The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

How to Impact Others by Playing by God’s Rules

Posted on: April 12, 2016

Playing by the Rules.001


Years ago when I was teaching Bible Doctrine at a Christian college, I announced the next major heading during a lecture: “The Derivation and the Perpetuation of the Immaterial Part of Man,” which I expected everyone to write down in preparation for what I would say next.

From the back of the large classroom, uttered at a barely-audible level by a retired Air Force Sargent who was starting a second career as a pastor, came a slow and muffled, “the derivation and the what?!?”

The class broke up laughing, and for the first time, I realized what I was doing… overwhelming first year college students with unfamiliar vocabulary. I tried to adjust on the fly and said, “Where the immaterial part of Man came from and how it is passed along.”

“Well, why didn’t you just say so?!?” he muttered softly.

That experience rocked my world, and I decided I was not going to continue doing unto my students as had been done unto me for the twelve years of my higher education. The next year, I revamped everything. I had a certain body of information I wanted the class to remember, another body of information I wanted them to understand, and a third body of information I wanted them to be able to apply.

I had them read and write papers outside of class on the information I wanted them to understand and apply, and we spent time in class memorizing the information I wanted them to remember. During the class, while I sometimes answered questions to further understanding and occasionally spent time applying truth when especially relevant, I primarily used the methods for teaching when memory is the goal.

The final exam was 170 fill-in-the-blank questions (for memory) involving the details of theology, definitions, central Scripture passages, and implications, along with two essays–one for understanding and one for application. The most common grade was 100. Nearly everyone got an A on the exam and an A in the class. Those who didn’t were the ones who didn’t show up for class and simply weren’t involved students.

Later, when the academic dean saw the grade report from that class, with the majority of students getting 100 on the final and an A in the class–which didn’t fit the standard “bell curve”–he set an appointment to investigate. I explained carefully what I had done, and why, and showed him the final exam. He read it over carefully, looked up at me after several minutes and said, “I’m not sure I would be able to get an A on this exam.” He handed it back to me, said, “Carry on,” and walked out of the room.

I was never the same.

I came to realize the tremendous power we have to help people change if we will simply use the principles of how God has created us to learn.  The more accurately and creatively we apply these rules, the greater impact we have in the lives of people we’re ministering to.

A complete Christian is one who learns what he needs to know, becomes what he was meant to be, and does what he was gifted to do. And there are rules for teaching when knowledge is your goal. There are rules for teaching when lifestyle change is your goal. And there are rules for teaching when imparting a skill is your goal.

If you know these rules and follow them, it can transform your effectiveness in discipleship ministry. In addition, it will help you guide and accelerate your own spiritual growth.

Next week, I will list those rules and explain how they can impact your own growth as well as the growth of those you influence.


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