Thursday, November 16, 2006

learning by studying and teaching

Since late 2004 or early 2005 I have been privileged to teach through Colossians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Titus, and Jude. It has been a great blessing for me to be able to study these texts with the goal of being able to teach on the important points (a very few of them, at least) of these books to my peers. It amazes me to think about how much I have learned and how much I have grown in my appreciation and love for both the Word of God and for God Himself in this study.

Sometimes, it is a cause of guilt to think that if I didn’t study in order to be able to teach, I wouldn’t have studied as much or as deeply. It’s true. I wouldn’t have had the external motivation or paradigm to encourage me to study well. Along with teaching, this blog has also been an avenue that has encouraged and facilitated further and deeper study of the Word.

But in all reality, I don’t feel guilty that my studies aimed at teaching are what has been the vehicle for my growing in knowledge and understanding. I guess that it is comparable to what the experience of going on a missionary trip (at least a short-term one) is like.

I went to Africa for a 3 week mission’s trip in the summer of 2000. My team’s objective was to engage in evangelism, minister to kids at schools and orphanages, and to help out a local church in various other ways. Before I went, I had heard various people from previous missions trips say that they had gone so that they could be a blessing to the people who they would be ministering to, but, instead, it was the missionaries who came back with an overwhelming sense of God’s blessing and grace and having been ministered to. This was the case with my experience.

One of the most blessing experiences that I was able to do was to purchase a guitar to bring down to Africa in order to use during our trip and then to give it to the local church so that they would have another instrument in their worship services. The leaders of the church expressed gratitude and I am sure that it was (and hopefully is still being) well used. However, I felt overwhelmingly blessed and privileged to minister to them in this way.

John MacArthur made a comment during his sermon series on Luke 15 (dealing with the parable of the prodigal son) that lasted a period of about 5 weeks. And even with that amount of time, he said that he knew that he would be unable to communicate the whole of what he had learned and gleaned from his long study of the text. I would add, for myself, that my ability to effectively communicate what I have learned is also an impediment that makes the gap wider between what I know and have learned from what is taught to those to whom I teach.

In Sunday school we just went through the Spiritual (you can read about it in my previous article), and I wanted to make an impression on those in my class (and you too) of how important service is in a healthy Christian walk. Not everyone is a pastor or a missionary or any given role in the body of Christ. So I am not suggesting that every Christian should regularly teach a Sunday school class. But I do want to encourage all Christians to serve and to work in your local church. It can be as the sound booth tech, someone who runs the power point, an usher, a deacon, singing special music, or whatever. But serve regularly. And even though I said (and I still mean it) that not everyone can or should be a regular teacher, you can always study hard on something and offer to give a Sunday school teacher a break. If you study really hard, and work diligently in dedicated time, you can come up with a devotional that will be edifying for other believers.

When my brother-in-law and his wife were trying to settle in on which church to attend (they had been alternating between two good ones during their dating and engaged relationship), I was concerned for them. Not because I had any critical doubts about either of the two churches, but because I wanted to stress the importance of service. I think that I gave him 3 things to look for in a church (after the foundational theological issues have been addressed and satisfied), and they were:

  • The pastor needs to do good biblical preaching

  • The ability and desire to fellowship with peers and non-peers alike

  • You need to serve, in some way, and start as soon as you can.

I stressed these 3 things because they hit on three areas of where each individual can grow. Also, you will be ministering to people by being involved in their lives (fellowship), engaging the pastor on what he is preaching about, and ministering to the larger body of Christ in the area that you are serving in.

You may, or may not, have heard that 90% of the work of the local church is done by about 10% of the people. Well, it is so common that it is almost a cliché. However, this seems to be very true. Just imagine the impact that we could have on the world (not to mention the impact that it would have on all of our lives) if the other 90% did the same amount of gospel work that the other 10% are doing. If nothing else, I think that the body would be healthier and more eternally focused.

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