New teachers are often trained in what education experts call “responsive classroom” techniques. The goal is to share important information in a welcoming way so your audience will respond well. A responsive teacher is sensitive to their audience’s needs and designs the learning situation to address those needs. Jesus was the epitome of a responsive teacher. John 4 gives an excellent example of such a teacher, as Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman in her comfort zone.
As a teacher, Jesus chose “to go through Samaria” (v. 4) so he could interact with His learner in her environment. This was a controversial route as the Samaritans were alienated from the Jewish people; most people would travel around that area. Instead, Jesus chose to go through Samaria because He knew the Samaritan woman would be there, and He knew of her greatest need—salvation.
As a responsive teacher, Jesus chose to engage His audience in a non-threatening manner. He used a shared human need to begin a conversation: “Will you give me a drink?” Notice that all this required was a simple yes/no response. But that question opened the conversation to the greater need—her salvation. Jesus then shared truth, including her sin and her heart’s need: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (v. 18).
Through non-threatening dialogue, questions, and then sharing key truth, Jesus leads the woman to ask for what she needs: “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (v.15). Ultimately, Christ spends two days with the Samaritan community, “and because of his words many more became believers” (v. 41).
>> How can you use “responsive teaching” to share the gospel? Consider the needs of your audience. Build relationship through being responsive to their individual situation. Listen well, and then be ready to share life-giving truth as God leads.
The story of the Samaritan woman is a wonderful example of Jesus’ wisdom and love for people. Our prayer is that we’ll learn from our great Teacher how to interact with others with love, understanding, and truth.