Teaching Tip: Teach Principle-Centered Lessons

Points or principles? Which will you teach the next time you get together with your Bible study group? In a classic work by John Bisagno, he encourages the preaching and teaching of God’s Word by focusing on principles, not points. Bisagno says the following:

“I consider this to be a very important part of my preaching ministry.  I learned it from Rick Warren some years ago and believed it so firmly that I made a conscious decision to change my preaching style.  I consider it simple but profound:  The outline should consist of principles, not points”  (Letters to Timothy, p.157).

In this same book, Bisagno goes on to help preacher-teachers understand how to more effectively teach God’s Word. Here are more of his thoughts on teaching points and principles:

3 Reasons Why Points are Puny:

  1. Points are predictable. How many times have you filled in the blanks on a preacher’s outline before he told you the answer?
  2. Points tend to turn off the listener because they are predictable. If your mind races ahead to fill in the blanks in an outline, you’ll miss what the communicator says in the present.
  3. Points don’t inspire or capture the imagination. Minds wander. Attention spans are short. Teachers/preachers/communicators are always fighting to keep people’s attention. Points aren’t the best option for capturing wandering minds.

4 Steps in Teaching Principle-Centered Lessons

  1. State the principle – this is simple and straightforward. Simply tell the class what the principle says, show it to them in an outline, write it on the board, etc.
  2. Explain the principle – spend a good amount of time here….this is where your explanation is an exegesis of the passage; use many sources like customs, original languages, quotations, etc. Anticipate the question and answer him in the explanation.
  3. Apply the principle – the Holy Spirit really helps you at this stage; He applies the truth to your learner’s hearts. We don’t help Him teach….He helps us teach! Articulate how it applies to your group members. It may be stating the obvious, but reinforcing what the Spirit is already saying to people’s hearts strengthens the truth.
  4. Illustrate the principle – don’t reach way back into history for illustrations (no one cares about Baron von So-and-So from the 14th century). Use current illustrations from books, movies, TV shows, the newspaper, and sources like Newsweek, Time, USA Today, People, etc. Stories help younger audiences connect their heart to your message…become a great storyteller


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s