Teaching the Bible Well Even if You Only Have 5 Minutes to Speak

Teaching the Bible Well Even if You Only Have 5 Minutes to Speak

My church meets in multiple “home congregations” throughout Kansas City. Most weeks in our church gatherings, we have an “open sharing time.” During this portion of our meeting, people are free to communicate with the group in various ways, such as by sharing a testimony, telling about an evangelistic experience they recently had, confessing sin, and asking for prayer. During this time, the men of the church are free to teach something briefly from Scripture (usually for 5 to 10 minutes).

One of the men in my congregation usually comes ready to teach in the open sharing time. Here’s a portion of an email he sent me some time ago:

I want to know your thoughts about how to share… 

I think that sometimes I take too much of a free style approach, take on bigger subjects than I possibly have time to think through adequately, and probably end up confusing everyone. Usually I will share something that seems significant to me during weekly Bible reading, and spend about an hour or so pulling thoughts together.

Any advice you have would be appreciated. 

Other than removing his name, here’s the unedited email I sent in response. Perhaps it will help you to think through how to helpfully teach the Bible even if you only have a short amount of time to speak:

Hi _______:

I really appreciate the question. I actually think you are too hard on yourself. We have all gained MUCH from your teaching over the years. But, of course, all of us can become better teachers, so here are a few thoughts:

1. Do you remember the list we came up with one Thursday morning? We were talking about what makes for good Bible teaching, and here’s the list we produced: clarity; repetition; prayer; helped you first; know the content; present truth in various ways; illustrations; prepared listeners; address the heart; simplicity; listen to the Holy Spirit while teaching. That’s actually a pretty good list to think through again.

2. One thing you often do is apologize for your teaching while you are teaching. I would just not do that. I’ve done it myself. It tends to take away from the authority of the word (in a sense) and it’s really just distracting to the listeners.

3. Say less better. I really need to grow in this area! I suppose one way to do this is to actually know the text better. I would even encourage saying out loud what you are going to say at home (or on a walk) before you come. I often say things out loud that I’m planning on teaching. It helps me clarify things and prepares me to say it to the group.

4. Think about saying one thing well that (usually) addresses the hearts of the people instead of a whole bunch of things that in the end doesn’t hit anyone. Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I want them to know when I am finished teaching?” This is usually true for a whole sermon, but it seems especially true for a teaching of 5 to 10 minutes. Even if you are just teaching us about the flow of history in Joshua 1-2, you could say, “My aim is for us to see the historical setting and background of when the Israelites entered the Promised Land.” Now, you may say, “But that kind of teaching doesn’t ‘address the heart.'” That’s perhaps true, but I think sometimes that’s okay as well—meaning, we sometimes just need to learn facts/history, and a brief teaching time can do that also.

5. Don’t give up. You are a vital member of our church and congregation. Even if you don’t do the best job of teaching sometimes (welcome to the club!), one thing we all know about you is that you are a man who consistently meditates on God’s word and it’s affecting your life. In a sense, you teach us so much just by showing us how much you love the Bible. I’m so thankful personally to have you as an example of meditation, and I’m so grateful for my kids. They will always remember you as a man who loved God and His word (and as a godly older man who took an interest in them). That’s a pretty awesome life to live, in my estimation!