Two words that can transform any lesson


Two words can transform the ho-hum atmosphere of a sleepy classroom:

I disagree.

I have seen it happen many times. The conversation is rocking  along. The teacher is talking. People are nodding. Someone  discreetly looks at their watch. It is not bad; it is just not the  kind of thing anyone is going to talk about once they leave. Then,  suddenly someone says the magic two words:

"I disagree."

"Respectfully, I disagree, teacher, I think. . ."

Heads turn. People set down the bulletin that they had been  looking through, skimming over announcements to see if they could  find anything interesting. Attention is galvanized.

What are they going to say? Disagree with what? I hadn't noticed  anything I disagreed with. Is a fight going to break out? How do I  feel about this?

Effective teachers not only allow members to say, "I disagree."  They encourage it. They elicit disagreement. They design the  discussion in such a way that people are almost certain to disagree.

Too many times we are guilty of giving Sunday School answers in  Sunday School. Sunday School answers are oversimplification of  complex truth. The real truth is nearly always a careful balance  between two extremes. Let's look at a couple of examples.

Is Christian living active or passive?

Is Christian living, as some have said it, "Letting go and  letting God"? or is it working hard, striving, pushing, straining,  running?

Well, it is all according to what verse you read. If you assign  these verses to be read, you might come up with the answer that is  passive, it is letting go and letting God. It is getting out of the  way and letting God in the driver's seat and letting Him do the  driving.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer  live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by  faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

for it is God who works in you to will and to act  according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more  than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work  within us, Ephes. 3:20 [NIV]

being confident of this, that he who began a good  work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ  Jesus. Philip. 1:6 [NIV]

You could preach on this for a while. "Christian living is not  about us working hard, it is about God working through us. It is  about us getting out of the way. It is about us reckoning ourselves  to be crucified each day. Crucified people don't work hard. God  lives His life through us."

Then, if you want to get someone to say, "I disagree" push it a  little harder. Say, "Christian living is completely passive, don't  you agree?" Hopefully somebody won't. Hopefully a healthy debate  will ensue. If you do it really well, people will come up to you at  church the next Wednesday night and say, "I have been thinking about  what we talked about Sunday, and I think. . ."

Alternatively, you could start on the other side. Start with  these verses:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or  have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that  for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  (13) Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have  taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and  straining toward what is ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which  God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14  (NIV)

Think highly of them and give them your wholehearted love because  they are straining to help you. 1 Thessalonians 5:13a (TLB)

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always  obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my  absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and  trembling, Philip. 2:12 [NIV]

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the  Lord, not for men, Col. 3:23 [NIV]

It is a little more difficult to get people to disagree on this  side because people naturally think that Christian living is about  striving and working hard. Sometimes it is useful to put both sets  of verses out there and let people feel the tension. Alternatively,  you can assign sides of a debate and assign people to take one side  or the other.

Here is a nice verse to wrap up. It brings both sides together.

To this end I labor, struggling with all his  energy, which so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:29 (NIV)

I labor and God labors through me. Unless I understand both  sides, I don't understand the truth.

One more.

Let your little light shine

Let's start with the question: Are we to do our acts of  righteousness in a public way so people can see them? In my  experience, people will normally answer "No" to this question. To  which I respond, "Why then does the Bible say:

In the same way, let your light shine before men,  that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16 [NIV]

We are instructed by Jesus to let our light shine, to do our good  works in such a way that people will see them and give praise to  God. If they don't see them, they won't give praise to God. We must  do our works publically, right? Now, everyone agrees. Somewhat  hesitatingly, they all agree. Then I read this verse (in this case,  I am disagreeing with myself):

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of  righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will  have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1 [NIV]

Now, which is it? Are we to do our acts of righteousness before  men, so they can see them, or not?

We are about to have a conversation. No one is going to look at  their watches. No one is going to thumb through the bulletin. No one  is bored. If you do it well, someone will say next week, "Hey, I  have been thinking about what we talked about last week and I think.  . ."

Need some help?

If you would like some help in putting together lessons that create  this kind of tension, consider subscribing to the Lesson Vault. Each  lesson has this kind of tension built in. It is only $3.99 for an  individual and only $200 a year for your whole church. Three new  lessons are added each week that correspond with Lifeway's Explore  the Bible Series, Family Bible Series, and Masterworks Series (my  personal favorite) A back log of close to 2000 lessons are available  on every topic and text imaginable.  You can sign up with or  without PayPal. (It is quicker with PayPal and renewals are  automated.) No long term commitments; you can cancel any time.

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