The very beginning point of teaching must grab the attention of people. It draws them into what they are about to experience in the Word. The introductory teaching persuades people to pay attention. It convinces them they need to become engaged in the discussion rather than check the weather on their cell phones. One way to do this is in the form of a promise:
- If you will give me attention today, I will show you how to forgive when forgiving is hard.
- Thirty minutes from now, you will be able to enjoy an absolute assurance of your salvation.
- I want to teach you today how you can worry substantially less than you do.
- I want to talk to you today about how you can break destructive habits in your life.
Notice a couple of things about these statements:
- They are application oriented. We are not out to make smarter sinners. We are out to change behavior.
- They have a “what’s in it for me” orientation. This is based on a premise that is at the core of my theology: it is always in our best interest to live the Christian life. It is always good for us to follow God. God is a rewarder. We don’t choose between God and the good life. Following God is the good life. (For more on this, see my book, Obedience.)
The worst kind of introduction
The worst kind of introduction is perhaps the most common: “Open your Bibles today to . . .” Most teachers who use that kind of introduction have an attendance problem.
This kind of introduction assumes people are interested. Happily, some of them are. I would be. If you used that introduction with me, I’d be fine with it. I’d gladly give you my attention to discover what the Word says in that particular passage.
But, the truth is, most people wouldn’t be that interested. Most people are not staying up nights thinking, “I wonder what John 11 is about.”
Consequently, people don’t give you their full attention. They might look like they are paying attention. They are polite. But their mind is only half there. They are giving you what Linda Stone calls Continuous Partial Attention.
Effective Bible Teachers want more than continuous partial attention. They want full-bodied, all-out attention. They want people on the edge of their seats. They want people to be fascinated by the gospel. Fascinated. Literally, their attention fastened. A good introduction is where that starts.