So, suppose that I want to teach the church about loving God and loving others. I tell everyone that Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God, and that the second (which is like the first) is to love your neighbor. Next, I get everyone to repeat, “Love God and love others. Love God and love others.” Finally, I go from person-to-person and ask them what Jesus said. Each one says, “Love God and love others.”
Everyone now knows and can repeat that Jesus said, “Love God and love others.” I have taught them, right?
No. At least, not in the scriptural sense of teaching. I may have transferred some information (i.e., educated) some people, but I have not taught them – not in the way that Jesus, or Paul, or Peter, or anyone else from that time period would have meant when they used the term “teach.”
In fact, in almost every subject area, we would never think that teaching is getting someone to remember a piece of information or repeat a fact. Not in art. Not in science (labs anyone?). Not in photography. Not in auto mechanics.
Why would we not call this teaching? Because we teach art by showing people how to paint/draw/sculpt/etc. and then leading them to doing it themselves. We teaching science by talking about the various subject matters and then showing them how it works in the lab. The same is true for photography, auto shop, etc. Even a subject like literature, which may begin with reading books, ends with the student writing for themselves.
Thus, in almost every other subject, we teach by telling the student, showing the student, and then helping the student do for herself. But, how do we teach the church? Mostly by telling only.
In fact, I’ve been trying to think of a subject matter that is taught only by telling, and the closest I could come to is history. (I think it is interesting – perhaps ironic – that we teach history like we teach the church.)
As I suggested in an earlier post (see “Teaching them… what?“), Jesus did not tell his followers to teach others what he commanded. No. He told them to teach others TO DO what he commanded. How do you teach someone to do something without doing it with them? Disciples need to be told, to be shown, and then to be helped to obey on their own.
The way we teach the church needs to change. Otherwise, we’re not truly teaching in the way that Jesus meant in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).