Earlier this week I posted some helpful tips for lesson preparation for Sunday School teachers that I wrote in 2008. These next two posts come from the same series. While the target audience is for Sunday School teachers, small group leaders will find the concepts transferrable to their context.
“When Jesus landed on the shore and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
“The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teacher of the law.” (Matthew 7:28-29)
In both the Ten Commandments and in the Sermon on the Mount, scripture emphasizes that our “being” comes before our “doing.” The best teaching flows not merely out of our mouths, but from our hearts. As we begin to consider the teaching style of Jesus, we first must learn something of the person of Jesus.
1. JESUS EMBODIED HIS TEACHING
In other words, he was what he taught. His words and actions reinforced each other with an authority that amazed his listeners. “What we are” speaks more loudly than “what we say.” Faith learning is more “caught from” than “taught by” a teacher.
2. JESUS WAS COMFORTABLE WITH ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE
Teachers must be able to establish rapport with learners if they are to be effective. As we study the life of Jesus, we discover that he was comfortable with a wide range of people:
Nicodemus, a man who was wealthy, highly educated, and a religious leader in the Sanhedrin;
Zacchaeus, a tax collector who was despised by his fellow countrymen as a traitor and a thief;
The Woman at the Well, whose life was clearly marked by sexual immorality. Jesus put his own reputation at risk by merely speaking with her;
The Demon Possessed, whose lives were broken mentally and emotionally;
The Children, who were viewed as second class citizens whose value was equated with slaves.
Certainly we can add more examples to this simple list. Like Jesus, we have an opportunity each week to encounter a wide range of people.
3. JESUS SHOWED COMPASSION TOWARD HIS LEARNERS
Jesus made significant investments in the lives of his learners. He valued his learners above his lessons, and was patient with them when they were slow to learn. As it has been said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Because God cares for the people that attend our Bible Study classes, we should show care for them as well.
4. JESUS KNEW HIS LEARNERS
One of the reasons Jesus’ teaching was so special is that it focused on the real life needs of those he taught. Jesus knew his learners, and he used that knowledge to focus his teaching for maximum effectiveness in each situation.
5. JESUS HAD MASTERED THE SCRIPTURES
Jesus was familiar with the text of the Old Testament Scriptures. He used his mastery of the “Bible” to focus on the needs of the people. His teaching met them where they were, not where he wanted them to be. People were his focus. Scripture was his means. As he applied the Scriptures to real problems in the lives of real people, he provided solutions and help that were uniquely suited to each person. When the eternal word of God intersects with today’s needs, the result is life change.