You Can’t Teach Them Everything

Wednesday I began putting together notes for Fall classes at Baptist Bible College of the Caribbean. Starting the senior year of classes with the current students I’ve learned a lot of lessons about teaching (Some of them the hard way).

One of the first lessons learned, and most important is this….

you can’t teach them everything!

There will always be TOO much information to cover during a class. For instance, last fall I taught a class on Major Prophets which covered almost 200 chapters!! It is obviously impossible to teach everything there is to know about a subject. And more importantly, it isn’t necessary!

Bruce Wilkinson in his excellent book “The Seven Laws of the Learner” describes what he calls the “irreducible minimum.” This refers to the most important information about that subject that students absolutely needed to know. The role of the teacher is to understand that minimum, and then repeat it till their students grasped it.

The notes for my original classes were outline formatted and ran around 200 pages (double spaced). These notes were definitely impressive, but I noticed during class (particularly the second week) we would have to skim or rush through twenty to thirty pages each day! Obviously this is far too much to cover if the student is supposed to master the information!

The notes for my next class (Historical books) will have a three to five page outline for each book. The whole set of notes will be less than fifty pages. But I can GUARANTEE YOU students will get more out of those notes.


Because the emphasis is on repetition and discussion of the core truths.

What Wilkinson refers to as “the irreducible minimum” I call “themes.” A theme would be a Biblical truth found within the context (never just one verse) that points towards a theological theme found elsewhere in Scripture. Themes usually fit into larger categories such as characteristics of God, total depravity, redemption, and Gods plan for evangelism.

The real reason I emphasize teaching themes is because otherwise I’ll decide what’s important to teach instead of Scripture.

All of us have verses or subjects in the Bible that we find especially interesting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing these truths in class because our passion for them is reflected in our teaching. However, it is dangerous because our own emotions or personal interpretation is relied on instead of context.

At the end of the day the important truths aren’t the ones that “speak to me.”

They are the ones emphasized in Scripture.

Wednesday afternoon I started the hard work of compiling outlines, notes, and background material on the Historic Books. That’s actually the easy part because in about a week I’ll start working all of that information down to brief outlines focused on the themes of each book. It would honestly be easier to just share the passages that speak to me, but that would be robbing students of God’s Truth.

I have failed many students by trying to teach them everything, or only what is interesting to me.

But with the Lord’s help my current teaching philosophy emphasizes what Scripture emphasizes,

And this is what will transform lives.

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