Three marks of great teaching

Allow me to quote from one of America's great teachers and make three brief points about what he says. This is from pages 18-19 of Bill Hybels new book, Courageous Leadership.

In the early seventies I had an experience so powerful that it divided my life into before and after. I was a college student taking a required course in New Testament Studies to complete my major. To my way of thinking this class was guaranteed to be brain-numbingly boring. A required Bible class? It had "flat-liner" written all over it. I was sure that the only challenge this class would offer me would be the challenge of trying to stay awake.

As I staked out my usual claim to a back row seat and assumed a comfortable slouch-legs extended, arms folded-I had no idea that a spiritual ambush awaited me. Toward the end of the lecture, just when I thought it was time to pack up and leave, the professor, Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian, decided he wasn't quite finished for the day. Closing his notes, he stepped out from behind the lectern. Then he bore his soul to a room full of unsuspecting twenty year olds.

"Students," he said, "there was once a community of believers who were so totally devoted to God that their life together was charged with the Spirit's power."

"In that band of Christ-followers, believers loved each other with a radical kind of love. They took off their masks and shared their lives with one another. They laughed and cried and prayed and sang and served together in authentic Christian fellowship."

"Those who had more freely shared with those who had less until socioeconomic barriers melted away. People related together in ways that bridged gender and racial chasms, and celebrated cultural differences."

"Acts 2 tells us that this community of believers, this church, offered unbelievers a vision of life that was so beautiful it took their breath away. It was so bold, so creative, so dynamic, that they couldn't resist it. Verse 47 tells us that the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.'"

Dr. Bilezekian's unscripted words were as much a lament as they were a dream, a sad longing for the restoration of this first century church. I had never imagined a more compelling vision. In fact, that day I didn't just see the vision; I was seized by it.

Suddenly, there were tears in my eyes and a responsive chord rising up in my soul.

  • Where, I wondered, had that beauty gone?
  • Why was the power not evident in the contemporary church?
  • Would the Christian community ever see that potential realized again?

Since that day, I have been held hostage to the powerful picture of the Acts 2 dream painted in that college classroom. In the weeks and months after that first lecture, I was haunted by questions. What if a true, community of God could be established in the twentieth century? What if what happened in Jerusalem could happen in Chicago? Such a movement of God would transform this world and usher people into the next.

I was a goner, utterly captured by a single vision of the potential beauty of the local church. In 1975 that vision led me and a handful of colleagues to start Willow Creek Community Church. Now almost thirty years later, that vision still rivets my attention, sparks my passion and calls for the best effort I can give.


Three comments:

  • Teaching can change lives and change our world. Bill Hybels receives a lot of well-deserved credit for building one of the largest, fastest growing, most innovative and most influential churches in the world. God is using Willowcreek to revitalize churches all over the planet. But, Bill Hybels would be the first to tell you that Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian, who is not a household name, deserves much of the credit. If it were not for the teaching of Dr. Bilezekian, Willowcreek would not exist today
  • . God can use your teaching too to transform lives. What is it about teaching that transforms lives?
  • Teaching at its best is emotional. One of the great differences between Christian teaching and the world of academia is that we are after issues of the heart. We are out to change people's souls-not merely change their minds. Dr. Bilezekian's teaching was significant because it moved Bill Hybels emotionally.
  • On a scale of one to ten, how emotionally moving would you say your last Sunday School lesson was?
  • We are not just teaching lessons; we are building Acts 2 communities. I don't know about you, but as I read this description, my mouth waters. I will be reading this to my singles' group that meets in my home on Tuesday night. I will say to them, "I want to be a part of that kind of group. How about you?" Like Bill Hybels, I want to live out an Acts 2 community, how about you?
  • I want to encourage you to teach with all your heart because teaching can change our world. I want to challenge you to be a teacher who not only informs heads, but also moves hearts. I want to challenge you to build an Acts 2 community in your Sunday School class or small group. Be the church; you are the light of the world, the hope of mankind.