The urgent tends to get our attention. If there is a fire, we put it out. But if we are not careful, we will neglect the cause of the fire and end up with another fire. That is too often true in lesson preparation. Because there is a lesson to teach on Sunday, it is the focus when it should be to meet God first.
Without a doubt, meeting God in Bible study and prayer is more important. For the teacher, meeting God is the lesson. I call this the first encounter. This is the time when the teacher listens to, responds to, and moves to obey God. Teaching then flows from a cup that is running over. The lesson comes alive (as all lessons should). Opening God’s Word with the group then becomes the second encounter.
Steps to Meet God First
These two encounters are the focus of my book, Disciple-Making Encounters: Revolutionary Sunday School. In the book, I suggest some simple steps (pp. 183-184) which can help teachers re-establish the habit of meeting God in Bible study:
- Bible study: read, listen, examine. Examine the original context: What was God’s message for the original audience? Examine my context: What is His message for today, for me?
- Prayer: praise, agree/confess, request. What is my response to what God has said in Bible study?
- Commitment: agree, commit to change. Am I willing to do what He wants me to do? What does He want me to do? (asked in that order)
- Obedience: review progress/responses over the next few days. What did I do with what God said?
These steps are useful for every Christian in your daily devotions. But for the teacher, these steps become the personal lesson. I challenge all teachers to make these steps your habit before you begin to prepare a lesson for your class–no matter what age group you teach. Meet God first. Then lead your class to open God’s Word to meet and respond to Him during class.
The second encounter is not the end of meeting God. He desires a real and personal relationship. The third encounter comes as the teacher and attenders respond daily to God in His Word. Adjustments are made to Him. Truth is lived out and shared. Relationship with Him becomes fresh and desired. Lives change.
Teachers can encourage this by making assignments. Challenge attenders to read the passage for next week. Ask them what they did to live out last week’s truth. Lead them to pray for something specific. Seek for application of the lesson for each person in the class. Assign prayer/discipleship accountability partners. Practice spiritual disciplines. Make disciples. Be revolutionary.