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Walking 10 Miles To Avoid The “Bear”

Neal Pollard

Spoiler alert: This story does not make me look good.

It was 1984, and my family and I lived in Roopville, Georgia. We were enjoying one of those idyllic west Georgia October days, with temperatures cool enough for a jacket but the sun graciously, brightly beaming. It was a perfect Saturday to explore the woods, which is what my little brother, Brent, and I decided to do. I was 14 and he was 9. My parents owned several acres behind our house, and we boys felt adventurous. In such a mood, I decided I’d like to see how far those woods went, but rightly wondered if Brent was game for such a walk. Therefore, I had to have a ruse. We hadn’t walked too far when there was some noise nearby, and I went to work–concerned face, raised eyebrows, hushed voice, and panicked eyes. “Brent, I think I just saw a bear!” Trusting me to be a legitimate source of truth, he accepted my statement at face value. What was my solution to this sudden dilemma? Brent wanted to retreat back to the house, probably less than a quarter mile behind us. What sense did that make? Far better to keep walking away from the safety of our home deeper into the woods of neighbors and eventually strangers. As every older sibling knows, far too often seniority can trump sensibility. So, we ran from that “bear” for miles and hours. Eventually, our circuitous journey took us several miles south just outside the little town of Centralhatchee. We were gone for most of the daylight hours of that fateful Saturday, and the only credible decision I made that day was knowing we should walk north on Highway 27 to get back home. Suffice it to say, I was not hailed as the conquering hero upon our return that evening. But, throughout that walk, I built and strengthened the narrative that this lengthy sojourn was about escaping the razor-sharp clutches of my mythic bear. I mentioned it so often to Brent that day that it just became easy to tell my parents with such conviction. Under the vise of interrogation, my story unraveled. My punishment was swift and enduring.

I knew better. I wanted this adventure and I wanted company. One needs a calculator to compute the number of bad decisions cascading from my developing prefrontal cortex. But, in my heart of hearts, I knew I was lying to Brent. In time, I believed the lie myself. We survived my harebrained scheme, but my credibility took a hit.

“Honesty is the best policy.” That’s true of character. It’s no truer than for anyone in a position to teach someone else God’s Word. Some teachers themselves are deluded and believe a lie (2 Th. 2:10-12). Others “are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Such an eternal task befalls the teacher (Jas. 3:1). We must be honest with the text, honest with our conclusions, and that starts by being honest with ourselves. We’re leading people somewhere with how we live and what we say we believe is right and wrong. Let’s handle that with care. It’s about both the journey and the destination (Mat. 7:13-14).

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Exceedingly stylish pic of me and the bro a few years before the Centralhatchee Bear Escape.
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evangelism preaching teaching Uncategorized

Speaking What Must Be Heard

Neal Pollard

In World War I, German intelligence was able to steal American plans at will. Tapping enemy lines was extremely easy, especially at night. Faced with such a dilemma, a regiment full of Choctaw Indians thought of a potential solution. The commander inquired into how many Choctaws knew their mother tongue. The men hesitated. The first English word some of them had learned was “soap.” In basic training, they were threatened with having their mouths washed out if caught speaking their native language. Now, their regimental leaders wanted them to speak it. The Choctaws were dispersed among the various divisions and attached to communications. From that point to the end of the war, all important orders were passed along in Choctaw. The Germans were stymied and finally caught off guard by the Americans’ war plans (from PBS’ American Experience: The Great War, Episode 3).

Today, our society does not want to hear us speak the message of Christ. Many find it offensive and restricting. They may even put great pressure on us to keep quiet. But, we cannot. These have been taken captive by the devil to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). Especially when someone sees the spiritual crisis in his or her life, there will be a desperate desire for an answer. Where will they turn? If they have heard us speak of Christ and His way, they may need us to communicate the most important message ever spoken. Don’t keep quiet about Jesus, especially given the dire danger in this spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-5). God is counting on us to speak for Him, and so is a lost and dying world! Keep sharing Him.

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teachers teaching Uncategorized

Teachers’ Aids

Neal Pollard

Several of our classes have assistants to the Bible class teacher.  She (or perhaps in select cases “he”) serves in a support role, helping students do handwork, find Bible verses, or occasionally keep order.  These are vital roles, and often a teacher’s aid later actually becomes a teacher.  Teachers’ aids are part of a great team and education system that benefits everyone in the classroom.

There is a constant, pressing need for more teachers’ aids.  I don’t mean in the actual classroom during the “Bible class hour.”  These aids are needed Sunday afternoons, late Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons, and/or opportune moments between these times.  These aids have even more power than those helping the teacher in the classroom.  They are the parents and care-givers of the students.  There are several ways they can “aid” the teachers who put in hours of preparation time and tons of energy and emotion into the task of teaching.

Aid teachers by making sure your children do their homework.  Most teachers give homework, memory work or activity sheets.  This is a vital supplement to the actual lesson taught in class.  When children come to class with their homework done, teachers are elated and made to feel that their efforts are appreciated.  They feel that their students take the class as seriously as they do.

Aid teachers by asking about what they have learned.  Ask your children what they talked about in class that day.  Ask them to review as much as they can.  Ask them what they learned and how they can make application from the class.  What better topic of conversation can parents and children discuss on the way home from services?

Aid teachers by making sure they feel appreciated.  One way to do this is by making sure you practice the first two suggestions.  However, having the child send a thank you note or by personally thanking your child’s teacher, you are aiding through the means of encouragement.  Everyone likes to feel appreciated.  Teachers are no different.

The qualifications are simple enough.  To be this type of teacher’s aid, simply do all you can to partner with the efforts of your children’s teachers.  Your child, your home, and your child’s teacher all will be blessed by it.

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preaching teachers teaching Uncategorized

WHY WE ARE TEMPTED NOT TO TEACH TRUTH

Neal Pollard

Most preachers know the unpleasant burden of having to preach on difficult subjects. There are some who, whether they find it unpleasant or not, are unpleasant in their demeanor and fully ready to frequently preach on moral, doctrinal, ethical, and other sin-related issues. However, it is distasteful business to most men who stand before congregations or sit before individuals to preach and teach the Word. What are reasons why we may be tempted not to teach truth?
1) Fear of repercussions. This is not said with cynicism or judgement of men’s motives and hearts, but for most of us there is usually fear of unwelcome consequences from preaching on a difficult subject. We do not want to offend people or their sensitivities. We do not want to cross people of influence who might encourage criticism or discontent against us personally. We do not want to see angry or hurt faces.
2) An overreaction to issue-oriented preachers. Most of us can think of a preacher or preachers who seemingly cannot stand before an audience without mounting their familiar hobby horse. Some have a stable of such stallions and a field of such fillies. Because we do not want to be that guy, we may be tempted to avoid difficult, thorny subjects.
3) Not being fully convinced that it’s truth themselves. I am convinced there are preachers who do not believe the truth on certain subjects, but they know the leadership or some in the membership do. So, they avoid preaching those subjects. If questioned on this, they can point to their lessons and defend themselves by saying they have not advocated error on a particular matter. Further investigation would reveal their silence on the matter altogether.
4) An assumption that people already know the truth on a subject. Without proper vigilance and attention to balanced preaching and teaching, this is inevitable. Especially if many in the audience grew up in the church and older members remember certain subjects being regularly addressed in their lifetime, they may not feel a sense of urgency that such subjects be periodically visited. We can raise an entire generation, assuming they believe what we came to believe through studying and hearing these matters preached. This assumption is both faulty and false.
Ephesians 4:15 and Colossians 4:6 are beacons and guides that determine how we preach. Acts 20:27 guides us as to what we preach. Fear is not an excuse for omitting certain subjects from our sermon repertoires (cf. Rev. 21:8). An overreaction that causes us to avoid all controversial, “hard” sermons is in itself an extreme (cf. Josh. 1:7). One not convinced about truth owes it to themselves and their hearers to stop preaching until they get that resolved (cf. Jas. 3:1). Assuming people know and understand the truth on a subject can make us poor stewards of the high charge we have as preachers and teachers (cf. 1 Cor. 9:16). Let us be transparently kind, caring, and concerned for people when we stand before them to teach and preach. Yet, let us have a righteous boldness and unwavering trust in the Lord to declare the whole truth so as to please Him.

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In loving consideration of my three most favorite preachers in the world!
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false teachers preaching teaching

Traits Of A False Teacher

Neal Pollard

John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7). The particular deceiver in that passage denied that Jesus came in the flesh. Looking at the religious landscape today, John would no doubt repeat himself. There are so many deceivers who are leading people away from the truth of Christ and about Him. Consider several identifying marks of false teachers, which the Holy Spirit makes known.

  • They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). They distort what grace is, making it a blanket that hides blatant, willful sin, lust, and materialism. Some rationalize and condone the practice of sin, with the false assurance that God’s grace will cover it without an abhorrence of sin and genuine repentance.
  • They cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11). Superficial comfort is given to people in their sin. How many preachers, rather than confronting sin, tell people they’re OK?
  • They overthrow the faith of people (2 Tim. 2:18). Teaching which distorts or waters down the potency of scripture is to faith what a virus is to the immune system. False teaching destroys people’s faith in God.
  • They teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7). If it contradicts or nullifies revealed truth, it is of man rather than God. Looking at Christendom today, so much of what is widely embraced and assumed to be true are blatant departures from the Bible.
  • They cover up their true intentions (Matt. 7:15). Jude describes the various motives of false teachers. Some do so for the sake of being accepted. Others do it for illicit gain. Some do so out of an arrogant sense of self-importance. Yet, they usually insist they are trying to help people get closer to God. Jesus insists that they deliberately hide their agenda.
  • They are well-liked (Luke 6:26). Few preachers relish offending people or upsetting them. Yet, preaching the whole counsel of God means that, sometimes, some will not like it. Preachers and teachers should proclaim the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but truth taught will sometimes offend no matter how pleasantly and gently it is delivered. Those who compromise truth to placate their hearers may have their acceptance, but God will reject them.
  • They secretly introduce their teaching (2 Pet. 2:1). Why? Were they to publicly proclaim such ideas, they would be exposed. Their ideas can only survive if spread to weak-faith individuals who are not so discerning in more intimate settings. Truth is not afraid of inspection. Error grows in darkness rather than “Sonlight.”
  • They are destined for eternal torment (Rev. 20:10). No matter what success they achieve in this life, there will be an eternity to pay for it. Take soberly the warning of James 3:1.

Preachers (and teachers), have backbone. Preach the truth, even if it is difficult and opposed. Have faith. Whatever it costs to be faithful to the Word, know that heaven will surely be worth it all. Have conviction. Do not let circumstance determine content (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

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THE MASTER’S MATERIAL

Neal Pollard

A while back it was popular in the religious world to talk about Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The emphasis has often been on the disciples’ experience. I believe the biblical emphasis is on the character of Jesus. The disciples are contemplating Him even as they encounter Him. They describe Jesus as “a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19). Notice three reasons why He was so mighty in word before all the people.

JESUS KNEW HIS MATERIAL. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Truly His knowledge is perfect and ours is not, but there is no excuse for failing to study–both on our own and for a class we are teaching or sermon we are preaching.

JESUS KNEW HOW TO RELATE ITS MEANING EFFECTIVELY. The men journeying to Emma’s, after walking with Jesus, said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). The dismal method of too many Bible classes is to essentially read and paraphrase in verse by verse fashion. Preaching can too often be disorganized in delivery or vague in message. Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, NIV).  Robertson says of “rightly handling” that it means “cutting straight…Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor?” (Vol. 4, 619). As presenters of truth, tell what it meant then and in context, and then apply it!

JESUS KNEW HOW TO MAKE THE MATERIAL LIVE IN HIS STUDENTS. Luke 24:45 says, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” That is just what we are after as teachers, preachers, and proclaimers of the Word. We are not just fact-reporting. We are trying to get into the heart. Remember that Jesus sought to change lives with His teaching.

Only Jesus was the perfect teacher. But we can always be better and great. Let us mimic the Master’s approach to His material!

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“Let Them Alone”

Neal Pollard

It is a commendable mixture of righteous indignation, conviction, and affection for the Lord and His church to want to answer all the critics, rebut all the troublemakers, defend all the reputations, and fight all the false teaching out there.  Knowing how best to deal with the pot-stirrers or the novel-doctrine-peddlers can cause quite the consternation.  Do we answer every allegation and oppose every little quibble?  Are there times where the best answer is to simply ignore “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19) or those who attempt to “preach any other gospel” (Gal. 1:9)?  That requires great wisdom and judgment as to the specific situations which arise, but it is clear that the Bible has given disciples the counsel to just let some things lie.

A NEGATIVE EXAMPLE: The Pharisees Of Matthew 15.  These religious leaders elevated human traditions (1-2,6,9), made their own rules they bound others to follow or else (3-6), had heart problems (7-9), and spoke defiling words (11).  They intimidated the disciples, who were concerned that Jesus offended the Pharisees (12). Jesus pointed ahead to the judgment that would determine the nature of their work (13), but counseled His followers to “let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (14).  So often, those who strive and divide, as well as those swayed by them, experience the fruit of their work in this life.  Others, unheeding of cautions and pleadings to the contrary, find out in the end (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24-25).  While the Pharisees ultimately nailed Jesus to the cross, His view of their divisive tactics was to simply “let them alone.”

A POSITIVE EXAMPLE: Peter And John In Acts 5.  Gamaliel, a respected teacher of the Law and member of the Sanhedrin Council, weighed in on the work of Peter and John, two faithful gospel preachers. He looked at past movements of those claiming to be someone, Theudas and Judas, and compared them to these followers of Christ. His advice, “stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38b-40).  While we have no indication that Gamaliel’s advice is inspired, as Caiaphas did (John 11:49ff), it is hard to find fault with his logic.  In the case of the apostles in Acts five, their plan and action was of God. In the case of the other two “leaders,” it was of men.  Time typically tells.  Inspect the fruit.  Listen to the words.  Watch the attitudes.  Discern the actions demanded and urged. Examine it all in the light of carefully studied Scripture.

Apathy and indifference can lull us to sleep.  The antagonistic or the agents of unscriptural change can both serve to wake us up, get us to reexamine our stand, get into our Bibles, and work to ensure our message and our methods are “by the book.”  But do we have to accept every challenge and dare?  Jesus once drew in the dirt in the face of those who demanded an answer from Him.  There are some times when the best answer is silence.  As for those who make demands of us? Sometimes, we’re best to just “let them alone.”

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instructing preaching teaching

Ten Important Words With Good Illustrations

Neal Pollard

I–nteresting (illustrations are to grab attention or make the point memorable; beware of being one-dimensional–always quotes, poems, sports, etc.)

L–asting ( the preacher joke is that you can re-preach most sermons, you’ve just got to change the illustrations.  Why?  We remember good illustrations.  An illustration can help make a Bible lesson live on in people’s hearts)

L–earning (the purpose of the illustration is to aid in teaching the lesson; the illustration is not an end in itself.  It is a means to an end)

U–nderstandable (in that [a] people understand why the illustration was used where it was; does it fit & help establish the point?; [b] especially older illustrations or illustrations taken from those who speak formally or loftily need to adapted to your vernacular and way of speaking and not sound like you copied it out of an illustration book)

S–upportive (Don’t overdo illustrations; it’s not about the illustrations, but about the Bible lesson you are delivering; Some get this concept backwards)

T–ruthful (Be careful that your illustration will pass the truth test; Some people are jaded about “preacher stories,” finding them hard to believe or learning themselves they aren’t true; Verify as best you can the illustration you use and if you cannot verify then be careful not to pass it off as a “true story.”)

R–ealistic (In addition to truthful, make sure the illustration is “reasonable,” something people can relate to; Ex.–In cross-cultural situations, especially in 3rd-world countries, illustrations about extravagances or items said to cost “X” when the same item is either much cheaper there or is so extravagant that your audience can’t relate)

A–ssorted (Vary types of illustrations: poem, current events, historical events, quotes, parables, fables, jokes [in moderation], Bible accounts)

T–asteful (avoid overly shocking, graphic, suggestive, morbid, salacious illustrations; Wendell Winkler once said, “Avoid creating in one’s mind what you are trying to condemn” [Ex.: illustration about sexual immorality or the like])

I–lluminating (The purpose of the good illustration is to shed light on a Bible truth; It should help produce an “aha” that drives home your point)

O–pportunistic (Take advantage of current events, congregational situations, holidays, etc.  Use wisdom, common sense, and discernment to know what is and isn’t off-limits; Note: Concerning “congregational situations,” only in exceptional circumstances would I use a “negative” one rather than a positive or neutral one).

N–ecessary (Without them, lessons are dry and lifeless; Like windows without curtains; They can make all the difference in whether or not the point sinks in, convicts, and moves the heart of the hearer).

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teaching

Jehoshaphat’s People

Neal Pollard

One of the last great periods of spiritual revival in Judah’s history before Babylonian Captivity occurred during the reign of Jehoshaphat.  This king is praised for seeking God, following His commandments, and not acting like Israel (2 Ch. 17:3-4). Jehoshaphat was greatly blessed by these decisions, he took pride in the Lord’s ways and sought to eradicate idolatry (5-6).  In the third year of his reign, Jehoshaphat sent his officials, the priests, and the Levites throughout Judah.  What we read in 2 Chronicles 17:9 is exemplary for us today.

  • They “taught.”  Men of varying backgrounds, abilities, personalities, and occupations united in the valuable enterprise of teaching. In all, 16 men are named as those who were tasked with this important job. Whatever we don’t know about them, we do know they were teachers.  Their work was so important that God saw fit to include them by name in His Book!  Certainly He still holds knowledgeable, diligent teachers in high regard today.  What a thrill it must be for Him to see His children willing and able to teach (cf. 1 Pe. 3:14-15). 
  • They taught “in Judah…among the people.” What was Judah? It was the place where God’s people resided. Strong churches have good teachers teaching them.  There is a resounding benefit when people get together and are subjected to healthy, beneficial teaching.  As it was then, so it is now.
  • They taught in Judah “having the book of the law of the Lord with them.” Jehoshaphat wanted to ensure the spiritual literacy of his subjects, knowing God wanted that, too. God still longs for His people to know, show, and grow (2 Pe. 3:18). Too often, our teaching can lack a biblical focus.  We do not need more “what I thinks” and “what happened to me’s.” We need more rich teaching from “the book of the law of the Lord.”

Despite some later foolish and even sinful choices, Jehoshaphat was on target to send teachers for Judah’s benefit.  In the end, he instituted needed, helpful reforms, and relied on God in prayer.  He fell short, but perhaps it was his anchor in the law of God that kept him from drifting away from Him.  Our hope and future is tied to how faithfully we follow God, but we must know what God wants to do that.  And we can only know what God wants by knowing His Word. God bless the teachers that help us to do just that!