Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guiding principles for Teaching at TLC

The following I wrote just recently as a way to concisely state my convictions about teaching in the context of Tanalian Leadership Center (TLC). The these principles have evolved from many conversations with native leaders, native students, fellow missionaries and many years of observations. Since all those things are ongoing, I expect that these principles will continue to evolve over the years. For the time being, these are the basic principles under which I attempt to operate.

1. Teach like you are the first Bible teacher they have ever had.
2. Good teaching has the students in mind; great teaching has the their students in mind.
3. Information is a slave to transformation.
4.To teach from the heart is to listen with the heart.

1. Teach like you are the first Bible teacher they have ever had.
This is a principle to remind the teacher not to put unrealistic expectations on the students that they should have a prior understanding of Biblical terminology and concepts. Until the overall culture of Southwest Alaska is one that gives a biblical foundation and worldview to all of its children, TLC will seek to serve those who have not had such an opportunity by offering it to them in a way that each individual student can understand.

2. Good teaching has the students in mind; great teaching has their students in mind.
The TLC teacher must remember that we only seek to be the snowball that starts the avalanche of spiritual multiplication and discipleship in Southwest Alaska. As such, it is equally important that we build both the students’ competency and confidence. Any school can give a student information, but at TLC we seek to empower the student to become not only a student, but one who makes disciples of the next generation. Thus it is critical that the teachers in this program avoid a model that relies on “the expert” from an outside source but instead focuses on the Word as the source of truth and each person’s ability to read and understand it as the skill of utmost importance.

3. Information is a slave to transformation.
According to this principle, the transfer of information serves only as an agent for transformation. Thus the teacher should not be overly focused on helping the student learn the information but should target the heart. In a biblical understanding, the heart of a person is the core of their being in which their true beliefs reside and from which all actions and attitudes flow. We do not seek behavioral modification or memorization and regurgitation, but rather heart transformation relying on the power of the Word of God and his Spirit to work in the hearts of people. The TLC Teacher’s job is to allow exposure to the Word and interaction with it in such a way that it encourages students to take it to heart and helps them process what that means. This principle also implies that the teacher’s Job is not only exposing people to the word, but equally as important, praying for the hearts of the students and their receptiveness to the Word.

4.To teach from the heart is to listen with the heart.
A teacher’s job is first to listen then to teach. When teaching the Holy Scriptures, that involves listening on multiple levels. On one level, the teacher must listen carefully to the writer of the scriptures to hear the message they were intending to communicate. On the next level, the teacher must also pray for an open mind and heart to hear from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one who teaches the believer and if the believer wishes to teach others, they must first be open to hearing and responding to what God wishes to teach them. Once there has been true heart change, then passing that same message on to the students will be natural and effective. A teacher who has been changed by what they have learned will be easy for students to trust and therefore should have an open door to speak from the heart to the heart.

Friday, February 8, 2013


The other day in Bible class, as we were looking at the story of Job, one of my students asked, "How could Satan stand in the presence of God? I thought that God could not have evil in his presence?" We discussed that a little and it got me thinking. I eventually came to the other difficulty that God seems to be present everywhere and given the undeniable existence of evil, not only is evil allowed in the presence of God, but God's presence necessarily penetrates the territory of evil. And if God wanted to avoid evil, why in the world would he come to earth in the form of a human?

Thus was launched into pondering the true nature of the doctrine we call omnipresence which simply put, says God is everywhere. Well, that's nice and it's fitting for an all powerful God, but if we stop at simply everywhere, that kind of steals the thunder right out of the voice of God when he says that he will dwell in us and among us. Of course He does, He is everywhere, which means that he also dwells in and among Satan, his followers and the heathens right? Well, I'm hoping that his presence means something different among the wicked vs. his people. But what exactly is that difference?
Here's what my investigation turned up.
  • At the burning bush, his presence made even the dirt holy.
  • At the Exodus, he personally lead his people out in a pillar of cloud and fire (Ex 13:21)
  • Later he had them build a special tent  so that he could dwell in that as they wandered the desert (Num 9:15) 
So it appears that He is present in specific places in a special way.
Once Israel enters the Promise Land, There are some rather comical stories about his presence in the Ark of the Covenant. I Sam 4 tells the story where Israel attempts to win a battle by bringing the Ark into the camp so that "their God would be with them," yet they were still defeated and the Ark was captured.
Apparently God wasn't in the box. 
But then the Philistines bring the Ark into the Temple of Dagon their pegan god and the idol ends up falling on it's face before the Ark.
So apparently God was in the box.

(O.K. brief pause for a cheesy joke. What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs and no head lying on the floor? A Da-gone Idol. Lol.)

Moving on.
Finally, when Israel settles down in the promise land and David brings enough stability to build Jerusalem as the capital, the Ark is moved there. David builds himself a nice house and then realizes that the Ark is still living in a tent. That's just not right. So he says I'm going to build God a house. At first he prophet Nathan says,
"sure, go for it."
 But then after actually talking with God, he comes back and says something to the effect of,
"just kidding, basically here's what God says,
'I'm going to build you a house in which you will have a ruler forever.'"
(Andrew's Paraphrased Version of II Sam 7)

 and along with that he says that David's son will build God's house, the temple. 
So the Temple is built and God shows up in his cloud again and makes himself at home in the temple, among his people in a special way. Yet YHWH doesn't seem to be contained by those beautifully decorated walls very well and still seems to have pervasive and perhaps even invasive presence in other places. 
  • Jonah tries to run from his call to Nineveh and is thwarted by "YHWH, the God who made the land and the sea." The concept of which scared the pegan sailors right out of their canvas pants. 
  • Clear over in Susa, Esther "just so happens" to be queen to a king who is tricked into ordering a genocide of the Jews, but it "just so happens" that the tables are turned and the provoker is poked / skewered on the gallows. 
So although God is aware of all things in all places at all times, and in some sense perhaps he is present, it appears that he likes to be present in a special way in certain places at certain times. Especially when it comes to being in and among his people. 

So what does this look like today?

Eph 2:19-22
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Chist Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit."
(ESV, Emphasis mine)

In the context, Paul is talking about the meaning of being one in Christ as the church. As we unite together in love as members of the church, we actually become the New Testament version of the temple. And just as God dwelt with his people and was present in a special way on in the temple he is present in a special way in united believers today.

Now as we unite, we are the house that was promised to David and Jesus is the king in the house.

And that's not even to mention the concept that we are also the body of Christ. (See the last sentence in Eph 1)