Curtis Cates was a teacher's teacher. His students knew him as an enthusiastic teacher of God's Word - and trainer of teachers, too! His tract, Teaching with Enthusiasm, is reprinted below. Thank you to the Cates family for permission to include it on our site!
No greater thrill exists than leading souls to Christ. And, what tremendous influence one exerts through Bible class teaching! However, some classes seem so dull, though the students are willing to learn, whereas other classes are bustling with life and interest. One class dampens excitement, while another produces involvement and encourages learning. Is the difference to be explained by the nature of material, the degree of preparation or the technique of presentation? Or often is it not rather directly proportional to the teacher's personality? The diligent, genuinely energetic and pupil- centered teacher positively impacts the education program. Rudyard Kipling wrote, "Each teaches, not for money or prestige, but for the joy of teaching."
Enthusiasm — What Is It?
Enthusiasm is an indispensable ingredient of successful teaching, for it is the mainspring of human accomplishments. Walter Chrysler pinpointed enthusiasm as that characteristic his salesmen could least afford to be without. William Jennings Bryan observed, "Eloquence is thought on fire." From the Greek en and theos, enthusiasm means "God within you." Unlike the flamboyant grandiosity of the ostentatious showman, this motivation and excitement springs from true dedication to the Lord and genuine sympathy for the needs of humanity. Nicodemus said to Christ, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2; cf. Luke 19:10). The Sanhedrin marveled at the apostles, "and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). Others see Christ in Christians, for Christians follow Him (Matt. 5:16; 1 Tim. 4:12). One should never allow the absence of enthusiasm in others to diminish his own. Paul urged, "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men" (Col. 3:23). Enthusiasm is powerful. A truism is, "Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm." Its warmth and appeal can have more influence than logic, and it is as catching as a measles epidemic. Gimmicks and gadgets are not needed, for enthusiasm is as powerful as dynamite. Much interest is generated in the subject under discussion. The gospel deserves to be taught with enthusiasm; it is "good news" from the Creator. The wise instructor appeals to people's emotions as well as to their intellects. David exclaimed, "My cup runneth over" (Psa. 23:5)! However, many not only fail to manifest enthusiasm but also, when they "ought to be teachers, they have need that someone teach you again" (Heb. 5:12-14), and some even forget that "they were once purged from their old sins" (2 Pet. 1:5-11). There are many teachers who need desperately to enhance their enthusiasm. The teacher's inventory of himself should include the following questions: First, am I contributing to the enthusiasm of my class, or am I provoking a diminished enthusiasm, and am I tending to quench the flame of Interest already within the students? Second, how can I increase in enthusiasm?
Enthusiasm — What Are Some Bible Examples?
To develop genuine, Biblical enthusiasm takes much effort; no "chocolate-covered pill" can bring it about, nor can a mere facade of flamboyancy result in greater productivity, genuine advancement, of the kingdom of Christ. Few are willing to pay the price! The Lord urged his disciples to "count the cost," for "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:28,33). The apostolic church was characterized by zeal and dedication. They "continued steadfastly" (Acts 2:42), were single in heart (2:46), had "favor with all the people" (2:47), were glad (2:46), persevered in persecution (4:31), helped the needy (4:32), maintained separation from the world (5:1-11), and "ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (5:42), with the result being that "the Word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly" (6:7). Notable specific examples of enthusiasm include Stephen, who disputed with Jewish leaders who "could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke" (6:10) — note that enthusiasm does not eliminate the place of knowledge, that both are vital (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:15); the Ethiopian nobleman (Acts 8:26-39), who traveled a thousand miles to worship, who demonstrated tremendous eagerness to learn the word, and — because of an open mind, reading an open Bible, and approaching an open pool of water — who openly responded, "Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized," resulting in open rejoicing; Cornelius, "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house" (10:2), who enthusiastically desired to learn the truth and to obey God, and who led his whole house to be converted (10:2447,48). The antithesis of enthusiasm was demonstrated by Agrippa, that king who knew about Christ, believed the prophets and knew Christ's teachings but was simply not interested (26:26-29). The teacher cannot do it all; though Paul reasoned with Agrippa, he did not "water down" the truth to attempt to make it palatable, even for a king!
Enthusiasm — How Does One Develop It?
The key to developing enthusiasm – God within you – includes a number of components. One, the teacher should live a more nearly Godly life. God dwells in the faithful (1 Jno. 2:23,24; 4:12-16; Eph. 3:17). Having presented themselves to God (Rom. 12:1,2), the Macedonian churches surprised the Apostle Paul with their bounteous gift for the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1-5); what an exhibition of "God within!" What deep, spiritual insight and concern (cf. 1 Cor. 15:58; 1 Thess. 1:2-10)! Those who truly know the Lord (Heb. 8:11,12) realize the significance of baptism — total being is immersed into a watery grave; it is not just a few hairs on the head that are dedicated to the Lord's service!
Two, the teacher should be cognizant of that which justifies enthusiasm. Souls, each worth more than the entire world (Matt. 16:26), are steadily marching unprepared into eternity. If allowing a person to perish in a burning building when one could save him is a dastardly, criminal act, how much more criminal not to do all within one's power to "rescue the perishing!" Many, like Peter, are willing to die for the Lord but do not find the courage daily to live for Him (Matt. 26:33-35, 69-75). Solomon wisely urged, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Eccl. 9:10). Can one name a valuable accomplishment made for Christ without enthusiasm? Further, the kingdom of Christ deserves one's best energies and is worth his finest talents. Otherwise: 1. Why "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33)?2. Why be "faithful unto death" (Rev. 2:10)? 3. Why deny oneself (Matt. 16:24), and leave all to follow Christ (Matt. 10:34-39)? 4. Why "give of your best to the Master"?
Three, the teacher should realize the critical battle being engaged for the minds and souls of men. A tremendous war is being waged between God and Satan, between the Lord's kingdom and the Devil's kingdom, between everything that is good and everything that is bad, between morality and immorality. And, those not actively engaged in the struggle as members of the Lord's church are against Him (Matt. 12:30). One does not have to wait until the battle is ended and the dust clears to see the Victor "The kingdom of this world is become [has become] the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). Do God's offspring, created in His image, deserve to learn of their Creator? Should they know the evils of abortion, euthanasia, and immorality? Should they become aware of their greatest enemy, Satan, and of his evil wiles? Do they deserve to learn the tremendous blessing of righteousness on a nation, on a life, on a family, on the children? Do they need and deserve to know of the Lamb who can carry away their sin (Jn. 1:29; Matt. 11:28-30), and of the power which can reform their lives. (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 2:1ff)?
Four, the teacher should count his blessings. One is reminded of God's goodness when he beholds the beauty of the earth, when he enumerates the freedoms and blessings of America, when he thinks of family, of health and of friends, and especially when he ponders 'all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Not only does "the goodness of God" lead one to repentance (Rom. 2:4), but it also produces gratitude, and gratitude generates enthusiasm (1 Thess. 5:9-11, 16-18). Contrast the nine ingrates with the one healed leper who expressed gratitude to the Lord (Luke 17:11-19).
Five, the teacher should be impressed with the greatness of the One served. When Isaiah saw the Lord upon His throne in all His glory, he humbled himself, he realized his imperfections, he bemoaned his sinful condition and he was forgiven. When the Lord asked Christ and the Holy Spirit, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us [to warn Israel]," Isaiah enthusiastically responded, "Here am I; send me" (Isa. 6:1-8)! Paul realized that he was debtor to the world and was ready to preach the gospel (Rom. How could he be ashamed of the gospel of God's grace — Paul who was "less than the least of all saints," to whom God's grace was given (Eph. 3:8; Rom. 1:16,17)? Create the environment in which enthusiasm can develop, and then act with enthusiasm!
Six, the teacher should nourish enthusiasm. The initial thrust does not propel the rocket into space, but additional fuel must be added. The five foolish young virgins failed to maintain their fuel (Matt. 25:1-13). In contrast, Paul realized the need to "Press toward the mark" (Phil. 3:13,14). Success breeds success.
Seven, the teacher should develop an excitement about the subject(s) to be taught. Alexander Gregg defined successful teaching thus: "Get into the subject, get the subject into yourself, to get the subject into the hearers." The freshness of the material is vital, and it comes from continued study and application. The Word is powerful (Heb. 4:12), more up to date than the morning newspaper, and able to meet every need and to answer every problem. What a wonder to be privileged to have such a significant part in the greatest work in which a person can be engaged! How challenging, both emotionally and intellectually!
Eight, the teacher should place himself in the student's shoes, asking "What do they see in me?" They need to see a supportive, interested, loving child of the King, who shows the way to abundant life in Christ (J no. 10:10).
The rewards of teaching with enthusiasm — which would also include preaching, personal work and all other activities of Christian living — are tremendous. "God within" encourages others (1 Con 11:1; 1 Pet. 2:21) and makes one's labors "not in vain" (l Cor. 15:58). Everyone can work and live with enthusiasm. In fact, desire, ambition and drive are capable often of accomplishing more than intellect. Those with Biblically based enthusiasm multiply their efforts for good, produce a lasting influence (Heb. 11:4) and have the assurance that "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3). The world depends upon you, brother, sister. Therefore, teach with enthusiasm!
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126: 5, 6
Director, Memphis School of Preaching