By Mike Riley
A preacher was once heard to say, “If you can do anything besides preach then don’t preach.” James is stressing the same idea with regard to teachers in James 3:1. Unless you possess the unquenchable desire to teach, don’t teach. Until God’s Word is like a “burning fire shut up in your bones” (Jeremiah 20:9), don’t be a teacher. Until you are truly willing to make your heart and mind ready to meet the rigors of teaching God’s word, do something else. The role of Bible teacher is weighted with responsibility. The one who undertakes this vocation truly performs the greatest and most important work of all.
James continues, reminding us that teachers “receive the heavier judgment” (James 3:1). When we think of the damage that can be done by false doctrine, it isn’t any wonder why James made this statement. Paul admonished his young protege, Timothy to “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16). If one is careless with doctrine both the teacher and the student can be lost. The following are some biblical qualities that any godly Bible class teacher should possess:
Possess Genuine Spirituality and Deep Consecration
Paul wrote, “To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). As a teacher of God’s word, one will have to be entirely in harmony with the teachings of God’s word. A teacher can only really teach what he is. The Proverb writer teaches us that the character of a man is based upon what he “thinks” about (Proverbs 23:7). A teacher must live what he teaches or no one will listen long enough to learn. It is tragic to think that we would allow even for a moment a spiritually shallow teacher to indoctrinate our children.
Have A Good Working Knowledge Of The Bible
Can we imagine a mathematics teacher teaching our children who didn’t understand the subject of mathematics? Those who would enlighten others about God’s way must also grasp thoroughly God’s message. Paul enjoined Timothy “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul is saying that one must be skilled with the word of God. A teacher not only must be familiar with what the Bible says but also how to apply it to life.
A Bible class teacher who is excited about teaching, is eager to present the message in such a way that others will understand it (Nehemiah 8:5-8). Not all people will learn the same way. Jude teaches us in Jude 1:22-23, that various classes of lost people require different methods of approach in our teaching them the gospel. Some will be honest doubters and with these we are to deal with infinite tenderness and patience. Those who are perplexed, bewildered, and confused are to be tenderly escorted to the truth. The word, “others” in vs. 23 refers to the class of lost people who are more advanced in error and thus require a more bold, earnest, and subtle approach. As the Master teacher, Jesus often used object lessons, parables, lectures and even wrote on the ground to make his point (John 8:6). A good Bible teacher will incorporate various teaching methods in order to better enable his students to learn biblical truths.
Demonstrate Cheerfulness and Optimism
It is impossible for a Bible class teacher to present the saving gospel of Christ and be devoid of joy. Over and over again the Bible tells us to rejoice (Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; 1 Peter 4:13). The teacher of God’s book must live the joy of Christianity so others will see it. The hope of heaven and a knowledge that God always does what is right should unleash us from the burdens of sorrow and worry over this life. Bible class teachers who show a sad face and a frown will have little positive impact on the lives of their students. Our Bible classes should bring hope and encouragement to an otherwise dreary world. We all need to come to a knowledge that with God’s help we can be victorious and overcomers in this world (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4).
Be Sympathetic and Kind
Teachers who possess a sympathetic heart can truly bolster children. A sincere love for people will produce kind expressions of Christ-like affection (Hebrews 5:2). Again James practical view of Christianity comes into play here. “Pure religion and defiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27). Being sympathetic means more than understanding an individual’s needs, it means doing what we can to provide those needs (Acts 2:45; Acts 4:35).
Bible class students need to know their teachers will encourage them to conquer sin in their lives. They need to know they have a friend who will aide them in their struggles to live as Christ desires. The role of sympathy and kindess is best defined in Paul’s statement, “bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Sometimes the Bible class teacher will have more influence than anyone else because of the trust that grows out of kind acts of love and concern.
It’s been said that the church is only as strong as its Bible classes. Bible classes are a wonderful medium for building up the Lord’s church. As Bible class teachers, may we ever use the teaching abilities God has giv