PRINCIPLES OF TEACHING
T. PIERCE BROWN
In our efforts to develop the mind of Christ, there is probably no greater example in the Bible of the importance of personal evangelism, and no better example of some important principles of teaching than in the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4:5-42.
We could dwell at length on the importance of developing the mind of Christ in regard to disregarding differences in sex, social strata, ethnic background, religious affiliation, moral condition or any other thing that would prevent proper communication. But in this article, we only want to emphasize two things about Christ that will help us to do a better job of teaching anyone, but especially in personal evangelism.
First, He asked help of her. We sometimes hesitate to ask help of another, for it implies that we are inferior in some way, and we do not like for anyone to think we need their help — especially if they are of the “wrong” sex, race, creed, color, or social standing. Let me urge you to look carefully at someone with whom you want to study that has some ability, insight, expertise, or something for which you can legitimately ask for a portion, and you will discover that it may open a doorway for discussion and questions about eternal themes.
Second, He used a technique that can be very effective, and yet few of us use it often. He brought God into the discussion very early. “If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee,`Give me to drink’; thou wouldest have asked of him, and He would have given thee living water.” Although you may not be able to do it with such skill as He, you can do it and open avenues of further conversation and study if you will. For example, you stop to get gas. Instead of saying, “Do you think it will rain again soon?” you can say, “Do you think God will grant us more rain?” Instead of “Aren’t the flowers pretty?” it can be, “Hasn’t God made some beautiful flowers?”
The value of this thing is twofold, at least. If they show a hostile attitude toward God, you will start at a different point than if they praise him, but you can at least continue the conversation by asking about why they have that attitude. If they show admiration or love, you can say, “You have an unusual appreciation of God’s goodness. Would you mind sharing with me how you developed it?”
When you come at the matter as Christ did, in a humble way, asking for help, the avenues of teaching multiply. It may be simply, “Help me to understand your view.” Much of the time we come across as, “Listen to me while I reveal to you all the truth!”
But even in a classroom situation, the teacher may find he or she can improve discipline, etc. by asking certain students for help. But if we can teach our students to put into practice what we think we are learning as we read articles like this, we will multiply our teaching manifold. Get your students to practice bringing God into conversations and report what happens when they do!