One well-known pastor speaks of listening to sermons most of his life. He even took notes on the messages. He often would take down the main points of a Bible teacher’s lesson and next to the point write “YBH” (Yes, but how?). As a young man this pastor discovered that much of the teaching he heard spoke of living a proper Christian life, but very little of it told him how to do so in practical ways.
Many of your students may be able to tell you the names of the 12 apostles after you have worked hard on teaching them, but will they be able to resist temptation, speak kindly to an enemy or share the gospel with a friend? Learning Bible facts is very important, but we should remember that the Pharisees knew a lot of Bible facts while missing the fact that God in human flesh was standing right in front of them. Below are some thoughts that may help you develop application of the teaching points you share each Sunday in class.
Try to practice empathy with those you teach and apply the truth appropriately. Try to understand their frame of reference. If you teach sixth graders, try to understand their world and feel what they feel. If you teach high school girls, try to think about what they are experiencing at school and at home. The more you understand your pupils, what they need and what they are facing, the easier it is to apply God’s Word to their lives.
Ask yourself “yes, but how” questions as you prepare your lesson. Maybe you are teaching young adults that it is important to train their children in the ways of the Lord. That’s good, but it is even better if you can explain to them in practical terms, how they can do that. Maybe you are teaching teens that they don’t have to give in to peer-pressure. That’s great, but how can they resist the temptation? As a teacher, you need to look for real answers in God’s Word that will help them to answer the tough questions.
Ask yourself “perspective” questions as you make a certain teaching point. You may be teaching about the importance of the local church. To make application you might think about how this point fits into the life of a faithful Christian, a very busy family member, a struggling doubter, an unsaved visitor or a hurting person. Suddenly you are able to begin to shape application points that will fit the perspectives of the various people in your class.
Make your application thoughts as positive and encouraging as you can. Guilt-trip applications seem to have lost some of their effectiveness in recent years (if they ever were effective). Guilt application lasts a while, but when people see the benefits of an application, they are more likely to continue it. People are much more responsive to application that helps them see the blessings of following the ways of God and the practical ways they can walk in obedience to God’s truth.
Your people are also much more likely to respond to well-worded applications of Bible truths. To say, “Your walk with God is pretty lame if you don’t pray every day,” may feel good to get off your chest, but it might not be the best way to get people to pray. But to explain to a working mother with three very active preschoolers that she might try keeping a basic prayer list in her car, and that she could use that list to guide her thoughts before she enters her place of work, could prove to be very helpful. She is much more likely to respond to practical steps rather than trying to deal with the guilt of adding one more thing to her very active life.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.