If you’ve been following my blog over the last several weeks, then you know that we went through a “teaching workshop” as a church. It took us four weeks to discuss various topics related to teaching (as found in Scripture) such as “Who Teaches?”, “The Motivations for Teaching,” “The Essence of Teaching,” and “Teaching When the Church Gathers.”
Even though I led the workshop, I learned alot from my brothers and sisters while we went through the workshop.
If you are like me, when you first hear the terms “teaching” or “teacher” you think about someone who stands in front of a class or group and shares information with others or helps them understand a complex or new concept. Of course, today, many teachers and classroom settings have turned to different methods of communicating information, moving away from lecture and toward dialog, discussion, case studies, etc.
However, in all of these methods, the point is the same: Teaching is the transmission of information, ideas, or principles from one person to another or to a group.
But, when we study the idea of teaching in Scripture, we get a completely different picture. Yes, teaching in Scripture may begin with or include the transmission of some kind of information or concept, but that alone is not considered teaching.
In Scripture, the information that we share with one another – even important information about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, mankind, Scripture, salvation, etc. – are just the beginning steps of teaching. And, the sharing of information in Scripture is never separated from the further aspects of teaching.
What are those “further aspects” of teaching? Well, in Scripture, teaching is for life change, for conduct, for way of life. While teaching may begin with information, it continues with a purpose of seeing someone live according to that information. Teaching is not just telling someone about God, but showing them how to live and helping them to live in respond to who God is.
And, again, “information” part is never separated from the “how to live” part in Scripture. One flows into the other seamlessly. The teacher is the one who both shares the new information (or reminds of old, known information) and the one who demonstrates how to live according to that information and the one who walks beside the other person who is learning to live according to that information.
I hope you get the picture from that last paragraph that teaching in Scripture is part of sharing life together and cannot be separated. In reality, speaking to a group of strangers is not teaching according to the examples that we find in Scripture. In fact, speaking with a group of people – even giving right, correct, true information – is not teaching unless it is accompanied by walking together, side-by-side, good-times-and-bad, life.
By the way, I’m not talking about “application.” You see, in any teaching or sermon prep class that I’ve ever taken, I’ve been taught to include explanation, illustration, and application in my lessons. Everyone knows that we need “application” so that people will know what to do with the information that is presented. But “application” is simply another form of illustration and explanation unless it is demonstrated – lived out – by the one(s) teaching. Unfortunately, very little can be demonstrated in most teaching environments. Demonstration happens while we share our lives with one another.
Think for a moment about the epistles that Paul sent to various churches. From first glance, it seems that those epistles were examples of teaching through sharing information without sharing life. Sure, Paul had spent time with many of the churches (not the Colossians, and not the Romans – yet). But, in fact, Paul DID provide a living example and demonstration to go along with the information that he shared in his letters. Those living examples and demonstrations had names like Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, Phoebe, Onesimus, and Epaphroditus.
These people not only hand delivered Paul’s letters, they provided living examples of what it meant to living according to what Paul was proclaiming and writing. They were – in reality – the continued instructions (teachings) to the churches.
In tomorrow’s post, I will examine some of the implications for sermons, lectures, discussions, dialogs, Q&A’s, and other methods of teaching.