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Teaching & Learning

What Is Our Church's Teaching Strategy?

Katy Kennedy

Written by Pete Lowman.

How can our church’s teaching programme be as fruitful as possible?

For the maturing of our church we need a long term strategy that helps our members grasp a broad range of the key issues in life, doctrine and discipleship. 

But what are those `key issues’? What are the issues we would feel uncomfortable about if someone said: `I attended your church for seven years, and yet I never received any serious teaching on [... prayer, sex, money, work]`?  Or indeed: `I attended your church for seven years, but the only teaching I ever got on [prayer, sex, money, work] was a five-minute application of a passage that gave me no more than you can do in five minutes’?

(For example: some of our own church members felt speechless when good friends who were lesbians asked why they couldn’t have a baby dedication in our church.  So that’s an area we had not taught about effectively.)

Below we’ve attempted to make a possible starter-list of `key issues’.  There are about 70. (Our first attempt at such a list was considerably longer; some topics we’ve omitted are vital ones but we felt they were likely to be well covered in almost any year’s expositions, eg the lordship of Christ or the importance of holiness).  

We suggest it’s reasonable to aim to cover each of these over a specific number of years.  But experience shows we need to be concrete; that is, each year the church leaders make it a deliberate goal for that year to properly teach a proportion of these, along with Bible exposition.  (In some cases that might well be a short topical series, say at the end of a series on a Bible book.)

The choices should be made early in the year so that they genuinely happen!  Planning ahead also makes it easier for a particular topic not only to be preached on a sunday but also to be explored in homegroups.  (And it gives time to think about relevant books to recommend, possible handouts, etc.)  The preacher might help the homegroups by offering a discussion outline – either writing one themselves, or getting someone else to do so.  In this way we can learn about the issue both through what can be gained in a large-group, preached context, and also through the small-group, practically-applied context.  The result will be that the `people of God are thoroughly equipped for every good work’, both with a well-informed `big picture’ and also with the personal life-connection that comes from discussion.

Every church will have its own set of priorities that will shape such a list. But here is a possible list for coverage (obviously not in this order!) over a certain number of years, perhaps between five and eight years.  (Of course some of these topics deserve returning to more frequently than that; but the idea here is to start to ensure breadth in our learning.)  How can your church improve on this list?

 

Gospel basics:

What is God like?           

What's gone wrong with the world? (the fall, the human problem)

Why did Jesus die?   

What is a real Christian, what’s the new birth? (the meaning of real repentance, and salvation by faith)

 

Reasons for faith:  

Why believe in God?

Why do we believe Jesus is God?

Why do we believe in the resurrection?

FAQs: Answering the most common objections (probably in a workshop format)

Why do we trust the Bible?

In a multicultural society is there really only one way to God? 

Science and faith

Why suffering?

 

The Trinity

Who is the Holy Spirit and what does he mean for me?

 

How can I be sure I'm a Christian?

Deliberately learning to grow as a Christian

Being filled with the Spirit 

Growing in Bible feeding

Old testament overview in 30 minutes

Growing in prayer

Prayer and spiritual warfare

Fasting

Growing in worship

Developing your God-given gifts, finding your role

 

What is the Church, the Bride of Christ?

Growing in church involvement (growing as a church member)

Caring for each other (including hospitality)

Church discipline

Caring for a younger fellow-believer (discipling/ followup)

Growing older, relating to the elderly

Learning to forgive, receiving forgiveness, learning to have a clear conscience

Why homegroups/ Growing as a homegroup member

 

Dealing with temptation: should I or shouldn't I, and how do I decide?

Coping with the media and the web

Suffering – why do bad things happen to good people, and how do I cope?

Mental/emotional wholeness; depression

Self-acceptance, self-worth, finding our identity in the Lord

How does God guide? - making godly decisions

 

Personal evangelism: why? what? how?

Reading the Bible with a not-yet-Christian

Relating to muslims

 

The Christian and work; the meaning of vocation

Materialism, ambition

Handling work pressures  

Stewardship of money, lifestyle, tithing, debt

Stewardship of time, sabbath, leisure

 

Being a better friend

Sex

Singleness

Homosexuality

The five love languages

Growing in marriage

Growing as parents

 

Why world mission? Growing practically in global vision

Overview of the gospel's state-of-play worldwide

What is the `missionary call'?- preparing to serve

The Gospel and secularized Europe; what’s encouraging? what needs doing?

The Gospel and the Muslim world

The Gospel and Latin America 

The Gospel and Africa

The Gospel and Asia

 

Healing

Prophecy

Tongues

Angels and demons

The occult, deliverance from past involvement, overcoming evil

Heaven and hell

The second coming and the end of the world: what will happen and what does it mean for us?

 

Social action issues:

Abortion

Global warming and care for the environment

Global trade justice

People-trafficking

Working for religious freedom

 

There are many other topics that could be included, but we have to be slightly ruthless in selection for this strategy to work. We will still need to listen for God’s direction regarding issues needing coverage now that we have left out…

 

Pete Lowman.

© Pete Lowman.

Preaching: Some Website Recommendations

Katy Kennedy

Written by Jonathan Lamb

 

Here are some web resource recommendations from our good friend Jonathan Lamb, who served with Langham Preaching for the past 11 years and now serves with Keswick Ministries. Jonathan is widely experienced in helping preachers in many cultures worldwide grow in their ministry:

`An excellent site with some very useful and practical material for preachers is http://biblicalpreaching.net.   It is thoughtful and accessible, and run by Peter Mead who has a PhD in preaching, but is also working at a very practical level with a number of trainees, year by year.

preachingtoday.com is a useful site with a more American flavour.

http://metamorphe.wordpress.com/category/preaching/ is another helpful site, run by Simon Vibert the vice-principal at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford, who has established the School of Preaching there.

http://paulwindsor.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/preaching  is also a useful source of material.  Paul Windsor taught preaching at Carey Baptist College in New Zealand, and succeeded Jonathan as Director of Langham Preaching. He is now based in India, and also teaches preaching in Bangalore.   

Finally, another interesting site with some very good articles is http://beginningwithmoses.org/preaching.`

 

Jonathan Lamb

© Jonathan Lamb

(Jonathan himself is the author of Preaching Matters  (IVP), which as an entry-level title contains various preaching models that have been used by Langham Trust in training preachers worldwide.)

Our Church Statement of Faith: why do we need it? what do we do with it?

Katy Kennedy

Written by Pete Lowman

 

Why do you need a church statement of faith?

The answer’s simple.  We live in a postmodern world where there are strong emotional pressures against keeping on believing anything clearly and firmly.  But if the leaders of your church are not people who `hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught` (Titus 1:9), sooner or later your church is going to lose its way.  Secondary issues and goals will take the place of the things that really count, and you will slowly stop preaching the true gospel that really saves, and stop living by and promoting a discipleship that really reflects the Word of God.

What should be in your church statement of faith?  It depends what you want to achieve.  If for example you want to anchor your church and its leadership in a particular theological or denominational tradition, then you will need to spell out the main components of that.  But at the very least, you should include the things the new testament describes as being `as of first importance` (1 Cor 15:3-8).  Look at these verses; here are the fundamentals of the gospel on which the new testament will not compromise an inch (see Galatians 1:9-10): the deity of Christ, the reason why he died, the certainty of the bodily resurrection, and the full authority and reliability (both are essential, one is useless without the other) of the Bible that teaches us these things.

There are other things you may well want to include without which these will tend not to have logic or impact, and there are many well-thought-out examples of evangelical statements of faith that you can draw upon.  You can read Living Leadership’s here.  Another statement regarded as a classic, which has been immensely valuable in British church history, is that of UCCF; the current version is here.  But whatever you decide, the central fundamentals of the gospel must be included; these above all are the things to which you need to ensure all your leaders stay faithful.

Remember, though, that the new testament distinguishes clearly between primary and secondary doctrines. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:17, `Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel`.  So think carefully before you make particular formulations of secondary doctrines, over which equally biblically-minded believers disagree, into non-negotiables for your church.  Our own church, for example, is Baptist, and believer’s baptism is what we teach and practise; but we do not include believer’s baptism in our statement of faith, because we welcome into leadership believers from (for example) Anglican backgrounds who have been christened as infants and believe wholeheartedly that, as such, they have obeyed the biblical command of the Lord to be baptized.  If we included believers’ baptism in our leaders’ statement of faith, we would exclude these sisters and brothers from leadership; by not including it, we have made clear that they are welcome in these roles, even though they need to accept that their position on baptism is not that lived out by the church as a whole. But we would not have done the same thing with (say) the deity of Christ, or the absolute reliability of the Bible! 

And what do you do with your statement of faith?  Some fellowships ask all their members to make clear that they share these fundamental beliefs; and it certainly makes sense that all new members should endorse the basic beliefs of the fellowship they are joining.  Others will feel that new believers are not yet in a place to make such a commitment intelligently, and that it is more for leaders.  (Perhaps having a doctrinal commitment from your members is more important if your church is committed to a form of government where congregational decisions are crucial.)  But Titus 1:9 makes clear that what’s really essential is ensuring your key leaders are committed unambiguously to the statement of faith: pastors, elders, preachers, and anyone else involved in teaching or policy, particularly homegroup leaders and leaders of the youth and children’s groups.  And this wholehearted commitment needs to be indicated unambiguously (in writing is best) every year. It is not enough for someone who has a significant influence in the church to have been committed to a biblical faith five years ago and to have lost their way subsequently, due to a midlife crisis, or reading too much of the wrong kind of theology, etc.  If that has happened, the annual signing of the statement of faith gives an opportunity to face up together to the issue, without the pastoral awkwardness of having to raise it `out of nowhere`.    

But think how you can make the signing of the statement of faith itself into an act of worship, accompanied by prayer and jubilant thanksgiving for the wonderful things you are affirming; for example at an elders’ meeting, a homegroup leaders’ meeting or children’s leaders’ meeting.  Or it may be something we will want to do as a whole church, reciting it joyfully in the context of teaching just why it is these particular things on which we stand so firmly. 

Stacey Woods, IFES’ first general director, emphasized that a statement of faith is an anchor, not a flag.  It is not phrased as a simple communication tool to embody what we want to proclaim to the world; rather, it is phrased carefully to distinguish key truths from deceptively similar errors, and to define the underlying doctrinal principles that must be reaffirmed (or not).  But an anchor is what it is.  It doesn’t protect you from the equally important leadership issues of moral failure, casualness of discipleship, coldness of heart, or strategic blindness. But by ensuring that all your leaders are still faithful to the truth of the gospel, it plays a key part in stopping your fellowship drifting onto the rocks.

Do you have a statement of faith, and do all your key leaders indicate their wholehearted agreement with it every year?  Perhaps you feel it is not needed, because everyone in your leadership is clearly biblical in their faith. If that’s so, put this arrangement into place while it is still not a controversial thing to do! It is too late when one of your key leaders has lost their way, and personality and friendship issues mean that people don’t want to face up to the disastrous fact that this is so.

Pete Lowman.

 

© Pete Lowman.

Applying Our Preaching To Our Families' Lives

Katy Kennedy

Written by Graeme Fairbairn

 

Whenever we preach, our congregation will include families with children. Many will have two parents, some will be single-parent families, some will include step-parents.  These families face a wide range of issues in  day-to-day family life; some are “normal” – every generation have faced them – and others are results of the particular pressures of living in our 21st century western world.  Some will be specific to Christians; others will be magnified through failure to take Christian discipleship seriously.  In our teaching we must remember that for many people these are the most significant situations in which what they hear on a Sunday has to be worked out.

So as I am preparing to preach, I do well to think specifically: how might the message I am preparing speak to the following situations?

 

Marriage:

  • tensions in relationship
  • tensions between “his” career and “hers”
  • temptations to unfaithfulness
  • impact of children and children’s problems on marriage 
  • impact of financial pressures on marriage
  • in-laws (and outlaws!)

Children:

  • behaviour of children / discipline
  • concern over the education system
  • bewilderment over youth culture
  • difficulty in passing on faith to our children
  • where to set the boundaries for our children – “worldliness”
  • drunkenness
  • internet issues eg Facebook

Other family issues:

  • looking after parents / older relatives
  • sickness in family

Societal pressures affecting families:

  • time management
  • financial pressures, including house prices
  • unemployment
  • stressful employment
  • the “pace of life”
  • concern over pensions
  • concern over the health service
  • lifestyle issues: conflict between “making contact with neighbours” and “being squeezed into this world’s mould”
  • moving around – no longer round the corner from Gran - as previous generations often were.

Remember too to think how your talk can speak to these issues (or many of them), but with single people in mind!

 

Graeme Fairbairn.

Graeme is lead pastor of Wycliffe Baptist Church in Reading.

 

© Graeme Fairbairn 2014