Author: Ron Graham
Five Marks of Good Teaching
—The S-M-A-R-T way to teach
Good teaching is essential to the growth and continuity of the church and of each soul who listens to the teacher. There are five marks that distinguish good teaching from bad.
¶“12We've much to tell you about Christ, but find it hard to explain because you are dull listeners. You ought to be teachers yourselves by now. You've had enough time. Yet you need someone to teach you yet again the beginner's basics of God's revealed word. You still need the milk of that word, rather than the solid food. Anyone like that is a baby, with no skill in the word that is right for the fully grown who can absorb solid food. They can discern what is right and what is wrong, because they've formed the habit of listening intelligently” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Spiritual health, like bodily health, depends a lot on good nutrition. The soul has to be well fed. The word of God is its food. But the word provides both milk and strong food.
The good teacher should feed the milk to those who are beginning to learn the gospel or just starting the Christian life. The teacher should feed stronger more meaty teaching to those who are more advanced. A competent teacher can do both in one lesson —when both beginners and mature occupy one audience.
¶“6Suppose I came speaking to you in foreign languages? That wouldn't help you, would it? Unless you understand the language of the revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching that I bring you, it won't profit you. Even a lifeless flute or harp has to give a meaningful sound of distinct notes. Otherwise how can we know what is being played? Likewise, if a bugle makes an unclear sound, how will the soldiers know to get ready for battle? So unless your language is understandable, people won't know what you are talking about. You'll just be talking into the air.” (1Corinthians 14:6-12).
Any good teacher knows that teaching needs to be in a language that the learners understand. Even if you speak the same language as your hearers, but in that language you use words which they don't understand, you might as well speak in a foreign tongue.
Good Bible teachers know that there are many difficult and technical terms used by expounders and even translators of scripture. We hear words like justification, sanctification, paraclete, antitype, tabernacle, intercession, and so forth.
We could list dozens of such words —words generally not understood, even by those who use them. A good teacher will either avoid such language or clearly explain what an unfamiliar term means. When you teach, make sure that you yourself clearly understand what you are saying, and make your meaning is clear to those you are teaching.
¶ "Try your best to be a worker approved by God, so that you'll have no cause to be ashamed. Cut the word of truth straight." (2Timothy 2:15).
Acuity is sharpness —the ability to see things straight and true, to cut straight through any question, issue, or topic, and get to the point with clarity. For the Bible teacher, it's the ability to see the point sharply, and make a clear cut and accurate application of the scriptures to that point.
A good teacher knows that if you can see the point acutely yourself, and lead people to it in a straight line, they won't miss the point and be confused.
¶ "Whenever anyone asks you to explain the hope within you, be ready to give a reasonable reply." (1Peter 3:15)
There's a message here especially for the Bible teacher. If you are asked a reasonable question, be prepared to give a reasonable reply. It's all very well to make your meaning clear, and cut straight to the point you make from the scriptures. But if what you say doesn't seem reasonable to people, they may not accept it.
So you have to add reason to your teaching —you have to show the logic in what you are saying. You do this by taking people step by step. You start with something they believe, and work through to the point you want them to accept.
Each step will usually be of the pattern, "If this, then that". If the thing they believe is true, then another thing must be true, and if that's true then something else must be true, and so forth until you reach your point.
The Bible itself does this. As a simple example, Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments and [if so] I will ask the Father to give you another helper [the Holy Spirit]". (John 14:15-17).
See the logic? Why could they expect the Holy Spirit? Because they needed help to keep Christ's commandments. Why would they keep his commandments? Because they love him.
¶ "God makes me jealous for you. You are like an unspoiled lady whom I have presented as a bride to Christ. But I'm afraid that just as the cunning Serpent deceived Eve, he'll find some way to corrupt your pure thoughts away from the simple gospel that joins you to Christ." (2Corinthians 11:3)
Everything we've considered in this lesson assumes that the truth is being taught. People are better to be unlearned than to be taught what is corrupt. By all means ensure that your teaching shows the first four marks. But above all let your teaching show the mark of truth.
Before you leave this lesson, take a few seconds to note the initial letters of the five marks. They spell what kind of teachers use the five marks in their teaching.