Teaching About Teaching [A.K.A., A Theology of Teaching]

light bulbMy wife and I are speaking to a college group tonight on the subject of teaching, namely, the Spirit Gift of Teaching.

This should be a fun experience, but it’s been surprisingly challenging. She and I are both lifelong teachers. It’s in our blood. We are always gravitating towards learning projects, study, and then we feel desperate to share what we are learning because everyone else needs to learn it too, ya know.

But we haven’t done much teaching together. We’ll be sharing the stage a little bit. We’ll see how it goes.

Attached is a bit of the preparation material that went into tonight’s lesson. Most of it won’t make it off the page. But I thought that maybe, some of you have the teaching bug. You have that nagging itch to learn and then facilitate learning. If that’s you, and especially if you are eager to teach in a local church or ministry context, then it only makes sense to be grooming your theology of teaching. What does the Bible have to say about teaching?

***Fast Facts for a Theology of Teaching [PDF]***


Fast Facts for a Theology of Teaching
By: John D. Ferrer (2 March 2016)

  1. Teaching is a foundational Gift for the establishment of the church (Ephesians 4:11)
    • 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children,… 
      • Who? Apostles Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers
      • Why? To equip the saints, For the work of the ministry, For building body of Christ
      • How Long? Until we all attain to the unity of the faith
      • Why? To mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children
    •  14 …children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
      • So what? Immature believers get victimized by scams and heresy.
      • What else? Grow up …into Christ
      • Extent? In every way into him
      • Just Like? As a body to it’s head
      • How? By different functions working in loving unity.
  2. Teaching carries heightened responsibility (James 3:1)
    • “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1)
      • Teachers answer to God for how they’ve handled their students.
      • We can incur more judgment in cases where we “should have known better”
    • Teaching risks hypocrisy.
      • To teach something, generally, implies a degree of skill-mastery or understanding. But if your life is inconsistent with what you are teaching, apparently you don’t “know” that skill or idea.
      • You may have cognitive understanding, but the fuller sense of knowledge—including deep understanding and life application—is lost on you.
      • According to 2 Timothy 3:16—”All Scripture is useful for teaching” as well as for teaching related functions “rebuking, correcting, and training.”
        • While some texts might get more attention then others, we have biblical reason to seek out and trust teachers who teach the whole council of Scripture.
  3. The Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4, locates the foundational doctrine of Judaism within a compact manual on teaching.
    • 4Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord Is one.
    • 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
      • K.A., “the law of love.”
      • This command summarizes how to practice the whole of Jewish law
    • 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
      • These instructions are to be internalized. At minimum that means understand them.
      • But could also indicate meditate on the law and even love the law.
    • 7You shall teach them diligently to your children…
      • Teaching is how the faith is passed on.
      • It’s cross-generational, and it’s an effort.
    • “…and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
      • The “and” (Hb. waw) could be translated as, “that is”—these activities are what that diligent teaching looks like.
      • The complementary terms (in house/by the way, sit/walk, lying/rising) show these truths are for every time and everywhere.
    • 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
      • “Hand” indicates practice. “Between your eyes” indicates mind.
      • “Doorposts” and “gates” indicate home/household.
  4. Teaching may be associated with any number of methods, styles, or practices
    • Conventional (1) authority/lecture style of teaching is only one style. There is also (2) coaching/demonstrator style, (3) facilitator/activity style, (4) delegator/group style, (5) hybrid/blended style. See: Eric Gill, “What Is Your Teaching Style?” Concordia Online Education (5 January 2013; updated 7 January 2016).
  5. In, English, the notion of teaching means: “to cause to know” (Merriam-Websters).
    • One may lecture, present, demonstrate, facilitate, and do every teaching trick imaginable, but until one has caused the pupil to know something, then teaching hasn’t happened.
    • Teaching is a dependent relation. One cannot teach unless the pupil allows themselves to learn. In that way, teaching can’t be forced.
  6. Teaching is one of the spiritual gifts, meaning it’s a special endowment by the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the Church (see Romans 12:6–8;1 Corinthians 12:28Ephesians 4:1–12)
    • Teaching isn’t strictly limited to spiritual gifting however.
    • People may have a learned ability for teaching, a natural talent for teaching, or they might just be teaching with no particular skill or talent for it.
    • One could have a God-given ability/talent/capacity for teaching, but which is not explicitly used in a clearly ministerial setting.
    • Scripture leaves all these options open.
  7. Applied to spiritual gifting, this concept of teaching becomes a function of the church—to “cause to know” the things of God.
    • A general ability/gift/capacity for teaching isn’t necessarily the spiritual gift of teaching.
    • One may be a gifted or skilled teacher, in a general sense, without have the God-ordained permission to apply that gifting in a directly spiritual context. It would be better to use one’s teaching abilities elsewhere, to raise one’s children, or teach at a school, for example, than to apply them in a local church setting where one’s lifestyle, character, and internal consistency are weighed down with eternal import.
    • Teaching is needed on a virtually universal scale, including the church, wherever human beings need rearing as people, mentoring in a skill, apprenticeship in a craft, or training in a job.
    • But, with all those varieties of needs, it would be naïve to think that just anyone with the gift of teaching could serve fine in any of those capacities. Likewise for the church, a person might be gifted almost exclusively for Christian education, or for preaching, or for elementary Sunday school and have no real teaching ability beyond the roles of the church. Vice versa, a person might be a gifted educator in a local public school or college but be wholly unqualified to teach a Sunday school class.
  8. In ancient Hebrew culture, “teacher” (Rabbi) was an honorific term.
    • Rabbis were biblical scholars who taught reading, writing, Bible, theology, and law. Hence Hebrews refer to Jesus, respectfully, as “Teacher” or “Good teacher,” by calling him the Greek equivalent of “Rabbi” (Matt 19:16; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18)
    • Since ancient Hebrew culture fused Scripture and civil law, a strong understanding of Scripture spelled expertise in social order, governance, and judicial procedure.
    • To call someone “Rabbi” was a term of honor like “Sir” or “Lord,” but which literally translates as “teacher,” indicating a superior intellect, a holy man, an educator.
  9. Every word of Scripture can be used for teaching (2 Timothy 3:16)
    • “All Scripture is useful for teaching” as well as for teaching related functions “rebuking, correcting, and training.”
    • While some texts might get more attention then others, we have biblical reason to seek out and trust teachers who teach the whole council of Scripture.
  10. Teaching is central to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)
    •  “18And Jesus came and said to them,‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…”
      • Christ aims all his authority, in all the heavens and the earth, at this task: to make disciples.
      • Discipleship is signaled by baptism (believers baptism).
      • Includes “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”—thus distinguishing this religion from Judaism or Roman religions.
      • Not converts, but disciples. That’s like making trees, not new growth, not saplings, but followers-after-Christ.
    •  20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
      • Teaching is mentioned explicitly, then implied within the phrase “make disciples” and “observe all that I have commanded you.”
      • This teaching is either how disciples are first made or it describes the next step once a person becomes a disciple.
      • Since Jesus is here commanding them to teach, and they are supposed to teach everything Jesus commanded, that means disciples of Christ must go teach people to teach people [to teach people, to teach people, etc.].
      • It’s impossible to fulfill the great commission without teaching.
  11. Teaching often implies a certain authority relation between two parties: teacher (superior) and pupil (subordinate). Ex., “A student/disciple is not above his teacher” (Luke 6:20). But that’s not the only way that teaching works.
    • People can teach themselves.
    • Or a teacher may learn something from a student.
    • Or teaching may occur between two (or more) people with no particular authority relation between them.
  12. Scripture has a lot more to say about teaching
    • “Teach/es” or “teaching/s” appear in 210 places in the ESV.
    • “Teacher/s” appears in 70 places in the ESV.
    • The Greek has roughly 9 different terms that are translated as “teach” (in order of most commonly used: didasko, didache, didaskalia, heterodidaskaleo, didaktikos, logos, katecheo, lageo, laleo, and kalodidaskalos)
    • The Hebrew has roughly 8 different terms that are translated as “teach” (in order of most commonly used: yrh, horah, yda, ‘lp, anoki-lmd, snn, leqah, yd’, ha lmd, lmd.


Also, in our studies we stumbled across a great list of “strengths” and “weaknesses” for teachers. I added a lot of my own verbage but the the following list comes largely from Institute in Basic Life Principles.

A Teacher’s Strengths
1) Passionate about correcting error before it leads to apostasy.
2) Delights in uncovering new facts or insights.
3) Openly challenges statements or ideas from other teachers.
4) Have the “gift of study.”
5) Low Tolerance for Bad Teaching.
6) Solves problems by studying more.
7) Diligent, steadfast, and sincere when it comes to ideas
8) Likes to organize, illustrate, even decorate information.

A Teacher’s Weaknesses
1) Tempted to equate or confuse knowledge with wisdom.
2) Can concentrate on facts more than people
3) Content with accurate knowledge without application.
4) [Mistake knowing or saying for doing]
5) Intellectual pride
6) Overly critical/negative.
7) Impractical, analytical, and unemotional.
8) Give you more information than you asked for/Talk to much/Monopolize the conversation
9) [Mistake knowledge for wisdom/maturity]

Sources: Synodresourcecenter and Institute in Basic Life Principles


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