In the wise words of Winston Churchill, on the importance of being the best version of oneself, “There comes in every person’s life, that special moment, when a person is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and afforded the chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy it would be if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which should have been his finest hour.” The premise behind this statement is God is calling every believer to some task and He has afforded each person a special measure to accomplish that specific task and His perfect will. The only question that must be answered is whether or not His gift will be squandered and whether or not God will receive glory in that special moment.
REFLECTION OF STUDY AND NECESSARY PREPARATION
When looking at Scripture, there are two individuals who stand out among the rest when looking for people who not only were prepared, but who were also willing to take a leap of faith to accomplish great things. These great things clearly could only be done with the gracious hand of the Lord over their lives. These two men were Ezra and Nehemiah and each of them devoted themselves to three things: (1) study of the Law, (2) observance of the Law, and (3) teaching of the Law. These three practices became the very foundation of their ministry, and much can be learned from Ezra and Nehemiah’s example, for the children of God today.
In addition to studying, observing, and teaching the Law, anyone engaged in teaching or ministry must also be proficient in critical thinking. This means possessing the ability to analyze, judge, assess, critique, and apply what is being processed in the brain. Michael Mitchell postulates four phases to critical thinking:
(1) Analysis, which is the inspection, interpretation, and inference of elements and structure, in order to form conjectures and hypotheses.
(2) Argument, which presents evidence in an ordered fashion in an attempt, right or wrong, to sway the audience.
(3) Assessment, which begins with the validation of the evidence and moves to establish a logical argument.
(4) Action, which takes the analysis, argument, assessment and culminates in conviction and commitment as individuals learn something and beginning to live something. Action can be making as small as making decision or can be large enough to changing one’s behavior.
Upon understanding and applying the four phases of critical thinking, next Mitchell explains one must master the four foundations for critical thinking:
(1) Knowledge, which uses background information in order to interact and engage with the subject matter.
(2) Wisdom, which is born of the synthesis of one’s knowledge, practical experience, and application, allowing one the ability to both assess the argument and any possible implications.
(3) Values, which are rooted in a clearly articulated value system and allows one to interact with an argument from a moral perspective.
(4) Rubric, which is the standard and result of one’s knowledge, wisdom, and values. A biblical rubric for both content and process is vital for the ultimate evaluation and conclusion.
After mastering the phases and foundations of critical thinking, Mitchell suggests six necessary steps when preparing for the transformational challenge of biblical-heart-deep teaching: (1) getting the big picture of the text, (2) constructing an outline of the text, (3) discovering the details of what the text says from the analytical outline performed, (4) identifying the exegetical idea and other principles, (5) applying these to one’s personal life with specific goals, and (6) establishing accountability measures for accomplishing your goals.
Intent always precedes content, making one’s preparation paramount to accomplishing any task, but there is another dimension to intent. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim illuminates how, “When it comes to knowing God’s plan for our lives, our intent to obey determines whether or not He will reveal the content to us. Why should He disclose… [anything] when we have no intention of obeying, or are flouting things He’s already clearly revealed in His Word?” In John 7:17 Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, (intent) he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority (content). Leon Morris shows how, “Jesus goes on to affirm that any really sincere person would know this. It is not something that can be learned only by those who are expert in theological niceties. Anyone who really wills to do the will of God will have the spiritual discernment required. Jesus’ hearers had raised the question of his competence as a teacher. He raises the question of their competence as hearers.”
As a teacher and/or minister, Mitchell emphasizes the mind and skill set that constitutes the manner, method, and message of a worthy life as the pillars of personal ministry. The premise behind this analogy is teachers and/or ministers are: being watched, being followed, and being imitated, so Mitchell encourages them to be someone worth watching (I Thess. 1:5; I Cor. 11:1), to do something worth following (Acts 5:12; Matt. 20:34; Mark 10:52; Acts 8:11-13), and to saying something worth imitating (I Thess. 2:8; Luke 6:40).
Anthony, Michael J. ed. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.
Koranteng-Pipim, Samuel. “Intent Precedes Content.” 2012. http://eaglesonline.org/intent-precedes-content/ (accessed March 30, 2017).
Mitchell, Michael. “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture.” Filmed , Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 8:01. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730810_1 (accessed March 30, 2017).
________. “Ezra Experience Worksheet.” HOMI 601: The Ministry of Teaching, 2013.
________. “The Pillars of Personal Ministry.” HOMI 601: The Ministry of Teaching, 2013.
Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.
Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.
Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.
Yount, William R., ed. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.
 Michael Mitchell, “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture,” Filmed , Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 8:01. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730810_1 (accessed March 30, 2017).
 Mitchell, “The Ezra Experience: Thinking Critically About Scripture.”
 Michael Mitchell, “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.