Friday, 13 January 2017

teach well

For many of us on the 'Young Cartsbridge' team, the task of teaching is built into the fabric of our service in the church. It takes place in different contexts, using different formats but it shares a common objective: to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the subsequent call to follow him on the path of discipleship.

As we look ahead to a new session, where do we turn for fresh insight and encouragement in this role? Paul's counsel in Romans 12:7 is a great place to start. In almost understated language, the New Living Translation of this verse underlines the approach we ought to take with the gift that God has given us - "If you are a teacher, teach well." Teach WELL. It is a simple and clear call. If we are to honour God in teaching his word, then we must do it well. We ought to approach this responsibility in a careful, prayerful, complete and meticulous manner.

How can this be achieved?

I believe we will get close if we grasp the following:

What is teaching?
At its most basic level it is ‘the interaction of the minds between the communicator and those to whom they are communicating in such a way as to impart knowledge, stimulate thought, impact values or lead to action…or any combination of these’ (source unknown).

What do we need to be a teacher?
We need to know our subject, something of the people to whom we are communicating and we need to know ourselves.

Of course, the answers given to those questions could easily apply to teaching in any context. They are worth reflecting on as we think of our own unique calling at Cartsbridge. However, the calling of Christian ministry requires that we take this to a deeper level. Someone said that the godly approach to teaching recognises that it involves 'the Word of God through the Spirit of God by the servant of God to the people of God.'

Building on that foundation, we need, secondly, to:
In this fast moving, ever changing world that we are part of, the need for effective teachers is of critical importance. Over the last few years I have reflected a great deal on what it means to teach God's Word in the 21st century. What I now outline would be some basic convictions that I have arrived at about how we can do this more effectively.

It is good to remember that both learner and teacher are whole persons
Teaching is not just the communication of mind to mind. It is, more importantly, person to person. Therefore, as a teacher our whole personality needs to be available to the Holy Spirit. A Christian understanding on the gift of teaching recognises that as well as informing the mind it is also about shaping a godly character.

Cultivate wide interests
For our teaching to be effective we need to be students of life and people. We need to learn to engage with people where they are, speaking in a language they understand.

Read books that make you think
It is helpful to have a book to hand that stretches our mind: literature that argues its point. This will enable us to develop the skill of weighing arguments and judging the truth.

Read books that help your imagination
There is a danger that television and the digital age is robbing people of an imaginative leap. As we read good literature it appeals to our imagination and that can be a great help as we seek creative ways of communicating God’s truth. Of course, the key book that helps us to this end is the Bible itself. The picture language of the Bible is rich and full and has the ability to stir our imagination, inform our minds and refine our character.

Be a constant student of your subject
We will only impact others if we are constantly finding new truth in the Bible. We cannot lead people any higher than our own experience of God and our understanding of his word and his ways.

Be a constant student of the art of teaching
We need to continually ask, 'Can my teaching be improved?' To that end, never be afraid to seek counsel from other, more experienced, teachers. Teachers need teachable hearts!

All of this leads me to the final point:
A good number of years ago I heard a preacher develop the following points that I believe, will help us understand, empathise and communicate more effectively with our group:
·       Study the culture
·       Learn the language
·       Love the people
·       Emulate the Lord Jesus Christ

"If you are a teacher, TEACH WELL."

(Written as a reflection for the volunteers of the children’s and youth ministries at Cartsbridge, January 2017)

Thursday, 22 December 2016

veiled in flesh...

I wrote the following as an encouragement to the volunteers of the children’s and youth work at Cartsbridge…

I guess by now all the ministries connected with the children and young people of the church will have stopped for the Christmas break. It has been a busy session on the ‘Young Cartsbridge’ front and an opportunity to enjoy some rest will, no doubt, be much appreciated.

As we prepare for this central weekend in the Christian calendar the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn, ‘Hark! The herald angels sing,’ have impacted me over recent days. The line that has stood out from the others says, ‘veiled in flesh, the Godhead see.’ This statement becomes more poignant when it is viewed against the entire revelation of Scripture. Way back in the book of Exodus we discover an encounter between Moses and the Lord. One of Moses’ main requests of God on that occasion was, ‘show me your glory’ (Exodus 33:18). Moses is informed that were that to happen he would die…such is the awesome glory of God! However, in the gospel of John we read that, We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (1:14). Charles Wesley did not write, ‘veiled in flesh, the Godhead hiddenbut ‘veiled in flesh, the Godhead see.’ Perhaps the significance of that truth can be more fully appreciated with the following illustration…

Back in August 1999 the country experienced its last total eclipse of the sun. We happened to be visiting Liz’s parents in Dalry at the time. At just after 11am on August 11th the moon passed in front of the sun causing an incredible natural phenomenon. The air felt distinctly cooler and the birds immediately stopped singing. It felt like we were entering a strange twilight zone. On the days leading up to the eclipse the press warned against the danger of looking at the sun with the naked eye and special glasses were available for the purpose. As this event unfolded I recall standing out on the street and a gentleman from the estate handing me an old welding mask to observe this all too rare occurrence. To this day I have a very distinct memory of what took place and what I would otherwise not have been able to see were it not for the shield in front of my eyes.

In a similar way, it is through the Lord Jesus Christ that we see the glory of God. The God who revealed himself in all his brilliance to the ancient people of Israel comes near to us in Jesus Christ. We see his love, his humility, his wisdom, his compassion and…his glory. In Eugene Peterson’s famous translation of John 1:14, God moved into the neighborhood in the person of Jesus. He becomes all personal, someone we can know in the everyday experience of life.

My prayer would be that you will experience much of that reality this Christmas season and that the truth of it will overflow into your service with the children and young people of Cartsbridge in 2017.