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What makes Teaching or Preaching Useful?

About ten or so years ago, I was attending a conference and heard a speaker say something that not only stuck with me all these years, but forever changed my ministry – or at least the way I preach and teach.

Before I tell you what he said, a bit of background may help: the speaker was summarizing the conference’s presentations and leading us in what he called a “LESS AND MORE” exercise.

It’s a simple exercise, and one you may know: you take out a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center, and write the word “LESS” at the top of the left hand column. Then you write the word “MORE” at the top of the other column. Then you write down, based on what you have heard and experienced, any actions or behaviors that you would do less of going forward, as well as any actions or behaviors you will do more of from that point on.

It was sometime during his introduction to this exercise that he said the thing that stuck with me:

Learning that does not change behavior is not useful learning.”


At first my mind rebelled against the thought: “what, there’s no value in knowledge for the sake of knowledge? There aren’t things we learn in order to be better informed, better educated?”

But think about it: why? Why do you want more knowledge, why do you want to be better informed? Why do you want to be better educated? Isn’t the point of acquiring more knowledge, becoming better informed, or becoming better educated, to help ourselves see differently, feel differently, and understand the world differently? And if we do see, feel, and understand the world differently, doesn’t that mean we will behave differently?

That has a huge implication for preaching or teaching: preaching that does not change behavior is not useful preaching. Teaching that does not change behavior is not useful teaching. 

And think about the implication on a daily and weekly basis, when you are reading your Bible, when you are receiving some insight about yourself, and when you are in church worshiping or attending continuing Christian education classes.  

Imagine the difference it would make if, when reading, praying, and coming to church, more of us were asking ourselves, “so what? 

What difference does this make? 

What behaviors am I being called to do more of, and less of?”

Because learning that does not change behavior is not useful learning. 


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