Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie hosts a weekly podcast called “Help Me Teach the Bible.” Each week, she invites a guest (who is typically a Bible teacher) to be interviewed. I have found these interviews to be helpful and encouraging as I think about preparing to teach and lead discussions in community groups. In this column, I will share with you some of the insights from this podcast that have been helpful to me.
Since the podcasts are conversations between Nancy Guthrie and her guests, I present them in question and answer format. Not all of the answers are exact quotes; some are summarized. Some of my views are at the bottom.
Tim Keller was the guest on Nancy Guthrie’s Help Me Teach the Bible podcast on May 3, 2017. He is best known as a preacher, but he has some good advice for those who would teach the Bible. His interview is presented in question and answer form below.
QHow is teaching different from preaching?
AIn teaching you are aiming at the mind. In preaching you are aiming at worship. So in teaching you can have more points, and more interaction.
QI notice in your talks you anticipate objections. How do you know what they will be, and how do you work them in?
AEveryone comes to the text with different questions. Your job is to study the text with their objections in mind. Which means that you need to talk to people, so that you can know the questions that are on their hearts. But you can’t talk to everybody, so you also have to read, from representatives of different viewpoints, people on both the left and the right. Read people that you disagree with.
QWhat do Bible teachers need to work on to make their teaching better quality?
A1) Teachers are sometimes not clear. Listeners need to see the organization, where you’re going with your talk. You need to lay out the path for them.
2) Too often the content is not practical for the listeners. There’s too much knowledge being delivered. You can get caught up in fact that you have knowledge and they don’t. But God doesn’t tell you something just to be believed. He tells you things so that you can live them.
3) It needs to be persuasive, not just assertive (like social media). You need to show how ideas logically connect to other ideas.
4) Connect your ideas to sensory language. Propositions need illustrations. Preachers do this, and Bible teachers should too. People need to feel, not just understand.
QHow do you handle criticism?
AThere are three possibilities: 1) They might just be giving air to their own opinions, in which case you should ignore it. 2) You might need to listen to it. 3) You have to work on your heart. Criticism bothers us more than it should. Because we’re generally a little proud of being a Bible teacher.
And then don’t quit.
QWhat encouragement do you have for Bible teachers?
AYou shouldn’t be sure that lack of response means failure. You don’t know what God is doing in people’s hearts. It’s the Word of God that has the power, not you. Open the Bible, teach the Word, and people’s lives will change.
Have you ever thought about the difference between what you do as a community group teacher and what the preachers do over in the worship center? Other than the obvious (we get questions and they don’t) – how is our job different? Keller says that preachers stimulate the soul, and teachers stimulate the mind, but I’m not sure that it’s that simple. As a teacher, I want to stimulate the soul too. If I’ve only touched your mind, I haven’t fully succeeded, I think.
The reason I am a teacher is to make disciples. To do that I have to touch both the mind and the soul. I want to teach people more about God (mind) so that they get closer to Him (soul).
Why are you a teacher? How does your job differ from a preacher’s? Write your answer in the comment space below.