Many situations call for Bible teachers to be adaptable. We already covered some in the post, Adaptable Bible Teacher. But, perhaps one of the more difficult situations to know how to adapt relates to people’s belief systems which is what we find in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 where Paul says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
Notice Paul’s willingness to adapt for “all” people — “everyone” — not just those he agreed with or was most comfortable with.
In the classroom we will find people at varying places in their belief systems as did Paul in his day. We need to determine where people stand in their walk with God and plan for ways to meet them where they are with the purpose of bringing them more fully into alignment with where God is and who they are in Him.
Particulars of Adapting Depend on Who You’re Teaching
The Apostle Paul narrowed it down to those with the law (primarily the Jews), those without the law, and the weak.
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law … To those not having the law I became like one not having the law … To the weak I became weak … (1 Cor. 9:20-22)
This Scripture passage doesn’t detail how Paul adapted to these different belief systems but we can find examples elsewhere.
Examples of adapting to those under the law:
- Acts 21:23-26 – He participated in Jewish purification ceremonies though not necessary.
- Acts 16:3 – He had Timothy, of Greek descent, circumcised according to Jewish law.
Example of adapting to those without the law:
- Acts 17:19-34 – He reasoned with the philosophers, even going to their marketplace. He zeroed in on what he had observed about them as a platform from which to jump to what they needed to know about Christ. He referenced their poets.
Example of adapting to the weak:
- Rom. 14:1; 15:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:7 – He was willing to forego some of his freedoms in Christ, in non-essential areas, so as not to become a stumbling block.
Belief Systems Bible Teachers Might Encounter Requiring Particular Ways of Adapting
Not many Bible teachers will have both Jewish and Gentile students in their classes but they may have those in their class who are staunch or rigid in their beliefs about non-essentials as well as those who are more open or eclectic in their beliefs. Some may be insecure in their convictions. Perhaps some will be legalistic or dogmatic. Other might be relativistic holding to little or no true biblical authority. And some may be doubtful or self-condemning.
Whatever the variable may be, adaptable Bible teachers will determine if there are ways they can accommodate, identify with, or be sensitive to where there students are. Teachers may be able to …
- Accommodate by incorporating some of the ceremonies, liturgies, or ideas students prefer and then use it to take them to a deeper level, a fuller understanding, etc.
- Identify with them by using relevant illustrations from their culture, beginning where they are and pulling them back to the truth of God’s Word.
- Be sensitive by purposefully avoiding that which might cause them to stumble or doubt, patiently waiting for them to grow in their walk with the Lord and understanding of His Word.
All of this needs to be done without compromising truth or losing Christ-like integrity — the topic of the next post.