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Teaching the Word

Nestled in the stack of memos, book advertisements, letters, and wedding invitations was a small, hand-addressed envelope. I knew what it was; I'd seen ones like it before. I opened it first, and as I visually meandered through the lines, my heart warmed. The note was from one of my students, and its contents made my heart sing; he said that something in a recent course he had with me had helped him love Christ more. I was reminded again why I teach the Word and made grateful again for that calling from God. And to think that God allows me to do this work in a school context where I can impart truth to fresh minds and willing hearts, not worn hard by life and sapped of strength by the thorny weeds of sin! Oh, for sure, sin continues as the cancer it is, and Satan rages on, but the Word is always sufficient to make a difference. This is where a right philosophy of teaching Bible in any Christian school begins-the sufficiency of the Word. Do you really believe this?

The Sufficiency of Scripture

Think of the metaphors the Word uses for itself. It is water that refreshes and invigorates the parched heart. It is bread that feeds the hungry soul. It is a hammer that shatters the hardened spirit and a mirror that reveals the face of God and the true face of every man's inner man. It is the sword that slashes the enemy, leaving him bleeding as he flees, and the sword that pierces to the depths of conscience and makes it shout words of commendation for right believed, for good done, and cry out words of condemnation for the wrong thought, the wrong word, and the wrong act. A living book, it imparts life and beckons us to read, memorize, and meditate in its pages. And if we don't, we're bothered at having neglected it, like failing to do that vital task, make that important call, or treat our folks as all good sons and daughters do. But even more than that, we feel downright guilt-ridden and profligate for ignoring it. What other book is like that? What other book is the product of God's communicative impulse, originally inerrant and faithfully preserved, to correct, instruct, and direct in the way of righteousness? What other book is able to leave a boy, girl, teen, or adult fully equipped for every good work? None but the Bible, says the famous statement of II Timothy 3:17.

You see, Bible is not just another subject among many in your school, and teaching it is really not the same as teaching anything else. We must become convinced of this and structure our school schedules and teaching time accordingly. It is more than passing strange that some Christian schools actually view Bible teaching as something to be done just a day or two a week and by just about anybody who happens to have a slot free in his teaching schedule. Besides, it's not really an academic subject anyway, they say. Really, to what abysmally low place have we come when we come to this place? Simple. We've come to the wrong place, an unworthy place for any Christian school.

A Three-Tiered Approach to the Task

Every Christian school should be a "Word school," where the Bible absolutely dominates everything, all the time. Sound radical? It shouldn't; that's the way it is supposed to be. No Christian school is a place that exists primarily for academic, fine arts, or athletic excellence. Those emphases are all secondary to kids' letting "the Word of Christ dwell in [them] richly" (Colossians 3:16) so they will be conformed to the very image of Christ (the will of God for every believer, Romans 8:29). The secret to making this your school's focus is people-the right people. Teachers are the right people, and they have to catch the vision for this. Once they've caught the vision, things will begin to happen. Administrators have a rich opportunity to be "Ezra-like" in this and be the "scribe" of the Word to lead the way in creating this atmosphere in the school by what they model and what they say to their teachers and students over and over again. By mottos, banners, awards, and the way the whole school program is built, they can say, "Around here, knowing God's Word and obeying it is more important than anything else." This captures the spirit of Scripture itself, as Psalm 138:2 says: "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (emphasis mine).

For the administration-teacher team to get the job done in this vital task, a three-tiered approach may be followed: constant Bible-oriented special events, Bible teaching as a separate subject area on every grade level, and the careful integration of biblical truth into every subject area, every hour every day. The first and second tiers of this trilogy of methods are usually employed in some measure in most Christian schools already. But consider these adjustments. For special events, have a school-wide Scripture memorization plan, required at the first level and voluntary and competitive at the second level. Achievement in this area should be awarded on a level that exceeds every other award at the school. Develop and implement a unified, in-class devotional schedule that guides the teacher in three- to five-minute devotions at the beginning of each morning and afternoon. Plan afternoons of service for the different grade levels during which they put biblical life-principles into action. Focus on scheduling dynamic preaching in chapel regularly. Boring preaching teaches our kids to not pay attention to the proclamation of the Word. This is a horrible pattern to set for their future. Have camp at school, or take your school to a camp where they get a week of solid, fervent preaching. Go on a special mission or evangelistic trip with your older kids. The secret is to be creative and constant in this.

Bible teaching as a separate subject area should be happening on every grade level daily. This is the second of this three-tiered approach. Your school should have a Bible specialist who has been trained on the college level in Bible and teaching. He can become your point man and resource person for the rest of your teachers. He should regularly be making them aware of resources for effective Bible teaching and holding in-house training for the rest of the Bible-teaching "crew." Two vital sources to have in your school library for all of your Bible teachers is Stewart Custer's Tools for Preaching and Teaching the Bible and Cyril Barber's The Minister's Library. These works stay in print and may be ordered through any Christian bookstore. Both of these men have spent a lifetime reading thousands of Christian books on a wide range of topics with a particular emphasis on commentaries and expositional reference works. Their works are detailed, annotated bibliographies of the best books for teachers to use in their efforts to understand and teach the Word of God clearly.

Also, getting all of your teachers on board with a well-developed Bible curriculum is a beginning point to ensure in-depth information for your students and plenty of already complete Bible research and careful organization for your teachers. The idea that a Christian schoolteacher carrying multiple daily preparations is going to do better than an already prepared teaching curriculum is an absolute myth. Of course, that each teacher should be creative in his teaching methods, illustrations, and applications is a given; but to buy into the notion that a teacher will do better going it alone is false. Over the last fifteen years, one of my ministry opportunities has been writing Bible teaching curricula for Sunday schools, Bible institutes, and Christian schools on the elementary, teen, and adult levels. I have watched and experienced firsthand the thousands of man-hours it takes a skilled team of authors, editors, and production personnel to put together a top-rate Bible program. Why would any teacher not want to use materials like this? Can one teacher's efforts beat this type of professionally produced material? Letting a teacher "go it alone," even if he wants to, is not wise.

The third tier of this three-tiered approach to Bible teaching in the Christian school is the integration of Scripture into every subject area, every hour, every day. A teacher's ability to do this will be in direct proportion to his or her knowledge of the Bible and the subject being taught. To this ability must be added a determination to do this faithfully. In addition to modeling biblical truth before our students, speaking the Word to them all day long is the rich privilege we enjoy that Christian public school teachers are denied. The great challenge in this is directing the students' attention to the right passage at the right time in the subject area you are teaching. This is not about just "tacking on" Bible verses to everything you say. It is about showing your students that God's Word has relevant things to say in every area of life, both by precept and by recorded historical examples. A pioneer in this area of thought was Frank Gaebelein. More than forty years ago he addressed this idea philosophically in his short work entitled The Pattern of God's Truth. Later, Ruth Haycock produced a series of notebook-size books containing detailed outlines of biblical principles relevant to each subject taught in a typical school curriculum, with relevant Scripture passages added at each point. Her several-volume work is entitled God's Truth in School Subjects and has been published for many years by the Association of Christian Schools International. The Bob Jones University faculty has produced a substantial book, edited by Ronald Horton, that offers help in this area entitled Christian Education: Its Mandate and Mission. This work presents a thoroughly Christian philosophy of teaching for every subject area. The Office of Extended Education at Bob Jones University has recently made available a 22-hour lecture series with a study guide entitled Teaching Bible Principles, which I teach each semester here at BJU. In this series, I attempt to provide both philosophy and usable, biblical material for teachers in every subject area for accomplishing this great task of Scripture integration into other academic disciplines.

The Catalyst that Causes a Spiritual Reaction

At the risk of stating the obvious, I have to say that even with a right philosophy, carefully honed skills, and outstanding materials, all is lost without a teacher who is simply on fire with love for God and love for his students. He must want the face of God to shine upon him more than anything in the world and the lives of his students transformed for the glory of Christ more than everything else that follows. Accuracy, clarity, variety, fervency, honesty, spirituality, and practicality should all describe the servant who teaches the Word. With a smile on his face, the Word in his hand, his heart aflame, and love in his eyes, he can make a profound difference in the life of any school. May God raise up a mighty army of such men and women to teach the Word for the glory of God and the good of His children!

by Stephen Jenkins. Updated October 21, 2015.

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Category: Teaching