Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Better Than a Rock Star

Leslie Basham: When Jen Wilkin teaches God's Word to women, she wants to remember it's not about the teacher . . . it's about God's Word.

Jen Wilkin: The last thing I want to hear is, "You were a rock star," or "You killed it!" I don't care about that! I just want to show up and be faithful to the text. Don't ask me to be a rock star. You go somewhere else if you want that. My job is to teach the text, and it's not just my job . . . it's your job to come and partner with me in that as a student. Come on along!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for Thursday, February 21, 2019.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Yesterday, we began hearing from Jen Wilkin in a series called, "Getting Women into the Word." Jen offered some practical how-to's. How do you teach God's Word faithfully?

We're going to pick that series back up today. If you're a Bible teacher, or would like to be, Jen's message will show you how. And even if you don't consider yourself gifted to be a teacher, this message will show you how to get more out of your personal study of God's Word.

Now, here's Jen, from a Revive conference, hosted by Revive Our Hearts.

Jen: Everyone works diligently at what they care about—everyone does. You don't have to convince someone to work hard at the thing that they love. Our job is to help them learn to love Bible study. So, I want you to teach them to think, to learn, and to work. Then next, I want you to set your students on a three-legged stool.

I believe that there are three very important components to the way we present the Word of God to our women. In many cases, we are only operating on one of them . . . maybe two.

Our most common scenario in the church today, I suggest, is to come and sit under a teaching over a passage of the Scripture that we have spent how much time in before we hear the message? Zero, right?

I mean, maybe you have studied it at one point in the past, but how often do you sit under teaching and hear something taught where you have spent significant amounts of time in the text before you hear the teaching?

There may not always be environments in which you have control over this; you may not know what your pastor is going to preach on before he preaches on it on Sunday. But you and I, as women who are teaching women, we can set this up so that women can learn the value of this.

It will do a couple of things: It will help them to be able to learn more during your teaching time when you actually getting down to teaching through a passage. Why? Because they've already owned the text a little bit on their own.

But it will do another thing as well: It will hold you, the teacher, to a much higher standard. What did we say that the false teacher and the secular humanist relied on (because it's the same thing that a weak teacher relies on as well)—ignorance of the text.

If I can rely on my women knowing what the text said, then that means I've got to bring my "A game." I welcome it, and I celebrate it because I need the accountability, and because I want to run further in the time that we have. I don't want to have to set up the story for you. I want you to have done that on your own, remember?

Because, what am I doing? I'm making you do everything that you're able to do. I'm practicing "intentional laziness." (Actually, I'm working my guts out to make sure the lesson goes as far as it can!) But we're making our students do as much as they can do on their own.

So, the first leg of the stool (you have probably already guessed) is personal study time. I'm about to say something that is hugely unpopular. If at all possible, give homework beforehand. We hate homework! I know. I went to school, too. I didn't love it either!

But what class did you ever take that was of any lasting value that didn't have a homework component to it? I've got two children in college right now. If they came home to me and said, "Aw, it's fine. We just show up for class. I get some stuff out of it."

I'd say, "Where is the homework? Show me the syllabus! I am bleeding out cash to this organization. Where is the homework?"

So think about this in terms of Bible education. I would argue with you that biblical education is far more important than what my children are going to learn at the university. But we don't give homework? "Just show up; it'll be fine. The Holy Spirit will be there. C'mon!" Could we care more about this?

I know what you're thinking: They won't do it. You are absolutely right! If you don't assign it, they will not do it—every time! (laughter) James makes a statement that I think applies to this, "You do not have because you do not ask." Ask them!

Our Bible literacy issue will not get better if we continue to lower the bar. Ask them! Do you know why? Do you know what my kids learned by me off-loading things to them, by me saying, "You do this; you do this; you do this"? Do you know what they learned? Confidence!

They took confidence from that. "I can do this!" Hey, I've failed. When you first get your kids folding the laundry, that goes terribly. (laughter) I'm a little bit of a type-A myself—not in all areas. But I admit, I like a neatly folded clothing drawer, and I did not have it for like a decade.

I'd be like, "You go fold it; you put it away." And they'd say, "Mommy, I did it!" And I'd say, "Awesome!" But in my head, "I know you didn't. I'm not going upstairs ("don't go look, don't go look"). Or if you do go look, you're like, "Baby, that's fantastic!" Right?

Give the homework! Give it to them. Get them started in the process, because it will take a while, but they will get better at it. They will fail less. Their speculations will end in places that are helpful more quickly. They will wonder in right ways, and they will learn to wait well.

Give them homework. It is like stretching before exercise (or so I hear!). When you stretch before you exercise, it gets easier to do the work of exercising. Homework does that for you and your students.

And so, what kind of homework? Does that mean you have to write a whole full-blown curriculum every time you're going to get together to have a discussion with whomever you're teaching? No. At bare minimum (and I don't mean to minimize this, because this is a really important skill), ask them to read the text that you will be covering about three times.

Just say, "Read it through three times. Mark on it if you want to." Get them reading the text before they come. If that's all the homework you give, I believe you will see your teaching ministry begin to transform in very short order.

Personal study time encourages independent thought versus just curatorship of other people's opinions. So, whatever you give them (and we'll take a look at some good ways to approach this) keep the work doable, keep it thought-provoking, and keep it creative as much as you're able to.

Be thinking in terms of, "What are the kinds of questions I want them to begin asking of the text themselves? When I'm not with them, what am I wanting them to start thinking in their heads any time that they read through a text?"

Ask those kinds of questions if you're structuring questions for them before you get together with them. You need to anticipate the tough questions—the ones that they may be afraid to ask are the questions you need to ask them in the time before they come so that when you get together, they've already thought about it, and they're ready to have a really good discussion about where to end up on that.

So be a good asker of questions; be a creative asker of questions. I will tell you my philosophy on this. Keep whatever I give them before they come highly based on just reading comprehension, with some interpretation and application elements to it. But for the most part, if I can just get them to comprehend what's going on in the text, during the teaching time I can just run like heck.

Lastly, if they don't their homework (okay, there's my realist hanging out), make them wish that they had! (laughter) So here's how I do this in my format. I reference it in the teaching constantly. I'll say, "You saw in your homework this week . . . blah, blah, blah," or "Remember when you looked this word up in your homework; wasn't that awesome?" or "Do you remember what you put on this question?"

That way, all of those women who are hanging on for dear life—their kid cried all night long, they didn't get their homework done—I don't want them to be like, "I'm never coming back. I didn't get the homework done."

I know their small group leader is going to turn to them and say, "Hey, it's okay you didn't get it done this week, but you try again next week, right?" But what I do during my time is, I build for them an excitement around, "I think I missed something. I think the rest of these women are getting more out of this than I am because I didn't get to the homework this week!"

Don't punish them, help them. Find ways to encourage them to stick with it. Okay, so the first leg on your stool is personal study time.

The second leg on the stool is group discussion time. Now, if you're in a room that's five to twelve women, then you have room to weave your discussion time into the third leg of the stool, which, I'm sure you all can guess, is going to be your teaching time. It doesn't mean these three things have to happen in just this way.

It is possible to weave discussion time into the time that you are teaching, depending on however many students you might be dealing with. Just bear that in mind.

Group time helps your students test their personal interpretation against the shared interpretation in the group. This is such an important thing to do. One of the things that concerns me, sometimes, is that people will read this book I wrote (Women of the Word). It gives them these tools so that they can spend time getting first-hand knowledge of the text. But too often they run past the part that says, "Hey, you know what? Don't just do this on your own, alone in a room."

We live in the United States, so this individualism thing has been bred into us since our earliest days in elementary school. And we think, I can do this on my own, is the best thing we can say. It is a good thing, but trust me—the Christian faith is not about doing it on your own.

In 1 Peter 2:5, what are we described as? Living stones that are all part of one building. We are meant to be doing study of the Bible in community. So you have your time alone, and then you come together as a group, and you discuss.

And you "get your crazy out" on the table: "This is what I thought this passage meant; what did you think?" And you're ready for the whole group to look at you and say, "You are very bad at this! (laughter) We are going to help you get better!" You let that environment be a safe place to fail and to grow. So we have this group time so that we can purposefully move forward together.

Now, it is really, really important that you keep the discussion on track. What did I say was that women needed to be pushed on? Is it building community with one another and hugging? No. It's keeping our mind engaged, right?

Which is why, when you have a discussion time over whatever happened in the homework, you want to keep it about whatever that is. You want to honor that person's investment that they put in before they got there by guarding the time that you have to discuss it.

So you're going to use that time for what it's for. It doesn't mean that you're going to be like, "Oh, I'm sorry, prayer request time has passed, so you'll just need to sit on that 'til next week."

No. We're going to be flexible, right, but I always tell the women in my study, "I know you're going to form community with each other. I know you're going to network and make relationships with one another, and that makes me so, so happy. But that is not my primary goal. My primary goal is for you to learn, and everything that we do when we gather here will be structured around protecting that idea. Because you're going to make friends, you're going to go to lunch together, you're going to love each other, you're going to name your kids after each other . . . I get it. (laughter) But I'm going to push you on the thing that's hard for you. I'm going to ask you to love God with your mind during this time, and we've got some structure around that." So keep the discussion on track; keep it purposeful.

Here's another one: Don't fear silence; let it do its work. Can you count to thirty before you wait for a woman to answer? Do you have the nerve? I hope you do. I want you to develop it. Silence has to linger for a long time, especially early on in your relationship with your students. Why? Because it takes courage for them to put their voices out there. This is one reason (I'll just throw a little plug in for this, right now) why single-gender learning environments are critical to the well-being of the church.

Studies show that in mixed-gender groups (so if you've got five men and five women), men contribute at twice the rate that women do. Twice the rate! I sat in on a class at my church recently, and there was a Q and A at the end of the discussion time, and it was a 50/50 class, men and women.

And during the Q and A, there were eleven questions that were asked of the teachers at the end of the class. Can you guess how many were asked by women? Zero! None! And the guys leading the class were not mean or scary or off-putting. It's just a thing that we do.

So think how important it is, how precious it is, when women gather to discuss things together. Think about the freedom that some women feel only in that environment. You can imagine, I was annoying whether there were men and women in the group, or whether it was just women. (laughter)

But I know that many women are not that way; they are slow to speak. What a gift! "So let's beat that out of them"—right? (laughter) No, your small group time should be a place where you feel free to contribute and where your contributions are safe—that we're all allowed to learn together.

Keep the discussion on track. Keep it purposeful. Don't fear silence. Throw the question out there, count to thirty slowly in your head. Someone will crack, and if they don't, you find someone to whom you say, "Will you be the first person to answer this question?"

You set it up beforehand so that you begin to build up this expectation. We do this in parenting, too. "When I ask a question, you respond." Isn't that what we do with our kids? We have to train a group in that as well. "When I ask a question, you respond." It takes them a while to learn it, but we can get there if we think carefully about it.

Always, always, always look for the question behind the question when something comes up in your group. I'll give an example of this: Someone will ask a question about hell. When they ask a question about hell, what are they almost always thinking? Are they worried about hell?

No, they're worried about a deeper question. They have a loved one who just passed away, or they're thinking that they can't trust the character of God. That's not question about what hell is like. It's a question about what God is like.

So even when you don't know the answer, maybe you can't say it, but you can say, "You know, I can't speak specifically to what hell is going to be like, but I can tell you this: we can trust God!" You can point them toward the answer to the real question that they're asking. Look for the question behind the question.

Here's another thing you can do: Invite openness with openness. You set the tone. The way that you share your responses is going to model for them what you are hoping they will do. That means that you need to be vulnerable enough to say when you don't understand something.

And if you're asked a question you can't answer, say, "I don't know, but I will find out." Everyone say that with me. Isn't that fantastic? It makes you vulnerable. It makes you human. But here's the other thing . . . it's just flat honest!

And people know. When you're like, "We-e-e-ll . . . I believe that it may have been . . . and back in the fifteenth century . . . and Josephus . . ." And you're like, "What!?" Go home! Buy yourself some time; they can wait. You've trained them to wait. Invite openness with openness and admit your knowledge limitations. It humanizes you, and it keeps you humble, and our students need that so, so much.

Okay, so then we have the third leg of the stool—teaching time. As I've said, depending on the size and format of your group, this may be something that is a blend with discussion time. And you can tell. Even when I teach large groups of women, what do I do? I'm still pulling you in, right? It's not a staged trick. I need it.

I need to know that you're with me, and that this is not a monologue—or worse, a soliloquy. Have you ever lectured your kids? No! Why would you do that. The Bible says not to. (laughter) If I asked most parents, "How should you talk to your children?" What would they say? "Oh, it should be a dialogue—back and forth, back and forth."

But, what do we do so often? We tell ourselves it's a dialogue, but then we're talking, right? We're talking and we're talking. Then we start to warm to our theme. We're like, "I am good! This is good!" And pretty soon it's turned into a monologue. What's a monologue? It's when one person is talking and other people are listening.

But how quickly does it lead from a monologue to that third thing—a soliloquy? Do you know what that is? Mrs. Wagner, my English teacher, would tell you, that is when one person is talking and nobody is listening.

That is not the role of the teacher! There are times when you will be doing monologue, in the literary sense, but ideally it always remains—as much as possible—a dialogue! Right? "I ask . . . you answer."

Then, during the teaching time, you need to be several things. You need to be resourceful. This means that you need to get help. Don't think, Okay, I'm in charge of teaching this thing, and so I've got make this all happen on my own.

You go find a pastor who will help you, who will point you toward good resources, who can help surround you with whatever you need. Is it childcare? Is it facilities? Maybe it's just a direction to go with a study. You go get help, either from a pastor or from a mentor.

I had that. Mary Willis is here today. Do you know what she did for me? I didn't have a place to meet, and I said, "I don't know what I'm going to do. This is too hard!"

She said, "You can do it." And then she told me exactly what she had done. She said, "You know what? You go find a church in your community, and you ask if they'll host that study, and you see what they say." She gave me the tools. She built things around me to help me get going when I thought that it was too much for me to handle.

When I need good resources, I can ask my pastor, and he's going to give them to me. In fact, if I need a conversation about something—if there's something I'm a little concerned that I want to say just right—I know who I can call, and they can help me say it in a way that honors the text.

Do you know why? Because I'm not enough. I think we've covered that—we're not enough. But also remember, we're not isolationists, and so we reach out to other "living stones" and say, "Can you help me? Can you help me in this good work? Can you pull me along?" Be resourceful. Look outside of yourself for help, so that you can be a responsible worker.

Think about illustrations that are going to bring whatever it is that you are trying to teach to life. For me, illustrations are the hardest piece. When I get those in place, I know I can drive this home. I know I can.

Application. I mean, I'm a sinner. I can figure out how to apply this and tell you all about that. For me, it's finding that right illustration that's really going to capture them, that's really going to connect their thinking to their feeling and make it practical for them. Be resourceful.

Be unpredictable. And part of being unpredictable means we don't hurry through the parts they expect us to. Do you know, the email I get most frequently about the studies that I've done is about the week that I taught the genealogies in Genesis. Do you know why? Nobody thought it was going to be interesting, but it was fascinating. It brought us to our knees. But how often do you study through Genesis, and you don't even stop there? "Well, then there's a bunch of names, and let's just keep on moving."

We taught Joshua. I did the land allotments for two weeks. Two weeks, they had to read them repetitively . . . and they came back! When you set your students on a three-legged stool, it doesn't all rely on you being the most awesome teacher that week. And that is fantastic news!

The last thing I want to hear is, "You were a rock star," or "You killed it!" I don't care about that! I just want to show up and be faithful to the text. Don't ask me to be a rock star. You go somewhere else if you want that.

My job is to teach the text, and it's not just my job . . . it's your job to come and partner with me in that as a student. "Come on along. I'm going to set a good expectation for you. I'm going to hold you to it. I'm going to hold myself to my own expectation, and we are going to be workers who can stand before God unashamed of the way that we have approached His Word. Let's do it!"

Be resourceful. Be unpredictable. Be vulnerable. Share out of your weakness. It is not fun for me to stand up and tell everybody that I have a sharp tongue, that my besetting sin is also the thing that can, at times, be my greatest strength—the way I use my tongue. But I have to.

I'd be a big, fat liar if I stood up here and said anything different. What is your besetting sin? Keep it ever before you; it will keep you humble before those you teach, and your vulnerability will help train them to be vulnerable as well.

Here's another one; be reasonable. Cover a digestible amount. The more time you spend in the Word, the more capacity you may have to move through a text at a particular rate. Remember that your students, for the most part, are craving "the pure milk of the word, as newborn infants." Be gentle with them. There is never anything lost in going slowly through a passage, versus too quickly. So be reasonable. Cover a digestible amount.

Then lastly, be gentle with yourself. The post-teaching debrief in your head is a killer—the "could-a, should-a, would-a's." Like, the worst thing I think I can do after I teach is go back and look through my notes and be like, "Oh, I meant to say that," or "I should have said this," and "I could have said that."

It's brutal! Nancy referred to it yesterday as "the battle after the battle." Yep, I know about that one. Give yourself some grace; the Lord does not ask for perfection from you. He asks for willingness and earnestness and soberness of mind. And He asks you to come needy to Him as you reach out to teach others.

So it is no surprise that we finish teaching and we didn't say everything we meant to say. A dear friend of mine always reminds me, "You don't have to say it all at once. He'll give you another chance."

I think we're losing when we think we have to come and sit and hear something that just blows us away and can never be topped. The beautiful idea is of an ongoing ministry, right? Week after week, where we have a cumulative effect in our teaching, where no one particular teaching time has to be fantastic. Why? Because we're building toward something bigger than any one teaching time, and we can trust that.

Allow your teaching to have a cumulative effect. Don't feel like you have to get up there every week and . . . There are weeks where you, the teacher, didn't have adequate time to prepare. Now, I'm not advocating for that, but I'm telling you, I have seen the Lord show up on that week for me.

It's okay; don't be hard on yourself. And, sometimes, depending upon the environment you are in, you may be the only encouragement that you have! (laughter) So know that the Lord looks on you with gentleness and kindness. Know that you are involved in a good work. Be encouraged in that!

Nancy: That's Jen Wilkin, helping us understand how to study and teach God's Word more effectively. If you missed the first part of this message yesterday, or any part of today's program, you can hear it at Look for the series "Getting Women into the Word."

Now, before you can teach God's Word to others, you've got to know it for yourself. Jen has written a book that will help you dig into the Bible with a fresh hunger. She'll show you how to understand God's Word, how to put it in historical context, and see how a passage fits with the grand narrative of Scripture as a whole.

One of the greatest burdens on my heart is to help women feel equipped to get into God's Word and to share it with others. And this book, Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin, is a great way to do that.

In fact, as I read that book a few years ago, I found myself Tweeting lots of quotes from it. I want you to have a copy of it. I want you to read it. I want you to get these concepts into your heart and your life. This week, when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we'll send you Jen's book as our way of saying "thanks."

Your support is so important to us, and it helps make sure you can keep hearing Revive Our Hearts each weekday. When you call to make your gift, be sure to ask for Women of the Word. The easiest way to do this is to go to, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Father, how I thank You for the beauty and the wonder and the power of Your precious Word. Give us more of a hunger, a heart to read it, to study it, to learn it, to digest it, to live it, and then to share it with others. I pray it in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Well, tomorrow Jen Wilkin will continue showing us how to effectively teach God's Word to other women. She'll help you read the Bible accurately, understand it clearly, and interpret it well. She'll show you how to encourage other women to follow those steps on their own.

That's tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you become more of a woman of the Word. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.