Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Gifted Teacher

Getting the message right is only a quarter of the task for the teacher. Communicating the message so that others understand the content only brings the teacher to half of his or her role. Seeing the content applied well in the listener's context is another 25% of the task of the teacher, but still only brings the teacher to 75% fulfillment of the task. 75% on an exam is barely passing, and certainly not a success. Releasing the learners to fulfill the task of the teacher themselves with other people is the only way a teacher can fulfill one hundred percent of the call of the teacher. It is also the only way to see the role of the teacher a catalyst for multiplication rather than a bottleneck for it.

When you are starting to pass the content on to others is when you have learned the content on its fullest level. To teach others best you must see the process through until the learners become the teachers.

I used to think that a great teaching gift was actually a bottleneck to multiplication. When a truly gifted thinker and communicator is at work people want to stay and listen to them and rarely feel that they can do it themselves...and reproduction ends. At one point in my own ministry I was tempted to dumb down my teaching for the sake of reproduction of ministry, but that is tantamount to being ungrateful for Christ's gifts and neglectful stewardship of His blessings. So how do we allow for great teachers and still have reproduction?

The gifted teacher is called to equip the saints for the work of ministry, not to do it for them. A true teacher is not simply to teach the saints, but to equip the saints to teach. Are all saints to teach? Yes, they are to teach disciples to obey all that Jesus has commanded them. We need teachers, but we need teachers that will truly fulfill their complete call. We should not settle for teachers that only go half way any longer. If you are a teacher do not be content to fulfill only a portion of your task.

We need to redefine what it means to teach. It is not simply passing on content to others. I prefer to see teaching this way: facilitating the leaning of others so that they know, do and pass on to others the relevant and meaningful truth.

We in the Western church are educated beyond our obedience and more education is not the solution, we need more obedience. A couple of suggestions for the teachers out there: never teach a second lesson until the first one is done. A lesson is not done until it is being passed on to another.

What would the kingdom of God look like if we had more teachers like this?


Sondra said...

Wow, wow, wow!!! Ouch and amen!!! A related point of conviction by the Holy Spirit is the issue of pride. Generally, those of us who love to "teach" -- especially if we are one of those who are often acclaimed as great teachers -- love the "rush" that comes from sharing great information or "profound" thoughts and insights, connecting dots, turning on lights of understanding, etc., etc.

Generally, we (yes, I have to confess -- "we") teach because we have something we want to say, we are impassioned about something for which we we want to be a catalyst, and we LIKE having a platform where, in general, people nod their heads, affirm us and take notes when we talk!

I'm convicted that no matter how noble my intentions, if I maintain a teaching style or perspective that is NOT intentional towards multiplication, it is an intellectual version of being Self-centered -- and that's a manifestation of pride.

Most people who have had any level of training to be an effective teacher understand the virtue of being learner-centered vs teacher-centered; but what the Lord is using you to tell us is that the focus must be maintained even beyond the learner, and on the fulfillment of our ultimate Kingdom commission.

Got it. Thank you!

Neil Cole said...


Thanks for such outstanding and vulnerable comments. I can tell that you are indeed a gifted teacher from these words alone, and I look forward to hearing how that gift multiplies to others!


Michael Shattuck said...

"We in the Western church are educated beyond our obedience and more education is not the solution, we need more obedience."

Neil...what a statement. We have definitely become, and continue further, a consumeristic church culture here in the west. But it seems that in established congregations that is something difficult to turn around.