Discipleship

Those of us who have the spiritual gift of teaching usually love to teach. We spend the entire week thinking about a passage of Scripture. We may have time to dig into commentaries. We find nuggets of truth that are absolutely intriguing and we just can’t wait to share them with our classes. Students enjoy being in our classes which are at least occasionally exciting places to be.

But, are our students really growing in their faith?

The question bothers me. Sometimes I’m afraid my teaching is more about presenting a lesson than discipling the students God has entrusted to me. We have a set hour we fill with Bible study at my church. Your church is probably the same. We spend a little time talking about what happened in kids’ lives the previous week, I present a lesson, someone prays and we leave. It is a program more than an opportunity for students to get face to face with the living God.

I don’t mean to imply that nothing important happens in those meetings. The Spirit often chooses to work in students’ lives little by little, punctuated by significant moments of growth. But, I believe we need to approach Bible study as an intentional time of stretching the understanding and faith of our students.

Discipleship will include a lot of things; some of them don’t really happen in a class setting. However, I think weekly Bible study needs to include at least three things in order to help students to grow. Not every lesson will include all three. In fact, some ought to really focus on one of these things and others on another. But, if we miss any of these things, I think we miss the opportunity of discipling.

1. Students need to understand the Bible. Okay, I know this is pedestrian. This really is the point. But, if students are going to build their lives on biblical truth, they need to know what the Bible says and what it means. Be careful. This is different than helping them to simply understand what the Bible says about their current crush or the importance of the church mission trip. They need to truly understand the story of Scripture. Real Bible study is not as much about how God fits into our lives as it is how our lives fit into God.

2. Students need to learn practical skills. A lot of us tell our students they need to do personal Bible study, but if they don’t know how to do it we sound like the adults in Charlie Brown specials. Wah wah wah wah. Students need to know how to pray, witness, study the Bible, offer godly counsel, encourage others, and minister to others’ needs. Sometimes Bible study needs to teach students skills. Usually skill development involves providing a step-by-step plan, showing them how it works, and letting them practice. As they get better, they can vary the plan and even develop their own plan.

3. Students need to be inspired to pursue Christ. A student understands what God has called him to do. He knows how to do it. Does that mean he does it? Not necessarily. We line our lives up with God’s call because we are moved by His Spirit to do it. Inspiration is a funny thing. I don’t think there is a simple formula. But I do believe inspiration requires us to, at times, speak to the heart and not the head of our students. Personal stories can often help with that as well as stories of other people. For those of you who are creative, designing representational experiences where you simulate something significant in terms of their faith can inspire students. (Real experiences are even better.)

I don’t mean this to feel overwhelming. I just think we need to focus more on filling students with God’s Word rather than presenting a lesson.

Several years ago, I walked into a Bible study class, told the students to open their Bible and read the verse our curriculum said we were to study for the day. It was a verse about Jesus touching someone and changing their lives. I asked, “What did Jesus do?” They answered, “He helped that person.” I said, “What do you think it means for us?” They said, “It probably means we should care for other people, too.” I said, “So, do you think we should talk about it or go do it?” They said, “We should probably go do it.” So, we loaded into my car and went to a local nursing home. On the way over, I told the students how many people in the nursing home feel alone. Holding their hands and listening can be great ministry, I told them. When we arrived, I began speaking to the residents, offering my hand to them. The students followed me at first, watching what I did. Then, they began to do the same things. On the way back to the church, I talked t them about the difference they had made that morning. I believe they learned more about following Jesus’ example that morning than they ever would have if I had explained what the commentaries say about the passage.

As you teach, don’t just present a lesson. Engage students. Inspire them. Train them. Help them to truly understand.

Disciple them.