I’m not quite sure how many classes I’ve taken, church services I’ve attended, or seminar lectures I’ve heard… too many to count, I’m afraid. Like you, I’ve sat in some great classes and heard some tremendous sermons. Sadly, the opposite is equally true. To be fair though, I don’t think I’ve ever actually told my teachers what I expect of them. So here it is. To all of my future teachers and preachers, I offer these three simple thoughts:
Sometime soon I will be sitting in your classroom, attending your seminar, or visiting your church. Let me tell you right now what I’d like to hear. The truth. If you can add some personality spice to help me stay awake, that’s good too—but not necessary. Truth is necessary.
I know that youbelieve what you’re saying. That’s not enough for me though. I want you to give me good reasons why I should believe it. And you might be an eloquent teacher or preacher, but that’s not enough for me either. Saying it “good” doesn’t automatically make what you say good.
Teach me. Give me reasons. Cite your sources. If it’s a Bible lesson, carefully provide the context please. If it’s your opinion, that’s okay. Just tell me that it is, and I’ll still consider what you say. But keep in mind that what I really want is the truth, so keep the opinions to a minimum.
Don’t speak down to me. Condescending speech is very difficult to hear, even if what you’re saying is true. Your job is not to change me. You couldn’t if you wanted to. Only God can truly change people, and He uses the truth to do so. Indeed, the truth can make us free.
Speak to me humbly. That doesn’t mean you can’t be dynamic or humorous, it just means that you shouldn’t act as if you invented the truth or that everyone in the world is stupid who doesn’t believe it at the exact moment you tell them to.
As a general rule, yelling at me will not accomplish much. I get the whole “volume for emphasis thing,” but shouting at me as if I’m in the first week of Marine boot camp is not going to work. Not with me. Not with most people.
Do you care about me? Or am I merely a nondescript tuition payer, offering giver, or seminar attender? Trite though it may be, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Important truths that are not practiced by the teacher end up coming across as unimportant ideas being peddled by the teacher. Everything you say will be assessed by the life you live. The importance of the truth you preach lies not in the volume of your words, but in the validity of your actions.
Every teacher’s life places a punctuation mark at the end of his words. Sadly, too many teachers place question marks at the end of beautifully worded lectures. Why? Because their lives don’t lend credibility to the words they have so carefully enunciated. Let your life be an exclamation mark. That’s the kind of volume I hear best.
Remember, I’m not only listening to what you say and how you say it, I’m watching too.