For the next few days, I’m publishing a short series on the connection between mutuality and various forms of serving for the sake of the gospel. I’m sticking to commands, exhortations, and examples that we find in Scripture relating to mutual service and servants. There is a danger in sole-ministry, expert-ministry, and professional-ministry. In Scripture, service (of any kind) was performed mutually – both with others and for the sake of others.
In this post, I look at the service of teaching. Among the church today, many immediately think of lecture-style or sermon-type presentations when they think of teaching. But, this was not the formats or methods of teaching used primarily in Scripture. Instead, in Scripture, teaching was much more interactive and mutual than we often see practiced today.
Of course, much of this arises from the purpose of teaching in Scripture. Teaching was not about sharing information with as many people as possible. Instead, teaching referred to helping one another following Jesus Christ, often in very practical ways.
While Jesus is certainly the teacher par excellence, even his teaching was often interactive with questions, answers, and even disagreements taking part during his teaching. Here is just one example of Jesus’ interactive teaching among crowds:
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…” (John 6:32-35 ESV)
Jesus also used interactive forms of teaching when with his followers:
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one…” (Matthew 13:36-38 ESV)
In the Book of Acts, when Paul teaches, he also primarily uses interactive and mutual forms of teaching. For example, consider this brief passage which describes Paul’s interaction with both unbelievers in a synagogue and believers (disciples):
And he [Paul] entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. (Acts 19:8-9 ESV)
The term translated “reasoning” – which describes Paul’s teaching both in the synagogue and among believers – is the same term used later when Paul speaks among the church in Troas. (Acts 20:7-12) Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell in this passage because it’s often translated “talked” or even “preached” in some translations.
When Paul wrote to the church in Collosae, he told them that one of the indications that they were dwelling in Christ is that they would teaching and admonish one another. (Colossians 3:16) This is the kind of mutual teaching that Paul practiced and the kind of mutual teaching that he expected among the church.
God created us to need him and to need one another. God teaches us, and he often chooses to teach us through other members of his family. Thus, we must take the time to listen to and interact with one another in order to teach and learn together.