Friday, May 16, 2008

Teaching the book “common ground” in a small group or class

Over all approach.
1. Inspire each student read the chapter before your session.
Some will, others won’t Those who do not read will still bring the book and scan it during class. Either group can help you teach, though the pre-readers will have more to contribute to the discussion. Make sure you have 20% readers in the class or you will risk having a jumbled discussion without sound doctrine. If your entire group refuses to read then consider dividing up the sections and have different people read them during the first 12 minutes of class. This will get them “into the book” and encourage reading later. And if all else fails and you can never inspire any of your students to read ahead of class, consider a lecture approach by printing up the section titles as an outline and rehearsing the content of the book as a lecture. Even then freely read paragraphs here and there so students are inspired to read sound doctrine as part of their own devotional growth.

2. Open most sessions by reading the quote at the beginning of the chapter. These are real quotes by real people though the names are fictitious. They show how people think today and remind us of the importance of sound doctrine. Don’t make fun of the ‘stupid comments” for there may be people in your class who have these same views—all of these quotes were from people in Sunday school or college level classes. The quotes only get the discussion engine going—don’t base the whole lesson on them.

3. There are two ways to order the discussion. Some teachers like to work through the discussion questions in logical order which is fine. An alternative way is to hand out a half sheet including these questions inviting people in the class to pick what they want to talk about in the order they prefer. The advantages of this second approach is rewarding students who read the book before class and a more lively class since people get to talk about what stood out to them in the reading.

4. Don’t hammer those with sub-Christian views. The church today has many Christians who simply are uninformed and have a secular approach to doctrine. They have gotten their doctrine from TV or popular talk shows, not from the Bible and the ancient creeds of the Christian church. Calling people heretics, even in jest, will not accomplish your goal. Doctrine is a serious matter. People have died for these beliefs and they are not laughing matters. On the other hand, allow for the fact that many Christians simply are ignorant of orthodox Christian doctrine and it takes time for them to absorb fully Christian beliefs. Your job will be similar to those ancient missionaries who entered new cultures where all kinds of sub-Christians beliefs prevailed yet they nudged and shepherded them to fully Christian doctrine with tender compassion and solid teaching. Ironically today’s Christian church is in need of such missionaries today!

5. End every session with praise and thanksgiving. Sound doctrine should inspire worship not arguments. Feel free to have hearty discussions during the class but always end up with praise to God and a recommitment to living a holy life. The closing section of each chapter “What About Us?” is a poetic “how shall we then live” response to each doctrine. Be wary of ending your session any other way. Allow for closing time and shut off discussion in time to turn the session toward praise and prayer. Each chapter has a closing prayer than can be prayed silently and individually, by someone in your group, or given to someone ahead of time to use as a guide to praying an extemporaneous prayer. Let every session end with glorifying God—after all, that is the end of good theology.

Once you have completed it you will discover that sound docrine can be life changing! When you have ideas and other discussion questions, be sure to post them as comments for each lesson to aid others. have a great time. I loved the two years it took me to write this book--I hope your three months of teaching it will be as rewarding! --Keith Drury

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