In the previous section we saw that we do not actually disciple anyone. God is the Discipler and can work through us if we allow Him. In a similar way we do not actually teach anyone in youth group. God is the Teacher and He teaches by His Holy Spirit (John 14:26) who lives in every believing young person.
How do we cause this to happen? In a sense we can’t. It is His work and His work alone. But there are things we can do to help young people be receptive to His voice. Firstly, help young people see that Scripture is not primarily about them and what they must do, but about Jesus Christ and what He has done. Explain to them that the purpose of reading and studying God’s words is not that we simply accumulate knowledge but that we encounter Him, the Word of God (John 1:1).
The Old Testament laws, ceremonies, priesthood, tabernacle, temple and covenants all point to Him. The major characters: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, David and many more were all in some ways types of Him. Don’t teach about these alone without reference back to the One who fulfils all the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Follow the example of Jesus who, when He talked to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
Concerning the New Testament, the Gospels naturally point to Jesus but so does the Book of Acts in which we see His Body at work in the world still. He is also to be seen when we study doctrine found in the letters in which the writers consistently presented His life, sacrifice, resurrection and ascension back to the Father as fundamental to Christian theology. Equally Jesus must be made central to any study of the Book of Revelation, which is not primarily a book about the future but a revelation of Him (Revelation 1:1).
Jesus said it best when He said to the Pharisees “You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39). If you want young people to encounter Jesus as you teach, help them see Him in all they read.
Another thing we can do to allow God to teach through us is to encourage young people to not just listen to us as we teach but to listen for Him through our words, making note of what He says. We’ve all had the experience of listening to a speaker and suddenly a profound new thought comes to us. It could be something they said that made us go, “Ah-ha!” as we grasped a new idea, or understood an old idea in a new way. Or it might be that as they made a minor point it suddenly made us think of something almost unrelated that was really important to us personally. I believe in faith that these thoughts are the promptings of the Holy Spirit, making content real and relevant so that the thoughts remain with us long after the actual content covered by the speaker is forgotten.
To further help young people grasp this idea of listening to Him, when you finish your teaching allow for a time of reflection where young people can think back over the content you covered and try to summarise what they believe God is saying to them. Encourage them to write this down so they don’t forget it and then work at applying it so that they don’t just become hearers of the word but doers (James 1:22-25).
Remember that they sit in class all week and are taught information. Help them see that receiving Christian teaching and reading Scripture is different. It’s not primarily about receiving information, rather it’s about receiving formation through the work of the Holy Spirit’s teaching and our subsequent obedience. In order to emphasise the importance of acting upon what God says, regularly allow time for them to discuss how they are putting into practice what He is teaching them. If we don’t encourage this sharing we communicate silently that application is not that important.
The final and most significant thing we can do to improve the effectiveness of the God teaching through us is to pray. Prayer must be more than just an add-on to our preparation of a Bible study or a message. It must be the most essential part – something we dare not miss. When we pray we don’t just pray for ourselves: that we would speak confidently and with conviction. We pray for the hearers, that they would have the ability to hear what God is wanting to teach them through us as we consistently focus our message upon Jesus.
In Part 8 – the final part: My reliance