There was a Southern Preacher that once preached a message about the resurrection. The title of the message was “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a Comin.’” I often will quote that title around the house and adjust it to the day of the week. It reminds me that I need to stay at it because Sunday is a comin’! It is amazing how quickly Sunday comes around when you are a Sunday School teacher. Preparing the lesson is a task that requires some diligent work. Today we look at some practical questions that might help as you prepare for the lesson you will teach.
What does the text say? As we study the Bible for lesson preparation, it is important to have some paper and a pencil or use a computer program that will allow us to record our thoughts. As we teach, we want to teach out of what the Lord has taught us in our personal study. Using a quarterly or commentary is helpful later on, but first, we want God to speak to our hearts through the text. Many teachers find it helpful to simply read the text several times, allowing the passage to penetrate their thoughts. You may also wish to read the text in several translations and note subtle differences that may help you understand the intention of the writer.
What is the background and the context of the book my passage is in? A good study Bible can help you get a good overview of the author’s intent as he writes the book of the Bible in which your text appears. For example, it is good to know that Timothy is serving as a pastor as Paul writes to him in the books of First and Second Timothy. It is helpful to know that the book of First Corinthians is written to correct the improper behavior of the Christians in the church at Corinth. It is helpful to know that Deuteronomy is made up primarily of Moses’ farewell speeches to the Hebrews.
When we see a text in light of the book in which it appears, it adds light to the passage.
What comes before and after the text? Just reading a chapter or two before and after the text, can help you understand what is truly being said, and help you avoid misrepresenting a text of scripture. You will also need this information later when you introduce the lesson, so jot down what you learn. For example, 1 Corinthians 13 is about love, but the context is a church at war with itself. That is helpful to know, especially in the application of the passage.
Are there words and phrases that I am unsure about? You can write down parts of the text that you don’t fully understand. For example, if you are studying John 3 you might write down questions about the text such as, “Why does Jesus say “we” and “our” in verse 11?” “What does it mean to be born of water and of the Spirit?” “What’s the Old Testament passage that Jesus refers to in verse 14?” You will likely accumulate quite a list after many readings.
You may not find answers to all your questions, but this process will deepen your understanding of the text. Later when you go to the quarterly, a commentary or a Bible dictionary, you may discover some of the answers to your questions and have many great insights to share with your class. This will give you confidence in your teaching and prepare you for those unexpected questions in class.
Are there other places in the Bible that might teach some of the same ideas and truths? Here the use of a concordance or a Bible software program can be very helpful. You can cross-reference words and phrases and find out how they are used in other passages. If humility is a key thought in your text, you may find many other verses to shed light on your text, deepening your understanding of the truth being taught. The goal is to be true to the text and allow God to speak His truth through you. May He bless you as you study and prepare to teach the Word.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.