Teaching is fundamental to the kingdom of God. It is the transference of life-altering, relational truths about God and His kingdom. In Acts 11 the Jerusalem church hears about the establishment of a church in Antioch. Their response? They send Barnabas, one of their best men there. He reaches out to Paul and together the two spend a year “and taught great numbers of people” (v. 26). A little later in Acts we read of a man named Apollos who goes to Achaia where “he was a great help to those who had be grace believed. For he vigorously refuted his opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah” (18:27-28). The book closes with Paul teaching “about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance” (28:31).
Teaching covers a lot of ground. You can teach those who know the Lord, those who don’t, or (usually) some combination of the two. You can teach publicly or privately. You can teach a large crowd or an individual. You can teach through lecturing or leading a discussion. You can teach by telling stories, asking questions, referencing the past, present or future, comparing and contrasting, using vivid word pictures, employing humor and offering insight. Jesus did all of these and more. And though it’s not what we’re focusing on here, one of the most powerful ways that you can teach is by your example.
Teaching should have an objective. It is not to get through the material. Neither is it to impress upon others with our competency (or at the very least to steer them away from thinking we’re totally incompetent). When teaching is done right it is about serving others. It is about sharing with them things that are helpful to their well-being both now and for eternity. Its objective then is to teach to the test—the test of life right now and the test when we stand before God. Teaching that fails to do this is failed teaching.
The best teachers are those who are first of all students. If someone has stopped learning they need to stop teaching because they are just going through the motions. Teachers are students of those they teach and are continually asking themselves what are their greatest needs and how can they best be reached. They are students of their material and are not satisfied to know it—they also want to know what is the best way to teach it to others. John Clayton went around the country putting on a seminar called Does God Exist? I remember attending it in my mid-twenties. Afterward I was talking to one of the organizers how helpful it had been. I remember him telling me that John didn’t just know his material—he knew how to present the material.
God uses teaching and teachers to build His kingdom. It is by no means the only way, but it is an important way. Teachers understand this and teach because they have been taught. They teach because they have faith in the work of God. They understand that He can take their five loaves and two fish and do great things with them. They understand they sow and water, but it is God who gives the increase.