A constant theme of my teaching revolves around a few central ideas:
- It is always in our best interest to live the Christian life.
- It is good for us to follow God.
- God is good. His ways are good. Following God is good. It is good for me. Always.
- We must come to love the Christian life or we will never come to live the Christian life.
I wanted to emphasize this point in an introduction recently and said something like this:
“I picked up this book yesterday. . .”
Note: people are interested in what is current. They want to know what you learned recently. In your relationship with God, they want to know if God has said anything to you lately. They want to know what you are reading this week. They want to drink from a moving stream.
“It is written by pollster Frank Luntz and has commendations by both President Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House. It seems this is the man both parties go to when they want to know what America is thinking and feeling”
I wanted to establish Frank Luntz as a credible pollster that the top politicians on both sides of the isle turn to.
“In the section on religion, he said something that a lot of you already know: ‘In general, people who believe in God are happier, healthier, and more content compared to nonbelievers and nonpractitioners. They are more likely to be happily married and more likely to spend time with their children. They are more likely to do volunteer work and less likely to engage in anti-social activities. They are better adjusted and closer to family and friends. Every type of positive pathology that we believe is good for the human condition has a direct correlation with religions activity.'”
I read another paragraph or two. I didn’t have to. I could have just said Jesus told us He promised an abundant Christian life so it must be true. What Heath and Heath (Make to Stick) taught me is that sometimes, it helps to establish credibility. Sometimes, if you want a lesson to stick, quoting the facts is far better that just saying, “my experience tells me.” Quoting an authority is better than saying, “I have always thought. . .”
I have a new book coming out June 2010 called Make My Group Grow. It is basically a summary of the things I have learned and taught over the last ten years of training group leaders. But, it is built around research. I did an initial survey of 1000+ group leaders, asking them a number of questions about what they do and believe. The answers to these questions form the basis of the book. In truth, there were only a few real surprises coming out of the research. But, it is more powerful to say, “Groups that have lots of parties are twice as likely to grow compared to groups that don’t party much.”
I have always believed this. Now I have the facts. Facts are credible. Facts are our friends.
Jesus and credibility
Jesus was in a unique position in this regard because he was self-authenticating. He had that EF Hutton way of speaking and people would stop and listen.
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Matthew 7:28-29 (NIV)
This is one area I don’t think we can teach like Jesus because we are not Jesus. Jesus had a self-authenticating authority that did not need to be bolstered by quoting other sources. When you are God, who do you quote? I don’t think Jesus ever said, “As Rabbi So-and-so says. . .”
But, we are not God, and we do well to quote the best sources we can. The best sources are the sources your listeners respect. If you want to reach a secular audience, quote from secular sources from time to time, as I did above.
Quote current sources. Too many illustrations and source material is off the farm 100 years ago. My friend Jim Wilson can help you with this. See http://www.freshsermonillustrations.net/ I use his illustrations regularly via Wordsearch. www.wordsearchbible.com
Good Questions and credibility
Can I be honest with you? I don’t follow every one of these principles perfectly as I write Good Questions. I am not always as shocking as I could be and I don’t always suggest you bring something in that is concrete. But, in this regard, Good Questions That Have Groups Talking really shine.
About a year ago I bought about $3000 worth of WordSearch commentaries and other source material to really beef up Good Questions. I already had WordSearch’s best package, plus a number add-on books. But a year ago, I invested in a major upgrade.
In addition to Good Questions, I now provide answers–in the form of quotes from some of the most credible sources available–commentators like John MacArthur, Warren Wiersbe and the Holman Commentary. Trade books by people like John Piper, R.C. Sproul and Henry Blackaby. Books of illustrations galore.
Curriculum’s fundamental flaw
Nearly all curriculum has a fundamental flaw. They go at it this way. Smart people get in a room and decide what we are going to study. Then, they go out and try to find someone to write something brilliant about it. Turns out, this is a difficult job.
One notable exception to this is Lifeway’s Masterworks Series. They go at it the other way. They ask, “Who has already written something brilliant?” They find books written by people like Beth Moore, Billy Graham and John Piper and turn them into curriculum. Brilliant.
I do a similar thing. I find people that have already written something brilliant and put those comments in the footnotes of my lessons. They really have written some brilliant things you can share with your group. I write four new lessons a week corresponding with three of Lifeway’s outlines plus the International Standard Series. They can be used either stand-alone or supplemental to your existing literature.
Not that you cannot do this yourself. It is pretty much pure research. Of course, you will need to invest in a substantial library and it will take quite a bit of time, but it can be done. If you want a cheaper and easier way, just subscribe to Good Questions. I’d be honored to serve you in this way.