How to prepare a Bible Talk

Here’s some training material I use to help my youth leaders and others prepare a Bible talk. It can be adapted for any occasion and maybe it’ll help you train your leaders as well.

The same basic principles apply for writing a Bible study, so I’ll add another post, in due course, with similar content but a written Bible study application.

Special note: There’s some wisdom in here generously borrowed from Rory Shiner

Preparing_bible_talk

A Christian Response to Tragedy

This life is full of tragedy. In fact if Genesis 3 tells us anything, it tells us that we can expect our world to be full of tragedy and suffering because this world is not as it should be… this is a broken world and tragedy is part of life.

But what is a Christian response to tragedy and suffering?

Currently we are surrounded by stories of personal loss and suffering caused by the earthquake in Haiti. Last year it was the tragedy of bush-fire in Victoria, before that it was the Indian Ocean Tsunami… There are countless tragedies caused by cyclones, or drought, or flooding, or disease… So what does the Bible have to say on suffering?

Well the Bible has a lot to say to us in the midst of our suffering, more than we can cover here. So I just want to point out  4 key responses to personal suffering that the Bible offers. These 4 responses come from the examples of Job (pronounced “Jobe“), the psalm writers, and Jesus himself.

TRUST:

Firstly, Job’s response to suffering teaches us to respond with trust.

More specifically, our response is to trust that God knows more about our suffering than we do. After Job is hit with tragedy after tragedy within the first 2 chapters of the book, the next 36 chapters are spent trying to work out Why Job is suffering… but Job never finds out Why… Instead God speaks from a whirlwind and delivers a powerful speech that leaves Job (and us) awestruck. God’s great speech from chapters 38-41 is there to remind us that God knows more about what’s going on than we do. God can see the bigger picture that we can’t see. And in the middle of our suffering we need to trust that God is taking care of us even though we can’t see everything that’s going on or even Why we’re suffering. It’s a hard lesson. But even though Job never finds out the cause of his suffering (Satan was testing him), throughout the ordeal God was looking after Job.

BE HONEST WITH GOD:

Secondly, the psalm writers’ response to suffering teaches us to share all our troubles with God himself.

There are many different types of psalms, but it’s fair to say that most of them are psalms of lament (that means “complaint“). So often the psalm writers bring their personal anguish, and hurt, and suffering before God because this is the wonderful privilege that God gives to his creation. In fact, God invites us to come before him with our troubles and our despair. Psalm 88 and 22 are classic examples. The invitation is for us to be like the psalm writers. To share all the raw personal anguish and suffering with the God who cares and is mighty to save.

GOD FULLY IDENTIFIES WITH OUR SUFFERING:

Thirdly, Jesus’ response to suffering teaches us that God knows our suffering first-hand.

This is the most astounding thing about the incarnation: that God takes on our flesh in Jesus to totally and completely identify with our suffering. And just as the earthquake  victims have lost everything in the devastation (friends, homes, family), and the flood victims have been left stranded and alone feeling abandoned by God… Jesus too lost everything on the cross, deserted by his friends, without home, or possessions, and utterly abandoned by God he suffers alone on the cross. It’s no coincidence that Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (compare Mark 15:34). In Jesus, God can FULLY identify with our suffering because he himself suffered.

SUFFERING WILL BE BROUGHT TO AN END:

Lastly, God has dealt with suffering once and for all through Jesus.

In his suffering Jesus also has dealt with our pain because on that cross he defeated death. He really did suffer and die, but 3 days later was raised to new life never to die or suffer again.
And this is the promise that comes all who trust in him: In Jesus there is new life without suffering. You may be suffering now, but Jesus has prepared a place for you where you will never suffer again, a place where “We will be his people, and God himself will be with us and be our God. ‘He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4). God has dealt with suffering once and for all.

  • Are you suffering?

Trust that God can see a bigger picture than what you can. He knows the things we don’t and he has everything under control. Hold firmly to your trust in him and be faithful.

  • Are you suffering?

Bring all your feelings of anguish, and your troubles, and your sadness, and your pain before the God who cares and is mighty to save.

  • Are you suffering?

Look to Jesus. Jesus knows your suffering intimately and he has done something about it… he gives you new life with him and has prepared a place for you where suffering is a thing of the past.

The Swedish Method…

I have no idea why it’s called the Swedish Method… but this is a really simple and helpful tool for reading the bible with others (or by yourself).

There’s not much to it really.

  1. You pick a bible passage (preferably about 10 verses or so…)
  2. You draw 3 icons on a piece of paper (or download a pre-made sheet here): A light bulb, a question mark, and an arrow.
  3. You read the bible passage (out loud if you’re in a group)
  4. Spend 10 minutes reading the passage again by yourself in silence, and this time taking the time to write things next to your icons.
  • The light bulb: Write down something from the passage that stands out to you. This could be recurring words, ideas, or whatever! There can be no wrong answer here.
  • The question mark: Write down any questions you have about the passage (like what does this word mean? Who is this person? etc). Or write down a question you’d like to ask the original author.
  • The arrow: Write down a personal application of the passage, ie. what are you going to do or change now you have read this passage?

5. Lastly, go around the group and share what you’ve written next to your icons.

The genius of this method is that it’s simple. It’s easy to do with someone who has never read the bible before, and valuable enough to help even the most seasoned Christian look at the bible with fresh eyes. I’m finding it a great resource for doing my quiet times!

You can download a more full explanation of the Swedish Method bible study here. Or go to the Matthias Media website for more info.

Jesus Tweet!

This is a sharing time that would work well with reflection section.

The idea is simple: Get the young people to create a one line summary of the bible teaching and/or a personal application from the bible teaching and tweet it on twitter or facebook. Now all their friends can read how the gospel is impacting them. Easy!

Why does Jesus teach in parables?

What is a parable? A parable is a story that teaches us something about God, his kingdom, and ourselves. They can often be a bit confusing, and sometimes hard to understand.

So why did Jesus teach in parables? Matthew 13:11-16 gives us the answer. Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6:8-9

“He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance. As for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”

Jesus Teaches in parables to separate those who have ears and those who have not. This is a figurative way of saying “those who want to know about God’s kingdom, those who want to learn from Jesus will be able to understand what these parables are saying because the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven have been given to them. But those who do not want to know about God’s kingdom or learn from Jesus just won’t get it… even what they know will be taken away from them, so that even though they have ears – they won’t be able to hear; and even though they have eyes – they won’t be able to see… because they have hardened their heart against Jesus.

This is a hard teaching but we can see the truth of it. Why is it when we tell our friends about how much God loves them and how much Jesus cares for them, the just don’t get it? It’s because the do not want to know about God’s kingdom, they do not want to learn from Jesus. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t bother telling them about God’s kingdom and king Jesus (Jesus persisted in teaching those who wanted to hear and those who didn’t), but it does mean we shouldn’t be surprised when people seem to miss the good news.

Parables are hard work. But… when we put in the effort to understand them, what we learn about God, his kingdom, and ourselves is truly worth the effort. If you can read the parables of Jesus, learn from them, and be changed by them, then “blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to you.