In Sunday School’s Neglect of the First Encounter, Part 9A and Sunday School’s Neglect of the First Encounter, Part 9B, I pointed out contributing factors leading to missing an encounter with God while preparing a lesson. There I mentioned life circumstances along with interruptions, busyness, and changing priorities as leading toward neglect.
The point is that an encounter with God in His Word during lesson preparation time leads to life change in the teacher. When we open God’s Word, He speaks. When He speaks, we are in an encounter that changes us. Such an encounter is of primary importance. In fact, I would plainly state that it is more important than preparing the lesson. It is required in order to lead class attenders to meet God. Otherwise, how can we serve as guides for God in His Word if we have not been there before?
How can we ensure that a first encounter is part of our lesson planning practice? Consider the following:
- START EARLY. If lesson preparation waits until Saturday night, there is little time for an encounter with God. Read the scripture on Sunday afternoon. Listen then. Read the passage every day. Pray over the passage.
- PLAN FOR IT. Schedule time to allow this to happen. Don’t read commentary until you have read the passage several times. Protect your first encounter time. Establish a time and place that helps you to take full advantage of time with Him in His Word.
- EXPECT TO MEET HIM. When you sit down to prepare a lesson, start with the expectation that you will be meeting God in His Word. That expectant attitude changes the experience.
- PRAY. Begin your first encounter with prayer. Come before God in adoration and confession. Ask for Him to draw you near to help you to listen. Ask Him to guide you into His Word in such a way that you will understand, be convicted, apply the truth to your life, and obey.
- READ SCRIPTURE MULTIPLE TIMES. Open God’s Word. Don’t open the teacher’s book or commentary until you listen to the Source! Read scripture multiple times. If you are comfortable with multiple translations, read the passage in more than one translation. I would even encourage you to read the passage aloud once or twice.
- LISTEN. God spoke to the author and original hearers, but He is also speaking to you as you read. What is He saying? Listen carefully to His still, small voice. What is His message to you?
- EXPECT ILLUSTRATIONS. I have repeatedly found that God illustrates the truth of passages I am studying (whether for Sunday School or preaching), when I have my first encounter early in the week. When I start late and have to focus more on a lesson than on an encounter with Him, I am convinced that He illustrates the truth during the week, but my eyes are not open at the right time. Thus, I miss those illustrations.
Are you starting your lesson preparation early enough in the week to have a first encounter? Are you allowing enough time so there can be time to meet Him in His Word, pray, read scripture multiple times, listen, and look for illustrations? Are you listening carefully for how you need to respond and obey? When you show up on Sunday, are you able to be a guide in His Word because you have spent time with THE GUIDE? For more help, get a copy of my book, Disciple-Making Encounters. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!