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Teaching Scripture as a screenplay

The Bible is meant to be lived, speaker tells REvangelism conference, ‘to align our ways with God’s ways’

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Tod Bolsinger

LOUISVILLE — Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had? What about your best faith teacher?

In what ways were the “teaching techniques” of the first and second person similar or different?

With these questions, the Rev. Dr. Tod Bolsinger began his conversation on teaching during the digital REvangelism conference  from Montreat Conference Center on Wednesday.

When he was 23 and a year out of college, Bolsinger was approached by Dr. Mark Roberts at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood in Los Angeles.

As the then new director of Christian Education at the church, Roberts wanted to know if Bolsinger would be interested in becoming the church’s director of College Ministry. At the time Bolsinger was working as an evangelist for Youth for Christ. Roberts told him that if he took the job, the Hollywood church would send Bolsinger to seminary, because it believed he was going to run out of those little evangelism talks he was giving by Christmas.

“I was grateful because I ran out by Thanksgiving,” Bolsinger said. “I loved seminary because it was so practical. I used what I learned during the week on Sunday.”

He said what he learned from that encounter is that the evangelistic work he did to reach unchurched youth was helpful. But if he was going to work at a church, he had to learn how to teach the Bible.

“It created a gap in my head between evangelism and teaching, that evangelism is what we do for nonbelievers, but teaching is what we do for the church,” he said. “It took me years to undo that.”

Scripture passages helped Bolsinger see how intertwined the habit of teaching was with evangelism.

Bolsinger kept coming across Scripture passages that show that proclaiming the good news requires a certain kind of teaching, instruction and training.

“Scripture is like a script or screenplay, which we enter into as participants and actors. It’s meant to be something lived so that our ways are aligned with God’s ways,” he said.

“Evangelism as teaching,” Bolsinger said, “is more about showing than telling.”

For Bolsinger, this kind of teaching is meant to both inspire and instruct. In fact, he said, it is the kind of teaching that REvangelism participants described as they shared what they learned in their small group conversations about their best teachers (some are below):

  • They had heart and passion, along with good academics and technique.
  • Relationship is key to being a good teacher.
  • Most picked teachers who inspired us.
  • The impact and influence of teachers who genuinely cared.
  • The love teachers had for their subject wanting us to do our best and high expectations.
  • How teachers can influence a child’s view of life for the rest of their lives.
  • They believed I was worth it, worth their attention and time.

Currently a senior congregational strategist and associate professor of leadership formation at Fuller Seminary, Bolsinger has been reading the book “Think Again” by Adam Grant. In the book, Grant suggests that smart and creative people aren’t perfect thinkers. Rather, they are good rethinkers.

‘Evangelism as teaching is more about showing than telling.’

“They’re humble, because they’re always learning, correcting and being curious,” Bolsinger said. “To promote a culture of curiosity, Grant actually says, ‘Don’t be like a preacher trying to convince someone.’”

Bolsinger encouraged the 150 registered participants at the REvangelism Conference, which is based on the 8 Habits of Evangelism, to be the kind of people who want to be committed learners.

“Think of yourself as the chief learning officer of your communities,” he said, “as the person who is gathering people to lead learning but is also part of the learning.”

In Greek, Bolsinger pointed out, “learner” is literally translated as “disciple.”

When teaching people about discipleship, Bolsinger often refers to how his grandmother passed on to him her love of cooking.

Bolsinger compared training people in the way of Jesus to what he learned in the kitchen of his grandmother’s Italian restaurant, where she passed on to him her love of cooking.

“Learn from good teachers, but also discover people’s hungers,” he said. “Make it as personal as possible and learn with diverse communities.”

To learn more about Bolsinger’s lesson on the habit of teaching, click here.


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