Summary: Many people fear discipleship but it is the primary command of the ’Great Commission’. This study looks at how we all fit into this calling.
Three Principles of Discipleship (Part 2)
The next step in discipleship is teaching. The relationship side of discipleship gets off target because we have been taught that these two go together. The relationship may produce opportunities to share and teach each other, but the focus isn’t to teach. In most churches, there are ample opportunities to teach and have Bible studies. Teaching is equally as important as relationships. The biggest failure in teaching discipleship is that the teachers often do not have adequate preparation. Some people are very good at spontaneous teaching without notes or outlines. I am not. Even those who are unstructured in their teaching style must take time to study and be preparation in order to be effective.
I once had a Sunday school teacher who never studied and believed it was unnecessary. He would open the Bible and say, “Lets see where God leads us”. That might have been ok if he understood what he was reading, but he had nothing to offer. He believed (and I have heard this said many times) that we are to take no thought for what we will say, for the Spirit will reveal it when we need it. That is quite a bit out of context. This idea is a misinterpretation of Matthew 10:18-20. If you read that statement in context, Jesus was warning His disciples that when He was gone, they would suffer great persecution. He followed this warning by saying not to worry about what you will say when you are brought before governors and kings, for your Heavenly Father will speak through you by the Holy Spirit. That passage is not saying that we will miraculously know scripture that we haven’t studied when we stand before a class.
The Bible teaches quite the opposite. Proverbs 16:1 says, “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” Time to study is the responsibility of a teacher. We are to prepare our heart by conforming to Christ and knowing the word. Understanding the message will come from God. It is a serious matter to teach or to preach. The book of James warns us not to seek to be a teacher for we shall receive a stricter judgment. Teaching is a calling of God; we don’t determine that by our own purposes. It is a serious matter because if we teach error, we affect many people and lead others toward or away from God’s purpose. God has given us various gifts and different styles. How we teach should match the gifts and talents God has given us, and study prepares our heart for the task.
One thing about teaching that I believe to be important, our goal is not to teach people what to think, but how to think. Our calling is to point people to Christ and encourage them to have a personal relationship with Him. Many times we teach tradition as though it were scripture. Many teachers mistake dogma as boldness. To boldly stand on God’s word does not mean I stab my flag on top of the hill and criticize those who don’t agree with everything I say. We should welcome criticism if it is productive. The Apostle Paul praised the Bereans for listening to his teaching, but questioning it against the scripture. If I am not confident that I am rightly dividing the word of truth, then I will fear and react harshly to criticism. The Bible tells us to be ready for criticism. 1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
Notice the key phrases here: be ready; give a defense; asks a reason; hope in you; meekness; fear. We are to be ready for the question. That does not mean that we know all the answers, but if we are teaching something, we must have a scriptural basis for our belief. Not only using a passage, but understanding how it fits into the whole word of God. You can teach almost anything if you take it out of context or remove it from the setting for which it was intended. Meekness and fear are often pushed aside when we have a passion to persuade someone to our point of view. We should not make ourselves into martyrs, nor are we condemning those who question us. On the non-essentials, sometimes we may agree to disagree. I have seen people attack others when their doctrine was questioned. The Bible praises those who question doctrine and commands teachers to prepare to give an answer when we are questioned. A teacher who gets into the ‘boss mode’ is missing the purpose of teaching and shows a need for spiritual maturity.