You’ve got to live in a cave if you are an American and don’t know about the Brian Williams scandal. In all of that, there’s a serious lesson to be learned for all who teach in any capacity: what you say matters. Every word has the power to destroy us if we aren’t carefully and thoughtfully choosing what we say.
Like many of you, I take the responsibility of teaching seriously. A few years back, I wrote down three questions I ask myself routinely as a measure of accountability and printed out them out. They hang on a bulletin board in my office as a reminder of the serious responsibility teaching is.
1. Am I teaching what Jesus said is true?
As a pastor, the measuring stick that I use to determine right from wrong, true from false, valuable from worthless, is this simple question: did it matter to Jesus, and if so, what did He have to say about it? If it mattered enough for Jesus to speak on the issue, then it’s important that we get it right when we speak on the issue. I’m not in the business of building a platform for my views or opinions. My job is to echo what Jesus said the way He said it, and then point people to Him to see it for themselves.
2. Am I pointing people to Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life?
I ask this question for two reasons. First, I believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so I want to reflect that in what I say. But I also don’t want to create followers of me. I don’t want my youth group or anyone else for that matter to look to me as the source of any kind of hope or inspiration. And I certainly don’t want to create a dependence or have anyone to rely on me as a source or catalyst for their spiritual growth. I just want to be a reflection of Jesus and connect people to Him to find what they need for life.
3. Am I talking about real stuff in real ways using real language and real examples?
If I’m not, then I fail. You do too. If we don’t present a relevant message then what good is it? If there’s no practical application it’s just a history lesson. And even if there is practical application, if we don’t make it accessible it’s useless. I work hard to write lessons that contain the whole truth, but I work equally hard to make sure it’s understandable and useable. Not that I ever want to change the intent of the original teaching. God wants us to be His messengers, not His editors. (Tweet this) However, we need to deliver the message using language and context that people can relate to.
So this is where I start every single time. These might seem like questions that should have obvious answers. And while I can truthfully say that I don’t often answer “no” to them, I do often realize that it’s iffy. And I don’t want the answer to be “maybe”…I want it to be a bold and definite “yes.”
Asking these questions helps keep my motive and ego in check and keeps me focused on what really matters. If you’re a teacher or speaker, what questions do you ask? How do you hold yourself accountable?