Toward Better Teaching
Tony Cooke

I recently had a great time teaching (online) third-year students at Rhema Brazil on “The Ministry of the Teacher.” My sessions totaled five hours (which is more than I had ever taught on that specific topic before), so I did some study and research to make sure I had plenty of material. This was not only enjoyable, but it was also challenging to me personally.

Here is a brief summary of some of what I taught:

  • Jesus taught because he had compassion for people (Matthew 6:34). It is one thing to love your content; it is another thing to love the act of teaching; it is yet another thing entirely to love the people you are teaching.
  • Preach for life-change. Our goal in teaching is not simply to convey information but to facilitate transformation. Jesus said that every disciple who has been fully trained “will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). If the purpose of teaching was simply to pass along information, Jesus would have said, “Every disciple who has been fully trained will know what his teacher knows.”
  • Live what you teach. A.B. Simpson said, “A consistent life and a holy example are the most potent factors in every ministry… The true minister will always live first what he preaches. The most spiritual messages will be neutralized without a holy life.”
  • You must do more than deliver content. You must preach for connection and for conviction.
  • Challenge your audience. It has been said that the job of a pastor is to comfort the troubled and to trouble the comfortable. 
  • Call people to action. The book of Ephesians is 50% content and 50% application. The first three chapters teach us what we have and who we are through Christ. The last three chapters instruct us how we are to live in the light of who we are and what we have.
  • Turn peoples’ ears into eyes. Preach visually. Use illustrations. Tell stories. Jesus was a Master Storyteller. If you think about Brother Hagin’s style of teaching, he frequently (a) opened with a Scripture, (b) explained the principle, and (c) told stories to illustrate the Scripture and the principle. Sometimes he would use several stories to illustrate the same point.
  • Be simple and practical. Speak to the common person. Don’t try to impress people with your great intellect. Strive to be understood. Spurgeon said, “Preach upon practical themes, pressing, present, personal matters, and you will secure an earnest hearing.” Likewise, Moody admonished, “A good many preachers say I am lowering the pulpit. I am glad I am. I am trying to get it down to the level of men’s hearts. If I wanted to hit Chicago, I would not put the cannon on the top of this building and fire into the air. Too many preachers fire into the air.”
  • Look for and capitalize upon teaching moments. Jesus often taught his disciples on something that had just occurred. For example, he taught the disciples about servanthood on the heels of them having an argument about which of them was the greatest. Likewise, he used water as an illustration when he spoke to the woman at the well. Be observant. Paul began his message to the Athenians by saying, “As I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship…” (Acts 17:23). Use something in the immediate context to connect with your audience.
  • Utilize more than just a lecture format. Jesus and Paul used the lecture method in certain settings, especially larger, public situations. At other times, their style was more conversational, involving questions and discussion. Sometimes Jesus would give a hands-on assignment and afterward have feedback and interaction with the disciples.

There are so many other things that can be said about improving our effectiveness, such as teaching with passion, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, and knowing how and when to “land” our message (the conclusion). I hope these few things, though, have been encouraging to you in your quest to be your very best in delivering God’s word.