I had the chance to speak to a group of middle school students on Sunday. It was one of the best learning experiences I have had directly related to speaking in a long time. I was forced to adapt my speaking style, change some of my natural tendencies, and adjust on the fly. It was one of the most rewarding experiences. After sitting back and analyzing the process and talking through some of my thoughts with others, I came up with a list of four things I learned about me and speaking from this opportunity. In no way are these thoughts meant to be derogatory or negative. They are just observations I made about myself and speaking to students. The four lessons will be posted as shorter posts so that they are easier to process. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me.
- I learn through the process. [Click here to read post]
- I cannot come home to an empty house. [Click here to read post]
- It takes a specific person to a specific job. [Click here to read post]
- The Bible comes first, then Me. – This ties directly back in to my first observation because my process starts with Scripture. When I begin to study or teach, I start with what the Bible says. That seems like the logical place to start, but that is not everyone’s process. Some teach topically (find a topic that you feel God pressing on your heart to teach or preach and see what Scripture has to say about it), and some are more expository teachers (study a passage and pull meaning and application out of the passage usually verse by verse). My natural tendency leans towards expository teaching as opposed to topical because I believe Scripture is the highest authority and the Holy Spirit speaks clearly through the pages of Scripture what needs to be taught. The Word of God by itself is powerful without our commentary or insights added on. For example, read Acts 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading the Scriptures that testified about who Jesus was. He did not need a sermon to break it down for him (yes, Philip was there to help him understand, but the Scripture spoke the truth!), the Holy Spirit taught him. Therefore, I begin with the Bible. I begin with a passage and see where God leads out of there. Because, to be honest, I am a flawed human being with a limited capacity to understand and communicate. If I can let the Scriptures speak for themselves and keep my commentary and interpretation to a minimum, then I am removing myself as a stumbling block and allowing the Holy Spirit to work via the Scriptures. I want the bedrock of my teachings, talks, sermons to be Scripture, not a witty saying or three bullet points and a poem. Hear me on this, those are not bad structures or implementations. They help retain information and understanding, and I am for them! I learned that the text is central in my teaching otherwise I feel like I jumping around all over the place with very little that actually connects in my mind. Maybe this stems from my youth and lack of experience, but I would rather read through Scripture and let its examples speak than try and conjure up illustrations from my past–which I have found out are limited and boring, in my opinion. All that said, Scripture comes first, then me. I want the text to speak, then draw meaning from what the text has said. I struggle with setting up a framework and finding the Scriptures that fit best into those situations. To me, it is more natural, organic, and authentic if you allow the Word and the Holy Spirit to first do a work in you through your studying of a passage so that it is what you keep coming back to time and time again rather than a slogan, title, saying, or quip. Not everyone will agree with me on topical vs. expository, and that is okay. God has gifted people with different teaching gifts and the ability to pull meaning out differently. I am constantly reminded that we are all on the same team, not enemies. God has placed us in a our situations with our gifts for specific reasons and we must rejoice in that and with others who are being faithful to exercise what God has given them.