Pay Attention to Your “Art of Teaching”
“Preach the word, . . . reprove, reprimand, exhort, with all long-suffering and art of teaching.”
1. What command did Jesus give to his disciples, and what example did he set?
DESPITE the wonderful works of healing that Jesus performed during his earthly ministry, he was primarily known, not as a healer or a miracle worker, but as a teacher. (Mark 12:19; 13:1) Declaring the good news of God’s Kingdom was Jesus’ priority, and so it is for his followers today. Christians have a commission to continue the work of disciple-making by teaching people to observe all the things that Jesus commanded.
2. What do we need to do in order to fulfill our preaching assignment?
2 In order to fulfill our commission to make disciples, we constantly seek to improve our ability to teach. The apostle Paul underlined the importance of this skill when writing to his preaching companion Timothy. He said: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Tim. 4:16) The kind of teaching that Paul had in mind is not the mere imparting of knowledge. Effective Christian ministers reach the hearts of people and motivate them to make changes in their lives. That is an art. So how can we develop the “art of teaching” when presenting to others the good news of God’s Kingdom?
Developing the “Art of Teaching”
3, 4. (a) How can we develop the “art of teaching”? (b) How does the Theocratic Ministry School help us to become effective teachers?
3 One dictionary defines “art” as a “skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation.” We need to pay attention to all three of these elements to become effective teachers of the good news. We can gain a correct understanding of our subject only by studying it prayerfully. (Read Psalm 119:27, 34.) Observing effective ministers as they teach helps us to learn their methods and to imitate them. And striving on a regular basis to practice what we learn will help us to refine our abilities.
4 Jehovah is our Grand Instructor. Through the visible part of his organization, he provides his servants on earth with guidance as to how they should fulfill their preaching commission. (Isa. 30:20, 21) In this regard, every congregation holds a weekly Theocratic Ministry School, which is designed to help all those enrolled become effective proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. The main textbook of this school is the Bible. Jehovah’s inspired Word tells us what to teach. Moreover, it indicates what teaching methods are effective and appropriate. The Theocratic Ministry School regularly reminds us that we will become more skilled as teachers if we base our teaching on God’s Word, use questions effectively, teach with simplicity, and show a sincere interest in others. Let us examine each of these points separately. Then we will discuss how to reach a student’s heart.
Base Your Teaching on God’s Word
5. What should be the basis for our teaching, and why?
5 Jesus, the greatest of all human teachers, based his teachings on the Scriptures. (Matt. 21:13; John 6:45; 8:17) He spoke, not in his own name, but in the name of the One who sent him. (John 7:16-18) That is the example we follow. So, what we say either in the door-to-door ministry or at home Bible studies should center on the authority of God’s Word. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) No amount of clever reasoning on our part can possibly equal the effectiveness and power of the inspired Scriptures. The Bible has authority. Whatever point we are striving to help a student grasp, the best method we can use is to have him or her read what the Scriptures say about it.
6. How can a teacher make sure that the student gets the point of the material being considered?
6 That is not to say, of course, that a Christian teacher need not prepare for a Bible study. On the contrary, careful forethought should be given to deciding which of the cited scriptures the teacher or the student will read from the Bible during the study. Generally speaking, it is good to read those scriptures that provide the basis for our beliefs. It is also necessary to help the student get the sense of each text he reads.
Use Effective Questions
7. Why is the use of questions a good teaching method?
7 The skillful use of questions stimulates thinking and helps the teacher to reach the student’s heart. So instead of explaining scriptures to your student, ask him to explain them to you. Sometimes an additional question or even a series of questions might be needed to help your student arrive at the right understanding. When you involve the student in the learning process in this way, you are, in effect, helping him not only to grasp the reasons behind any given conclusion but also to make that conclusion his own conviction.
8. How can we discern what is in a student’s heart?
8 The study method used in our publications is that of questions and answers. No doubt, the majority of people with whom you study the Bible will quickly be able to answer the printed questions, using the information in the corresponding paragraphs. Still, the discerning teacher will not be satisfied simply with the right answers. For example, a student may be able to explain correctly what the Bible says about fornication. (1 Cor. 6:18) Tactful viewpoint questions, however, can indicate what the student really thinks about what he is learning. The teacher might thus ask: “Why does the Bible condemn sexual relations outside of marriage? What do you think about this God-given restriction? Do you think that there is any benefit from living according to God’s moral standards?” The response to such questions can reveal what is in the student’s heart.
Keep It Simple
9. What should we bear in mind when sharing Scriptural information?
9 Most truths contained in God’s Word are in themselves relatively simple. It may be, though, that people with whom we study the Bible have been confused by the doctrines of false religion. Our role as teachers is to make the Bible easy to understand. Effective teachers convey information simply, clearly, and accurately. If we follow this guideline, we will not make the truth more complicated than it needs to be. Avoid unnecessary details. There is no need to comment on every aspect of a scripture that we read. Simply focus on what is essential to clarifying the point under consideration. The student will come to appreciate deeper Scriptural truths as he progresses in his understanding.
10. What factors determine how much material to cover during a Bible study?
10 How much material should be covered in one study session? For this, discernment is needed. The abilities and circumstances of both student and teacher will vary, but we should always bear in mind that our objective as teachers is to help our student build solid faith. So we allow him sufficient time to read, grasp, and accept the truths presented in God’s Word. We do not consider more material than he can grasp. At the same time, we keep the study moving. Once our student has grasped a point, we move on to the next.
11. What lesson regarding teaching can we learn from the apostle Paul?
11 The apostle Paul kept the message of the good news simple when speaking to new ones. Even though he was very well educated, he avoided using high-sounding language. (Read 1 Corinthians 2:1, 2.) The simplicity of Scriptural truth attracts and satisfies sincere people. No one needs to be an intellectual to understand it.
Help Students Appreciate What They Learn
12, 13. What may motivate a student to act on what he is learning? Illustrate.
12 To be effective, our teaching needs to touch a student’s heart. The student has to understand how the information applies to him personally, how it benefits him, and how his life would improve if he followed Scriptural direction.
13 For example, we may be considering Hebrews 10:24, 25, which encourages Christians to gather with fellow believers for Scriptural encouragement and loving association. If the student is not yet attending congregation meetings, we might briefly describe how they are conducted and what will be discussed. We might mention that congregation meetings are part of our worship and show that they benefit us personally. We then might invite the student to attend. His motivation for responding to Scriptural commands should be his desire to obey Jehovah, not to please the person who is studying with him.
14, 15. (a) What can a Bible student learn about Jehovah? (b) How can knowledge of God’s personality benefit a Bible student?
14 A fundamental benefit that students derive from studying the Bible and applying its principles is that they come to know and appreciate Jehovah as a person. (Isa. 42:8) Not only is he a loving Father and the Creator and Owner of the universe but he also reveals his personality and abilities to those who love and serve him. (Read Exodus 34:6, 7.) When Moses was about to lead the nation of Israel out of Egyptian captivity, Jehovah identified himself using the expression: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” (Ex. 3:13-15) This implied that Jehovah would become whatever was necessary for him to become in order to carry out his purposes in regard to his chosen people. The Israelites thus came to know Jehovah in the roles of Savior, Warrior, Provider, and Fulfiller of promises and in other capacities.
15 Our students may not experience intervention by Jehovah in their lives as dramatically as Moses did. Nevertheless, as our students grow in faith and in appreciation for what they learn and as they begin to apply it, they will doubtless see the need to lean on Jehovah for courage, wisdom, and guidance. As they do so, they too will come to know Jehovah in the roles of a wise and trusted Counselor, Protector, and generous Provider of all their needs.
Show Loving Interest
16. Why is natural ability not the most important factor in our effectiveness as a teacher?
16 If you feel that you are not as skilled at teaching as you would like to be, take heart. Jehovah and Jesus are supervising the educational program that is being carried out worldwide today. (Acts 1:7, 8; Rev. 14:6) They can bless our efforts so that our words have the desired effect on a righthearted person. (John 6:44) A teacher’s sincere love for his student can more than make up for any lack of natural ability. The apostle Paul showed that he understood the importance of loving those who are being taught.
17. How can we show a sincere interest in each Bible student?
17 Similarly, we can show a sincere interest in each Bible student by taking time to get to know him. As we discuss Scriptural principles with him, it is likely that we will become acquainted with his circumstances. We may observe that he is already living his life in harmony with some of the points that he has learned from the Bible. In other areas, he may still need to make adjustments. By helping the student to see how the information presented during Bible study sessions applies to him personally, we can lovingly assist him to become a genuine disciple of Christ.
18. Why is it important to pray with and for our student?
18 Most important of all, we can pray with our student and for our student. It should be clear to him that our objective is to help him come to know his Creator more intimately, draw closer to Him, and benefit from His guidance. (Read Psalm 25:4, 5.) When we pray for Jehovah’s blessing on a student’s efforts to apply what he is learning, the student will see the importance of becoming a ‘doer of the word.’ (Jas. 1:22) And as the student listens to our sincere prayers, he too will learn how to pray. What a joy it is to help Bible students develop their own relationship with Jehovah!
19. What will be considered in the following article?
19 It is encouraging to know that more than six and a half million Witnesses worldwide are busy developing the “art of teaching,” with the aim of helping honesthearted individuals to observe all the things that Jesus commanded. What results are being obtained by our preaching activity? The answer to this question will be considered in the following article.
Do You Recall?
• Why do Christians need to develop the “art of teaching”?
• Using what methods can make our teaching more effective?
• What can make up for any lack of natural teaching ability on our part?
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Are you enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School?
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Why is it important to invite your student to read from the Bible?
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Pray with and for your student