There I stood, bewildered. Staring at me were the eyes of dozens of sixth graders. That first day of school kicked off what would be the longest 10 months of my life!
Public school teachers typically undergo extensive college training, followed by a period of student teaching (observing and assisting a professional teacher) before being hired. Yet my path to that first day as a school music teacher was different.
Prior to that job, I had worked as a professional saxophonist, which included a little teaching—mainly one-on-one lessons, ensembles and music-appreciation classes at private schools. Now that experience had led to being offered a more demanding position as a middle school band director. It was granted with the expectation that I would receive full teaching credentials within my first three years on the job.
I knew a lot about music—but very little about how to teach!
That year’s winter middle school band concert could be best described as “organized noise.” (Mind you, a few merciful parents who witnessed it put it milder.) I was forced to learn on the job rather than receive extensive university training.
Those in God’s Church know that we will soon be tasked with fulfilling a command of Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go you therefore, and teach all nations…Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”
Unlike my experience, God does not want us to feel dazed on our first day. He is training us “in the backseat” and recorded many teaching examples in His Word that can prepare us for our future assignments in His Kingdom.
For me, one of the most helpful teaching tools was being able to observe master music directors in action.
Once a year, music teachers would attend a convention. At various other times, special performances would be held by select students from throughout a county, district or state. During these events, we had the opportunity to sit in day-long rehearsals directed by some of the country’s most experienced and successful teachers—known as master classes. I cherished these events for the invaluable training they afforded.
The entire Bible can be viewed as a Christian’s “teaching guide.” More specifically, the first four books in the New Testament encompass Christ’s intense three-and-a-half-year master class with His disciples. Every story is filled with insight on how to effectively teach.
To best understand how to prepare now, we will thoroughly analyze the biblical account of the feeding of the 5,000. It highlights 12 basic teaching methods straight from our Master Teacher, Jesus Christ.
As you read, focus not only on what Jesus taught—but also how He taught.
(1) Grab Their Attention
The feeding of the 5,000 miracle was so impactful that all four gospel writers documented it. Therefore, one must draw details from all four accounts for a complete picture.
Mark 6 opens the story with the apostles having “gathered themselves together unto Jesus and [telling] Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught” (vs. 30).
This is a type of what the Church will soon do in every corner of the world!
Continuing in Matthew 14: “When Jesus heard of [John the Baptist’s death], He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed Him on foot out of the cities” (vs. 13).
At first glance, this verse seems to suggest that people strolled along to meet Christ at the place He was headed. Yet Mark 6:33 presents a more desperate picture: “The people saw them departing, and many knew Him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto Him.”
What would motivate people to move in such a frenzy?
The answer is found in John 6: “And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased” (vs. 2).
In other words, Christ had grabbed their attention. He knew that words alone often do not suffice with physical minds.
Most likely, God performed several miracles in your life prior to calling you into His truth. Many of us have “I could have died or been badly injured” stories from before He called us. He had to intervene so we could make it this far.
Other miracles come in the form of provision, healing, angelic assistance, and so on. God uses them to grab our attention. And those are just the ones we know about—there are many others that happen without us noticing. It can be said that the biggest miracle of all is what happens at conversion—the God who made the universe puts some of His Holy Spirit in us!
In recent sermons, we have learned astonishing truths about how the saints will receive “exousia”—the same power the apostles received prior to their assignments. Soon the Church will need to display such power to get people’s attention and be able to help them (Mark 16:17).
Are you coming to grips and meditating on the fact that God will give us the ability to perform awesome miracles? While this can be difficult to wrap our minds around since none of us perform these today, taking time to read the miracles God is doing now to deliver His people (reported through Churchwide announcements) serves as inspiration for what He will do through His people not long from now.
(2) Show Love
Back to the story: “Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them…and He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). The Greek word translated “moved with compassion” means “to have the bowels yearn, that is, (figuratively) feel sympathy, to pity” (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries).
Luke recorded, “…He received them, and spoke unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing” (9:11).
Christ has high hopes for, and deeply cares about, everyone He teaches—even if it sometimes involves correcting us. He loves and earnestly wants all to succeed!
In Mark 10:21, Christ had to give a rich young man who wanted to follow Him a difficult message. It was preceded by the phrase, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him.”
A teacher must have love for his students and demonstrate genuine interest in them (I Cor. 13:1-3).
The true starting point for us as future teachers, however, is loving God. Recall Christ’s famous interchange with Peter: “Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me more than these? He said unto Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. He said unto him, Feed My lambs” (John 21:15).
Love, teaching and learning are interconnected in the Bible.
In marriage, husbands are told to “love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25-26).
Paul told the Philippians he prayed that their “love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (1:9).
In addition, Christ tells Laodiceans: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” To chasten means “to train up a child, that is, educate, or (by implication) discipline (by punishment)” (Strong’s). It is translated throughout the Bible as “chasten,” “instruct” and “teach.”
As teachers in training, we must grow in God’s love—outgoing concern for other people. We must apply Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
It is heartwarming to see this in action when someone requests prayers from the Church. The cards and letters that flood mailboxes, along with countless phone calls and prayers, make a world of difference to a suffering person.
Visiting, serving and communicating with brethren is also a way to grow in love. (See Hebrews 13:1-3 and James 2:15-16.) These acts prepare us for the worst trying time to come, when so many people will be in desperate need for loving leaders to guide them.
(3) Use Colorful Language
When we read Mark 6:34 earlier, one phrase was deliberately left out: “And Jesus…was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd…” In this passage, Mark used colorful language. More specifically, he employed a literary device known as an analogy.
Literary devices are powerful teaching tools. To read that Christ “was moved with compassion” alone does not have the same emotional effect as thinking of fearful, docile, defenseless sheep wandering through a field without a caring shepherd to feed and protect them.
God designed human minds to appreciate colorful language. It helps us better make emotional connections with concepts beyond dry facts, which enables us to better remember them. (No matter what confused evolutionists may tell you, animal minds are incapable of this!)
In messages, ministers often use analogies, metaphors, similes and other forms of descriptive language to illustrate important principles. They do not use dreary language!
I Kings 4:32 states that King Solomon “spoke three thousand proverbs.” The word for proverbs is defined by Strong’s as “a pithy maxim, usually of a metaphorical nature; hence a simile (as an adage, poem, discourse).”
How fascinating was this king? “And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom” (vs. 34).
No one wants to listen to a boring teacher! You and I will need to use colorful language to teach people who may not see themselves in error, or to exemplify any given point in a memorable way. This is part of being “apt to teach” (I Tim. 3:2; II Tim. 2:24). If we are to wisely “win souls” (Prov. 11:30), we must learn to “season” what we say with the “salt” of colorful descriptions to which people can relate (Col. 4:6).
The Bible is replete with such literary devices. The phrases “pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:46), wisdom “is more precious than rubies” (Prov. 3:15), and “the apple of His eye” (Deut. 32:10) are just a few examples. In fact, many idioms we hear today actually came from the Bible.
One way to incorporate this kind of interesting language into our speech is to regularly read God’s Word. Doing so will help us take on the mind of Christ.
Yet colorful language does not have to be complex (see point 10). When meditating on a topic, see if you can devise an analogy to explain a concept to someone for the first time. If you have children, you can practice using analogies on them. They will never forget them!
Return to the scene in the account in which Christ was teaching and healing those in the crowd: “And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto Him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals [food]: for we are here in a desert place” (Luke 9:12).
Mark 6:36 adds, “for they have nothing to eat.”
At this point, Christ demonstrated another important teaching technique: He attentively listened.
Aware ahead of time of the awesome miracle He was about to perform by feeding the people, Jesus could have stopped the disciples at any point in the middle of their statement. Yet He allowed them to finish what they had to say. Hundreds of years before, He had inspired Solomon to record: “He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Prov. 18:13).
People have a natural need to be heard. The best we can achieve if we do not take time to listen is “folly and shame.” If we want to be useful in God’s hands and help others, we should actively work at becoming better listeners.
Periodically ask yourself: “Do I interrupt others before they finish what they have to say—even if I am hurried and/or know exactly what they are going to tell me?”
Interrupting is one of the rudest things one can do to another human being. Christ did not even interrupt the Pharisees when they attacked Him.
How difficult is that concept for today’s political debaters or newsrooms to grasp!
To learn from the Master Teacher, we first must listen to God. This enables us to better listen to others.
(5) Give Assignments
Christ was told that the masses were hungry and the disciples wanted Him to send everyone away: “But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give you them to eat” (Matt. 14:16).
I can only imagine the unconverted disciples’ inner reaction at this point: Excuse me, Sir…ahem, there are more than 5,000 starving people here. What is it again You want us to do?
Christ did not hesitate to tell them, “Give you them to eat.” He gave them an assignment.
Throughout the gospels, Christ gave challenging assignments to His disciples. Even the account of the feeding of the 5,000 began with the 12 disciples giving a report of a monumental task He had given them (Mark 6:30).
How about us? When we are assigned something from Headquarters or a local minister, we should not doubt, make excuses, or disregard it. Rather, we should understand it is an opportunity to serve God and others, and jump on it with joy! (Read Matthew 4:22, Luke 12:36, and Revelation 3:20.) Such a diligent attitude will help us develop faith and meekness for the time when we will need to give assignments to others. It will help us develop empathy to say, “I know how you feel, but I know you can do it!”
(6) Ask Questions
Mark 6:38 continues, “He said unto them, How many loaves have you? Go and see.” Christ engaged the disciples with a question.
Asking questions is one of the oldest and most effective teaching tools. The Being who made us knows that questions appeal to our “inner child.” Also, a childlike attitude is needed to enter His Kingdom (Mark 10:14-15).
At the school where I used to teach, I recall being expected to have a “guiding question” for each lesson. I did not realize back then how often God uses questions to get us thinking. Sometimes, He uses a series of rhetorical questions, as in Amos 3:3-5. Similarly, Job 38-41 contains a series of hard-hitting questions that made Job conclude in chapter 42: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees You” (vs. 5).
It is no accident that God inspired the tagline on the Church’s website to be: “The Greatest Questions. Plain Answers.” Think of some of our literature with questions as their titles. Also, consider the many prophecy questions the Church has recently had answered. Even many of our callings can be traced back to one question that sent us on a quest for doctrinal truth. In addition, we ask ourselves tough questions during self-examination.
Clearly, God wants us to continually ask ourselves questions, which leads to the next teaching point.
John’s version of the event records a fascinating exchange with Philip. In this instance, Christ used a question to evaluate one of His apostles in training: “When Jesus…saw a great company come unto Him, He said unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this He said to prove him: for He Himself knew what He would do” (John 6:5-6).
Two points can be taken from this passage: Christ was evaluating Philip’s faith and He had evaluated the situation and devised a plan.
Good teachers assess their students periodically to ensure material is being retained. Similarly, we go through tests and trials to develop patience (Rom. 5:3; Jms. 1:3).
Since we are preparing to be teachers in the Kingdom, we should be growing in the ability to evaluate ourselves and our circumstances to better make righteous judgments.
Did the young man pass the test? “Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (John 6:7).
Philip missed the point! He was thinking physically, not spiritually. And he was not the only one: “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said unto Him, There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (vs. 8-9).
The unsatisfactory result of this assessment led Christ to employ the next teaching technique.
(8) Set the Right Example
At this point, the disciples were as lost as I was on my first day as a public school teacher. What took place next no doubt left everyone astonished: “And He said to His disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. And they did so, and made them all sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude” (Luke 9:14-16).
Christ led by example. This is one of the most important points the Bible can teach us about teaching. Realize that by the time Jesus performed the actual miracle in the account, He had already exemplified seven teaching techniques!
You may have come across a few ineffective teachers in your life. They told you what to do, or just handed you “busy work,” but they did not take time to break down a process for you and demonstrate how to do it.
Here, Jesus was showing the disciples how it should be done. Throughout His earthly life, Christ Himself followed the example of our heavenly Father. In fact, He was the first to reveal the Father’s existence.
The first time Christ referred to the Father in the New Testament, He did it in the context of setting the right example. Early in the Sermon on the Mount, He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
We are to follow Christ’s example as He did the Father’s (I Pet. 2:21). As spiritual Israel, we should strive to set the example ancient Israel failed to set (Deut. 4:5-8). We must do so with those inside and outside of the Church. People should notice something positively different about us as we set the right example of God’s Way.
(9) Do Not Be Self-willed
The next point applies to all of Christ’s actions in this story: He would not have been able to do any of these miracles without getting out of the way and seeking the Father’s will.
Some brethren may feel a little apprehensive about the concept of teaching in the future. Yet Scripture makes clear that God will supply all the tools we need if we obey Him.
We should be growing in the ability to yield to God when He leads us to good works. Doing so requires we have faith in Him and stop trying to impose our own will.
God has limitless power (Matt. 28:18), but self-will blocks God from working in us. If you ever hear yourself say something He says to do is “impossible,” you are witnessing self-will at work. Remember, God says with Him “all things are possible” (19:26).
We should take Him at His word.
(10) Speak Plainly
Another principle the Bible teaches us about teaching comes from the simplistic nature of Christ’s statements.
We serve a God who uses plain and direct language. Though He uses colorful analogies (point three), He does so with ordinary concepts we can understand. He does not use big words or fancy language. He keeps things simple!
In this miracle, Christ gave four, very simple instructions:
- “How many loaves have you? Go and see” (Mark 6:38).
- “Bring them hither to Me” (Matt. 14:18).
- “Make them sit down by fifties in a company” (Luke 9:14).
- “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (John 6:12).
Such succinct and straight-to-the-point language is how God speaks. He speaks plainly (II Cor. 3:12). That is how Mr. Herbert Armstrong taught in the past and how Mr. David Pack teaches today.
We are training to become God-beings. When we speak and write, our communication should be as clear as possible so others can understand us. It should not be laced with slang, unnecessary words, or poor grammar. We should strive to say what we mean and mean what we say (Matt. 5:37).
(11) Use Repetition
After the people ate, the disciples “took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes” (Mark 6:43-44). But this was not the end of the story.
A few chapters later, when the disciples “reasoned among themselves” about a comment Christ had made about spiritual leaven, Jesus “said unto them [notice He is employing point six]…perceive you not yet, neither understand? Have you your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see you not? And having ears, hear you not? And do you not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took you up? They say unto Him, Twelve” (8:16-19).
Remarkable! Human beings have a strange capacity to forget miracles—even dramatic ones! Christ knew the value of repetition for learning, so He reminded them of the first miracle, before reminding them of a second, almost identical miracle: “And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took you up? And they said, Seven” (vs. 20).
Our physical minds do not automatically retain spiritual knowledge (Rom. 8:7). That is why we must work hard at remembering the truths of God. And why Peter and Paul wrote so much about “remembrance.” It is also why we must attend Sabbath services every week and hear timeless Bible truths presented in multiple ways by God’s ministers. And even why a brilliant God has us rehearse His plan of salvation year after year during His Holy Days.
The use of repetition is crucial to us learning—and later becoming effective teachers.
(12) Balance Judgment with Mercy
After the 5,000 were fed, Christ “constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while He sent away the people” (Mark 6:45).
Later that night, Christ again shocked His disciples by walking on water (Matt. 14:24-33). This time, He balanced judgment (bidding Peter to join Him on the tempestuous water to squash his unbelief) with mercy (“immediately” catching Peter when his wavering faith caused him to sink).
Christ had employed this same balance before when asking for them to feed the masses themselves. He continually pushed them to trust that God would back them up. But then He mercifully intervened when their faith lacked. (See James 2:13.)
Mark 6:51-52 documents their reaction to the walk-on-water miracle: “…and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.”
The next encounter in John 6 with those who had been fed miraculously demonstrates how Christ applied this balance and wraps up the lesson of this miraculous account.
When Jesus was asked how He had made it to the other side without a boat, He answered, “You seek Me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (vs. 26).
Reading this out of context may come across as harsh and judgmental. But considering all they had experienced, it was quite the contrary. Christ was concerned they were not “getting it.”
The masses were seeking another “good old” miracle: “What sign show You then, that we may see, and believe You?”
You can almost hear them thinking, Oh, come on Jesus! Just feed us some of that tasty food again!
The dialogue shows that even some of His disciples struggled: “When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them, Does this offend you?…From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (vs. 61, 66).
Surely this development brought no pleasure to Christ. Yet He knew a loving teacher must balance mercy with judgment if he is to help his students grow.
Sadly, the next verse shows what can happen when a truly loving teacher tells people what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear: “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for He would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill Him” (John 7:1).
Becoming a godly teacher involves learning to temper judgment with mercy—no matter the consequences to us personally. With the help of God’s Spirit, we should grow in discerning righteous judgments based on God’s Law, getting to the heart of any matter (Heb. 4:12), and administering mercy to others whenever possible (Jms. 2:13).
More Than Teachers
The feeding of the 5,000 amounted to a “master class” for the ages. It is just one story, out of many in the Bible, that displays these 12 teaching points in action.
Most of us are not in positions to teach in God’s Church at this point (Jms. 3:1). In fact, we are instructed to not even attempt to teach those in the world (Matt. 7:6). Instead we are to be sharpening our skills as servants—letting ourselves be taught—as we manage our lives and endure trials and tribulations in this present, evil world.
Yet there are places where we are able to teach in our lives now. Parents, you are commanded to teach your children God’s Way (Prov. 22:6). Older members are instructed to take younger members under their wings (Titus 2:2-8). You can also teach simple skills that others may want to learn. Even passing along how to make a pie crust or change a car’s oil are opportunities to hone your abilities as a teacher.
Though I no longer work in education—and most Christians today may have never been professional teachers—we are living through the ultimate “student teacher” training. Just as a school teacher should learn classroom management prior to being entrusted a classroom, our experiences now will prove invaluable later.
Do not miss lessons you learn! Our preparation will soon be complete and it will be time for the most important teaching positions in world history to be filled.
At that point, when the saints stand in front of their classes, our real teaching job begins!