Teachers – Called to Understand and Explain.
“11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:11-16 NIV
Having come to know Jesus in a growing Pentecostal church, I have been taught from the very beginning of my journey with God that the church exists only to evangelize the lost and to fulfill the great commission of Jesus. Since the great commission is for believers to reach the lost, services should be designed for the un-churched, events should be designed with the idea of making the un-churched feel welcome and comfortable, and messages and music should all be friendly for the un-churched.
Paul, in Ephesians 4:12 seemed to be suggesting otherwise. The church, according to Paul, does not exist ONLY to evangelize the lost. Ephesians shows that Paul views the primary purpose of the church as the building up the saints so that they do the work of the ministry. The purpose of the church is to build and equip the disciples of God to go out and be missionaries of God, in the context of their everyday lives with God. The church cannot just make people into believers. That will kill the church in one generation. Instead, the church needs to make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples.
The idea of arranging a church to be a program or show for the un-churched to attend and enjoy would likely be a foreign idea to Paul. The idea of Christian’s serving God primarily at a church facility would also be a foreign idea to him. When we think of Christian service and the work of the ministry, we typically think of it happening primarily at the church. Paul’s idea however is that the most effective work of the ministry happens not at a church facility, but at our jobs, schools, gyms, and while we are hanging out at Starbucks, or at McDonalds!
Teachers of the Word of God are those who are called to equip believers to fulfill the mission of God. While some scholars say that in Ephesians 4, the pastor and teacher are one role, others separate it. It seems to me that all pastors need to be teachers in some form, but not all teachers need to be pastors. Teacher’s of Gods’ Word are called to understand and explain the truths of the Gospel. They are communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, who help to encourage the people of God to remain faithful to His Word.
The other night my wife and I were talking about pastoring and teaching, and we were a bit at odds. I recognized that pastors love to have large crowds and congregations come in ready and eager to hear the Word of God preached. We love it when the room is overflowing and people take out their notepads. Teachers on the other hand, aren’t at all into bigger crowds. If they have classes that were too large, they would be quick to find ways to reduce the class size or recognize the need for more help. If I were to speak to any of the teachers at my children’s elementary school, they would complain about a class that is oversized, overflowing, and overcrowded. I have yet to hear of pastors with the same complaint. As teachers, they recognize that people learn better when they sit in circles than when they sit in rows. They recognize that people learn better in relationships.
The teacher is a divine enablement to understand and clearly explain and apply the Word of God to inspire greater obedience in the life of the hearer. The teacher of God’s Word will challenge listeners in to live out the truths of the Scripture in simple and practical ways. Teachers of God’s Word are disciplined, perceptive, teachable, practical, analytical, and articulate. They are filled with life when they prepare through extended times of study and reflection in God’s Word.
While teachers have great strengths and value in the church, they need to guard against pride that could result from their Bible knowledge and understanding. They could also fall into a trap of becoming too detailed when it comes to teaching and fail to bring forth life applications. They also need to be reminded that spiritual growth is NOT measured by how much one knows, but by how faithful one is to what they know.
In Acts 2, the model for the early church was to come together, hear the teaching of the Apostles, break bread – then go out to turn the world upside down! If more teachers of God’s Word were to rise up in the church, maybe we could go out and turn the world upside down too. Sounds like that may be worth a try.
Thank You Jesus for teachers. Thank You for the teachers of the Word that have encouraged me along the way. Thank You that they were given to me by You. Help me to grow and increase my influence and skill as a teacher of Your Word. In Your strong name, amen.