What Else Would I Teach From?

Recently, I spoke at a weekend gathering of middle school and high school students. After my last message, I spent some time talking with students and youth workers. One conversation, that I will not forget, really floored me. A youth worker thanked me enthusiastically for actually teaching the Bible that weekend. I paused for a moment and waited for him to say that he was kidding. When that didn’t happen, I bluntly said to him, “What else would I teach from?”

Then, he told me how he’s attended way too many youth retreats and conferences where the focus of the message is on the messenger and the stories they had to tell. He explained how far too many youth speakers would use the scriptures as a concluding thought or as a supplemental reference. They would throw in a couple Bible verses to ensure that it was a Christian message, but the majority of the content was anecdotal and experiential.

Now, I am guessing that the majority of people reading this post would probably self-identify as Bible-believing Christians who have a high view of God’s word. However, that does not necessarily mean our teaching styles and study habits functionally reflect these scriptural convictions. Here are a four quick diagnostic questions to ask yourself to discern if you are properly handling God’s word when teaching your students:

Do I use the Bible like a footnote?

We may be teaching truths and principles that are validated by the scriptures, but what message are we communicating in how we handle God’s word? Perhaps the style of our teaching is implicitly telling students that the Bible is more of a reference guide, as opposed to God’s living and active word.

Do I love the Bible or just my bible-esque ideas?

This is my greatest struggle. Far too often I am driven to teach an idea I thought up, then subsequently found a biblical text to support, rather than seeking to carefully, clearly, and compellingly teach the message of the text. Or, as Kent Hughes says, “The preacher must preach the text, not the idea that brought him to the text.”

Do I use the Bible as a mirror before I use it as a picture?

Our first approach to teaching the Bible to our students is to first teach it to ourselves. We must seek to more than hover over the Bible in study and preparation (although we should). We must sit with the Bible in honest reflection and joyful submission. In his book, Dangerous Calling, Paul Tripp observes that, “There is no congregation you need to preach to more than yourself.”

Am I aiming for Jesus or am I aiming for relevance?

These do not need to be mutually exclusive. However, in our efforts to be relevant, it is imperative that we begin with the desire to aim for Jesus. Then, and only then, can we attempt to be relevant. There is a tipping point where the time, energy and creativity spent on making our messages relevant begins to feed the flame of our egos. It’s obvious when we cross that threshold. Let’s be honest with ourselves about it.

What other questions would you add to this list?

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