Teach With Insight and Persuasiveness
“The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness.”—PROVERBS 16:23.
1. Why does teaching God’s Word involve more than simply conveying information?
OUR goal as teachers of God’s Word is to illuminate not only the minds of our students but also their hearts. (Ephesians 1:18) Teaching therefore involves more than simply conveying information. Proverbs 16:23 says: “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness.”
2. (a) What does it mean to persuade? (b) How is it possible for all Christians to be persuasive teachers?
2 The apostle Paul certainly applied this principle in his teaching work. When he was in Corinth, “he would give a talk in the synagogue every sabbath and would persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4) According to one authority, the Greek word here rendered “persuade” means “bringing about a change of mind by the influence of reason or moral considerations.” By means of convincing arguments, Paul was able to move people to change their very way of thinking. His ability to persuade was so formidable that he was feared by his enemies. (Acts 19:24-27) Nevertheless, Paul’s teaching was not a display of human ability. He told the Corinthians: “My speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power, that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4, 5) Since all Christians have the help of Jehovah God’s spirit, all of them may become persuasive teachers. But how? Let us look at some effective teaching techniques.
Be a Good Listener
3. Why is insight needed when teaching others, and how can we reach the heart of a Bible student?
3 The first teaching technique involves, not speaking, but listening. As noted at Proverbs 16:23, to be persuasive we must have insight. Jesus certainly had insight regarding the people he taught. John 2:25 says: “He himself knew what was in man.” But how can we know what is in the hearts of those whom we teach? One way is by being a good listener. James 1:19 says: “Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking.” True, not all people readily express their thoughts. As our Bible students become convinced of our genuine interest in them, they may be more inclined to express their true feelings. Kind but perceptive questions can often help us to reach the heart and ‘draw up’ such expressions.—Proverbs 20:5.
4. Why must Christian elders be good listeners?
4 It is particularly important that Christian elders be good listeners. Only then can they truly “know how [they] ought to give an answer to each one.” (Colossians 4:6) Proverbs 18:13 warns: “When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.” Two well-intentioned brothers once gave a sister counsel on worldliness because she had missed some meetings. The sister was deeply hurt that they did not ask her why she had not been present. She was recovering from recent surgery. How important, then, that we listen before giving counsel!
5. How can elders handle disputes that arise among brothers?
5 For elders, teaching often involves giving counsel to others. Here, too, it is important to be a good listener. Listening is especially necessary when disputes arise among fellow Christians. Only after listening can elders imitate “the Father who judges impartially.” (1 Peter 1:17) Emotions often run high in such situations, and an elder does well to bear in mind the counsel of Proverbs 18:17: “The one first in his legal case is righteous; his fellow comes in and certainly searches him through.” An effective teacher will listen to both parties. By offering a prayer, he helps to establish a calm atmosphere. (James 3:18) If emotions become heated, he might suggest that each brother address his concerns directly to him, instead of the two wrangling with each other. By means of appropriate questions, the elder may be able to clarify the issues under consideration. In many cases, poor communication, not maliciousness, turns out to be the cause of disputes. But if Bible principles have been violated, a loving teacher can now instruct with insight, having heard both sides.
The Value of Simplicity
6. How did Paul and Jesus set an example in teaching with simplicity?
6 Keeping things simple is another valuable teaching skill. True, we want Bible students to become “thoroughly able to grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of the truth. (Ephesians 3:18) There are aspects of Bible doctrines that are fascinating and often challenging. (Romans 11:33) Nevertheless, when Paul preached to Greeks, he focused on the simple message of ‘Christ impaled.’ (1 Corinthians 2:1, 2) Similarly, Jesus preached in a clear, appealing way. He used a simple vocabulary in his Sermon on the Mount. Yet, it contains some of the most profound truths ever uttered.—Matthew, chapters 5-7.
7. How can we keep things simple when conducting Bible studies?
7 We can likewise keep things simple when teaching on Bible studies. How? By focusing on “the more important things.” (Philippians 1:10) When covering deep subjects, we should try to express ourselves in plain language. We should focus on key scriptures instead of trying to read and discuss every Bible text cited in a publication. This requires good preparation on our part. We need to avoid overwhelming the student with details, not allowing ourselves to get sidetracked by issues of minor importance. If a student has a question that is not directly related to the lesson, we can tactfully suggest that it be discussed when the lesson is finished.
Effective Use of Questions
8. How did Jesus use questions effectively?
8 Another useful teaching skill involves asking effective questions. Jesus Christ used questions extensively in his teaching. For example, Jesus asked Peter: “‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive duties or head tax? From their sons or from the strangers?’ When he said: ‘From the strangers,’ Jesus said to him: ‘Really, then, the sons are tax-free.’” (Matthew 17:24-26) As the only-begotten Son of the One worshiped at the temple, Jesus was really not obliged to pay a temple tax. But Jesus conveyed this truth through an effective use of questions. Jesus thus helped Peter to come to a proper conclusion based on information he already had.
9. How might we use questions during Bible studies?
9 We can put questions to good use during Bible studies. If a student gives a wrong answer, it may be tempting to supply the correct one, but will he really retain the information? Often it is best to try to lead the student to the right conclusion by asking questions. For instance, if he is having difficulty grasping why he should use the divine name, we might ask, ‘Is your name important to you? . . . Why? . . . How would you feel if someone refused to use your name? . . . Is it not reasonable for God to require that we use his personal name?’
10. How might elders use questions when helping individuals who have been wounded emotionally?
10 Elders can also put questions to good use when shepherding the flock. Many in the congregation have been emotionally bruised and battered by Satan’s world and may feel unclean and unlovable. An elder might reason with such a person by saying: ‘Though you say that you feel unclean, how does Jehovah feel about you? If our loving heavenly Father allowed his Son to die and provide a ransom for you, does that not mean that God loves you?’—John 3:16.
11. What purpose is served by rhetorical questions, and how can they be used in public speaking?
11 Rhetorical questions are another useful teaching technique. Listeners are not expected to answer these out loud but are thereby helped to reason on matters. The prophets of old often asked such questions to get their listeners to think deeply. (Jeremiah 18:14, 15) Jesus used rhetorical questions effectively. (Matthew 11:7-11) Such questions are particularly effective in public speaking. Instead of simply telling an audience that they must be whole-souled in order to please Jehovah, it may be more effective to ask, ‘If we are not truly whole-souled in our service, will Jehovah be pleased?’
12. What is the value of asking viewpoint questions?
12 Viewpoint questions are useful in determining whether a Bible student really believes what he is learning. (Matthew 16:13-16) A student may correctly answer that fornication is wrong. But why not follow that up with such questions as, How do you personally feel about God’s standard of morality? Do you feel that it is too restrictive? Would you say that it really matters whether you follow God’s standards or not?
Illustrations That Reach the Heart
13, 14. (a) What does it mean to illustrate something? (b) Why are good illustrations effective?
13 Another way to reach the heart of listeners and Bible students is through effective illustrations. The Greek expression rendered “illustration” literally means “a placing beside or together.” When you illustrate, you explain something by ‘placing it beside’ something similar. For example, Jesus asked: “With what are we to liken the kingdom of God, or in what illustration shall we set it out?” In answer, Jesus mentioned the familiar mustard seed.—Mark 4:30-32.
14 God’s prophets used many powerful illustrations. When the Assyrians, who had served as God’s instrument in punishing the Israelites, resorted to wanton cruelty, Isaiah exposed their presumptuousness with this illustration: “Will the ax enhance itself over the one chopping with it, or the saw magnify itself over the one moving it back and forth?” (Isaiah 10:15) When teaching others, Jesus likewise used illustrations extensively. It is reported that “without an illustration he would not speak to them.” (Mark 4:34) Good illustrations are effective because they engage both the mind and the heart. They allow listeners to absorb new information readily by comparing it with something already familiar to them.
15, 16. What will make illustrations most effective? Give examples.
15 How can we use illustrations that truly reach the heart? First of all, an illustration must reasonably parallel the thing being explained. If the comparison does not really fit, the illustration will distract rather than enlighten listeners. A well-meaning speaker once tried to convey the submissiveness of the anointed remnant to Jesus Christ by comparing them to a faithful pet dog. But is such a demeaning comparison really appropriate? The Bible conveys the same thought in a much more appealing and dignified way. It compares Jesus’ 144,000 anointed followers to “a bride adorned for her husband.”—Revelation 21:2.
16 Illustrations are most effective when they relate to the lives of people. Nathan’s illustration of the slaughtered lamb touched the heart of King David because he loved sheep, having served as a shepherd in his youth. (1 Samuel 16:11-13; 2 Samuel 12:1-7) If the illustration had involved a bull, it might not have been nearly as effective. In a similar way, illustrations based on scientific phenomena or obscure historical incidents may be of little significance to our listeners. Jesus drew his illustrations from everyday life. He spoke of such commonplace things as a lamp, the birds of heaven, and lilies of the field. (Matthew 5:15, 16; 6:26, 28) Jesus’ hearers could easily relate to such things.
17. (a) On what might we base our illustrations? (b) How might we adapt illustrations used in our publications to the circumstances of our students?
17 In our ministry, we have many opportunities to use simple but effective illustrations. Be observant. (Acts 17:22, 23) Perhaps an illustration could be based on a listener’s children, home, job, or hobby. Or we may use our personal knowledge of a Bible student to enhance the illustrations already provided for us in our study material. Take, for example, the effective illustration used in paragraph 14 of chapter 8 in the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. It involves a loving parent who is slandered by a neighbor. We can well give some thought to how we might adapt that illustration to the circumstances of a Bible student who himself is a parent.
Reading Scriptures With Skill
18. Why should we strive to be fluent readers?
18 Paul exhorted Timothy: “Continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13) Since the Bible is the foundation of our teaching, it is beneficial to be able to read it fluently. The Levites had the privilege of reading the Mosaic Law to God’s people. Did they stumble through such reading or read in a monotone? No, the Bible says at Nehemiah 8:8: “They continued reading aloud from the book, from the law of the true God, it being expounded, and there being a putting of meaning into it; and they continued giving understanding in the reading.”
19. How can we improve our reading of the Scriptures?
19 Some Christian men who are fluent speakers fall short when it comes to reading. How can they make improvement? By practicing. Yes, by reading out loud over and over again until they can do so fluently. If audiocassettes of the Bible are available in your language, it is wise to listen to the reader’s sense stress and modulation and to note how names and unusual words are pronounced. Those who have the New World Translation in their language can also take advantage of its pronunciation aids.a With practice, even names like Maʹher-shalʹal-hash-baz can be read with relative ease.—Isaiah 8:1.
20. How can we ‘pay attention to our teaching’?
20 As Jehovah’s people, what a privilege we have to be used as teachers! Let each of us, then, take that responsibility seriously. May we ‘pay constant attention to ourselves and to our teaching.’ (1 Timothy 4:16) We can be fine teachers by being good listeners, by keeping things simple, by asking insightful questions, by using effective illustrations, and by reading scriptures with skill. May all of us benefit from the training provided by Jehovah through his organization, for this can help us to have “the tongue of the taught ones.” (Isaiah 50:4) By taking full advantage of all the tools provided for our ministry, including brochures, audiocassettes, and videocassettes, we can learn to teach with insight and persuasiveness.
a Proper names are broken into syllables, each syllable being separated by a dot or an accent mark. The emphasis is placed on the syllable marked by the accent. If the syllable ends in a vowel, the vowel is given its long sound. If a syllable ends in a consonant, the vowel is given its short sound.
Do You Recall?
◻ How can being a good listener help us in our teaching?
◻ How can we imitate Paul and Jesus in teaching with simplicity?
◻ What kinds of questions can we use when teaching others?
◻ What kind of illustrations are most effective?
◻ How can we improve our skill as public readers?
[Picture on page 16]
A good teacher listens so as to gain insight
[Pictures on page 18]
Jesus drew his illustrations from everyday life