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Skillful use of silence

Effective Bible Study teachers know the skillful use of silence. They know when to ask a question and shut up. They are not afraid of silence. They welcome it.

Life change often happens in silence. It happens when no one is talking. It happens when the student has time to think. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. Our mind is transformed when we

  1. Hear the truth, and
  2. Have the chance to respond to the truth

Responding happens in our head. It happens in silence. We have to think about it. Sometimes, the most effective thing a Bible study teacher can do is shut up.

I sometimes coach the group, “Don’t be afraid of the silence.” Or, “Let me ask a question and give you time to think about it for a moment. It will be a little quiet in here for a moment. That is O.K.; I want you have some time to ponder.”

In contrast, ineffective teachers jabber all the time. Sometimes you think they just want to hear themselves talk. There is a time to talk and a time to be silent.

Perhaps an example will help. Suppose you are doing a Bible Study on James 4, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” An obvious question you can ask nearly every week is, “Yes, but how?” (T.b.h.?) How do we resist the devil?

Anyone have a quick and easy answer?

You are probably going to need some time to think about that one.

Here is another one. Perhaps you are doing a Bible study on the verse that says that the sins of the fathers are passed down to the children to the third and fourth generation. Here is the question: “How?” Or, “What?” “How are the sins of the fathers passed down?” Or, “Specifically, what sins have you seen passed down? What sins did your parents have that you have inherited? What sins have you passed down to your children? How can we stop the pattern on intergenerational sin? How can we say to the devil, ‘This one stops here.’?”

I think I might can come up with some insights on those, but it is going to take me a minute. If you keep jabbering, I can’t think about it long enough to do any good.

Anything that can be answered easily and quickly is probably not all that life changing. If a Bible Study leader is going to change lives, he is going to have to give people time to think.

Question: why don’t all Bible Study teachers do this?