Where Christian teaching flourishes, the church flourishes.
Christian teaching, TRUE Christian teaching, is designed to bring maturity by using Christian teachers to make disciples (literally, learners). Although we can’t put God into little boxes, the three basic categories whereby we measure maturity is Love, Morality, and Theology. Love and Morality have more to do with our relationships between each other the way that the last six commandments and the second of the Greatest Commandments as taught by Christ deal. Theology has to do with our relationship and understanding of God, as do the first four of the Ten Commandments and the greatest of all commandments as Christ delivered in Mt. 22.
So how do we discern our individual and corporate levels of maturity if that is our goal? By our service! So just as our relationships are separated into two categories in regard to commandments, so it is with our worship/ service. We are constantly struggling it seems for enough in the body who are serving. Even as one new to ‘church’ I see this. It is always the same few people in the church that are doing all the service. It would seem that it is because of the lack of service in members, which is a sign of their maturity, which is brought about by teachers. The problem in our church from this perspective therefore would be teaching.
I have seen in church teaching that most teachers have resorted to fear, guilt and pressure as an unfortunate resort from motivation. In my church, a session to young women on abstinence was geared toward fear of disease and pregnancy, guilt of bringing shame on their family, and pressures from the church about avoiding pressures from peers. All of which seem dangerously different to me from the wonderful, blessings perspective on sex and marriage I have gotten from the Bible. And how many churches do we have teaching ‘fire and brimstone’ from the pulpits in America? This in no way reminds me of any of Christ’s examples, Christ taught hell to those that were going to hell, and heaven to those that were headed in the right direction. People generally learn what they set out to learn. Listening does not equal learning any more than walking an aisle or getting baptized equals salvation. Learning occurs internally, but is evidenced in external behaviors. Primarily, these behaviors can only be recognized in the event of change brought about by teachers motivating people to set out to learn for themselves as in seminary.
The fact that we have seminaries is the epitome of evidences that the church is in desperate need of teachers. Is not the seminary precisely what church is supposed to be? It is amazing to me that we must send people away from the church to teach them to come back and teach the church. How could one sit under a pastor who didn’t think himself able to teach his successor? How could a church consider itself successful if they didn’t have a host of men that could step up to the plate? And with that host of able men, would we not seek to send them out to other churches as the Apostles did?
As we set out toward this maturity categorized in Love, Morality and Theology, we always start out with the basics of existence which are creation, sin and salvation. These ideas were written in the Bible by adults, to adults and with the intention of adult education. This in no way diminishes the need for youth ministry which is intended to make the youth ready for when they become adults. The primary difference between teaching adults and youth is that adults learn by their own initiative, or ‘readiness to learn’ which stems from our perspective of time I think. Our job in teaching youth is to plant and cultivate that readiness for when they become adults because that is when they think that all ‘that’ is necessary. They think, ‘when they grow up’ they will do this or that. But because the goal of maturity is the same for both, there is not much need for differences in content, only delivery. And more and more the ability to categorize disciples (or learners) by age-groups is diminishing while age-appropriate content becomes less obvious. I think a better atmosphere for learning would be ‘special needs’ groups. Single parents, newlyweds, seniors etc. have special needs and connection that may or may not be shared by all Christians. But all these need to be met by the Spiritual leaders/ teachers in the church.
Our church is not breaking down because there aren’t enough leaders in society- our society is breaking down because there aren’t enough leaders in the church. I read today that “the Christian teacher develops himself to the highest level possible, then gives it all away…and while it is true that teachers serve, they serve best by leading.” My epiphany for today has been the release from my confusion from trying to balance service and leadership. Servant hood is negated when the Spirit-filled teacher becomes a doormat to keep from rustling feathers. We should teach disciples to question answers as well as answer questions and spend more time on the process of learning than the storing of ‘facts’. This is how we make future leaders and future teachers of leaders.
Another thing necessary of course is to lead by example. In other words, the best teacher must first and always be a good student. A Bible teacher must often be seen and portray evidence of studying his Bible. This is both for the church and the family leader. More than any other thing one can do, the way we raise our children effects the future of existence as both Humans and Christians, which means that again our priority lies in adult education.