Those who have followed The Mint over the past several years are familiar with an annual assignment which we take very seriously. The assignment is to open the Bible as if we have never seen it before for the first 10 weeks of the year. The assignment is given each year by Bettie Mitchell, the Founder of Good Samaritan Ministries in Beaverton, where the classes are held.
Over the past four years, we have been fortunate to explore Hosea, Matthew, Isaiah, and John. This past February 19th and 26th we were privileged to assist in teaching the book of Deuteronomy, a book of staggering importance.
Below is a clip from the class on the 19th:
You can see the entire teaching at the following link:
You will quickly notice two things if you take time to watch the video of the teaching and look over the slides. First, you will notice that there are only three slides for what will be four hours of teaching. Second, the pace of speaking may seem slow.
We assure you that you are not imagining things. There are indeed very few slides and our pace is purposefully slow. On the internet, where one is accustomed to information coming at a rapid fire rate, it will feel slow.
The reason is the following: If one is to allow the Word of the Living God to teach them, it must come out of one’s mouth, travel around the room, and be heard back into one’s own ear to assure that it has been heard and understood by all. Only then, when it has been heard and understood by all, can it bring the people in the room together, as they were some 3,500 years ago at Kadesh Barnea, listening to Moses give his bittersweet farewell address to a people who were about to become a nation for the very first time.
It is a nation that has withstood the test of time and distance ever since that moment, and has spread from the Promised Land throughout the world, and yet remains one: Israel.
Regardless of one’s faith or ancestry, Deuteronomy is important, for it holds the key to a number of mysteries. As Bettie Mitchell put it:
In the cities there is confusion, in the wilderness, there is something different, something to be learned. In the wilderness, the question is not about human relationships, it is about God
The following is another excerpt of a book which we have recently completed about teaching the Bible which focuses on some techniques that may be little known and are certainly seldom practiced today. Here we present “Getting to Know the People of the Bible,” a wonderful way to deeply explore the Biblical text in a participatory Group setting. Enjoy!
While reading the Bible is a great discipline, it is at least equally important that the Bible be understood through the eyes of the characters who are both explicitly and implicitly a part of the story. Many of the characters in the Bible are unnamed, such as the soldiers who guarded the tomb of Jesus.
While it is possible to read the Bible and focus on the main characters, there is a tremendous amount to be learned from a study of the Bible through the eyes of all of those who were actually present at the event.
How can this be accomplished? It is possible to read any number of commentaries, speak with pastors, friends, and read related histories with the goal of accomplishing a complete understanding of the event and the eternal truth that God is trying to teach.
However, there is a superior and much less time consuming way to intimately know the characters of the Bible. That is, to role play, or become them for a time, if you will, for yourself. This miracle can be accomplished by what we call a “Bible Play.”
The Bible Play is to be accomplished in a class or other type of group setting. The teacher or the group will decide which part of the Bible that they are to act for the play. This is usually done by the teacher, but in a smaller group can be done by prayerful consensus.
Once the part of the Bible to be explored has been decided, the teacher is to read the story once through, stopping each time a new character is introduced and acknowledging the character by name to the class. At this point, it is important to mention that characters can include animals and inanimate objects as well.
After the first reading, the teacher calls for a time of prayer, in which everyone, the teacher included, is to choose which character in that they are to become. The Holy Spirit will guide this process, for each person present has something unique to learn and be healed of in this exercise.
During the time of prayer, the Lord may reveal characters which are not explicitly mentioned in the Biblical text as being present as being there. This is completely valid as long as the group unanimously agrees to the inclusion of the up until now unmentioned character.
Once EVERYONE has a character (for none may be simply observers to this exercise), the teacher will identify the physical space in which the play will take place. The characters are to take their initial places in the physical space, collaborating with everyone in the group until there is agreement upon the basic starting places and areas for interactions amongst the characters as called for in the Biblical text. This does not have to be done in exhaustive detail, but there must be agreement as to the areas described to enable the interactions amongst characters in the Biblical text to occur.
If the story calls for two or more physical locations, such as Jonah on the boat, in the belly of the whale, and then in Nineveh, it is important to understand that these physical spaces should be completely separate from each other. You are not simply setting scenes on a stage, the entire Bible play and all involved must become alive.
After the characters and spaces are chosen, the play is to begin. Everyone must participate and there is no rehearsal. In the Bible there were no rehearsals, and to fully understand the character through the activity of the Bible play the events must be encountered naturally, without preparation or prior coordination other than the agreement as to spaces mentioned above.
The teacher or assigned narrator (which is also a valid and required character) begins to read the story and the action begins. If a character is to speak, the narrator may give the line to the character, but the person playing the character must speak it aloud. This detail is powerful and adds much to the play.
Once a character is completely done with their action, they may follow along with the narrator and watch what unfolds unless their character is specifically called to stay with the story. In many cases, the participant may find what their character did after the interaction called for by the Biblical text. This knowledge may be important and cannot be discounted. The participant is to be the character until the reading of the Biblical text is complete.
At this point it is important to mention that no one, not the teacher nor the narrator are to assume the role of a director, for it is the Holy Spirit who directs the play.
After the story is complete, all participants are to share what they learned about their character during the Bible Play. Much healing is accomplished by during this time of reflection.
The Bible Play is the best method by which to know the characters of the Bible, for during the play, they are truly there with us. There is cannot be accomplished any other way. One may read 1,000 books about Hosea but until you have actually seen, heard, or been him, you will never truly know him.
The following is another excerpt of a book which we have recently completed about teaching the Bible which focuses on some techniques that may be little known and are certainly seldom practiced today. Here we present two more, “Everybody has a voice,” and an additional note on preparation. Enjoy!
The person who is teaching must recognize that they are not truly the teacher, per se, rather, that they are the intermediary who is delivering the Word of God afresh to minister to thirsty souls, amongst which they must find their own. As such, it is important to ask open ended questions of the audience and to give everyone in the room an opportunity to respond. It is equally important to understand that some questions do not have answers, in fact, the best questions tend to lead to further questions rather than answers.
And it is good. Remember, as you are speaking the Word, the Holy Spirit is ministering about the room. As the audience listens to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is ministering, it becomes apparent that everyone in the room is a teacher and one person’s response to your question or comment may minister to another in the room without either of you being aware of it. The healing that occurs when this take place is amazing, and should be expected to be a constant part of the class when the Holy Spirit is leading.
There are no set rules, but as the intermediary (read teacher), the person in charge of the class has the responsibility to maintain the classroom environment as holy. If a question or comment carries on it can become more of a distraction than an aid to the healing that is taking place.
There is a fine line between teaching the Word of God and expressing one’s own opinions. It will be clear when it has been crossed, as the teacher, you are responsible for discerning when it has been crossed and steering the class back to the Holy Place.
A Brief Note on Preparation
While we have provided a number of questions and historical background to facilitate the study, we encourage you to read the entire Biblical text which you will teach, in this case Hosea, at least five times before presenting it. Each time, write down key questions which the Word begs the reader to answer. We have provided space for you to do this on page 19, and it is expected that this space will not be adequate.
Some of these questions will simply appear verbatim in the Biblical text, as is often the case when Jesus is teaching. Some of them will come to you through the Holy Spirit as you read and prepare. All of these questions are valid, and the Holy Spirit will guide you as to which questions to ask. Even simple questions such as, “what are you hearing?” or “what is happening out there, would anyone like to comment?” can lead to great healing amongst those in the class.
The following is an excerpt of a book which we have recently completed about teaching the Bible, focusing on some techniques that may be little known and are certainly seldom practiced today. We pray that it will be a blessing to you and encourage you to open the Bible as if you have never read it before. Enjoy!
You do not need to be an expert to teach the Word of God. In fact, some would argue that an advanced degree in a Seminary actually hinders your ability to teach. Sound strange? In our experience, we have found that a great majority of sermons and Bible studies tend to drive the audience to a somewhat premeditated conclusion.
There is generally nothing wrong with this. From our childhood we are taught to structure our essays and messages concisely so that at the beginning, the audience knows what your talking points will be and what they are supposed to get out of it.
This approach may work well in academic circles and “how to” books, yet it is a complete and total disaster when employed in an attempt to teach the Words of the Living God.
Open the Bible as if You have Never Read It Before
The holiness and perfection of the Bible allow us to learn something new each time that we read it.
For this reason, we would like to encourage you and your audience, beginning with this study, to open the Bible as if they have never read it before. Many Christians have preconceived notions and prejudices regarding the parts of the Bible which must be overcome for the Word of God to move in a new way in their lives. Opening the Bible as if you have never read it before accomplishes this goal for most people.
Read Slowly: Let the Word Of God Resonate in the Room
Another necessity when teaching the Word of God is to read slowly. When teaching the Word of God, it is important to both read aloud and to listen to your own voice. Far from being ridiculous, slowly reading the Word of God accomplishes two important purposes. First, it allows everyone in the audience both to hear and to meditate on the words. Second, you will immediately notice that the spoken words themselves have a power which resonates throughout the room.
Hearing is a deeply spiritual exercise. Listening to yourself as you read will generally ensure that you maintain the proper pace and that the Holy Spirit moves about the room, ministering to everyone as they simply listen, for the Word of God does not ever return void.