“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Ephesians 4:11-14, ESV
In Ephesians 4 Paul includes the gift of teaching in a list of spiritual gifts which God gives to His people, to build up His church and to grow followers of Jesus in their faith and ministry.
Most of us will have been taught by a variety of different people in different settings at different stages of our lives. From experience as children and young adults in school and perhaps higher education we can probably call to mind excellent and inspirational teachers, as well as those who, by comparison, were not good teachers at all. In adult life we may have been taught things by others in a variety of ways and contexts, in work, leisure or our own Christian discipleship. While a talented and fortunate few may be able to claim to be “self taught” in some area, in order to truly excel and to fulfil our potential to the utmost, we usually need to be taught.
What is your experience of teaching in your church right now? Are there people who are gifted and able to exercise this gift? Do you support them, encourage them and pray for them? Paul’s linking of the roles of shepherd and teacher is illuminated by what Jesus says (in John chapter 10) about the contrast between the good shepherd and the hired hand or stranger, and speaks volumes about the proper motivation and conduct of those who would teach. James warns that the role of teacher should not be worn carelessly (James3:1).
Are there people who have a teaching role in your church, but whose gifting really lies elsewhere? How can all of us, humbly but honestly recognising our responsibilities as members of the body of Christ, ensure that everyone is encouraged to use their gifts within the church? A church family should not leave every task to one person or a small number of people, irrespective of what gifts they have (and don’t have).
Is teaching something that is seen as central to the life of your church at all? Some are wary of teaching, concerned not to alienate or give offence in our post-modern culture where absolutes are shunned and a distorted (and intolerant) dogma of “tolerance” holds sway. How can anyone be so arrogant and intolerant as to claim to teach truth, thereby implying that other’s beliefs and world-views are untrue?
If we are satisfied to remain child-like, adrift and vulnerable then we probably won’t want teachers or teaching. If, though, we are committed to growing in the unity of the faith, in knowledge of Jesus, towards greater maturity and the fullness of Christ, we must seek, support and make use of those with the gifts in our churches.