The human body needs a skeleton to give it structure and strength. In the same way every Bible study lesson needs some kind of structure to help the teacher deliver the body of material he or she is presenting. Here are some thoughts on developing those main thoughts or points:
First, we must be sure our major thoughts are based upon the text we are teaching. Have you ever listened to someone talk, and you were certain that you knew what they were about to say before they finished their sentence? If you were hasty, you might even cut them off and finish the thought for them, only to find out, that they were not saying what you thought they were. Have you ever listened to someone share a thought and later find out that you took their comment entirely different than they intended? Communication can truly be a difficult task.
As we read and study the Bible it is easy to read our thoughts into a passage. We may even find ourselves teaching an idea that the text does not intend at all. One time I was developing a sermon that was focused on the phrase that is repeated in Isaiah stating, “His hand is stretched out still.” My first thoughts were that of a compassionate God who was still reaching out to receive His hurting children. After further study, I discovered that the phrase actually referred to God’s hand of judgment being stretched out over a stubborn nation of rebellious children. I was about to teach the text incorrectly due to reading my thoughts into the text. I cringe at the thought of misrepresenting God’s Word in such a way. This is why proper study of the text is essential before we completely develop our major thoughts or points that we wish to teach. It is very easy for us to read our thoughts into a Bible text.
Second, teaching points need to be clear and understandable. Be sure your points are on the correct age-level for your pupils. Even in adult classes you need to assume your students have not studied as much as you have. Have you ever walked away from the doctor’s office or a mechanic’s garage scratching your head because he uses terms you do not use every day? Every profession has its own lingo. Sunday School teachers can get accustomed to using “churchy” words as well. Be sure the main points are easy to understand as you prepare your lesson. Someone has said that a scholar can make simple truths sound complicated, but a good communicator can make complicated truths sound simple. Go for simple—strive to be a good communicator who happens to know his Bible well.
Third, consider making your main points statements of action or dynamic life principles. Some teachers are very accustomed to using a teaching outline like we learned in high school speech class. We might outline the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1-34 using, 1) The Reason for the Council; 2) The Reports during the Council; 3) The Resolution from the Council. Many teachers and preachers, however, are enjoying using an outline that is more application driven, such as, 1) When disagreements arise among believers, we need to work hard to find God’s solutions; 2) Really listening to people who walk closely with Christ can bring resolution to a conflict; 3) Finding God’s solution to a conflict brings great reward and encouragement.
A more principle-driven outline can also be useful, such as, 1) A growing church is not free of difficulties; 2) Real solutions to conflict are biblical and center on the needs of people; 3) When addressing conflict, stay focused on grace. Whatever way you choose to word your main points, make sure your statements are easy to remember and easy to apply to the lives of your people.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.