Last week I mentioned that when it comes to teaching we cannot continue as we are. Teachers are the tongues of the church. Even though they comprise a small part of the congregation, relative to the number of students, what they say and teach carries a great deal of weight within the congregation. So how do we improve our teaching? The answer is time, tools, and training.
The Bible is a living Word. It speaks, but this does not mean that it is easy to understand. Many people mistakingly believe that because the Bible is spiritual in nature that with a little prayer and righteousness one will gain mysterious insight into the Word of which the natural man is not privy. This is the stuff from which cults are born!
While it is true that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” he also tells Pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” The phrase “rightly handling the word of truth” is taken from the idea of a butcher carefully cutting the meat. If he is not skilled in his craft filet mignon becomes ground beef. The Word of God is full of filet mignon but unfortunately many of our pulpits and lecterns in the classroom are full of ground beef.
So when Paul is saying that truth is spiritually discerned, we know that he is not saying that academic work has no place in teaching and preaching. Let us not forget, Paul was himself a great scholar (Acts 22:2-3, Gal. 1:14, Phil. 3:5-6). The work of the Spirit in helping us discern spiritual truth speaks more to attitude and receptivity rather than to understanding. An atheistic Bible scholar (and there are such things) can use tools to help understand the Bible, but he will disregard it as authoritative truth for his life. The problem in modern Christendom is that many of our teachers have a spiritual attitude and receptivity to the Bible as authoritative truth, but they lack the tools, or perhaps even disregard them altogether, that would help them to properly understand it.
A great teacher or preacher approaches his or her study of the text, every element of it and the use of the tools as Spirit work. When I was a much younger, naive, idealistic, sophomoric, college student I remember raising the issue of study as simply trying to listen to what the Spirit says to you. I insinuated that in the end, we didn’t need all the books and tools that seem to go along with Bible study. “All we need is the Spirit.” In humility and wisdom my professor kindly retorted, “But why should we be so prideful to think that what the Spirit has said to others is of no value?” Ouch!
So what are the tools (the things that the Spirit has said to others) that will help the teachers in the church move from good, to great?
More to come . . .