I do a lot of teaching. In the church where I serve as pastor, I preach on Sundays and teach classes a couple of times a week. My wife and I have homeschooled our kids from Kindergarten through high school, and though one is graduated and the other is very self-sufficient, there has been a lot of teaching in our home. My wife and I have led small groups, and I also speak and teach at conferences, retreats, conventions, and seminars. There is no greater joy as a teacher than to see those whom you are teaching really get it.
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Galatia, gave the church instruction on how to care for, and minister to those who minister to them in teaching. “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor” (Galatians 6:6). It’s easy to think that those in leadership and those who preach and teach don’t need anything from you, but that simply isn’t true. They (we) are members of the body too. It is so easy to get discouraged. Complaints and criticisms are abundant and very specific, where positive feedback is typically sparse and quite vague. Your teachers and leaders need to witness the fruit of their service as you share all good things with those who minister to you.
There’s an interesting dialogue in Mark 12 that illustrates my point. Jesus has been teaching, and a teacher of the law, a scribe, comes to him and asks, “Of all the commandments, which one is the most important?” (Mark 12:28). Jesus replies with the Shema, and the two greatest commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. The scribe then repeats what Jesus said in his own words, and we are told that “Jesus saw he had answered wisely” (Mark 12:34). Jesus never asked a question, so what did this scribe “answer”? Part of the learning process is contemplation. The student hears the lesson, processes it, and then repeats it in their own words to demonstrate understanding. This lets the teacher know that the lesson has sunk in and was received correctly. Jesus praised the scribe for having really listened and understanding.
I recently had a very similar occasion. Keith, a member of our fellowship, sent me this email after I’d wrapped up a sermon series on transformation:
“Just a thought, feel free to use it. Having studied martial arts I often find myself discussing that topic with people I meet. Usually their response is something like “I took Karate when I was a kid.”, and suddenly they know everything I’m talking about, an expert in martial arts, they’re “in the club” so to speak. But for them it was only a passing thing and they don’t rely on, or refer to, anything they learned nor apply it to their daily lives. There’s a difference between those who “dabbled” in martial arts and those who are more devoted to it. People who do martial arts regularly don’t say “this is where I do martial arts”, they say “this is where I train”.
I’ve started viewing going to church the same way. This isn’t where I “go to church”, this is where I train. You’ve said it may times before, church shouldn’t be the whole of our walk with God. Going to church should be more like a training ground; a dojo or even a boot camp of our spiritual walk. We have a trainer, a sensei, a drill sergeant (the pastor) and we have other students, recruits, soldiers (the body) to train with and prepare us for, and even support us in, the battle that is out there in the world.
So, are we “just going to church” or are we training?”
Thank you for sharing Keith! You have ministered to me, and it means more than you know. To the rest of you, I’ve double dipped and given you two lessons: one from me, one from Keith. I pray they bless you.