Sunday morning. Only God knows how hard it was for me to walk into that building that first Sunday morning, but I summoned up some kind of new, inner strength, parked my car, walked up to the front door, and stepped inside . . . into the unknown.
I had even purchased a huge Bible (I mean h-u-g-e!) a few days after that moment in the shower; I just felt inside myself that’s what I should do. I reasoned that if I was going to be a “good” new follower of Jesus, I should have the largest Bible I could afford to buy—to show people how serious I was about my new life. I carried that huge Bible into that little Church that Sunday morning and everybody looked at me and at my huge Bible very strangely. To this day, I wonder what they were thinking upon seeing this skinny, 112-pound teenager walk into Church that morning carrying that huge Bible that weighed almost as much as he did. But they were very gracious, greeted me warmly, and invited me to have coffee with them after the service.
The Pastor even came up to me and talked with me for quite a while; I figured he was sort of checking out who I was and why I was there with my huge Bible. (I was overwhelmed that he would deign to visit with me: I didn’t know whether to bow or kiss his ring or call him “Sir” . . . whatever) By the way, I gave that huge Bible away a couple of months later to a large family in the Church (I figured they needed a large family Bible since they were a large family), and bought another Bible that was a lot more portable and easier to carry around.
Those were the first few days of the beginning of my new life of following Jesus after I had been born again. And I’ve been letting Jesus live His own eternal, uncreated, self-existent, abundant LIFE in me, and through me, and as me for many years since that moment in the shower. A couple of weeks after I began attending that little Church (I was there for every service they had—even mistakenly walking into a “Board meeting” I shouldn’t have been at; hey, I figured a “good new believer in Jesus” should be there every time the doors were open!), the Pastor approached me one Sunday morning after the worship service and said he wanted to ask me something.
He said there was a small country Church of their denomination just a few miles outside of town that had just lost their part-time Pastor. He asked me if I would consider going there for a few Sundays (until they got another Pastor) and teach their adult Sunday School class with about a dozen adults in regular attendance. I gulped and replied “Sure, I’ll be glad to,” even though I was shaking and almost ready to faint because I was so scared and weak in the knees. (One of the greatest fears of all adults worldwide is the fear of public speaking!) Perhaps my new Pastor saw something in me that caused him to think I could do that even though I had been a new follower of Jesus for only a few weeks. I was scared to death, but I respected my Pastor and figured he wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t think I could do it.
I was up late every night in my barracks for the next week, poring through the pages of my huge Bible and putting together extensive notes for what I would teach, as usual in those early days not really having a clue about what I was doing. I even remember the subject of my “lesson” to this day, but I don’t remember any of the details. It was about the young man, David, in the Bible and five smooth stones he selected for his sling–to go into battle against the giant Goliath. I even thought I had over-prepared, with enough notes for about 3 hours worth of teaching just so I couldn’t possibly run out of material.
I arrived at the little country Church the next Sunday, was warmly greeted by the people there, and I launched into my “lesson.” I had even purchased a new suit—my first ever—for the occasion; it was light grey with dark blue specks in it—a “zoot suit”; I wouldn’t be caught dead in it today. Hey, I wanted to do this new “Jesus-believer thing” right—with a new suit and my new Bible. No one except God will ever know how nervous and frightened I was that Sunday morning, especially just the raw fear of speaking in front of people for the first time in my life. Well, I went through all my 3-hours’ worth of notes in about 15 minutes and there I stood with nothing more to teach!
I gulped and asked the people if they had anything they wanted to share by way of testimonial about what God was doing in their lives. They responded well, and before we knew it the Sunday School hour was over, and we were having coffee. Most of the adults in attendance even patted me on the back and congratulated this skinny, 112-pound young man with the new suit and Bible for presenting such a great lesson. As the saying goes, the rest is history . . . I knew that I knew in my “knower” from that very Sunday many years ago that God was “calling” me to be a teacher. To “confirm” that call, two weeks later a very strange thing happened to me.
Once again, I was standing in the shower in my barracks. I heard a voice saying these exact words to me: “Bill, I have called you and will equip you to be a teacher of the Bible and related subjects in and to the worldwide Body of Jesus, without any exclusiveness!” Can you imagine what was going through my mind just then? First of all, I had heard a voice right out of thin air; that alone just about did me in, but I knew in my “knower” it was God’s voice. Second, to hear those words (which are forever emblazoned indelibly on my mind) just about fried my brain cells. What in the world was that all about? I could scarcely believe the words, much less understand all that they meant. Again, no clue at the time . . .
Anyhow, from that very day forward God has kept me involved in a lifelong “project” to equip me to be a teacher. I have been very humbled and privileged to have been able to attend the world’s premiere (and very difficult and arduous) Bible School right after my first enlistment in the Armed Forces ended, to graduate from college a few years later (the first one in my family for generations), to earn two difficult master’s degrees from a leading Christian university, and even to be awarded a “lifelong learning PhD” degree. (I don’t really count that last one, however, because it’s not an “earned” degree like my others; not many people even know it was awarded to me; don’t tell anyone else, okay?) And, I’ve been able to earn many other graduate hours of credit in various subjects in addition to my degrees. Yes, in respect to just sheer formal academic education, God has been very gracious to me—far beyond anything I could have ever imagined while standing in that shower years ago.
Yes, I’m grateful for all my secular and Christian education, BUT I’m even more deeply grateful that God has allowed me through the years to read and study my Bible all the way through many, many times. I don’t tell many people this (because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but now my secret is out): I’ve been deeply privileged to have read and studied the Bible completely through over a hundred times—and I intend to continue reading and studying it as many more times as I’m able to. Why am I telling you that? The simple fact is that a person cannot be a teacher of the Bible and related subjects without knowing their Bible! Period!
Don’t ever presume to tell anyone that you are a “called and equipped” teacher of the Bible and related subjects if you do not read, and read, and re-read, and study, and study, and re-study your Bible daily! It just doesn’t work without that kind of commitment to daily reading and studying the Bible, God’s Living Word, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and applying it to your life daily. Those are seemingly harsh statements, but it’s true!
Don’t read books about the Book, read the Book! I’m not saying that books about the Bible and related subjects aren’t good, but they’re only secondary to reading and studying the Bible. Books about the Bible are good. Sunday school teacher’s manuals are good. Christian magazines and periodicals are good. Denominational teaching publications are good. Theology books are good. But, the good is always the enemy of the best!
Yes, read and study your Bible. God’s Word, the Bible, will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible! Those are just pithy sayings, but they’re true, dear reader!
Since I heard God’s voice that day in the shower many years ago, God has been very faithful in letting me teach “in and to the worldwide Body of Jesus Christ,” as He promised me. I have been privileged to teach all over the United States one-on-one, in home groups, Churches, and auditoriums; in the jungles and villages of Central and South America; in a large city in China; and in the world’s largest Church in South Korea (700,000 members!). My latest overseas teachings took me to the former Soviet Union nation of Belarus.
I have been privileged to teach one-on-one, clear up to teaching many hundreds and even thousands of people; I once taught an audience of 25,000 people! Young and old. Rich and poor. Educated and uneducated. Literate and illiterate. Handsome and homely. Large crowds. Small groups. One-on-one. Well-dressed and poorly dressed . . . To this day, I can scarcely believe how privileged I am to have been able to teach so many people in so many places throughout the world.
And now, in the past few years by means of this web site and by means of ZOOM and FaceBook, my teachings are being studied by thousands more students throughout the world: Russia, Africa, Indonesia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, all over the United States, wherever. And I’ll be able to go on teaching by means of this web site long after I’m dead—as long as someone maintains and keeps up the web site. I like that reference in Hebrews 11: 4 that says ” . . . Though he died, yet he is still speaking.” Isn’t modern computer technology amazing? Even after I die, I’ll still be able to go on teaching.
God has been s-o-o-o faithful to me. To this very day, I remain overwhelmed with his grace and mercy that have allowed me to teach the Bible and related subjects for many years now—just as He told that skinny, uneducated, young 18-year old in that shower many years ago! In the words of an old song: “Great is your faithfulness, O God, My Father; morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed, your hand has provided. Great is your faithfulness, Lord, unto me!” To God be the glory; great things He has done in my life! It’s not about me . . . . . . It’s all about Him!
Well, that’s my story about how God called me and equipped me to be a teacher. Now I want to share with you some of the most important things He has taught me about teaching through the years that I hope will be meaningful and helpful to you. I want to present my thoughts to you in an organized and clear manner, but I have a tendency to ramble, prattle, chatter, and get kind of wordy, so I hope you’ll bear with me and be patient with me as you read on.
I feel I need to mention something else at this point—for a few paragraphs. I’m not an evangelist; I’m not a very effective “soul winner.” I have not been called to teach “outside” the Body of Jesus—only in and to the Body of Christ. But I have not neglected pre-saved or pre-converted people. I have also taught various biblically related and biblically-based subjects outside the Body of Jesus—courses such as “Increasing Human Effectiveness,” various psychology and behavioral science courses, “Business English,” “Create Your Own Future,” “Debt-Free Living,” “Effective Public Speaking” (Can you believe that? Me? Teaching public speaking? And I’ve been very good at it. God must have a sense of humor. Remember that horrible, gut-wrenching fear I felt as I faced my first public speaking event?), “Effective Resume Writing,” and a number of other so-called secular courses, workshops, and seminars.
But those types of courses are not what I have been primarily “called” to teach as one of God’s “people-gifts” to the Church. Some of the secular courses I have taught through the years have been very successful, but, again, that is not my primary calling. Some people have received Jesus into their lives as a result of those courses, particularly during one-on-one private, follow-up counseling sessions resulting from the courses. As I have taught in and to the Body of Jesus (the Church) through the years, most of my audiences have consisted largely of believers in Jesus, but during the normal course of my teachings, many pre-Jesus believers have also been in my meetings and have received Jesus into their lives and have been born again.
I praise God for that, but, again, that has not been my primary audience. As I have taught in and to the Church, many, many believers have been baptized in Holy Spirit (see Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, and John 1, as well as several incidents recorded in the Book of Acts), many people have been filled with Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 5: 18), and many people have learned to “walk in the Spirit” daily.
So . . . there has been much good “fruit” in both my secular teaching and my teaching of the Bible and related subjects in and to the Body of Jesus. I just felt God wanted me to explain that to you at this point in this teaching. Okay, let’s now leave behind my “testimonial” part of this teaching and move on to some teaching about what the Bible teaches about teaching. Also, let’s examine what it means to be “called” and “commissioned” to teach. First, Romans 12: 7, 1 Corinthians 12: 28 and 29, and Ephesians 4: 11 in the Bible are clear that the gift of teaching is just that—it is a gift—a supernatural “people-gift”—of God given to the Church by God. It is a supernatural gift given to the Church by God the Father, administered by God the Son, and operated by God the Holy Spirit.
One does not simply wake up one morning and choose to become a teacher of the Bible and related subjects because it may seem a good thing to do or because the Director of Education in your Church has asked you to teach a Church School class. No, it doesn’t work that way! One must be supernaturally “gifted” to be a teacher in and to the Body of Jesus. It is a supernatural gift of God to the Church, not merely heightened human knowledge and understanding of a person who arbitrarily decides they want to be a teacher. You are either supernaturally gifted and called to be a teacher in and to the Body of Jesus, or you are not.
Here’s how I define the Body of Jesus—the Church. The Church is comprised of everyone everywhere and everywhen in whom Jesus lives by means of Holy Spirit, His “unbodied other Self.”
(NOTE: I want to clarify at this point that I am writing about Jesus-believing teachers called and equipped to teach the Bible and related subjects, not about Jesus-believing teachers who are called and trained to teach in secular settings such as public schools or college and universities, public seminars and workshops, etc. Some of the same principles apply in both situations, but I am addressing only the first type of teacher in this teaching. For example, I once taught in public middle and high schools and post-secondary school settings for a few years, but that’s not the same as what I’m addressing in this teaching. It would take another teaching to address Jesus believing teachers who teach other than the Bible and related subjects. Just wanted to make that clear.
As part of this note, I also want to briefly mention the matter of Jesus-believing teachers who feel “called” to home school their children . . . and Jesus-believing teachers who teach in Christian schools. Are “called” home school teachers and Jesus-believing teachers in Christian schools the same as those Jesus believing teachers who teach in the public arena, OR, are they Jesus-believing teachers supernaturally “gifted” by Holy Spirit as we are describing in this teaching? I have mixed feelings; I honestly don’t know. Unless Holy Spirit enlightens me to the contrary, however, my present understanding is that home school teachers and Jesus-believing teachers in Christian schools are among the supernaturally gifted ones—not among those Jesus believing teachers who are called and equipped to teach in secular settings.
One thing you must do at the very beginning of your ministry of teaching the Bible and related subjects in and to the Body of Jesus is to make certain you are truly Called, Commissioned, Consecrated, and Caparisoned (caparisoned means fully decked out, covered, outfitted, adorned, equipped). I threw that last word in for free, just to stick with the alliteration of four “C’s.” It’s something many teachers do. 2 Peter 1: 10 says you must be absolutely certain of your calling! If you’re not absolutely certain God has called you to be a teacher, then just don’t do it! You’ll save yourself immeasurable frustration, heartbreak, and defeat. Maybe you’ve been called, instead, to be another type of teacher. If so, that’s okay.
Note that when it comes to knowing and being certain of God’s calling to be a teacher, it has nothing to do with human knowledge and understanding. When it comes to being certain of God’s calling to be a teacher, nothing is more lamentable than dead and ossified knowledge: fallible human understanding instead of divine perception. We must have “God’s truth” about our calling. A person can learn much, but learning is not necessarily true knowledge. The only true source of infallible certainty is divine illumination of the Bible, God’s Word. And, only that type of divine illumination can “call” and equip a teacher who is certain of his or her calling.
If you are not a “gift-teacher,” called and commissioned by God to teach in and to the Body of Jesus, you will experience nothing but frustration, stress, anxiety, and defeat if you simply decide on your own that you are a teacher, no matter how talented, educated, and polished you might be in conveying knowledge and understanding. It just won’t work if you are not a bona fide, gifted teacher to the Body of Jesus. Through the years I have seen many, many non-gifted teachers fall by the wayside and quit out of frustration, defeat, and feelings of futility!
Another way to look at the supernatural gift of teaching is this. One of the roles of Holy Spirit is “Teacher.” (See John 16: 13 and 14: 27) The gift of the Spirit called the “gift of teaching” simply flows out from the teaching heart of Holy Spirit through called and equipped teachers. That’s just Who Holy Spirit is and how He works. He can’t help but teach. And when God calls someone to be a teacher, they can’t help but teach, either. It’s not a chore, it’s not difficult, it’s not frustrating, it’s not hard. It’s fun and fulfilling most of the time. Oh, teaching takes a lot of Bible study and preparation, but even that aspect of it is fun and challenging.
Speaking of preparation, one “rule of thumb” I’ve learned over the years is that it generally takes about 3 hours of preparation for every one hour of teaching. You can’t wake up Sunday morning and scurry around trying to put together a lesson for that morning’s Sunday School class or home school session. You do your students a grave injustice and disrespect them if you do not adequately prepare.
Alright, let’s assume you are one of God’s “teacher gifts” to the Church. What does that mean? Let’s examine the biblical definitions of the words teach, teaching, and teacher. In most cases, teach, teacher, or teaching in the Bible comes from the root Greek word, didasko. That’s the main word used in the Bible; there are other, similar, words which carry many shades of meaning in the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages in which the Bible was written, but we won’t take the time to examine each of them in detail.
Didasko is where we get the English word, “didactic,” which means to help others learn knowledge and wisdom from God. Other words in the Bible mean to cause to understand or know; to warn; to cause to shine (I like that one, don’t you?), to chastise; to cause to act wisely; to explain thoroughly; to make a disciple; to sharpen; to repeat over and over; to expose different things; to interpret; to share good things (as well as bad things); to cause to hatch; to thresh; and to break (as in “to break bread”).
Wow! Quite a number of shades of meaning huh? I could spend a page or two just sharing some thoughts with you about almost every one of those shades of meaning. The main point I see in all those shades of meaning is that it is a serious responsibility to be a teacher! As just one example of such responsibility, look at 2 Timothy 3: 16 and 17 for some sobering foundational reasons for teaching the Bible and related subjects.
Some other shades of meaning I especially like are these: opening a door or lifting a veil over the mind; to pull out from the mind; and, finally, mind-engraver. That last one is my favorite definition. If God has called you to be a teacher, then at one time or another your teaching will carry all those shades of meaning as you teach and share with others. What a responsibility. Think, for example, of being a mind engraver of people’s lives for all time and eternity!
Speaking of the responsibilities of teaching, please turn with me now and read James 3: 1 and 2. You ought to have that biblical reference memorized and emblazoned on your mind—and be acutely conscious of it every waking moment. We teachers are held accountable for exemplifying Jesus in all that we do and say. Government, business, and military leaders are seldom judged on their personal lives.
God’s gifted teachers, however, are judged not only by what they accomplish in their teaching, but also by the personal character they display to the world around them—who they are as well as what they do. This high standard applies to their achievements as well as to the condition of their minds and hearts. Dear readers, it’s a very high calling to be one of God’s “teacher gifts” in and to the Church. Take it seriously!
Where do we learn about how to teach the Bible and related subjects? I’ve already intimated how we need to seek to get the best education and teaching methods available. You can never learn enough; you can never say you have arrived; you can never stop learning. But, the very best way to learn to teach is to study the example of Jesus, the greatest Teacher Who has ever lived!
Study, study, and study again and again the teaching ministry of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You can’t just read them now and then. They must become part of the very fabric of who you are. You must study them as if you were studying for the greatest test in your life. And then study them again. Jesus is the greatest Teacher Who has ever lived! Study His life and ministry. Emulate his teaching methods. To write about His teaching ministry in and of itself would comprise another lengthy teaching. There are hundreds of books (and much information on the internet) about Jesus’ teaching ministry and methods.
Rely upon Holy Spirit to teach you daily through the entire Bible about Jesus. Holy Spirit lives inside us in our spirits, and one of his teaching tasks is to continually teach us about Jesus and bring to our remembrance all that Jesus said, did, and taught during his earthly ministry (John 14: 26 and John 16: 13). It is our job as teachers in and to the Body of Jesus to continue to teach what Jesus “began to do and teach.” (Acts 1: 1). If we don’t teach successfully about Jesus, then the Church is only one generation away from extinction!
God is depending on you as a gifted teacher to carry on the teaching ministry Jesus began. It’s a weighty responsibility. God doesn’t expect any of his teachers to be perfect teachers or persons; He simply expects them to be “plain ol’ humans,” teaching the Bible and related subjects, carrying on the teaching ministry of Jesus to each generation. Pray that God will continually “call,” commission, and equip gifted teachers and that they will be even better teachers than you are, constantly breaking the Bread of Life to hungry people! Pour yourself into the lives of others!
The gift of teaching is given to individuals and to the Church as a whole so God the Holy Spirit can clearly transmit God’s purposes—for the Church—to the Church—from the Bible, as the gifted teacher teaches them. To do so, Holy Spirit engraves His thoughts in the minds of His teachers, sharpens their minds, and gives them life-changing understanding, knowledge, and wisdom about God’s purposes as found in the Bible.
The gift of teaching is not only used to transmit God’s knowledge and wisdom and His purposes, but it should also cause people to take action upon what they have been taught. In other words, people should respond to your teaching and be changing, growing, developing, and maturing as a result of it. The Bible which you teach to your students is a sharp, two-edged sword (Hebrews 4: 12), not merely instilling wisdom and knowledge in your students, BUT also causing them to take action upon what they have learned. If that is not happening when you teach, you need to check out your content and methods. Your teaching must result in change, growth, and development in your students as they are continually re-created and restored into the image of Jesus. If your teaching is not doing that, something is amiss.
Here’s what all your teaching of the Bible and related subjects should result in. This is merely a listing of what the “fruit” of your teaching should be; if I went into detail about each of these points, it would take 10 more pages, so I’m just going to list these “fruits” of your teaching and let you look up various references to support each of them:
- Your teaching should impart spiritual truth; that’s pretty basic, but it’s true.
- Your teaching should honor and glorify Jesus in every aspect and in every respect.
- What you teach should endow other Jesus believers to intelligently and effectively proclaim the Gospel of Jesus with the power of Holy Spirit.
- Your teaching should “fill” believers in Jesus, so their lives are controlled by Holy Spirit.
- Your teaching should pour God’s love into the hearts of your students.
- Your teaching should enable and equip Jesus believers to become more whole (holy).
- Your teaching should “impart” supernatural gifts for ministry.
- Your teaching should help strengthen the inner being of Jesus believers.
- You should see clear, observable results of your students’ lives being re-created and restored into the image of Jesus.
So . . . there you have sort of a checklist for you to use in performing a “self checkup” to see whether or not your teaching is regularly and consistently bearing fruit in the lives of your students. Here’s something else—very important—you need to be continually aware of as you teach, too—either to one person or to great crowds of people, wherever and whenever God calls you to teach. Please read Matthew 13: 3 – 9 and 18 – 23. It’s the familiar Parable of the Sower (and Jesus’ explanation of the Parable). Notice that the sower (teacher) sowed into the lives of 4 types of listeners (students).
First, there will always be some students who will—because of unenlightenment and lack of perception—never receive and process what you teach (“inwardly digest” it), no matter how much they want to or how much you want them to. (that’s verse 19). Some people just don’t “get it” and never will. If you don’t realize that ahead of time, you could get very discouraged when you don’t see the results you hope for. If you expect to be disappointed at times, then you won’t be.
Yes, some of your students will just never grow and develop. They will remain merely infant believers, but just never grow beyond that first step of becoming a Jesus believer. I’m sure you can think of one or more people in your Church or local Christian fellowship who are like that. I don’t know why that is—and I don’t necessarily like it—but I simply accept it as a fact of life. I’m not judging this first type of student, merely telling you that’s just the way it is.
The second type of students are those who lead “shallow” lives. At first, they receive your teaching with joy and excitement, but their roots are in shallow soil (verses 20 and 21). When things begin to go wrong and they come under pressure, they “stumble” and don’t take heed to the life-changing truths you have taught them. Dear teacher friend, that’s just the way it is, and you can expect those types of people to stumble and fall away. Don’t fret or become disappointed. Just recognize that phenomenon and move on. Again, I’m not judging anyone.
The third type of students are those who are distracted by the cares of this world and their quest or greed for money. I’m thinking of one of my students right now who, on the surface, has appeared to lead a godly life for years, but underneath he is always striving for things of this world and for financial success—at the expense of cultivating his personal relationship with God. I’m not judging him or condemning him. He “talks the talk,” but doesn’t “walk” it. That’s just who he is and I’m not very hopeful he’ll ever be any different until he arrives on the other side of death and realizes and admits what he’s really been like for many years. Even when I have privately approached him many times about the matter, he just seems oblivious to the seriousness of it. He, too, just doesn’t “get it.” His obsessive quest for money and its distractions continually override his relationship with God.
But, praise God for the fourth type of students! They’re the “good ground” of verse 23. If it weren’t for them I’d get really discouraged some times. They hear your teaching, receive it into their lives, and let God use it to change and “grow'” their lives, to restore them and re-create them into Jesus’ image, and bring forth good and abundant fruit—some a hundred-fold, some sixty, and some thirty. I Praise God daily for this type of learner (but I still pray that some in the first three groups will at least bring forth some fruit—even twenty-fold or ten-fold, or one-fold . . . anything! But it seems like that is just not to be.). Yes, Praise God with me for the fourth group of learners! They’re the ones who make it all worthwhile.
If you’ll continually keep those four types of students or learners in your mind as you teach you won’t get frustrated and discouraged over the first three types, and will thank God profusely for the fourth type of learner—God’s good soil which will bring forth abundant fruit! (See Galatians 5: 22 and 23 for some of the type of fruit God desires in the lives of your students.)
Now I invite you to turn to John 6: 45, 63, and 68. Here’s an important truth you should always keep in mind as you prepare and teach. God (Jesus) is the ultimate Teacher—THE TEACHER! All of our teaching should ultimately lead people to follow to Jesus because HE ALONE has the words of eternal LIFE! All of your teaching should always and ever in some way point to, lead to, and draw people to Jesus either directly or indirectly. If you teaching is not doing that, then something is wrong and you need to seriously re-examine your teaching content and methods.
You must know THE MIND OF JESUS through an ever-increasing study of the Bible, of which every book in the Bible ultimately points to Jesus. You simply can’t know the mind of Jesus and tap into his thoughts unless you are constantly reading and studying the Bible.
Finally now, I want to share with you some recommendations to enhance your own teaching ministry—before I share with you a few of the personal tips I have learned through the years.
First, I want to share with you my basic biblical text about teaching the Bible and related subjects; it’s found in Deuteronomy 32: 2 – 4:
“Let my teaching fall like gentle rain, my words be like nurturing morning dew. Let it be like spring showers on a garden, like abundant rain on new grass. For it’s God I’m teaching about. Praise the greatness of God, our Firm Foundation. His works are perfect, and the way He works is fair and just. He’s a good God you can depend upon—no exceptions, a trustworthy God.”
My “secondary” teaching credo is found in Nehemiah 8: 8:
“They shared the book about God and then explained it fully—amplifying it when necessary—so the hearers could clearly understand the meaning.”
Next, I encourage you to develop a personal teaching CREDO to guide you throughout your life in your teaching of the Bible and related subjects—whether you’re a substitute Sunday School teacher, a home group teacher, the Director of Christian Education in your Church, a home school teacher, a teacher in a Christian school, or a traveling teacher of some sort. Here’s my teaching Credo I developed shortly after I first fully realized God had called me to be a teacher:
- I am a Christian teacher, called, commissioned, energized, equipped, and empowered by Holy Spirit. My role model is Jesus, the Master Teacher. My position is one of sacred trust to teach within the broad scope of Judeo-Christian, biblically based tenets. In discharging my duties of that trust:
- I seek to teach the truth at my level of understanding and state of awareness—truth which is ultimately resident in, and personified by, Jesus.
- I continually strive to increase my spiritual knowledge, level of understanding, and state of awareness, expand my comprehension, gain greater understanding, and deepen my wisdom, with full reliance upon the Spirit of God Who lives inside me. I rely upon Holy Spirit to enlighten my mind, illuminate the Bible, and teach me God’s thoughts therein.
- I pattern my personal behavior and my teaching methods upon Jesus and other biblical examples and principles. I commit to teaching and leading a life that will bring glory and honor to Jesus.
- I will always remain open to change in my growth, understanding, and attitudes about God, the Bible, and the future.
- I maintain a high standard of personal honesty and integrity.
- I recognize and respect the created uniqueness of each of my students, never attempting to re-create them and re-store them in my image, only to help them be re-created in and re-stored to God’s image.
- I deal impartially, justly, and lovingly with all my students, recognizing a wide range of personalities, backgrounds, levels of understanding, and states of awareness among them.
- I pray and strive for my students to become ever more whole (holy) and complete in Jesus.
- I contribute my time, talents, and money to, and loyally support, any educational institutions, organizations, and programs of which I am a part.
- I am always wondrously conscious of my responsibilities and privileges to serve God as one of His called and gifted teachers.
Feel free to use my Credo as is, use it as a springboard to help you develop your own, or just plain old develop your own. At any rate, I strongly encourage you to hammer out and develop your own Credo, memorize it, and be consciously aware of it at all times—whether you are a full-time teacher of one who simply substitutes as a Church school teacher from time to time. The important thing is to develop your own Credo and live and teach by it. Be professional. Be a teacher of excellence. Be a quality teacher. Take your calling as a teacher seriously!
Finally, let me share with you some “Timeless Teaching Tips” I have learned over my many years of teaching. I could share many more with you than these few, but these are some of the most important ones I have learned—the “cream of the crop,” so to speak:
- Always be aware you are teaching the WORD OF LIFE! that changes peoples’ lives for time and eternity. It’s a solemn task, having eternal consequences.
- Listen—truly listen!—when students ask questions and make comments. Don’t be thinking ahead about your answer or response while they ask a question or make a comment. Focus. Pay attention. When you truly listen, you are actually peering into that person’s inner being—their very soul and spirit!—while they are asking their question or making a comment.
- Never—ever!—rebuke a student in public, humiliate them, “put them down,” or speak out of anger. Don’t bring your anger or personal problems to class. Always meet with a student in complete privacy if there is a problem. Resolve the problem lovingly in private and don’t talk about it with others who don’t need to know about it. Praise in public, criticize in private!
- If a student asks a question you cannot answer at that moment, tell them you will find the answer and then get back to them. And then do what you promised! (For example, recently a student asked me what Proverbs 25: 22 means; I really didn’t know and it took me a while to find out, but I got back to the student with a suitable answer about two weeks later—the student was pleased, and it was a great learning experience for me.)
- Admit your mistakes! Don’t let foolish pride stand in the way of doing so. (Again, for example, a couple of weeks ago I made a misstatement to a student while we were studying the Book of Ephesians in a small-group setting. I didn’t realize my misstatement until later that evening. I telephoned the student the next morning and explained the matter to him. He was very touched and grateful that I did so. You are not perfect; you are human and you will make mistakes! God has chosen to transmit his great truths through cracked, “clay pots”—you and me—which are fragile and weak. (2 Corinthians 4: 7)
- Here’s a cardinal principle of human behavior you must always remember: Never, ever, ever, ever allow yourself to be trapped into arguing with a student. Arguments always create “heat,” not “light”! Even if your “side” of the argument is the “correct” one, as a wise man once said: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
- Realize Holy Spirit (Jesus in his “unbodied Spirit-form”) is THE TEACHER and you are merely an open and willing “conduit” of Bible truth. (John 6: 45)
- Always be studying and learning the Bible. Keep with you at all times a pen and some 3 x 5 cards or note paper. Don’t risk letting the thoughts and insights Holy Spirit gives you slip away.
- Shut up and be quiet sometimes. Be sensitive to when Holy Spirit might be sharing a gem, a nugget, or a golden truth through someone else. Acknowledge publicly if a student shares something good. Praise them for it. Encourage them. Don’t you dare be jealous if someone else has a better thought than you do.
- Read Acts 13: 12. People should consistently be “astonished” by your teaching. (definition of “astonished”: “to be open-mouthed at what they learn,” ” to be hushed at the wonder of what they’re hearing,” “to be in awe of God.”) Continually bring new, astonishing, and exciting “treasures” out of God’s storehouse of wisdom.
- Read Acts 13: 1 and 2: When you teach, always bear in mind that even though you are teaching people, you are actually “ministering to God” with your teaching. You humbly minister to Him, He does the real teaching. That’s a solemn thought, isn’t it?
- Study Jesus’ teaching methods. Read, study, read again, and study again the 4 Gospels—for a lifetime. Just when you think you understand it all, God will reveal something else to you.
- Please don’t ever be a “know-it-all.” Don’t ever use your intellect, education and training to “put down” or shame a student. Pride goes before a fall. God alone knows it all!
- Consider and always be open and looking for opportunities to teach the Bible and related subjects in any situation. Be on the lookout for “magic moments” of teaching that may never come again. (For example, just two days ago I had occasion to share with two Jesus-believing friends some “words of encouragement” God had shared with me to pass on to them. I used the opportunity to take about 3 minutes at the beginning to teach them something the Bible teaches about how we are to encourage one another.)
- Whenever possible, share relevant personal examples, both positive and negative. Be “real”! let your students know you are human. (For example, I have been subject to bouts of deep depression; I share that very freely with my students and it seems to be very helpful to some of them who also have depressive episodes in their lives; some people would try to cover up their depression, thinking it might show a personal weakness.) It’s okay just to be open, honest, and fully human about who you are and your personal experiences.
- Memorize Ephesians 5: 18. Get up every morning of your life and ask God to fill you and control you with Holy Spirit throughout that day. Always seek to know “the mind of Jesus,” to think His thoughts throughout your day. (1 Corinthians 2: 6).
- When you teach, be keenly aware at all times that “Rivers of Living Water” are flowing out from within you (John 7: 38 and 39) from Holy Spirit, and you are “breaking” the “Bread of Life” to your students (John 6).
- Don’t ever, ever, EVER fall into the insidious trap of feeling or thinking you have “arrived” and know it all. Be a lifelong learner. Learn something new right up until you are on your death bed! I have been reading and studying the Bible for many, many years, and I still only know about 1/1,000th of one percent of all there is to know.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. If something funny happens while you’re teaching, laugh about it! Routinely inject humor into your teaching.
- Always be open and sensitive to last-minutes changes in plans by Holy Spirit. For example, recently while I was teaching “Bible Survey 101,” Holy Spirit had me set aside that day’s lesson and, instead, teach an entire lesson on the meaning of “sanctify,” “holy,” “pure,” and “perfect” in the New Testament. It turned out to be exactly what was needed at that time—what the Bible terms “meat in due season.”
- Beware of pride! When it rears its ugly head, stomp on it! Remain humble and meek. To be humble and meek doesn’t mean you are weak. It simply means that you have an honest opinion of yourself, never thinking you are better than others, never thinking more highly of yourself than you should. Remember, many people have fallen as a result of pride. You might want to take a peek at Psalms 25: 9 which discloses that God “Shows His way” to meek people. I want to be shown His Way. I’m sure you do, too.
- In any teaching session where there are more than a few students, you’ll almost always have at least one student who wants to monopolize the class, be in the limelight, hear their own voice, impress others with their wisdom and knowledge, or push their own agenda. Honestly, it’s just the way things are. You must take that student aside privately and deal with the matter humbly, lovingly, and sensitively. Don’t “chew them out” or humiliate them. But you do have to deal with it. Otherwise, the situation will worsen until the class falls apart. Don’t keep hoping the situation will get better all by itself if you don’t deal with it; it won’t!
- Don’t ever—ever!—teach directly out of a book, magazine, or teachers’ manual. That’s a crass insult to your students and “disrespects” them. Be decent enough to professionally prepare (and memorize, if necessary) your own teaching notes. Your students will know if you are unprepared and “faking” it.
- If you’re a good, godly, and effective teacher of the Bible and related subjects, your students will have a tendency to “put you on a pedestal,” so to speak—just like many people do with Pastors or Priests. It’s just human nature for them to do that. Try not to let it go to your head.
- The Bible claims of itself that it is power-full and LIFE-giving (Hebrews 4: 12), and when it is taught it will not return to God empty and fruitless (Isaiah 55: 10 – 12). That’s just what the Bible does, in and of itself. God will NOT share His glory with anyone! Do NOT try to take any of the “credit” because lives are changed when you teach; it’s a dangerous thing to do.
- Don’t ever let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you can change the lives of your students. Only God the Holy Spirit can change human lives from within—by his empowerment, with our cooperation. You cannot change another person’s life. Period! But . . . you should constantly be praying for God to change their lives.
- Try to physically touch each of your students lightly on the arm or shoulder from time to time. Or hug them if it seems appropriate. Especially those who are “untouchable.” There is healing power in human touch. That’s part of the reason why the Bible teaches us to practice “laying on of hands” for healing.
- Attempt to regularly and consistently—and publicly—praise your students from time to time and offer genuine words of encouragement, both individually and collectively. Don’t offer phony praise and encouragement, however. Find ways to genuinely tell them you appreciate them. After all, if there weren’t any students there would be no need for you to be a teacher. Without your students, you have nothing to teach.
- If it seems appropriate to do so, I often purchase inexpensive little gifts, bookmarks, leaflets, booklets, pamphlets, or the like to give to my students when they “graduate” from a course or series of lessons; it’s just a small, token way of showing my appreciation for them. I also hold a “graduation ceremony” any time I teach a group of students. Be sure to give them a certificate or “diploma.” And, be sure to take photos.
- Competent teachers are always open to the “still, small voice” of Holy Spirit nudging them to teach one way or another in a given situation, helping them to be sensitive to the needs of their students, even checking such matters as their tone of voice as they teach, monitoring their body language and many other similar nuances so Holy Spirit can use them most effectively.
- A gifted teacher will constantly be looking for opportunities to edify others (help build up and strengthen others). (2 Corinthians 12: 19). In other words, they will always be looking for every possible teaching situation where they can build others up.
- If a student asks a question to which you know the answer, but you also happen to know that another student knows the answer, defer to that other student and ask them to answer the question. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment and it may end up being an opportunity to help you train a fledgling teacher-in-the-making.
There you have a few of the lifelong teaching tips I have learned. I’d like to “throw something in for free” here as we near the end of this teaching. It’s the somewhat controversial matter of women teachers. Some of my readers may have come from a background that claims women cannot and should not be teachers of the Bible and related subjects in and to the Body of Jesus; they may believe that Holy Spirit does not operate his supernatural gift of teaching through female teachers. I mistakenly believed that way during the first few years of my teaching career.
That misunderstanding has come primarily from the mistranslation into English of only two references in the New Testament. It is a misunderstanding that has been propagated and maintained largely (can you believe it?–) by a male-dominated Church. I will just briefly address that mistranslation and misunderstanding, but I won’t go into great detail or depth because certain key and influential leaders and teachers in the worldwide Church today have finally begun to see how wrong they have been, and the situation is changing rather rapidly throughout the worldwide Church. More and more women are becoming called, gifted, and equipped teachers in and to the worldwide Body of Jesus. Thank God!
Here’s the first of those two biblical references as it is generally translated: “Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.” (1 Timothy 2: 11 and 12) Here’s how the reference reads in the original Greek language in which it was written: “Women should be quiet and orderly when someone else is teaching. I do not want women to teach that they have authority over men. Such women should be kept quiet.” Now here’s the amplified and expanded “Bill Boylan Translation”: “Women—as well as anyone else present—should be attentive and orderly when someone is teaching; that’s just common courtesy. If a woman teaches that women are dominant over men, that’s incorrect: men and women are equal in the Church. If you have a woman in your congregation who believes and teaches that women are dominant over men, don’t let her teach.” ‘Nuff said.
The second reference often used to “prove” that women should keep quiet and not teach is 1 Corinthians 14: 34: “Women should be silent during Church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak.” Here’s how that reference should be better translated: “Women should not speak loudly and out of turn during Church meetings. Neither should they interrupt.” Here’s the amplified and expanded Boylan translation: “During Church meetings, some women [men,too!] have developed the habit of speaking loudly and out of turn, and they often interrupt when someone else is speaking or teaching. You should put a stop to that type of behavior.”
There you have it. There are some other references that may seem to support such mistranslations and misunderstandings, but those are the two major references. You can choose to do whatever you want with the information I’ve provided you in these brief paragraphs, but I’ve been as honest as I’ve been able to in sharing with you what I feel those two references really teach. Hey, I’m just the messenger delivering the concepts. I am absolutely convinced from my own study of the Bible that Holy Spirit has poured out equally on men and women alike the supernatural gift of teaching without any discrimination or reservations. I know I will receive e-mails from some of my readers trying to “straighten me out” because I wrote that. I appreciate your efforts, but I don’t think I’ll change my thinking without some pretty hard evidence to the contrary.
Before I bring this teaching to a close, I want to throw in one more interesting thought . . . for free. If you believe the Bible teaches prophetic events (I sure do!), it seems that there may be an enigmatic prophetic teaching that at some time in the future after Jesus has returned to earth and has culminated the “fulness” of his Kingdom—some time after that—there will no longer be a need for teachers of the Bible and related subjects! I’m not sure I completely understand that—and it’s hard for me to picture in my mind . . . think of it: a time when God will no longer need my wonderful teaching skills and abilities. How could He possibly get along without my teaching? Just kidding.
I invite you to read and ponder Hebrews 8: 11 and it’s Old Testament referent in Jeremiah 31: 34. Whaddya think? Does that possibly suggest to you that there will come a time when no one will ever need to teach anyone else? If (a big if!) that will be the case, let’s hurry up and teach ourselves out of our jobs, perhaps even hastening Jesus’ return by doing so.
Through the years since that day in the shower, I have thoroughly enjoyed my calling to be an equipped teacher in and to the worldwide Body of Jesus. I can’t think of one thing in this life I would rather have done. It’s been such a joy. Such a privilege. I honestly consider the calling to be a teacher one of God’s highest callings. But . . . in a sense it has also been a burden through the years—a burden in the sense of a “burden of the LORD” (see numerous references in Isaiah and Jeremiah about that type of burden). My teaching responsibilities and their consequences have at times been overwhelming. It’s hard to describe, but some times teaching has been a burden—in spite of all the joys and privileges of being one of God’s gifted teachers.
The old American slave Spiritual puts it like this: “Gonna lay down my heavy [teaching] load down by the riverside, down by the riverside. Gonna lay down my heavy [teaching] load down by the riverside, down by the riverside.” Some glad day as the ages of time wane and I prepare to step into eternity, I want to lay down my heavy teaching load at the feet of King Jesus seated on His eternal throne. And I hope to hear His voice echo throughout the halls of eternity saying to me: “Well done, Bill; you’ve been a good and faithful servant-teacher!”
Well, there you have it, dear readers. My own story about my calling, commissioning, and equipping by God to be a teacher of the Bible and related subjects—and some tips for helping you formulate your own teacher’s Credo and to help you with your teaching interactions with your students. Also some brief thoughts about female teachers. And maybe a little bit of Bible prophecy about teaching. The Body of Jesus needs all the teachers God can call, commission, and equip for it. Realize your teaching has eternal consequences; you will meet up again with all your students in eternity. Be a quality teacher! Be professional! Be a teacher of excellence!
If you’re one of God’s supernaturally gifted teachers, I thank God for you every day! You have one of God’s highest callings with eternal consequences and repercussions! Be the very best teacher you can possibly be for all time and eternity.
Updated and Revised January 2023