By Jimmy Tuten, Jr.
In a previous article I focused attention on the need for the Bible class teacher to consider himself in view of the great and wonderful task performed. This writing is a continuation of those thoughts.
No group of workers is more important in the activities of the local church than teachers. The collectives of God’s people cannot have good, teaching arrangements unless they have good teachers and good teachers are ‘made and not born. Teachers therefore must have the willingness and the interest to spend the time necessary to grow in their field. If a teacher is serious regarding his task he will constantly ask himself, “how can I improve.” Teacher: begin by considering thyself. For the sincere teacher who wants to improve, we suggest:
That You Consider Your Classroom Conduct
Proper practice and conduct within the classroom will make the teacher. Conduct is an indication of character. There are certain common courtesies and practices that all teachers should try to observe. This writer is well aware of the fact that these are personal matters, and that they can have very little meaning to anyone who is not willing to make it his own in the classroom relationship.
(1) The teacher should strive for impartiality. The lack of partiality is a distinguishing quality of the Christian. It is most important for the teacher. The inspired James said, “my brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (Jas. 2:1). He later said that if “ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin . . .”(v. 9). James gives one instance of the kind of respect that is forbidden (vrs. 2-6). Other forms of partiality are common and equally reprehensible. Teachers must always be mindful of the fact that one of the great functions of New Testament Christianity was to create a sphere in which there should be neither Jew nor Greek, bond or free. All are equal within the fabric of the church, just as surely as her Divine Head is no respecter of persons (Lk. 20:21). How foolish for us to regard the persons of men, when the object of our faith is the Lord of glory Himself! True faith in Jesus is incompatible with the entire spirit of class-room snobbery. There should be no unchristian distinctions of caste within the church. The teacher should strive for impartial treatment of individual students within the class. No favoritism should be shown to certain members. Be vitally interested in all of the class. Strive to help the whole teaching program meet the needs of the whole church.
(2) The teacher should strive for humility. “. . . God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). We should be clothed with humility (1 Pet. 5:5). Peter insists that we put off the gaudy robe of pride, and be content to hide our personal excellences with the wrapper of humility, as a servant puts on some coarse apron for coarse tasks. This is essential if we are to be rightly attired for the work we have to do. The great purpose for which humility is enjoined on us is that we may be ready for service. This is especially true of teachers. A teacher who displays self-conceit is usually slow to put his hand to work in anything which will not advance his own reputation. Most often he will be more ready to insist upon his claims than to respond to the claims of the student upon him. The garment of low-mindedness is a badge of menial service. Humbleness is a Christian virtue; it runs against the grain of human nature. To the teacher it is the victory of unselfishness.
Teachers cannot be dictatorial and lordly in their attitude. They must take time to work with individuals so they can discover truths they have discovered. Classroom participants have the tendency to rebell against pride in a teacher. Because of this, the teacher cannot have the influence over the class he should have. Do not lord it over the heritage, but be an example in humility.
(3) The teacher should strive for peacefulness. He should maintain quietness with and among all participants in the classroom situation. Even if some of the students do not support some of the conclusions drawn in a given study, no effort should be made to criticize or “read the student out of the synagogue.” It is not uncommon for the teacher to run up against a person with a “know-it-all” attitude, who seems to take delight in needling the one doing the teaching. I know of nothing more frustrating than to be confronted with a sharp, “but, in Johnson’s Notes it says … !” This calls for extreme gentleness. Classroom wrangling should never take place (Jas. 3:13-16). “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify one another” (Rom. 14:19). “. . . But God hath called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). The teacher’s feet should be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15).
(4) The teacher should be authentic. In dealing with others, he should strive to be a genuinely authentic individual. There should never be any pretense; never any, mask. Pretense is the deadliest foe of the teacher. Nothing will create a lack of confidence quicker than hypocrisy, both in oneself and in the teacher. Do not try to bluff your way through a class. If you do not know the answer to a given question, admit it. Let the class know that you will give attention to the matter at the next class session. “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies. . .” (1 Pet. 2:1). The wisdom from above is without hypocrisy (Jas. 3:17).
(5) The teacher should be patient. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord” (Jas. 5:7). Patience means “an abiding under.” It has both a passive and an active connotation. Ordinarily – it refers to patience in respect of persons, but includes endurance with respect to things. This is a trait we all need. Too often the teacher becomes discouraged because things are not moving as well as they should. The class seems slow, the students are sluggish in comprehension and the teacher feels that he is not getting anywhere with teaching. Be patient. Teachers plant the seed and wait for God to give the increase.
That You Consider Your Growth
The sad thing about teaching programs within the church is that so many teachers are not willing to spend time and effort to improve themselves. They are not growing because they are not interested in doing so. But as we have said before, good teachers are made, not born. It is the person who feels no need for help in this respect who is often doing the poorest job teaching. We should react to the need by saying, “the Lord willing I will strive to be as good a teacher as possible.”
Look at the secular teaching profession. Public education requires that its teachers constantly be striving to improve. The day when one could complete a four year course and get a permanent teaching certificate is almost over. Most states require provisional certificates which have to be renewed so that the teacher can continue to teach. If there is no proof of growth and improvement in definite ways, there is no renewal. If it is important in this field for teachers to grow, how much more important is it for Bible class teachers. Growth in the study of the Bible and with respect to methods of teaching is most important.
Let it be said in conclusion that each teacher represents Christ. We should always strive to do the things that Christ would have us do. In all of our endeavors, we should strive to be a true’ christian in the truest sense of the word. Teacher: consider thyself. “Study’ to show thyself approved. . . .”
Truth Magazine, XVIII:3, p. 7-8
November 15, 1973