A box showed up at church recently addressed to Lead Pastor Joe Thorn from LifeWay. Inside were some Gospel Project resources including a copy of Trevin Wax's book Gospel-Centered Teaching. Joe handed the box off to me to check out and see if this is something we might be interested in using in some of our community groups. I gravitated towards this book mostly because it was on my wish list of books to read.
What I liked
I assumed as I approached this book that it was a "how-to" book. I assumed it was about to teach me the newest "method" of crafting and presenting a lesson that could be used in a variety of settings; small group, Sunday school, etc. I was surprised to find that it was not. Instead, the author makes sure that the reader understands that the message is more important than the method. God can use a variety of methods, as long as the central message stays central. That message is of course the gospel; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It can't be about merely the transfer of information or the simple application of "do's and don't's". In order for the message to transform, it must lead to worship. The point of all Scripture is Jesus and therefore all of our teaching from Scripture must point to Him or we've missed the point.
I also liked the final 3 chapters that the author devotes to questions that need to be asked as teachers study and prepare for their lessons.
- How does this passage or topic fit into the big story of Scripture? (pg. 45)
- What is distinctly Christian about the way I am presenting this passage or topic? (pg. 75)
- How does this truth equip God's church to live on mission? (pg. 95)
The first question needs to be answered because without it the listeners/learners will not have a good grasp of how the Bible fits together. The second question needs to be answered so that they see their need for what only Christianity has to offer; the gospel. The third question needs to be answered so that the listener/learner can be equipped to do and obey God's will. These questions need to be asked and answered so that the teacher stays on target, giving a distinctly Christian worldview, and equipping people to follow where God leads. Only as these questions are asked and answered can the lesson being prepared be considered "gospel-centered".
Here are the quotes that most impacted me as I read. Be warned, some of them sting a bit, but all are helpful.
"The gospel isn’t the dessert at the end of the meal. It’s the salt that gives distinctive flavor to the meat and potatoes." (pg. 42).
"Rushing to application is a sign we are bored with the Bible." (pg. 107)
"Deeper teaching happens when we have deeper teachers." (pg. 108)
(All quotes taken from Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax ©2013 by B&H Publishing)
Conclusion and Recommendation
I needed to read this book. As often as I teach and the variety of audience that I teach to, I needed this reminder. If you teach often, get this book ... and apply it to your prep time.
I would recommend this book to anyone who teaches on a regular basis. I'm recommending it to our children's and youth ministry leaders, our community group leaders, and our people preparing to do any or all the above. It's that good. It's that needed.
Go get it right now. Read it. Use as another tool in your toolbox.