Teaching is not Lecturing

Back in the 50s when I attended Johns Hopkins University, I remember vividly a professor on the first day of class saying to us, “Now I don’t care whether or not you pass this class. All I’m required to do is to present the material and it’s up to you to get it or not.”

I suppose he meant well—trying to motivate us to study by that approach— but it was clearly not the Christian approach to teaching.

The original terms for teaching and learning found in the Old Testament are so closely aligned that to remove the one from the other is to destroy both. In Scripture, the teacher is one who facilitates learning; not one who merely lectures, leaving the learning entirely up to the student.

If you teach, you will want to remember this fact. God holds you responsible to so work at the way you communicate His truth that there is no reason (short of his own resistance) why a student doesn’t learn what you have to say. It is your task to teach people; not lecture about subjects.

That means you must work hard at becoming a good teacher—one who has spent time not only gathering facts, but also discovering how best to present them so that those who hear cannot mistake what God says in His Word. Too often, in Christian higher educational institutions there is much of the same attitude that the “teacher” at Hopkins had. Too often the goal is for accuracy in presenting truth—and that’s all!

We train youth who need help learning God’s truth (while unlearning error)—especially when they come to us from the watered-down, secularized, paganized, “education” that they receive in our public schools. This is a double task that requires extra effort on your part. To teach such persons well requires knowledge not only of data, but also of those persons to whom we communicate it. It requires special concern, extraordinary effort, and meticulous care to see that our students truly “get it.” If you consider yourself a “lecturer,” then consider again.

Students will come with minds that have been marinated in continuum thinking—nothing is right or wrong, true or false—ideas are on a continuum somewhere between such poles (if, indeed, they are even recognized). In contrast, you must attempt to inculcate an antithetical mindset in which they will be taught absolutes such as saved/lost, true/false, right/wrong, heaven/hell, etc. This biblical approach to life will clash with theirs, and it will take extra effort on your part to help them make the paradigm shift involved.

Because of such matters, Christian teachers carry an additional burden. We must not glean our teaching methods from the world. Rather, each must develop those approaches to teaching God’s truth that neither add nor subtract from it, and in such a manner that they rejoice in it! That, indeed, is a great responsibility. Are you prepared, and ready to bear it?

The Great Commission

Has four basic parts:

  1. It involves moving out from where you are to other regions with the gospel message: Jesus was given the authority to command this since all authority in heaven and earth was given to Him at His ascension. Notice the therefore in the words just before: the word “therefore” is there for a reason!
  2. Make disciples of all nations (the “of” means ”from”).
  3. Baptizing them into the Name of the members of the Trinity. Baptizing was matriculation in the school of Christ.
  4. Teaching these students to observe (“do”) all that Jesus commanded.

The Great commission is an educational commission every bit as much as an evangelistic one (perhaps even more so). When you use it in preaching or teaching be sure not to make it purely an evangelistic commission.


Not Many . . .

James said it plainly: “Not many should become teachers” (James 3:1)

How important it is in our day when almost anyone who has the time, money and inclination to do so can rent a building and set himself up as a preacher and teacher. Harold Camping is an example of this very problem.

Why not? There are plenty of reasons one could mention, but James cites only one—he issues a warning to all such people.

It used to be that men were thoroughly examined as to their doctrine and life before ordaining them. Most denominations had a period prior to ordination when a prospective preacher was licensed to preach under the supervision of elders. Only after proving himself fit for ministry was he solemnly ordained.

James issued this warning: “knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.”  He was careful to include himself when he said that all teachers of God’s flock will be judged more strictly than others. He understood the responsibility involved.

God wants His people taught His Word accurately—and like the false prophets of old who taught improperly, He will judge those who fail to do so.

Reader . . .

Are you one who thinks he can teach, when you are really unprepared and/or inept? Peter says that untaught persons are unstable and twist God’s truth (2 Peter 3:16). Be honest; think clearly. Are you a satisfactory teacher of the Scriptures? If not, leave the pulpit (or SS class) and go do something that will provide money to support those who are. Churches have enough problems without you—don’t add to them.

Self-Taught Preachers

The Pharisees (in particular) formed the group that (he himself one of them) Paul addresses in Romans 2:21:

You, then, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?

What a powerful question to ask anyone who attempts to teach God’s Word!

Paul was demonstrating that not only Gentiles (Chapter 1), but also Jews, were sinners who needed to be justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They as well, were sinners: as he shows by addressing a series of telling questions growing out of this first one.

But the question had not to do with Pharisees alone; it remains for all who, today, profess to teach God’s Word. And it is a good one for all of us preachers to ask in order to regularly check up on our own lives.

Preachers how often do you ask yourself this question? What is the answer—or don’t you dare to take time to give an answer to it? We must never forget that we—as all of our people—are sinners saved by grace. Then we can preach with greater authority—as those who also needed to confess and seek forgiveness of sin. When we preach to the lost as those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, people will understand their need for a Savior.  If we act as if we never had the experience of justification by faith in the cross, we will be looked upon as proud and self-righteous. Obviously, people will listen to those who recognize their plight—just as they will ignore those who act as if they are some special breed of cat.

I encourage you, preacher, to ask—and be ready to honestly answer the question (which you should ask yourself frequently).

Take It To Heart, Teacher!

The recent fiasco in which Harold Camping failed again to realize his foolish, biblically-distorted views, is an excellent example of what James wrote:

“My brothers, not many of you should become teachers, because you know that we teachers will receive stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1).

Evidently, he didn’t take this verse seriously. Camping is the great allegorizer of our time. The Reformation threw off this type of exegesis—something that had prevailed in sermons for 1000 years. Calvin, for instance, said that this false way of interpreting Scripture turned it into a “wax nose” that can be twisted and molded as you please. And that’s what happened.

The problem is that like so many others who can’t, Camping took to teaching others when he failed to understand the Bible himself. Paul warned such people:

“Certain persons, by taking poor aim, have. . .  turned aside to empty discussion, wanting to be teachers of the law, but not understanding either the words that they speak or those things that they insist upon with such assurance.”

Are you desirous of teaching?  You’d better know what you are doing if you pursue that course. Peter warned,

“Some things [in Paul’s writings] are hard to understand . . . which untaught and unstable persons twist.” (2 Peter3:16).

These warnings are explicit—even allegorizers can’t misinterpret them!



customrobes1There are no biblical reasons for accepting the views of liberals who deny that the Bible itself is the Word of God. For conservatives to continually quote them in commentaries and articles makes no sense and confuses many. The major reason for the practice—so far as I can see—is to look scholarly.  And why do some want to look scholarly? To be accepted by others who want to look scholarly. And, thereby, to achieve tenure!

The whole of conservative Christian “scholarship” boils down to one thing—accreditation. If schools didn’t seek accreditation from the state, they would not be forced to employ only those who have the degrees (“scholars”), but along with the best of these, they could also employ the people with the goods (real “teachers”).

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