Knowing the best approach to use and the right things to say when teaching someone the gospel is a difficult challenge. Our judgments about how to proceed will be flawed from time to time, but good and honest hearts will be ready to accept God's truth despite our failings.
One of the critical things in this process is determining a student's basic level of knowledge. We must be able to determine where to start with each individual learner. Philip did this in an expert way when he encountered the Ethiopian eunuch. A simple question, an observation of the text the eunuch was reading, a statement by the man himself, and Philip was ready. He "began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:35). We will do well to follow Philip's example. Make no assumptions about what your prospect knows. Find out where your student is in terms of fundamental knowledge and commence your teaching at the appropriate starting place. Failure to do so will lead to confusion and frustration for both the student and the teacher.
Another essential component of effective teaching is to keep the instruction in manageable 'bites.' Too often we see well-intentioned Christians launch off into long discourses that incorporate way too much information. It all makes sense to them, of course -- and they sincerely want to share their understanding with the one they are teaching -- but it is simply too much. The student will not be able to take it all in. They won't be able 'to see the forest for the trees,' and they may very well throw up their hands in despair. So, our best approach is to take it slowly. Methodically walk the student through the necessary foundational truths. While it may be possible to do this "in the same hour of the night" (Acts 16:33), it often will take several carefully planned sessions. Knowing how much and how fast to 'feed' the student is a much needed talent in teachers.
The apostle Paul urged: "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Colossians 4:6). Salt, of course, is a good thing, but too much ruins the food. The same is true of our efforts to inform others. We need to be doing this essential work, but let us pray for wisdom (James 1:5) so that we serve up the truth in an effective way that does not overwhelm the one we are trying to teach. Think!
by Greg Gwin -- via The Beacon, November 17, 2015
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