When you talk with someone about church today, it’s hard to keep the conversation from shifting to the church gathering (i.e., “worship service”). This is true even among people who admit that the church is people (that is, people who are following Jesus). Still, people often equate (or at least closely associate) church with a specific gathering of people.
Similarly, when discussing gathering with the church, it’s hard to keep the conversation from shifting to some form of teaching (usually in a lecture form called “sermon” or “homily”). In fact, just as church is often associated with a specific gathering, the gathering itself is often closely associated with a sermon or another form of teaching.
However, in my post “What is teaching from the perspective of Scripture,” I said that teaching in Scripture is not about sharing information but about demonstrating how to live for Christ and helping others live that way of life. Obviously, very little can be demonstrated while teaching during church gatherings. (Like I said in the post above, “application” is not the same as demonstration.)
So, what is the place of teaching when the church gathers?
First, we should recognize that in Scripture teaching is only one form of interaction between people when the church gathers. And, beyond it being only one form of interaction, it is not given a prominent place. One of the only places in Scripture where teaching (“instruction”) is specifically mentioned in the context of church gatherings is in 1 Corinthians 14. However, even in this case, teaching is only one among a list of activities, and it is not one of the activities that Paul chose to focus on. (There may be a reason that Paul chose to focus on “prophecy” and “tongues,” but he doesn’t tell us that reason in his letter.)
Second, whether we teaching using lecture, dialog, discussion, case studies, or some other method, we should recognize that these kinds of teaching are only the beginning of teaching in the perspective of Scipture – and only a small step at that. If someone only interacts with others through these kinds of teaching methods, then that person is not teaching by demonstration (like we see in Scripture). (Yes, I believe that some forms of teaching are better for sharing information than others forms. But, any of those forms are still types of sharing information, not methods to help people walk in Christ as a way of life.)
Finally, we should recognize that if we truly desire to teach one another, then we must also grow to know one another more and more and share our lives with one another. Real life is the context for teaching in the perspective of Scripture. Anything that is shared while the church gathers only becomes “teaching” when it demonstrated in the context of real life and others are helped to live accordingly.
I understand that it is popular to closely associate caring about Scripture or learning from Scripture with certain forms of teaching (sermons, for example) or certain contexts for teaching (during the church gathering or worship service, for example). However, this is not a valid (or at least a unique) association. It is much more “scriptural” to associate caring about Scripture with helping others live according to what we find in Scripture.
What would you add to my discussion of teaching while the church gathers? Have you experienced this kind of teaching before?