Previously published on okaybibleteacher.com
Ministry was never on my radar.
As a kid, my career aspirations were to be a cashier at our local grocery store and an NBA player (not to be confused with the WNBA).
As I grew, reality morphed that dream of playing with Michael Jordan to becoming a sports journalist, since it was obvious by that time that the only athletic part of me was my Nike sneakers. (I still, however, cherish the dream of being a grocery store cashier.)
Even after the Lord saved me as a 13-year-old, ministry and discipleship were unfamiliar concepts that had no tangible presence in observed conversations around me. It wasn’t until college that the Lord opened my eyes to love the nations for His glory, which included loving the nationals around me in my local Kentucky church by pouring out my life for the training of women in biblical literacy.
As my eyes were opened to the desperate need for discipleship among the students there, a desire was born to see females of all ages equipped to study Scripture for themselves and to leverage their lives for the high calling of spending and being spent for God’s fame and the joy of all people.
It’s been a decade since then and the desire has only increased.
I was a 22 year old with a Bible and a journal, longing for the grade school girls at my church to be given what I wished I would have had at their age. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of scars were incurred, and a lot of joy was gained. But that’s to be expected. We have only to look to Jesus to realize no one concludes ministry unscathed or unscarred. But, wonder of wonders, in the giving of oneself there is life and joy. Deep, deep joy.
If I could journey back 10 years and write myself a letter about ministry and teaching the Bible, here is what it would say:
Dear Bible Teacher,
You are embarking on a high and holy calling. It is not an easy road, but you will experience the steadfast, unwavering presence of the Lord in ways you cannot yet imagine.
As you step into this journey, you’re stepping into people’s lives, and those are messy and complicated, complex and marred––just like yours. It will be tempting at times to throw up your hands and walk away from all of it. That would be the easier choice, and you have a very real enemy who would love nothing more than to see you abandon the command of Matthew 28:18-20.
Loving students and women well requires you to be all in. Therefore, let down your guard and be real with those entrusted to your care and instruction. They do not need you to give an illusion of perfection, they need to see you trust Christ with your brokenness, so learn with your people. Be real with them, tell them you’re in this together and that you don’t have it all figured out. Take them with you as you pursue the depths. They will come. Let them see you repent and fall toward the cross. Let them see you believe the gospel you teach.
And, while we’re at it, let them see you relax and take a deep breath because your security is not based on what you do.
I cannot emphasize this enough: your worth is not determined by what happens in your Bible classes or your discipleship groups or what the students or women do with the resources you give them. You may never see “results” from your efforts and in those moments, when the discouragement sets in and it feels like everything is in vain, remember no labor for the Lord is ever wasted. In ministry, as in life, we look to what is unseen, not what is seen. Success is faithfulness and obedience, come what may.
Because of that, remember your students are not notches in some Bible teacher belt that you can hold up for approval or significance. Ministry is not an accomplishment for boasting but a reminder of your desperate need for the gospel you’ve been entrusted to extend. These humans attending your classes or studies, or who are in your life for discipleship, are not projects to be fixed but souls to be stewarded with grace and the help of the Holy Spirit. Lean on Him and not your own understanding. Your students do not ultimately need you. They need Him. You are simply a tool, one that cannot bring about change on its own. So as you plant and water, remember their eternity does not rest in your hands. God is the only one who can bring fruit and new hearts (1 Corinthians 3:6, Ezekiel 36:26-27).
But, speaking of resources, give them depth––they were made for it. High schoolers study the intricacies of biology, physics, calculus, and geometry. They can handle doctrine, theology, and the wonder of Scripture. Throw away the flannelgraphs and pull out the church history books or, you know, the Bible itself and teach them how to dig for diamonds. Students will rise to the level you teach them but they won’t rise if they’re never asked or expected to.
These sacred writings of Scripture are able to make one wise for salvation, but don’t just teach them theology as an end to itself, but show them how to live in the library of truth, in knowledge leading to application and theology leading to doxology.
One of the most important things I want to remind you as you head into intentional ministry is this: Operate out of the overflow. Live in and function out of what the Lord is working in you. You cannot take your students deeper than you have gone. Feed on the Word for yourself and then extend to others the nourishment you find there. As the Lord waters you, He will water others through you (Isaiah 58:10-11).
Do not be afraid. He goes with you. Lean into Him and extend what you’ve been given to your students. Be gracious. Be bold. Ask others for help. And stake everything on what will matter in 30,000 years. You will not regret it.
-A Bible Teacher who’s still learning
“The aim of a good teacher is to turn away the eyes of men from the world, that they may look up to heaven.”