Some time ago I had the privilege of attending a workshop for women on studying and teaching the Bible. For two-and-a-half days, sixty women studied a short book of the Bible together in general sessions and small groups. We listened to instruction on different topics related to the faithful handling of the Word, and we learned how to build a teaching session that accurately reflects the original content of the passage. I went home with an overloaded brain and a full heart.
But my heart and brain weren’t just full of Bible study methods and tools or women’s ministry techniques. These things are useful and necessary, but there was something more basic and fundamental, and more important, that God filled my heart with that weekend . . .
Nothing on the face of the earth deserves my time, attention, priority, and love more than the holy Word of God. Therefore, there is nothing better for me to model or offer to the women I teach than the pure, precious Word of God.
If you are a well-intentioned teacher, as I considered myself to be, you might be thinking, Amen, sister, preach! That’s exactly what I think and how I live, too. Before attending this workshop, I thought of myself as someone who loves and prioritizes the Word, treats it with care, gives it the attention it deserves, and approaches it with humility. I had even taught about the importance of these things and, to some degree, I hoped I was practicing them.
But God humbled me and revealed my stark reality. He showed me how often my perspective in teaching is man-centered. He particularly poked convicting fingers at three areas. I hope that you too can be shaped by them for greater use in the hands of the Holy Spirit.
1. Only God’s Word produces life and transformation. A proper response is complete trust.
It’s easy, when you first start teaching the Word to others, to get caught up in the actual task of preparation, or in trying to develop good communication techniques. But you can spend hours and hours prepping and totally miss the main point. My outline, illustrations, applications, witty comments or jokes, or astute comprehension of the passage will never make an impact on others. The only source of spiritual life and spiritual transformation is the very Word of life. Therein lies power and life.
I can say these words with my mouth (or my fingers in this case), and at the same time be obviously denying them in practice. I can open my Bible, turn on my computer, pull out my commentaries, collect all the study Bibles in the house, and sit down to work with a “Let’s see what I can pull out of this passage to help the ladies in my church change” attitude.
I wouldn’t recognize my self-sufficient attitude if it pushed me aside and sat down in my chair. If I don’t “find” much, I feel discouraged and frustrated with my lack of intelligence and ability. Or maybe my self-sufficiency is a little less subtle waving a banner of, “I can do this. I’m a good teacher.” In either case, my confidence is settled squarely on myself.
The only proper response to the Word of God every time I open it is complete confidence in the Word.
It is living, powerful, and effective. Jesus said that He is the Word. This Book isn’t just a book. It does an active work in its readers and hearers that I will never be able to do in anyone. When I study it and meditate on its truths in order to share them with others, I’m simply discovering the life-giving power that is revealed there and lifting it toward the light for others to see. The Word deserves my utmost confidence.
2. Teachers are only a channel. A proper response is humility.
I have struggled at times with how to view my role as a teacher, knowing that the Word itself has so much power and doesn’t “need” me to do its work in others. The concept that has helped me the most is that, as teachers of the Word, we are only a channel. What does a channel do? I think of cities that have no clean water source, so the water is pumped in through a system of channels. The channel doesn’t make the water higher quality or cleaner. The channel doesn’t make the water more life-giving than it already is to the people who desperately need clean water to live. But the channel helps keep out contaminants and make sure the water gets to where it’s supposed to go—to the people who need it.
In a similar way, we teachers can serve as channels of the life-giving and transformational truths that the pure and powerful Word has to offer women. This should motivate us to study it carefully and communicate it accurately. But it should also produce profound humility.
No part of the work God does through His Word can be attributed to our human efforts or abilities. So, comparing myself to another teacher doesn’t even make sense, because we aren’t the point! We’re simply channels. The precious Word can reach women through many different channels, in varying quantities and at various times. God uses the Word to give us life.
3. Teachers never stop learning and growing. A proper response is faithful perseverance.
The same spirit of humility that causes me to recognize that I’m just a channel for the living and active Word to reach people, will also cause me to realize how much I still have to learn. In the workshop I attended, there were several women who have attended these workshops for years. I was blown away by their attitude. There was no trace of an attitude of “I’m here to pass down all of my great knowledge to you newbies.” Instead, I would describe the disposition of the experienced instructors and group leaders as hungry. They wanted to keep learning and growing. Humility had produced hunger in them, and I wanted that hunger. Their seriousness communicated a sincere desire to constantly grow in their understanding and use of the Word—starting with themselves—because they recognize how vital it is in the life of every woman.
When we recognize how much we still need to learn and how far we still have to go, there’s absolutely no need to be discouraged! Learning and growing in the Word is unlike any other task we undertake at home or at work. It’s a perpetual task for this life, inconclusive in a sense, but that’s okay because the goal isn’t to finish it. The goal of our Bible study and teaching is never to reach perfection and “complete the project.”
The Goal and Privilege of Teaching
The goal of Bible study and teaching is to persevere towards greater delight in God and His Word and point others to do the same. The measurable results I see or don’t see in the lives of the women I teach cannot be my motivation to be faithful. God takes care of the results, because it is His Word that works in people’s hearts. My motivations to persevere faithfully in studying and teaching the Word are the Author’s glory and my delight in Him.
If you have the awesome privilege of teaching the Bible to other women, I trust that God will grant you the firm conviction that spiritual life and change only comes through the living Word of God. I pray that all of us will be humble channels of that Word and be willing to persevere in our pursuit of God. Let’s give women nothing except the pure, precious Word of God.