First, a confession. I consider myself a teacher. I’ve taught a lot of stuff. I’ve spent the better part of my career devising, developing and publishing Christian education materials—teaching stuff. I appreciate the value of biblical literacy. The more people know about God the better.
But, I’ve come to accept that teaching, after all, is not my goal. There’s a couple of reasons for this:
1. A focus on teaching is a focus on the teacher. Me. How well I prepare, how well I develop the lesson or sermon, how well I deliver the message. I judge my success by how well I perform. The problem is . . . it shouldn’t be about me. What matters is the learner, the recipient. If I teach and teach with glorious eloquence, but the recipient’s life is not positively changed, then I’ve failed. Teaching can’t be the goal.
I’ve often seen church marquee signs with slogans such as: “Strong Bible Teaching.” So what . . . if no one is learning? Why doesn’t anyone advertise “Strong Bible Learning”?
Teaching and learning are two different things. And, get this, neither one is the main thing. Which brings me to Reason #2.
2. In the church, we’ve been conditioned to think that teaching is the prime driver in a person’s faith. When someone meets Jesus, what’s the typical prescription? Go to a church with good “teaching.” Go to a Bible “study.” We telegraph that faith is merely an academic exercise. Sit and listen to good sermons. Go to good classes with good teachers. Study hard.
That’s a problem. As I mentioned in an earlier post (http://holysoup.com/?p=193), faith is not just another academic subject. It’s a relationship. If that’s true, doesn’t it follow that it acts like a relationship? No one taught me into loving my wife, or my son, or my parents, or my friends.
So, now the old teacher in me has changed positions. My teaching is not the big deal. I want to help people truly grow in relationship, in friendship, with Jesus. And that is a relational process.
Practically speaking, what does that look like? It begins by understanding that growing a relationship involves two-way communication. So, I want to listen more. I want to ask good questions. I want to engage those who are curious about God in true give-and-take conversation. Faith grows when people have a chance to participate in the conversation—with others, and with God.
One on one, I want to share how God really works in my life, how he shows his love for me in everyday ways. And I want to invite other everyday people to do the same. Hearing real stories from everyday people builds the kind of trust that leads to real relationships. And real faith.
People grow in relationship with one another while doing things together. So, I want to create environments for people to experience God while doing things. Just like Jesus did when he encountered people while fishing, tending sheep, eating meals, walking along, enjoying a party.
And, I want to do my job—and let the Holy Spirit do the Holy Spirit’s job. I want to remember 1 Corinthians 3:6. “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”
I want to plant seeds. Just like the seeds I plant when I introduce people to a human friend of mine. If I know my friend would surely love them, and they’d grow to love my friend, I want to see them spend time together. Talking. Listening. Asking questions of one another. Doing stuff together. Building trust. Laughing together. Crying together.
It’s not my job to attempt to teach anyone into loving—or believing.
(See how we work at this every week at Lifetree Cafe: