Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Understanding = Less Commanding

I looked back over my 20's and saw that there was a fundamental flaw in the way I tried to teach people. Whether it was my own children, members of bible studies I taught, or students and singles in the ministries where I was on staff, I found it easy to give a command and tell people what they should do. I also found it easy to be frustrated at them for not meeting my expectations. It's harder to teach people how to carry out that command, but the process and results are way more peaceful.

For example, it's easy to yell at my kid, "Don't slam the door!" That command only leaves us both frustrated. If I want change and a calmer house, I need to get off my bumpkin and show my kid how to turn a door knob and close the door gently.

When I was on church staff, I came in eager to encourage young men and women to live missional lives. Then it dawned on me that I didn't even know if half of them were saved. I had to stop saying "Be missional!", take a step back, and teach the Gospel first. Once people understand the Gospel at work in their own lives, it becomes very easy to teach them how to live a missional life. Once students learn the how, I rarely have to preach "Be Missional".

Today, I spent some time exercising with my kids. To give my kids ownership, I told them we would have "P.E." class and each of them had to lead the rest of us in some type of stretch or exercise. My youngest kid screamed, "I WANNA DO JUMPING JACKS." This is what happened:

Cute. I laughed because those are not jumping jacks. I can't just assume that because I know how to do a jumping jack, can model jumping jacks, and tell my kids to do jumping jacks that they will be able to correctly perform a jumping jack. My oldest kid came to the rescue. "Okay everybody, put your body like an 'X'. Now a pencil. X. Pencil." And then......

Notice what the little one said: "I know how to do a jumping jack." She 's seen them done before and she thinks she knows how to pull them off, but she doesn't. It's still cute. If I want my kid to just entertain people for a few years, I will keep videoing her. But if I want her to be an adult that doesn't make a fool of herself, I'm going to lovingly teach her some skill.

When it comes to the Bible, I can't forget the basics.  Most people don't know how to read the Bible and understand it the way God intended.  We (the Church) may teach, preach, and model well, but have created young people who are full of energy, passion, and capability, but no skill when it comes to navigating the Old and New Testament.  Christians think they know how to read it because they can name the 66 books in order, but until God or someone shows them the simple "how-to's", they will not handle the Word correctly.  If we encourage others to read the Bible through in a year, we need to be able to help them navigate the freaky parts.  I need to explain that men of faith having a bunch of wives is not the model of godly marriage(s) or why Hosea 1:2 should not be men's life-verse "Go get yourself a wife of harlotry."

My new goal as I teach my kids or bible study group is to teach them how to "X....pencil" their way through the Bible before I challenge them to exercise their faith.


  1. Great post Tonya. First off, your kids certainly are cute and entertaining. :-) I like the example you give of how to read your Bible. I think that a lot of Christians will read their Bible without really thinking about it. There are certainly parts that if you read at just a cursory level seem odd or even contradictory or wrong. People will sometimes take these verse out of context of at simple face value without seeing how they fit with the rest of scripture, or if the author may have been trying to say something else, or that the culture at the time of the writing may affect its meaning. People need to be shown how this affects how they read their Bible and what we know about God. I'm trying to keep those things in mind right now as I go through the book of James. I've been writing my own Bible Study of sorts as I go through the book verse by verse. It makes you really stop and think about what James (and God) were really trying to say, and how it applies to our lives. It's been a mental exercise to say the least so far, and I'm only through chapter 2 verse 8 after a few months.

  2. Joe that's awesome! You've always loved bible study! I love that about you...actually there were times you sat in bible study and taught me things!

  3. Thanks Tonya. I am pretty excited about this Bible study. I started off working on it for my own benefit. I had started reading James one day, and found that I could not stop reading the book until I had finished it (not terribly difficult with James), and started to think about how great of a book it is. So I decided to start digging deeper into it, writing it down as I went. I found it easiest to just write to myself in a sort of book form, so that's what I did. It didn't take me long getting into it that I figured this study might be beneficial to others as well. I had already started to have a desire to teach.

    So I took my study (what I had completed so far, which was the first chapter of James) to our pastor, Marcus Brown, and asked him to take a look at it. He loved it, so next week we are getting together to talk about organizing a group Bible Study for me to teach on James starting probably in early February. I'm slightly nervous because I've never gotten to teach a long term Bible Study before. Well, I had tried with Revelation, but that never really fully materialized. I'm also quite excited though. Sevreal people have told me in recent months that they wished there was more in-depth Bible Studies at our church, so I think this is something that people will enjoy and get a lot out of. I'm hoping that by summer I'll be done writing Bible study.