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It’s Conviction as Well as Knowledge

January 19, 2014

It’s Sunday morning, and in two more days I will be back in the classroom. The two weeks of Winterim are over and I have finally unpacked all of my camping gear from the back of the faithful old Jeep Waggoneer.

It’s 6:45 in the morning as I begin to write this entry. We will not be able to go to church this morning due to a flu bug that has run its cycle throughout the household. All of us are sloshing through the house with feverish chills and fatigue.

I want to recover and be ready for class on Tuesday. We’re diving right into New Testament Survey, and I want us to come out running right from the starting line.

Every day is an adventure: Jesus confronting the skeptics, Pilate mulling over the death sentence, Peter trying to decipher the visions … and on and on into the higher planes of spirituality and amazement. It’s all here: political intrigue, assassination attempts, ground-breaking philosophyimage and even time travel. All with the transcendent foundation that takes our thoughts to Heaven. It’s unfolding a parchment that leads to yet another world-changing step at each crease.

I love teaching Bible as much for the response as for the presentation. What teacher wouldn’t get excited when a gasp or a “wow” elicits from a student’s mouth? You can literally hear when a new truth has clicked into the mind and soul.

This is both the joy and the burden of the Bible teacher: presenting the Scriptures in a clear, dynamic and intriguing way. In many cases this means a lot of clean-up work must be done, and by that I refer to Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint column of August 20, 2013, reporting on a study by Larry Taunton of the Fixed Point Foundation on why so many high school Christians lose their faith when they enter college:

Phil’s loss of faith coincided with his church’s attempt to ingratiate itself to him instead of challenging him. According to Taunton, Phil’s story “was on the whole typical of the stories we would hear from students across the country.”
These kids had attended church but “the mission and message of their churches was vague,” and manifested itself in offering “superficial answers to life’s difficult questions.” The ministers they respected were those “who took the Bible seriously,” not those who sought to entertain them or be their “buddy.”… Much of what passes for youth ministry these days is driven by a morbid fear of boring our young charges. As a result, a lot of time is spent trying to devise ways to entertain them.

The rest of the time is spent worrying about whether the Christian message will turn kids off. But as Taunton found, young people, like the not-so-young, respect people with conviction—provided they know what they’re talking about.
Taunton talks about his experiences with the late Christopher Hitchens, who, in their debates, refrained from attacking him. When asked why, Hitchens replied, “Because you believe it.”

Well said, sir. Youth pastors and Bible teachers have the same burden. I know, because I was a youth pastor before I became a Bible teacher. Speak with conviction because we believe it, teacher.

Let’s present the Bible and let it shine for itself. What student could not be interested in the death-to-life miracles, the face-to-face debates, or the gut-wrenching emotion of the Savior? Who could not be captivated by the stunning work of the Holy Spirit? Stephen’s stoning, the Ascension, the Apocalypse … how could a student not be enthralled?

It’s easy, really…

They could turn off if I get in the way of my teaching.

If I try to entertain rather than enrich.

If I try to let my personality overshadow God’s plan for instruction.

In my past years of teaching at various schools, year-end graduation exercises included a puzzling award presented by the students: the Teacher of the Year. Simply put, it was a popularity contest, voted by the seniors of the school. Which teacher was our best buddy?

I found the award repulsive and an insult to the teaching profession. True teaching comes from knowledge and conviction combined with clear communication, never the cardboard-thin facade of popularity. I strive every day for the former; the latter disgusts me.

I have no interest in a popularity contest, so what could be my reward as a Bible teacher? Oh, I get them often enough… a few come to mind right away…

When Asa stood up in class for the first time – overcoming a solid year of absolute silence due to his sister’s death – and led his class in the Bible contests I used as a challenge. He became one of the spiritual leaders of his class from that day on.

When Mike came in before school and asked if I could pray with him about his faithfulness to Christ.  He had been troubled about his salvation, and wanted to renew his commitment to God.  Right then and there.

When I heard the news of college student Tim making a decision for Christ as a freshmen after his high school senior year spending weeks upon weeks after class arguing, yelling and questioning me about God’s love in the face of tragedy. The joyous news of his decision reminded me of the joy of planting seeds.

When Tina – whom I had been counseling – came into my classroom and cried with me after the loss of my brother. Tina actually counseled me that day.

When Sara came into my classroom after school and said, “Okay, Dr Zockoll, we’ve been through the whole semester of New Testament books. I understand them and I want to act upon what I learned.”
“And what action will you take?” I asked.
“I want to become a Christian,” she answered. And right there in my classroom, she did.

Those are my rewards, friend.

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One Comment
  1. Well said. I am one of those moms who have seen my daughters graduate from a Christian school who also attended church since infants walk into their next chapter of life and turn their backs on the church. Praise God that He reached one of my daughters again using a road trip and Bible study about the Real Truth and led her to a church with a pastor who speaks God’s truth and does not sugar coat it. Praying my second daughter will be able to find her way back soon. Brad, I thank God that He has led you into teaching our youth!! Thank You for your commitment. Praying for you and your family and missing Theology camp!

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