As Christians, subjected to “a great persecution” in the church at Jerusalem, scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1), they “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
When we read “preaching,” it is easy to envision men standing in a pulpit in a local synagogue or market place. We may also think in terms of a man trained in public speaking. That may well be our perception; but, if so, it isn’t realistic. Unless we assume that every person who fled Jerusalem was a trained public speaker, we should probably understand that those who went about preaching the word were men and women who simply taught others the gospel. Jesus told the eleven to “make disciples…teaching them to observe…” (Mt. 28:19-20). I believe that much of the disciple-making in the early days of the church involved a lot of believers teaching their unbelieving family and friends the truth. Further, I believe that we cannot replicate that widespread growth unless more of us become teachers of the gospel. But, there are some challenges to overcome.
INTIMIDATION. Admittedly, there is much that is intimidating about teaching someone the truth. But, like anything else, the intimidation drops precipitously with experience. What we need to be able to teach isn’t difficult to communicate. Those early Jerusalem Christians who went into Judea and Samaria had a much more difficult time because they taught salvation in the name of a recently executed criminal (in the eyes of the Romans and the Jews) instead of through a sacrificial system first taught by Moses. Just as the law of Moses had been around for more than a thousand years and everyone they spoke to was familiar with it, today the New Testament has been around for 2,000 years and very few of the people we are likely to run in to need to be introduced to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for our sins. Like Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, we just need to start with what they are confused about and then teach Jesus (Acts 8:35).
TEACHING ISN’T AGREEING. Another hurdle that we need to keep in mind is that biblical teaching is an effort to CHANGE someone’s current beliefs. It should be done in a positive way, but it must accomplish this objective. That should be so obvious that it hardly bears repeating; yet, the fact is that we often have confused teaching with conversations and a free exchange of ideas.
Unfortunately, a corporate model that seeks an outcome which the gospel was NEVER designed to accomplish is very favorably embraced in many congregations. We have confused the roles of biblical teacher with a corporate facilitator. It is considered to be a “great class” if there was a lot of class participation. But unless all of the class participation is in complete harmony with the Scriptures, the goal of teaching failed. If participation is the goal and if wrong notions and ideas are given equal weight with notions and ideas that are supported by Scripture, there is no CHANGE. Our objective is divinely appointed.
TEACHING REQUIRES KNOWLEDGE. Our biggest hindrance is that we don’t put a premium on learning and then teaching. Unless we do the work of learning the truth, we aren’t going to succeed in teaching to effect change. Until we embrace a culture of teaching and learning, we won’t see positive change.
Why deal with this subject? I remain convinced that we could be growing at a rapid rate because we live in a city that is growing rapidly every day. One trained preacher, operating solely behind a pulpit, cannot effect the growth we ought to be enjoying. But if more of us understood the principle of growth through teaching and teaching to effect change, we could scatter throughout our neighborhoods and teach others. We can’t wait for someone else to do it. We shouldn’t expect a change if the perception is that local evangelism is dead. But if we just rolled up our sleeves and commit to teaching someone …
Keep studying. DC Brown ©2016