As teachers of the Bible we have an awesome responsibility. We cannot afford to take this calling lightly. In the following post Chuck Lawless gives us eight commitments that every teacher of the Word of God should set as a goal.
I love teaching, especially when I’m privileged to lead studies from the Word of God. To be frank, though, teaching frightens me. It frightens me because teachers will be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). We have great responsibility, and with that responsibility comes accountability.
I am surprised, though, how little attention churches give to securing Bible study leaders and holding them accountable. Below are eight covenant commitments I would want them to affirm as they serve in the local church:
I will grow in my faith and devotion to God through consistent personal Bible study. Bible study leaders have a tendency to teach from our reserves; that is, we teach out of what we learned in the past, perhaps at a time when we more faithfully read God’s Word daily. It is wrong to assume we can take on today’s teaching task on the basis of yesterday’s power. As a teacher of God’s Word, I want my personal Bible study to be present tense and growing.
I will faithfully support the work of the church by regular worship attendance and financial giving. We teach not only with our words, but also with our lives. Bible study leaders who teach their group but who do not also support the church are likely growing their own kingdom more than God’s kingdom. As a Bible study leader, I want to model good churchmanship.
I will be holy, knowing that what others do not see is as important as what they do see. Teaching is a public act as we stand before others and instruct. Preparation for teaching, though, is quite personal and private. When there is unconfessed sin, we lack the power of God that should mark all teaching of the Bible. The unholy Bible study leader imparts only information, but the holy Bible study leader imparts life. I want to be holy, not only for God’s glory and my good, but also for those I teach.
I will teach the Word. This commitment is a non-negotiable, but Bible study leaders do not always practically keep this commitment. Conversations, food, fellowship, and prayer (all significant elements of a small group) consume the time set apart for teaching, and attention to the Bible is lessened. The wise Bible study leader takes the steps necessary to guard that time to focus on the Word. I want to meet my responsibility to lead the group clearly and intentionally to the Scriptures.
I will faithfully prepare to teach each week. Let’s be honest—sometimes it’s easy to teach when you’ve done it for a number of years. We can study a little (or not at all) and still teach something. The group members might, in fact, think our teaching is great, but we know something else: we are missing the full blessing of God because we’ve not given Him time to move us in our preparation to teach. I want to long for the blessing of God when I stand before others as a Bible study leader.
I will share my faith regularly and challenge the group to do the same. We must determine whether or not we will live what we lead. If we genuinely live what we lead, we will take initiative to tell others about Jesus. We will weep over non-believers because we trust the Word we teach. To not tell others is to reveal that our teaching is only for us and for people like us. It is to be selfish with the message we communicate. I want to faithfully reach out to non-believers because I believe the message I teach is life transforming.
I will seek prayer partners and pray for group members each week. We need others praying for us because we need God’s power to make a difference through our teaching. We need someone praying for us, “Lord, do not let them lead in their own strength.” Genuine prayer is a cry for relationship, an admission of dependence, and a means by which we minister to others. I want to be a prayer warrior on behalf of the group I lead.
I will strive to raise up new Bible study leaders and multiply my class. The evidence of good teaching is not only in the classroom; it is also in the lives of our hearers. The best Bible study leaders know their responsibility is to reproduce themselves in younger leaders—who will then start new groups. They might even take some of the best group members with them. If we cannot rejoice when that happens, our teaching is likely too self-centered. I want to train new Bible study leaders and start new groups gladly.
As Bible study leaders, we will answer to God for our service. What other commitments would you include in your Bible study leader’s covenant? And, because covenants are usually two-sided, what commitments should a congregation make to Bible study leaders?
Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary