I was ready to call it all off. On the surface they were getting it. They could repeat my main point, apply it to hypothetical situations, analyze and critique. They could explain why it was important, and they wanted to live it out. Still, underneath the mental assent, they were not getting it. I had spent 10 hours in message prep, yet there was no visible change, just more content that I had passed along.
My assumptions about teaching and learning were centered on transmitting information. I was the dump truck that delivered the goods directly into their brains. I basically saw them as empty vessels, holes even, in need of filling. Besides not being very effective, I believe I suffered from a low view of the Imago Dei in those I taught.
Then I discovered something the church has known for a very long time. God’s Word, church history and good educational theory convinced me to use a much fuller, three-dimensional approach in my discipleship and teaching practice: The Head, The Heart and The Hands.
Dimension #1: The Head (Rational Dimension)
Rooted in the approach of doctrinal revelation, I found myself teaching solely in this area. My thoughts were: God has spoken; thus, we should know what He has revealed to us. We are to renew our minds and know the truth.
I like J.B. Phillips’ translation of Romans 12:1-2: “Don’t let this world squeeze you into its mold.” We find that truth is liberating. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). We find that truth actually sanctifies us! “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Truth is essential. We must learn to think God’s thoughts. Regular Bible exposure is essential to Christian living.
Of course there is a danger here of confusing the process of accomplishment with our ultimate goal. We cannot confuse biblical knowledge with spiritual maturity. Just because we or our students can quote, teach and argue the Bible does not mean we are transformed by it. Memorization and orthodoxy are a means to an end. It is possible to know a great deal of Scripture and not be spiritually mature. Knowledge is necessary but not sufficient. However, it is not possible to be spiritually mature without knowing Scripture.
The question each of us should ask about our teaching is, “What do I want my students to know?”