How to Say Something People Remember — The Teaching Principles I Live By

In August 2015 I taught a class at the Campus for Christ Conference called “Teaching for Life Change.” I want to share what I said. I’m not suggesting this is the right way to teach, just the way that works best for me. I’m always learning!

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There are two big picture ideas that I approach teaching with…

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In some circles, there seems to be a sentiment that suggests words aren’t important. The St. Francis of Assisi quote comes to mind: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel, when necessary use words.” Words were necessary for Jesus. They’ll be necessary for us.

Some campus ministry leaders believe pouring too much time into teaching can be a barrier to making disciples. Regardless of what model we’re talking about, words matter. Whether they’re said from a stage, around a table, or in a coffee shop, our words matter.

When I think about the power of words, these proverbs come to mind…

  • “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
  • “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4

In fact, words are so powerful, Scripture warns us that not many people should teach (James 3:1).

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I’ll never forget these words from my friend and mentor, Chris Buxton, on my first day in full-time ministry: “As ministers, we are first, and foremost, ministers of the word.” These words have been formative for me.

A few years ago at Catalyst Dallas during a Q & A, I asked Matt Carter, the founding pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church, this question: “What would you say to someone who was going to plant a church today?” His answer? “Teach the Bible…just teach the Bible.”

The power in preaching and teaching is in God’s word. 


With those two big picture ideas established, my goal is always life change. In order to do that, I want to do two things…

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  • If the goal is life change, what I teach has to be remembered. In order for it to be remembered, it has to be clear.
  • Use one text.
    • I’m not legalistic about this…in this post, I’ve even violated my own principle!
    • When God says what he originally said in the context he originally said it…it’s powerful!
  • Make one point.
    • I’m not legalistic about this either…but, if I say more than one thing I’m in danger of being forgotten.
    • “All preaching should boil down to what you want them to know and what you want them to do.” Bill Hybels
    • Can I explain my message in one simple sentence? This is the standard I use for clarity. If the answer is “No,” it’s not clear enough.
  • The last thing I do is eliminate everything that isn’t essential from my notes.
  • Stories communicate clearly. They activate our brains like nothing else.

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I had on OT professor in seminary that said, “The thing that has the most impact in ministry is consistent, faithful, relevant biblical teaching.” This is so true. God’s word always produces fruit (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Teaching has an accumulative impact. In other words, there are micro lessons and macro lessons. The micro lessons are things learned from one sermon or Bible class. We don’t remember many of those over time. But, it’s the macro lessons, the things learned over many sermons that are most memorable.

These words from Paul come to mind…

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If I had to boil it down to one sentence, it would be this…

Our words have the most power for life change when we clearly and faithfully declare God’s word.

I’d love to hear from you. What one resource has helped you the most when it comes to preaching/teaching? I never want to stop learning!

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