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Teaching: An Analogy

Posted by on Nov 9, 2010 in blog links, discipleship | 9 comments

Teaching: An Analogy

I recently read a very good analogy on teaching that I wanted to share with my readers. The analogy is found in this comment on Lionel’s (from “A View From The Woods“) post called “We Supposed To Be Brothers,” and it was written by someone named Daniel. (I told him that I was going to steal it.) Here is the analogy:

In pondering all this, I have often ended up imagining what it would be like, to see someone “teaching” something like how to ride a bike, in the same manner that we “teach” in the conventional, church manner…

What would people think, if they came over one day and observed me “teaching” my kids how to ride a bicycle, which actually meant that my kids had to sit and listen to me, several times a week, talk for an hour or so about all the intricacies of how bicycles work. Each session would cover a different specific aspect of the mechanical workings of bicycles. I could cover the history and evolution of bicycle design, or go into intricate detail on the ways bicycles are ridden around the world. Week after week, I could lecture, and show slides, and have guest speakers, and on and on. But if after several years of doing this, and I never actually put my kids on a bike, and expected them to learn to ride on their own? People would think I was insane. They would hardly consider me a “teacher” of how to ride a bicycle, based on the fact that I failed to actually produce any people who could now competently ride a bike on their own…

What do you think of Daniel’s comparison between teaching in the church and teaching to ride a bicycle?


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  1. 11-9-2010

    Great illustration. It’s the same analogy I use, about when I was a flight instructor. What if I never let my students touch the controls? I would have never produced pilots.

    That’s encouraging to me that someone else is thinking the same way. Sometimes I think I am nuts.

  2. 11-9-2010

    Amen Alan.

    Daniel’s analogy is spot on, I really liked this introduction regarding the prospects of actually attaining maturity in Christ:

    “I resonate very much with what you are saying here, and in my experience, this whole conversation ties in very closely with the conventional church’s concept of “teaching” as well…

    I have spent a fair amount of time really pondering what the real implications of those verses in Ephesians would be, if we took them at face value… Particularly where it says, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ“. “All” means ALL, right…? Or does it?”

    I also like the conclusion that he came to at the end of his comments:

    In pondering all this, I have often ended up imagining what it would be like, to see someone “teaching” something like how to ride a bike, in the same manner that we “teach” in the conventional, church manner…

    The thing is, we have somehow got to the place where we have very much redefined what it means to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”. In the modern way of thinking, “attaining to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” is not like riding a bike. It is not something where you get to a certain point and you can confidently say, “I get it, and I can teach you too”. No, it is something that is left to the “bicycle experts”, the ones who have invested considerable time, money and effort into being able to “teach” indefinitely, for this is their livelihood.

    The irony is really staggering, when you try to imagine how “successful” a bicycle instructor would be considered, if after twenty years he had amassed a “class” that numbered in the thousands, but yet not one of his “students” was yet ready to ride a bike on their own! And yet, for a pastor, the exact same scenario is the definition of success!!(??)

  3. 11-9-2010


    I agree. Your flight instructor analogy is along the same lines. Thanks for reminding me!


    Well, I wasn’t going to steal the WHOLE comment… 🙂

    But, you’re right… it is a very good comment.


  4. 11-9-2010

    The teacher doesn’t actually need to know how to ride a bike himself, he just needs to know more about bikes than anyone else in the room.

    Bike knowledge, not bicycle riding skill, is the qualification.

  5. 11-9-2010

    And maybe some of us would rather be taught by someone who isn’t really going to push us to try it. It would be much safer if we could learn how to ride a bike without ever getting on one. We could brag to our friends about being expert bike riders, being taught by the best bike teacher in town, without ever having any spills.

    To be honest, I am sort of scared about riding on my own. I’m not looking forward to making my own mistakes.

  6. 11-9-2010


    Ah. Yes. Well, that explains everything. 😉


    That’s true, too. Let’s keep it all mental.


  7. 11-10-2010

    I know I’m late on this one, but I thought I would take this analogy futher, but stick with the bicycle.

    In the 1860’s the bicycle was invented and there was a great manual written to explain the workings of the bicycle, the history of how it became, and even much practical information on how to ride a bicycle and show others how to ride it. There was even sections in this manual on how to use the bicycle to haul things which would allow these early travelers to get food, medicine, and supplies to people in need much quicker. Early on there were a few instructors who taught this manual and it produced many people who rode bicycles and who also taught others how to ride bicycles. As time went by schools started being built to help people learn about this bicycle manual and also to help them teach others about bicycles. As the number of professional bicycle teachers grew the number of teachers of the bicycle manual actually declined. Everyday people began to meet together in larger groups to hear the professionally trained teachers of the bicycle. As time went by the schools that taught professionals about the bicycle and the bicycle manual grew but something unexpected happened. The number of people riding bicycles declined. Even though there was a great need still for people to learn about the bicycle and especially for them to actually ride the bicycle, the way the culture changed the way they began teaching others and producing teachers actually had a negative affect on the number of bicycle riders.

    A survey was done and these were the findings:
    1. People had a general knowledge of bicycles and the bicycle manual
    2. People loved to go hear about bicycles and the bicycle manual, they even thought that most people needed to hear about them.
    3. The bicycle teaching professionals were generally frustrated at their role in teaching and did not understand why more people did not actually ride bicycles.
    4. Many people had bicycle manuals but would much rather go listen to the professionals then read it themselves.
    5. Lastly, many people wanted to ride a bicycle, but lacked the confidence to get on one because they never was invited to ride with others who actually rode a bicycle.

    My thought is that riding the bicycle is living the chrisian life/serving others and the bicycle manual is the Bible. This analogy breaks down in many ways but it was a thought of mine I thought I would share.


  8. 11-10-2010

    This analogy really does “cut to the chase.” Makes me ask some questions re: Are you equipped?


    1. Can you share the gospel clearly and concisely?
    -Are you doing so several times each week with people you know/meet?

    Implications of the Gospel

    1. One-to-one/few Developmental Ministry
    -Is someone/several people personally helping you develop and hone these and other skills and abilities in a peer to peer (mutual) relationship?
    -(alternately consider) are you intentionally helping someone/several people to develop and hone these skills and abilities in a peer to peer (mutual) relationship?

    2. Community Developmental Ministry
    -Are you meeting regularly and interacting in mutual ministry in a group setting?

    3. Holy and Sacrificial lifestyle
    -Are you having substantial success in dealing with habitual sin in your life?
    -Are you frequently sacrificing your own wishes/comforts in order to help others or avoid sin?

    4. Doing Good
    -Are you actively “doing good” to all men, especially to those of the household of God, on a daily basis?

    What else? Thoughts?

  9. 11-10-2010


    That’s a great expansion of the analogy. Your last point (#5) is a biggie… in fact, I think some people believe they are “riding a bicycle” when they hear others talk about the manual.


    I like your questions. Sounds like the kinds of things you would ask when you were actively showing someone how to follow Christ while helping them to follow Christ as well.