How to Teach the Bible & Not Come Across Like a Pretentious Jerk

One of the worst things you can do when you teach the Bible is present yourself as someone whose got it all together. You’ll come across as an arrogant know-it-all who’s disconnected from reality. I learned this the hard way.

courtesy pexels.com

courtesy pexels.com

Several years ago I did a 12 week series on issues related to teenagers and families. I didn’t realize it, but I was in over my head.

At the time, Katie and I had only been married a few years. Eden was 1 or 2. I was speaking to an audience of people in there 40’s and 50’s who had teenagers.

One Sunday, I talked about balancing work and family. I didn’t account for the fact that I was speaking to high functioning professionals who were several life stages ahead of me.

I must have come across as arrogant. But, that thought never occurred to me until someone in the audience told me later…

“Neil, you’re not the only one with a busy schedule.”

They said it with a smirk as if to suggest, “You don’t know as much as you think you know.” And, they were right!

I was trying too hard. I should’ve been humble and transparent about my lack of experience. Here’s what I learned: sometimes confession is the best tool I have as a communicator. 

With that in mind, here are three lessons I’ve learned related to confession and teaching the Bible…

1. It’s refreshing.

In David Kinnaman’s book, “UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why it Matters,” he identifies the seven major negative perceptions that young people (16-29 year olds) have of Christians. One of the seven? They’re hypocrites.

Whether your audience thinks you’re a hypocrite or not, they probably don’t expect you to reveal your weaknesses. They expect you to hide them. If you’re like me, you won’t have to search hard for something to confess. Your audience will find this authentic and refreshing.

Openly admit that you’re a hypocrite…we all are. That’s the gospel…I’m saved because I need saving.

2. Some subjects require confession.

There’s no way I’m going to talk about a subject like marriage without confessing. How could I possibly address the topic of marriage as an expert who has all the answers with my wife in the audience? It’s laughable.

Anytime I talk about family issues, I confess something up front. I want my audience to know I’m not some high and mighty know-it-all. I’m a broken sinner. Ironically, this is endearing.

The same is true with subjects like finances. I’m not going to teach on finances without telling about the time I bounced a check at Dollar Tree as a college student. True story!

3. Confession is a discipline.

I’ve written about this before. I know, intellectually, that confession is one of the best things I can do as a teacher. But, it never feels right. It’s always counter-intuitive. So, I have to discipline myself to confess.

I use this rule. When I share a positive example or illustration, I share a story about someone else. When I share a negative example or illustration, I share a story about myself. This keeps me honest and humble. It’s a built-in way for me to consistently confess.

Again, I had to learn these lessons the hard way. What’s the most powerful example of confession you’ve experienced? I’d really like to know.

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