Application is a vital part of any Bible teaching. We must be continually renewing our mind by washing it with God’s word and practicing the things God’s word tells us to do.
Christian workers present students with Bible Scripture and lesson materials to help them increase their head knowledge about God’s word. Teaching God’s word is good as scripture tells us, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
But scripture doesn’t leave us with only hearing the message. It tells us to take what we’ve heard and use it in our lives. In Philippians 4:9, Paul says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” This “putting it into practice” is what I call application.
Many Bible curriculums provide great stories and activities, yet they fail to teach the application of that lesson. Consequently, many students know an abundance of Scripture, but do not know how to apply it to their lives.
Hearing the Word of God but not doing it is like trying to have a love relationship with someone you never see or spend time with. The words or thoughts might be in your mind, but unless you reach out and share them with the other person, it does no good.
Learning God’s word, without the application, decreases the benefit of the lesson. Jesus gives an example of this in a parable in Luke 6:49 in which He says, “But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation, the moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Consequently, application is a vital part of any Bible lesson.
So if you teach your students to “love one another,” give them an active example of demonstrating love to someone else. Examples could include visiting patients in the hospital, caring for a sick person, running and errand for an older person who cannot do it for themselves or lending a listening ear. The list of examples is endless.
In James 2:14-17 scripture tells us, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Learning activities provide an excellent way that we can show our students how to put the lessons we teach them into practice in their daily lives. In addition, activities provide a memorable experience that can remain with students for a long time. Consider this example from one of my primary-age Sunday School classes:
In this lesson, the students were learning that God gives us authority and that we need to appreciate, obey, and respect them. Scripture tells us, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)
For the lesson application, the students colored, drew pictures, and scribbled their names on pre-designed greeting cards that had a ‘Thank you!’ in huge letters on the front. After class the students personally delivered their cards to one of our church leaders.
The Elders and church leaders were surprised when the children handed them the cards. However, when they saw the big “Thank You” and scribbling on the front of the cards, they chuckled and seemed to be encouraged.
As I pointed out our church leaders to the children, the young ones became aware of the leaders and had to confront their fear of leadership. I believe this activity helped the children reduce their fear of church leadership, showed them how to respect authority, and taught them how to apply the Bible lesson to their daily lives.
When we see, listen, and act upon the scripture verses, we learn and grow in our Christian faith. Even the wisest, most wealthy man in scripture (King Solomon) learned from what he saw and did. In Proverbs 24:32 Solomon writes, “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”
So whenever possible, make your lesson application an activity time in which you show how to apply the lessons by putting them into practice. Your students remember the material better because they ‘experienced’ it as well as heard it, and they have a memory to take home with them. If students have a visual picture or memorable experience they are more likely to remember the lesson and the Holy Spirit has a planted seed in their hearts that He can bring back at a later date to teach them.
In Luke 6:47-48 scripture tells us, “I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my Words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well-built.”
People we need our Christian homes and our church bodies to have a solid foundation–to be ‘well built.’ And the rock we build our homes and churches on must be Jesus Christ!
Point of View:
One curriculum I used was obviously written by a person with an evangelistic heart. Evangelists, people with gifts from God that compel them to continually share the salvation message with others, are a vital part of the Body of Christ. The message they share is vital to bring life to those who have not yet accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. It is also a good message to remind believers on occasion. However, it isn’t always a good point of view from which to write curriculum.
The problem with this curriculum became apparent when the curriculum repeatedly built their lessons with a salvation message. Since all of my students were born again, baby Christians, they didn’t need another salvation message.
Young and baby Christians need Spiritual food–milk and meat to help them grow into mature Christians. They need to learn about Jesus and how to walk the Christian walk. They need to know how to live the life of a believer, and how to apply the Bible to their daily lives!
In conclusion, Christian curriculum writers need to be aware of their audience and make sure the materials they write meet the needs of the people using them! After all, if they don’t, why write them?
Words Without Knowledge and Understanding:
As teachers, we teach students big ‘religious’ words such as salvation, redemption, Savior, Redeemer, atonement and several others. However, at times we assume the students know what the words mean and fail to teach them the meaning and/or application of those words at their level of understanding. It’s important to try to teach these words at the students’ level of understanding. If we fail to do this, the students may walk around using the big words without knowing what they mean. This can cause confusion in the classroom. Psalm 119:30 states, “The unfolding of your Word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
In addition, during our lessons some Bible-time customs, laws, daily living rituals or traditions, or celebrations may need to be explained so the students understand why the people of the past acted and spoke the way they did. For example, the Old Testament Sacrifices that were burned on the altar in the past, need to be explained so the students know that we don’t have to do that today.
At other times, it may be necessary to explain a Biblical term for an object. For example, if you’re teaching about a cistern, the students need to know what it is. If they don’t understand what purpose the object had, how are they going to relate it to the lesson or the application of the lesson in their lives? How are they going to know that a cistern is a big vessel for holding water, and the Bible uses it in an illustration of our keeping the flow of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts?
Scripture tells us, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
In our classes, we need to make sure that our students understand the things we teach. Many people of all ages have difficulty reading, speaking, writing, and understanding the English language. How can we expect these people who cannot comprehend the simple words to understand the big ones in our lessons? We need to use simple words in lessons for these students to help them understand what we are teaching them. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who leads us to the truth!