Four and a half years ago, I wrote a post called “How do you know how to do this?” The point of the post is quote simple: In Scripture, teaching is not about transferring book knowledge or information; teaching is about helping someone live according to the gospel by someone who is already living according to the gospel. Thus, teaching and discipling is about someone who is actually living as a follower of Jesus Christ helping someone else live as a follower of Jesus Christ. Why do we put so much emphasis on formal education and book knowledge today?
(By the way, I never saw the movie that I mentioned in the beginning of the post…)
Have you seen the previews for the movie Fool’s Gold? In one scene, Finn (Matthew McConaughey) and Tess (Kate Hudson) are flying in a small plane, with Finn at the controls. Tess says in amazement, “We’re flying! How do you know how to do this?” To which Finn calmly replies, “Playstation!”
(By the way, I’ve seen this line presented in two different ways in two different trailers. In the other trailer, Tess asks, “How do you know how to fly?” To which Finn responds, “Playstation!” I wonder which one will end up in the movie…)
As you can imagine, Tess does not like Finn’s answer. I mean, seriously, who would want to fly with a pilot who had only flown airplanes on a video game? In reality, who would want to fly with a pilot who had only read about flying and practiced in simulators? We want pilots with experience – pilots who had spent time learning to fly with more experienced pilots – pilots who had worked as navigators and co-pilots long before they took the controls of the plane that we’re in, right?
We want the same thing from our surgeons. Yes, we want our doctors to study books in medical school. But, we also want them to have practiced and successfully completed any surgical procedures that they are about to do on us. We want them to have worked with more experienced surgeons, learning from them, watching them operate, doing simple procedures, and working up toward the more complicated. We would not want a surgeon to operate on us if he had only read the books – even if he earned high marks in medical school.
What about preachers and teachers and disciplers? Do we expect the same thing from them? I mean, sure, we expect them to be educated and trained in communication and hermeneutics. But, is biblical teaching carried out when information is properly communicated? Can we limit the teaching and discipling function to doling out knowledge in an efficient or entertaining manner?
It seems that teaching, preaching, and discipling as described in Scripture are much more associated with living than they are associated with studying books. They are much more associated with demonstrating how to walk with Christ than they are associated with speaking in an eloquent and systematic manner.
Thus, when we are listening to someone teach, we are not simply listening to their words, but we are also learning from their lives. When someone disciples us in what it means to love others, we do not simply need an explanation from lexicons, commentaries, and theology books, we need an example from someone who has gotten his or her hands dirty while actually serving someone in love. When someone preaches about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the world does not need to simply hear a logical and rational explanation of passion, they also need to see someone whose life has been changed by that gospel.
In other words, whether we realize it or not – and whether the preachers, teachers, and disciplers realize this or not – when someone is speaking to us about following Jesus Christ, we are always asking ourselves, “How do you know how to do this?” We should never be content with an answer that rests on study and reading. Instead, we should listen to those who have lived the gospel in their lives. These are the true teachers, preachers, and disciplers.