Some define good teaching as deep teaching. (I’m still waiting for someone to tell me that one of my lessons was deep.) People often use the word “deep” to describe teaching that is hard to understand. That is not good teaching. It is muddy teaching.
For some, good teaching is equated with a certain metho-dology. Lots of people, for example, are critical of lecture, but I have heard some lectures that would certainly qualify as good teaching. For me, there is nothing better than an engaging, life-challenging lecture. Most lectures, however, aren’t that good. So group discussion has become far more popular. Involvement. Participation. Sharing. Unfortunately, you can do all of that and still be lousy at teaching.
Variety is one textbook answer. I even taught this one myself: “Use any method except the one you used last week.” Variety, that’s what makes you effective, isn’t it? Yes…unless you are moving from one ineffective method to the next. In addition, I have heard people do pretty much the same thing every week and still be great.
So what is great teaching? Simply put, great teaching is teaching that creates great people. Where disciples of Jesus are being developed, great teaching is taking place. Jesus’ teaching was great, not because his stories were interesting (which they were), but because his disciples turned the world upside down. When the people in our small groups and classes turn their worlds upside down, we have done a reasonably good job of teaching. Jesus told us to make disciples, not merely to make converts (Matthew 28:19-20). The objective of Christian teaching is to produce mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
Teaching is not about methods. It is about results, about changed lives. We are out to create people who enjoy God and get along with others. Paul, by his own admission, wasn’t eloquent (1 Corinthians 2:4), but he changed lives. He reminds the Corinthians, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3). So I ask: Who can you point to and say, “This person is living the disciple’s life because of my teaching ministry”? Teaching that makes disciples is good teaching. Anything less is simply not enough.
If we cannot point to men and women, boys and girls who love God and others, we have failed. Gathering a large crowd—even doubling our classes!—doesn’t make us successful. Teaching lessons that everyone compliments for their insight and relevance doesn’t make us great teachers. Both of these miss the point of good teaching. The point is to change lives, to help people live differently on Monday morning. Teaching that produces disciples is good teaching.