Jump Start # 1924
1 Timothy 3:2 “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach”
Our verse today begins what is commonly called the qualifications of an elder. More accurately these are the characteristics, habits and inner workings of a godly man’s heart. This is the way he is. He is this. Found in these traits is “able to teach.” Older translations use the expression, “apt to teach.”
The Hebrews were reproved for not being able to teach. Teaching God’s word is such an honor and a privilege. Most congregations have some form of Bible classes for the children all the way up to the adults. Many churches work on a regular quarter system of teaching every 13 weeks and then switching topics and teachers. Bible classes are a vital way of learning God’s word and of teaching depth and looking in detail at some very important topics. Let’s give some thoughts to teaching God’s word.
First, in many congregations, and even among many of us preachers, no one ever taught us how to teach. Public school teachers spend four years in college learning, but for many in the church, we are given a class booklet, a couple of weeks to look it over and then we are set loose to teach. It’s scary for many people. Many are not sure what method and just how to approach their subject and how to deal with unique students. It might be good to spend some time helping the teacher become a better teacher. Resources and people who have been trained or who have taught in the past could be a great starting place.
Second, the goal of teaching a Bible class is to teach the Bible. This means that the teacher must know the subject. I’m not the media guy in our congregation. I know what we are doing in media but I don’t know how we do it. In fact, they tell me not to push any buttons in the media room. I like to do that. I can’t teach someone about media, because I don’t understand it. The same is true of the Bible. It’s hard to teach what a teacher doesn’t understand.
Some enter a class with the goal of having people talking. The more that participate, the better the class, is their thinking. The problem with that goal is what is everyone talking about? Are we simply sharing opinions, right or wrong? Is everyone just talking off the top of their head without doing much thinking, research and study? At the end, after everyone has talked, has the Bible been taught or is there more confusion about what a passage is saying? The Bible needs to be taught.
Third, the Bible class teacher needs to have some order, direction and finality to what is being studied. I have sat through organized chaos. Too many people talking at the same time and no one really being in charge. This is no way to teach. The teacher needs to teach. He needs to be in charge. Some folks like to teach from the chair without being the official teacher. Some want to hijack the class and talk about their own agenda. Some dominate. Some think it’s cute to be controversial. Some want to challenge the teacher. Without someone in charge, the class becomes a mix match of all kinds of wild thoughts and ideas. The teacher needs to be in charge.
Fourth, many congregations have been using the 13 week quarter system for decades. I’m not sure if that followed the public school system or where it came from. We tend to do the same thing over and over. Many add very little variety, just studying Matthew through Jude every year. Many don’t like Revelation, so they skip it.
The quarter system is hard to teach some books of the Bible. Some books are more than 13 chapters long. Either another quarter must be used or parts of the book are not studied. Some books are only a few chapters long and the teacher must then chase a few rabbits and fill in with other things to complete the 13 weeks.
Here is a thought: who says we have to go 13 weeks? Why not have a five week class. Why not have a 20 week class. Why not try some variety, not just in the length of the class, but in the way the class is taught. Lecturing is the most common method. Why not have smaller sized classes. Why not have break out sessions. Why not give home work. Why not have some quizzes. The goal is to teach the Bible, find different ways this can be done.
Fifth, always teaching verse by verse is not always the best method. That needs to be done, but every time? Why not look at the questions Jesus asked? Why not look at the way Jesus taught? Why not talk about questions that the class has? Why not do some topical studies? Why not find out what the congregation needs the most and have some classes on that? Why not look at the current culture in relationship to the Bible? Expand your thinking. Do more than the obvious. Make classes challenging, interesting and relevant.
Our verse today, describing overseers, reminds us that they are to be able to teach. The common Bible class room is probably not what Paul had in mind. Able to teach the Bible. Able to teach it to an individual or able to teach it to a crowd. Able to refute error is what Titus adds. If an ancient shepherd in Judea was watching his flock, he had to know where danger was. He had to recognize where wolves are prone to be. He had to recognize poisonous weeds which were harmful to sheep. He had to know the lay of the land and keep the sheep away from cliffs. There was some knowledge that the shepherd had to have. He also had to recognize how the sheep were doing. He’d notice some that seemed sickly. He’d notice some that were limping. He would make adjustments and do things to help those sheep. Today’s spiritual shepherds do similar work among God’s people. Feeding the flock is one aspect. The shepherd needs to know what the sheep need.
When the older translations use the expression, “apt to teach,” that’s exactly what we find in many congregations. Some teachers are “apt” to teach anything. Some are “apt” to teach their opinions more than the Bible. And, some are even “apt” to teach error because they do not know the word of God.
Bible classes are a huge part of our lives. They are a blessing. Those that are honored to teach need to do so with reverence toward the word and care toward the students. If you do not know, don’t guess. Those that teach must give hours to study, thinking and shaping out a plan. Bless those who teach. They have helped us know God’s word. They have answered our questions. They have removed doubt from our hearts. They have challenged us. They have helped us mature and grow in the Lord. Many of us teach today because someone in the past made an impression upon our hearts.
Maybe it’s time to give some serious thoughts to both teachers, the way we teach, what we are teaching and the length of our classes. Maybe we could find some ways to step things up and improve. Maybe we could do a better job than what we are. Maybe it’s time to have some conversations about Bible classes.
Jesus said, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.”