There is a difference between teaching for application and teaching for commitment. We need both.
Teaching for application explores all the ways the Bible applies to our life. But it doesn’t actually ask people to do anything. Teaching for commitment asks for the order. It asks for people to lay down their lives. It asks people to commit.
My observation about teachers is that they can be too timid. They don’t ask for the big order. They don’t ask for all-out commitment. In the words of Bill Hybels, “They don’t make the big ask.”
When you think of the church in America, do you think of an army of totally sold out soldiers of the cross? When you see the church as it actually is, do you see a band of brothers who are laying down their lives for the advancement of the kingdom? If you don’t—as I don’t—we have to lay part of the blame on the lack of Effective Bible Teachers who have failed to make a compelling case for the glory of laying down your life for the cross.
If you’d like to see an example of the kind of teaching I’m talking about, Google John Piper’s message, Don’t Waste Your Life. I have listened to it a dozen times or more. We need more teaching like that.
It starts with example. It starts with praying this prayer before your group almost every week:
Lord, I come before You again and humbly acknowledge that You are God and I am not. You are Boss and I am not. You are Master, I am slave. Whatever You ask me to do, wherever You ask me to go, whoever You ask me to love, I will do, I will go, I will love.
I do so joyfully acknowledging that you are God. You are smart. You know the end from the beginning. You love me. It is always in my best interest to follow You.
I repent of the belief of thinking that I know best. I repent of the belief of thinking that my ways are best. Your ways are best. You are smart and You are loving. The only reasonable thing for me to do is to submit to Your good will.
This prayer of commitment must be preceded (or followed) by robust teaching on the goodness, wisdom, and loving nature of God. We must teach with passion that God is good, that God loves us—that He loves us more than we love ourselves. And He knows far better than we know. He sees what will happen next week, next month, next year.
He is altogether loving. He absolutely has our best interest at heart. He loves us so much He was willing to give up the life of His Son so that we could have life. Our life will always get better—in the long run—as we follow Him. It is always in our best interest to live the Christian life. It is important—and I say it again—that we must come to love the Christian life or we will never come to live the Christian life.
Bill Hybels has a great chapter on why it is important that we ask for commitment. It is not enough to tell them that God is good and that following God is good for them. We must ask them to follow God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. It is not enough to explore ways we could obey Scripture. We must ask them to do something. Here is why:
In my own life, I’ve rarely made a sizable step forward—spiritually, physically, emotionally, or otherwise—unless someone asked me to do so. Along the way, I’ve radically altered my eating and exercise habits because exceptional leaders have asked me to consider becoming a healthier person. I’ve channeled resources toward worthy causes because courageous leaders have asked me to help them achieve a compelling vision. I’ve parented more intentionally, supported my wife with greater devotion, practiced spiritual disciplines more faithfully, and upped the ante on my own leadership development, to name just a few, all because gutsy leaders asked me to do so.
It is likely true of the people you teach as well. They won’t become the prayer warriors that they need to become unless you ask them to pray. They won’t spend time in the Word except that you ask them to set an alarm. They won’t serve until you ask them to serve. They won’t become better husbands, better wives, better dads, until you make the big ask. Boldly, clearly, joyfully, enthusiastically, make the big ask.
So let me ask you: do you regularly make the big ask or do you simply tell people about the Bible? Do you ask people to lay down their lives or do you simply convey biblical truths? Do you ask people to commit or are you satisfied to discuss biblical principles of commitment?
Will you? Will you ask them to lay down their lives? Will you ask them to pray? Will you ask them to serve? Everything will be better if you do.
Their lives will be better. Their families’ lives will be better. Your church will be better. Your group will be better. And here is what is most important: God will be glorified.
Make the big ask.
 Hybels, B. (2008). Axiom: powerful leadership proverbs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.